I suppose you could say that scuba diving and I are still in our honeymoon period. I did my first open water dive a mere 6 months ago but I knew almost instantly that I was totally hooked. I have the unabating (and lightly irritating) enthusiasm of the newly converted – I bore anyone who will listen with tales of my sub-surface adventures. I love the serenity I feel underwater – the silence, the near weightlessness, the slow pace of movement. Time seems to stand still to the point where an hour dive can feel like a whole morning.
Over the last few months I’ve been lucky enough to be diving on the sunny Mediterranean island of Cyprus, a great spot for novice and more experienced divers alike. Getting flights to Larnaca is easy the main diving highlight of the island is the wreck of the Zenobia – a cargo ferry of staggering proportions that lies just outside of Larnaca harbour. It is rated as one of the top 5 wreck dives in the world and consistently draws drivers from all over the world to Cyprus.
Initially I couldn’t do this dive as I wasn’t qualified so I worked my way through numerous shore dives and boat dives which included amazing caves and caverns at Capo Greco near Ayia Napa and a wrecked military helicopter and fire engine at British RAF base Akrotiri. Despite not having the tropical waters of the South Pacific or the Caribbean there is more to see in the Mediterranean than you might imagine. Over the last few months I have spotted parrotfish, wrasse, large groupers, barracudas, sea turtles, squid and moray eels and the water clarity makes for excellent underwater visibility.
Finally, as a fully qualifiedÂ Advanced Open Water diver and exhilarated from all of my underwater experiences so far I finally got my chance at the Zenobia – or ‘the Zed’ to those in the know. As soon as we were below the surface the first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of the wreck. At 172 metres long and weighing over 10,000 tonnes the Zenobia was a heavyweight in it’s class. It is such a large wreck that I’ve spoken to divers who had 10 or more dives on it and have still found new areas to explore. The Zed was carrying over 100 articulated cargo lorries when she sank – all of which are now lying perfectly intact under the water. It’s an odd thing for your brain to compute seeing all of those vehicles we see every day on the roads massed together under the ocean. When the lorries sank all of the cargo sank with them and that’s where things get really weird – boxes of lightbulbs, trays of perfectly untouched eggs, rolls of carpet. A plethora of things that really don’t belong 30 metres down!
The best part for me though was exploring inside the wreck itself – things are so completely untouched that it’s like swimming through a ghost ship. The vending machines in the cafeteria area are still fully stocked and you can still see the tartan carpet in the accommodation areas. It’s a pretty spooky experience, which only gets spookier when your guide takes you down a pitch black narrow lift shaft! Despite being armed with a flashlight and knowing that I had plenty of air in my tank I could still feel the adrenaline pumping at that point.
Any qualified diver visiting Cyprus would be mad to miss out on the jewel of a wreck dive that is the Zenobia and I also think that Cyprus is a great place to learn to dive. The sheltered sandy bays of the south coast are a great location for try dives and for taking their first tentative breaths through a regulator. Larnaca itself is a great place to spend some time on non-diving days, or if you have non-divers in the family. The beaches are good, there is great shopping and an historic fort for history fans. The nightlife is also lively, with most of the bars and restaurants clustered around the marina and palm-lined seafront promenade. You can fly to Larnaca from most major UK airports and flights run all year round.
Written by Claire Hopkins