What can possibly be better than relaxing on the Caprice terrace overlooking the azure majesty and unfathomable mystery of the Mediterranean Sea? Or seeking total oneness with the rising swell of the water, whispering a promise of wellbeing at an early morning beach spa yoga session?
Authentic experience and the cultural immersion of scuba diving! We’re talking the excitement and mystery to be discovered in the underwater world of Cyprus.
It’s only natural for visitors to enjoy swimming at any of the island’s 57 ‘Blue Flag’ beaches, officially recognised as the “Cleanest Bathing Waters in Europe”. However, the more curious-minded often seek to dive further into the mythic realm of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
Diving into the great watery unknown of offshore Cyprus can definitely be a “luxury” experience for the more discerning of amphibian explorers. The Cyprus tourist industry actively pursues an ongoing programme to promote dive tourism in around the island.
As well as aiming to catch sight of a dazzling bio-diversity of marine life among the underwater caves and half buried ancient artefacts, exploring among the encrusted portholes of long sunken shipwrecks around Cyprus has always been a popular activity. Scuba divers can enjoy crystal clear visibility to depths of around 30 metres! In recent years, new wrecks have also been positioned around the Cyprus coastline – including near Limassol – which have created new and fascinating artificial reefs.
Mazotos – Mid-4th century B.C merchant ship
One of the oldest of shipwrecks can be found at a depth of 45 metres near the modern village of Mazotos, 20 kms southwest of Larnaca. The mid-4th century B.C, late classical period merchant ship, which was discovered in 2007, had been carrying more than 500 wine amphorae (tall ceramic jars) thought to mainly come from the Greek island of Chios but also from other north Aegean islands. The mystery of how or why the merchant ship went down – before the conquests of Alexander the Great – remains a mystery!
However, there’s no mystery as to why some vessels around Cyprus went to an early watery grave. Mainly because their sinking occurred in more recent times. One of the most well-known is the ‘SS Three Stars’ which, in 1972, caught fire and ran aground 50m off the coast near the village of Akrotiri, south west of Limassol. It’s rusting hulk, partly-submerged in just 7 metres of water, is all that remains of the 1,791 ton Greek cargo ship built thirty years earlier.
Zenobia- Cargo ferry sunk on her maiden voyage
One of the top rated wrecks in the world for divers to explore – according to UK newspaper, The Times – is the MS Zenobia, lying at a depth of 42 metres around a mile from Lanarca Bay. The vessel enjoyed only a short life – she sunk on her maiden voyage!
The Swedish built ferry left Malmö bound for Syria in May 1980, loaded with 104 tractor-trailers and other cargo destined for Mediterranean and the Middle East. On the way to Athens the captain noticed steering problems. The vessel had begun listing 45 degrees to port as a result of excess water pumped into the ballast tanks. Arriving at Larnaca the ballast problem reoccurred, and at around 2.30am on the 7 June the Zenobia capsized and sank along with its cargo with an estimated value of £200 million. Divers can still see the remains of the trailers plus the bones of frozen animals on the second car deck and a huge container of eggs!
Alexandria – stunning artificial reef created around the wreck
Only 500 metres from the Zenobia wreck can be found the Alexandria Wreck, an old fishing trawler that sank later in 2006, also in Larnaca Bay. There seems to be more than one story of the sinking but one version says that the vessel was actually on its way to be scrapped when a storm broke out whilst being towed from Larnaca to Limassol. More than ten years later a stunning artificial reef has been created around the wreck, which sank in an upright position and may be located at a depth of around 30 metres.
Limassol also has its shipwrecks! In recent years, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), with the support of the Cyprus Dive Centre Association (CDCA), have deliberately brought in new wrecks in a bid to promote diving all around the island coastline.
“Underwater Sea Park of Limassol”
In 2014, two vessels – “The Constandis” and “Lady Thetis” – were lowered some 20 metres into the sandy sea beds of the Dassoudi area in Limassol – just a short walk from Londa Hotel – and which are key attractions in the “Underwater Sea Park of Limassol”.
The Constandis was a trawler built in the Soviet Union in 1989 with the original Russian name of ‘Zolotets’. The vessel briefly operated in international waters around the eastern Mediterranean Sea before being listed on the Register of Cyprus Ships in 1997. Lady Thetis – originally named ‘Reiher’ – was built in Hamburg, West German in 1953, and was a pleasure cruise ship before also being entered on the Register of Cyprus Ships in 1990.
The Cyprus Dive Centre Association aims to sink more shipwrecks around Cyprus, which create stunning artificial reefs teeming with extraordinary marine life. Not only are island visitors attracted to explore but also marine biology researchers from Cyprus educational institutions.
Back on dry land, hotel visitors may also be interested to hear about another water world experience – the Limassol Boat Show 2018 – an annual event which this year is being held 3 – 6 of May at the Limassol Marina ΤΡΑΚΑΣΟΛ Cultural Centre. Read a review of last year’s show here!