Slovakia Opal Mine
Gray, dark and gloomy? Not this time!

Anyone who dives in caves or mines knows perfectly well that these are usually dark, gloomy and virtually colorless places. Sometimes you can see the orange color of rusting elements of steel structures in mines. In Mexico, the white limestone walls dominate in the caves of Yucatan. Of course, the forms are wonderful and very spectacular, but rather mono-colored. I had heard about an opal mine in Slovakia recently. Because it was closed to divers for a long time, no one thought about trying to explore the underwater corridors.

Only recently has the Opal Divers organization made diving visits to this fascinating place possible. If you are interested in the history of the opal mine, please visit the website of the museum at the bottom of this editorial.

Even if you are not cave certified, you can have fun exploring the dry corridors. The place is unique and I encourage you to take a weekend trip to visit the oldest opal mine in the world.

(Click on images to enlarge)
Legendary colorful mine

After we arrived at the mine, a guide takes us into the mine and shows us the route to follow with the equipment. The corridors are low so we wear helmets as in some places you have to bend over to avoid hitting your head. They have adapted the mine for tourism, so the corridors are well-lit.

Every few meters, we pass exhibitions of historic tools, ladders and equipment used in stone mining. From the very beginning, the colors of the walls make a huge impression. Like a fairy-tale land of dwarves, it delights with its rainbow decor. The dominant color is yellow, then orange, spots of navy blue, blue and pink here and there. I can already tell that the photos will be fantastic. The corridor ends and we open the last gate. Beyond this point, only cave divers have permission to go. To get to the water’s edge, we have to go down 120 high, slippery, steep stairs. Moving all the equipment will take three trips, starting with my sidemount and rebreather cylinders, followed by drysuit, harness, and finally my camera equipment.


After this exhausting endeavor, a quick guided dive review and off we go. A strange surprise while rinsing my mask. I open my eyes and there is a terrible burning and tearing. “What’s going on?” It turns out that we will have to dive into acid as the opal mine is in an extinct volcano and the amount of sulfur is extremely high, resulting in the liquid having a PH of  3.2. For a short period of time It does not harm the diving equipment. However, the guide suggests it is better not to leave the cylinders submerged for the second diving day.

Colorful Fun

The narrow corridor leads us to the 6th subway that branches off where we enter the right corridor. It is very narrow and rather low. We glide through wooden reinforcements of walls and ceilings. We can see white colonies of bacteria on the wood, which detach from the wood and levitate freely with the slightest movement of water.


The walls change colors with each meter.

The incredible abundance of elements contained in igneous rock causes various colors that shimmer from our powerful dive lights. It’s incredibly colorful :) almost like in the world of Disney or Pixar. Sometimes the corridor are bright yellow with a hint of blue, other times it is a bright orange. Turning on our powerful LED lights for photography, the mine is absolutely unlike any other I have dived in.

The slate mines in Germany near Willingen are black and dark. The uranium mine in Kowary also gives you a thrill with its raw, dark interior. The Kobanya mine in Budapest, where limestone was mined, features bright interiors with walls painted in ubiquitous white. The opal mine is like none of them. It is incredibly colorful, and the tangle of corridors is incredibly fun.

The next day we dive to the other side of the first fork and encounter more and more interesting places. Narrow and low corridors under the ceiling. Air bubbles from divers using the open circuit system get trapped along the ceilings. This sparkles like diamonds in the light. Both these dives in the mine will remain in your memory for a long time.


The return to reality is overwhelming

Getting the equipment out of the mine is a brutal effort. Many divers visiting this place say that this was by far their most beautiful cave dives, but they will not return here because of the logistics of the equipment.

The next day after returning home, I was suffering from sore muscles. It’s hard to walk, not just the stairs. A couple of days later, even though the muscle pain is not gone yet, I am already thinking about returning to the fairy-tale mine. Organizing the team for the next trip, the plan is to penetrate to deeper levels of the mine.

A month later…

I’m on the road to Slovakia again to take more photos. This time, we have an additional attraction as there was 40 cm of snow making getting to the entrance even more entertaining. The dives were just as fascinating as the first trip. Unfortunately, several problems with the equipment did not allow the photographic plan to be implemented 100%. Despite the huge logistical effort, I have to come back here for the third time.


And once more…

And so, in just two months, I visit the opal mine for the third time.

Everything is favorable from the very beginning. Perfect weather, skilled team and the date is January 13. In my case, thirteen is a lucky number, so how could it go wrong? ;)

Through a small opening on the sixth meter, we easily get to the lowest level of the mine, the so-called level -40, where the average depth is 35 meters. At the very beginning, we are greeted by a curtain like the sails from the Black Pearl ship. Torn, delicate, shimmering with colors. Every move we make can destroy this delicate structure. We are very careful not to destroy anything. We glide further into the forking corridors. Entering larger rooms with tracks for wagons that once transported the excavated material. Only at this level are railway tracks installed. We encounter carved pillars supporting the ceiling around them, with rails stretching in a sharp arc. A veritable feast for the eyes.

This time the plan is 100% successful. Almost 100 minutes of exploring colorful corridors underwater provides the entire team with a lot of excitement. Just take out the equipment and you can go home with full satisfaction.


Safety first

Although the photos show the colorful and bright side of this beautiful mine, remember that these are technically difficult dives. Only divers with full cave certifications can visit this place. The water temperature ranges around 5 degrees Celsius, which definitely requires diving in heated under garments. Corridors and stairs often change the diving depth and you must maintain perfect buoyancy as not to disturb the water or the dripstones that have formed here. If you want to visit the Slovak opal mine, I recommend being prepared for a enormous effort related to the logistics of diving equipment. However, the views that await you here are worth every effort.

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