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Fishy fun in The Netherlands: What lies beneath!

Surely there’s nothing to see?

It must be cold/ dark /dangerous!

Wouldn’t you rather go somewhere like the barrier reef?

What are we talking about here?

That’s right you’ve guessed it!

Scuba diving in The Netherlands!



Yep! I learned to scuba dive in The Netherlands! And I thought it would be great to explain why it’s worth it.

It’s six am on a cool April Friday morning. In six metres of water only a short distance from shore, in a place called Bergsediepsluis. (mountain deep sluice?)


This photo was taken in Southern Holland.

Not the Maldives, not the Philippines, not Indonesia!

This mating pair of cuttlefish or sepia have travelled around 1600 nautical miles.

It’s their last trip together.

Their final journey from The Bay of Biscay to Zeeland has a great significance.

Behind the male in the foreground one of those sticks holds the key.


The stick looks thicker in one section. It holds the eggs of the pair. Like grapes with a pointed end they stick to …. the stick.

Mum and dad wait with their impending off-spring for weeks.

The divers come.

Dust and silt coat the eggs. The parents tend the eggs. Cleaning the silt away.

After the long incubation the mother will die. Sometimes the father is successful in returning south.

Their bodies are about half a metre long. Their tentacles almost doubling their size.

Cuttlefish this size are unlikely elsewhere in Europe and only here for a few short months.

They are famous for the vessels in their skin that can generate colour in impressive display. Sometimes for camouflage and sometimes as a threat.

Apparently they have three hearts and green blood too! How cool is that?

My first cuttlefish encounter was in Devon, England. That one followed me for ages, flashing purple and yellow to match my dive suit.

My understanding is that they are territorial fish and like other species that stay in one place they interact with visitors rather than swimming away. So when a diver shows up they are curious rather than intimidated. They can follow you or use challenge behaviours to show their own authority.

I’ve also seen a tiny Pygmy variety in The Orkney isles; the land of ship wrecks. This one held it’s ground too in territorial fashion. Tiny but feisty.

In The Maldives, the cuttlefish fish we saw was also small, hiding amongst broken, bleached corals on a reef wiped out by El Niño. That reef was nothing but grey dust and the cuttlefish was too.

In Papua New Guinea; an extended encounter. We managed to hang out with three males and a female. A contest to win her affections. They combatted their colours round on round. Flashing along their bodies with light and glowing.

In Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, closer to home, we watched another display. One shot his ink as part of the mating process. They were five or six at one time. They nestled in the sand with only their curious eye visible. Then they rose into formation, hovering like alien spacecraft.

Able to manoeuvre in any direction and at any speed. It’s a prime species for curiosity. They use a water jet system to propel, like a jet. They have an almost four dimensional trajectory as they change directions. Meanwhile that curious eye on you all the time.

It’s sad to think that many people only know the bone that they give to their budgie to blunt it’s beak.

The northern Adriatic was a barren location and on one dive, where there were no living things to see, the little cuttlefish also hid in the sand. Pale and quiet and avoiding discovery.

Seven different locations, seven memorable encounters. Regardless if their spot on the globe they were all mesmerising.

Back in The Netherlands…

Yes, the water is green.

Yes, it can be murky.

But it can also hide wonders that match or beat more exotic destinations right in the shadow of the famous Dutch dykes.

Thanks to trucker turning write for inspiring this memory vacation. It was great to go again!

Here’s the Lanzarote specimen c/o Robert’s nifty camera.



2 comments on “Fishy fun in The Netherlands: What lies beneath!

  1. truckerturningwrite
    April 24, 2014

    Amazing Liz. Great article. You were well rewarded for your efforts.
    They are amazing on film, I can only imagine what they are like in the flesh.
    Sad that the mother dies. I suppose no creature has it all.


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a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, international life...

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