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  • Writer's pictureAlly Landes

DIVING IN CYPRUS | A Taste of the Mediterranean



An invitation to dive the Mediterranean doesn’t come around very often and when the Larnaca Tourism Board sent us a request to cover diving in the region in our magazine, ‘Divers for the Environment’, we were delighted to oblige! Diving in the Mediterranean was a first for me, so I was really looking forward to exploring the Cypriot med and see what it had to offer.


Larnaca Marina
Larnaca Marina

Our diving was organised through AAK Larnaca Napa Sea Cruises – owners of the Zenobia wreck which they purchased in 1997. The Zenobia is rated one of the 10 best wreck dives in the world, making this a must dive to add to your list! It lies 1.5km off the coast of Larnaca, its depths starting at 17 metres and ending at 43 metres, is 174 metres long, lying on its port side on a flat bed of sand and rocks and has 3 massive cargo holds to explore! The Zenobia is huge and it has been described by some to take up to 20 dives to fully explore all it has to offer.


Its fate came in May 1980 when it set sail for Syria with a cargo of over 100 lorries, industrial machinery, cars and extensive cargo, when it ran into some difficulties and the ship’s computers failed and caused a continuous flow of water to be pumped into the side ballasts. Without a chance to recover the Zenobia, it was towed out to avoid any collisions inside the port.


Visibility is fantastic and can be as good as 50 metres. Water temperatures are between 16˚C to 28˚C. Marine life is as much expected from the overfished Mediterranean, but when you dive a wreck of that scale and content, you are not necessarily there for the marine life. The Zenobia offers you its own unique adventure that requires several dives to explore the majority of its layout and it’s pretty spectacular.


The only down side to our trip was the disappointing experience we had with AAK Larnaca Napa Sea Cruises. There is unfortunately no way around them as they own the wreck and give the rights to dive it. We recommend you find yourself a nice little dive centre to dive with through this company that will look after you and show you all the best bits, and the trip will be fantastic.


I had sent AAK an email a week prior to our departure to prepare and learn about the types of diving that we would do before arriving there, but found communication to be very slack. I managed to get an email back from one person asking us for our equipment requirements and sizes and when we arrived, no one had been made aware that we had made such a request. If you have your own dive equipment, we recommend you take from it, your fins, mask and your regulator, or you may be disappointed as it was a mission to get proper fitting equipment together as they were very limited with what they had on board.


The AAK captain (and also the dive guide) on our second day was very unpleasant when we went to check in with him. We had expected the same dive guide from the day before, but learnt he was not there and our new man was not expecting us and to top it off, had no clue as to who we were. We were told to go and wait for him while he made a few angry calls and then came back a little later singing a slightly different tune – mockingly. A slightly wry start to our morning and not sure at this point whether this was going to get any better. All the diving equipment we had spent the prior afternoon getting together, was no where to be found and we had to start all over again.


Seeing our slight frustration while getting his own divers ready for the wreck dive, we were very fortunate to meet Simon Banks, owner of the Windmills Diving School based in Protaras (45 minutes to an hours drive from Larnaca). Simon always comes down with students to dive the Zenobia and was the friendliest face on the boat, along with his colleague, Doc. As well as being incredibly social, Simon is also full of facts and knowledge about diving in Cyprus and within 10 minutes of chatting, we had learnt a great deal! He highly recommended that we get our dive guide to take us inside the Zenobia, if not he was happy for us to tag along with him (our guide did not recommend us going in with the intent to take photos or just couldn’t be bothered).


As we kitted up, we finally got to plan our dives and explained where we had dived on the Zenobia the day before and our reluctant dive guide decided we would dive the same place, but this time, slightly deeper! On seeing we would only have 3 dives in total on the Zenobia to photograph it, we asked if diving the same area was really worthwhile photographywise. It turned out it wasn’t as Simone had already accomplished the shots we had needed in this part. We had to pin this guy’s arm back to get him to take us inside the wreck to see all the commotion we had read up on for our third dive. He eventually agreed.


Entering the Zenobia was an incredible experience and has fantastic imagery opportunity for photographers/videographers with light. It allowed us to see certain things we hadn't known were there as our guide did not take any torches down or point anything of interest out to us which you expect. We were led in blind. Simone’s strobes highlighted certain bits of colour that we later discovered were all sorts of fun things when we got back to our hotel to check out the days shoot. We knew that we had ended up in the restaurant at one point as the red tartan carpet was highlighted! Our entry point was through a fairly large opening and buoyancy is important as you do pass through a lot of corridors and change depths a few times. You do need to make sure you have a dive computer to monitor your dives. The dive on the inside is every bit as good as it is described, and you get to see how it rates as one of the top 10!


A small fishing port
A small fishing port

One thing is for sure, we all agreed we would love to go back and dive the Zenobia all over again, but next time, we would go through another dive centre as it makes all the difference to your diving experience and what you pay for, as our diving saga with AAK continued the following morning.


The last morning’s dive was meant to have been at the Pyla Caves so that we could experience another type of diving. I made sure to call the manager from AAK first thing (we had still not met him at this point into our trip) before heading down to breakfast to confirm we were in fact sticking to the intinerary. He nonchalently confirmed that we were going and closed with, “and we’ll have a coffee!” The conversation had not been convincing.


We headed out on our 10 minute morning walk to the Larnaca Marina from our hotel and found out that we were in fact not going to the Pyla Caves, but instead, going to back to dive the Zenobia because the winds had changed direction. To cut a long story short, we had to, at this point, say our thank you’s and make a break for it as this was one experience we could not end our memories on – least of all share with our readers!


Pyla Caves
Pyla Caves
Pyla Caves
Pyla Caves
Pyla Caves

We went back to our hotel and immediately called Simon Banks up and he opened an invitation for us to get to his dive centre at our earliest and he would take us to The Caves, a lovely little dive site in Cape Greco.


The cheapest option to getting around and the most fun, is to of course hire a car! We’ll skip the long winded part about us walking out to find a car dealer we were recommended and couldn’t find (although hilarious, the people we met along the way were incredibly friendly and helpful) and jump straight to the part where our lovely hotel receptionist organised a rental for us in 2 minutes flat! Within 30 minutes, the car was delivered to our hotel.


Saint Lazarus Church
Saint Lazarus Church

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT OUR HOTEL:

The Livadhiotis City Hotel is situated just 100 metres from the famous Larnaca Seafront (Phinikoudes Beach) and located in the heart of Larnaca’s town centre. It is surrounded by lots of great cafés, pubs and restaurants, only 10 minutes away from the Larnaca International Airport and just a stone’s throw away from the towns main shopping and commercial centre.


The surrounding area is steeped in history with the historical Saint Lazarus Church directly opposite the hotel, while the Pierides Museum, the Larnaca Marina, the Medieval Castle, and the Larnaca Archaeological Museum are all within a short walking distance. It was a great place to stay and the staff were brilliant.


OUR DETOUR TO PROTARAS

So, we ended up on a road trip to Protaras, saw some lovely scenery along the way and made it over in a relaxed 45 minutes. The dive centre is conveniently located at the Windmills Hotel Apartments, a family owned and run complex, which offers studios for 2 or 3 persons or one bedroom apartments for 2 or 4 persons with all the amenities required for a comfortable stay.


Simon had us kitted out with properly fitting equipment in no time and we left the dive centre and followed Simon’s pickup in our little rental. He went out of his way and stopped to show us a couple of beautiful landmarks on our way to the dive site which were great to see.



If you are not going to dive in Cyprus, there is plenty to see and visit. They have a very rich history and culture that is worth exploring and finding out about.


We reached our lovely spot, parked the cars and got ourselves ready for the rocky walk down to the water’s edge. Slightly tricky with steel tanks and a little extra weight on our backs, plus hauling the heavy camera and video equipment while trying to keep our balance – but with careful footing, we made it down the rocky path. A backwards roll off the ledge into the very clear blue water and we descended beneath the surface where a new world lay before us!


A fun fact we learnt: Believe it or not, there are no tides or currents there.


The Caves is a really fun dive site and the topography is beautiful and so different. It’s an easy shallow dive with a maximum depth of 12 metres consisting of holes, tunnels and overhanging rocks. Photographers can have a lot of fun here using diver models to add some depth to their images.


Simon had seen a seal at this dive site a few days before, but we unfortunately did not get a visit. We did see a lovely little orange moray eel and we saw our first Neptune’s Lace. Katie Brooks, a marine biologist for The Manta Trust came along as part of the EDA team and gives a detailed description of the marine life we got to see on our dives in her article, Cyprus on page 74.


If it were not for the 5mm wetsuits, gloves and booties, I don’t think I would have managed to stay down as long as we did. It was 16˚C at one point, which does take a little getting used to. I highly recommend getting a hoodie as most of the local/resident divers were all (maybe not all of them… but most of them) wearing one. I know I will be investing in one for future dives in those temperatures.


As a team of 3 divers sent out on a mission for this latest EDA FAM trip, we have learnt to make a turnaround of something not so good, into something so good, you envisage coming back to do it all over again. This time with the added bonus of good knowledge and first hand experience. We enjoyed our dives so much and there are many more dive sites to explore. That will be one to plan and look forward to for another time.



Oh, and if you love to eat – as we sure do (you won’t be able to get enough of the halloumi) – then Cyprus with its good food, diving and historical sites, makes a great long weekend destination.


Emirates have a 4 hour direct flight from Dubai to Larnaca! All the tastes and sites of Cyprus are ever so close.


PLACES WE RECOMMEND:

LIVADHIOTIS CITY HOTEL

50 Nikolaou Rossou Street

P.O. Box 42800, 6021 Larnaca

Tel: +357 24 626 222

Email: info@livadhiotis.com


These are the restaurants we experienced and suggest you ask them to give you a sample of their choice (food is fresh, homemade and incredibly sumptious that you always manage to find room in the bottom of your stomach for one last bite).


MILITZIS RESTAURANT

(they offer a rich selection of genuine homemade Cypriot dishes – they make their own delicious halloumi)

42, Piale Pasia Street, Larnaca

Tel: +375 24 655 867


CHARMERS RESTAURANT

(famous for their meat dishes, but we opted for fish not knowing this little fact)

Piale Pasia Street, Lordos Seagate, Larnaca

Tel: +375 24 624 127


TARATSA

(opposite the beautiful St. Lazarus Church)

Corner of Mehmet Ali & Pavlou Valsamaki, Larnaca

Tel: +375 24 621 782


KARAS VILLAGE TAVERN

(known for their exquisite seafood dishes)

Kennedy Avenue, Kappari 55, Paralimni

Tel: +375 23 820 565


The dive centre we can recommend to dive with:

WINDMILLS DIVING SCHOOL

Simon Banks

128 Prenera Avenue 69, Protaras

Tel: +357 96 213 982

Email: admin@windmillsdiving.com


The dive centre accomodation:

WINDMILLS HOTEL APARTMENTS

Pernera Avenue 75, Protaras, P.O. Box 33075, Paralimni

Tel: +357 23 831 120

Email: windmills@cytanet.com.cy


Thank you to the Larnaka Tourism Board in Cyprus for arranging the FAM Trip itinerary and the guided tour on our rest day to Agia Napa and thank you to the Cyprus Tourism Board in Dubai for the overall invitation.



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