After months of attempting to co-ordinate opposing work schedules, my husband Ed and I found ourselves with a week off in July. That we wanted to spend it mostly underwater was obvious – but where?
Our AOW last year had given us a taste for wreck diving, and every search we did turned up the MS Zenobia in Cyprus as one of the best in the world. Add in glorious sunshine with a chance of turtles, and Cyprus was an easy, close-by and affordable option. And then there is the halloumi…
Our hideaway for the week was a beautiful apartment at the top of a hill in Pissouri, a charming little traditional Cypriot village situated halfway between Paphos and Limassol. With its 1000 inhabitants and friendly, inviting tavernas, it is an ideal base for diving Cyprus – and, should you need even more water, it also has a lovely beach. We dived with Cyprus Diving Adventures – Steve’s dive shop is superbly run, and we were lucky to be guided by the great Diving Scotsman, Stewart, whose enthusiasm and knowledge of Cypriot diving is second to none. Fuelled by excellent moussaka and kleftiko from the taverna in the main square, we were ready to see what the sea had to offer.
Our week was a mixture of shore and boat dives to showcase the unique underwater topography Cyprus has to offer, as well as the much-anticipated wrecks. The Amphitheatre in Coral Bay is a spectacle in its own right; enticing swim-throughs lead to a beautiful subaquatic theatre, with its main stage lit by the midday sun streaming in from above, while St George’s Island in Latchi offers turtles, lionfish, squid and a lovely 30m wall to dive along.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the glorious Zenobia herself. Resting on her side on the seabed at 42m, this massive 172m cargo ship which sank on her maiden voyage from Sweden in 1980 left us wanting more even after four dives. Nature has totally reclaimed the Zen after 40 years and it teems with life – huge shoals of bream swarming over her hull, hovering schools of barracuda, tiny lilac nudibranchs waving from the hatches, turtles patrolling the Kissing Trucks – while jealous lionfish guard their hoard of spilled mirrors from the aptly named Mirror Truck.
The Zen is a total divers’ playground and there is something for every level of experience (although Deep and Nitrox are certainly worthwhile specialties to have, or acquire whilst there, to make the most of the dives). My personal highlight is the completely penetrable corridor linking the cafeteria to the accommodation – take a torch so you can see the still bright red of the tartan carpet lining the floor, find the coffee machine, and enjoy a float through the path lit by beautiful blue light streaming from the hatches above .
There are more treasures to be found on the decks too - the Bone Truck once carried meat cargo which over the years was picked clean by the hungry fish, and the bones now shine a pristine white in the silt.
The wrecks in Limassol are also a great day out. Both the Costandis (a Russian trawler) and the Lady Thetis (a German river cruiser) were scuttled in 2014 as artificial reefs in the new Marine Park to encourage life to return to this part of the Mediterranean – with great success. We were accompanied throughout the dive by Jaws, the massive grouper (who was either territorial, or keen to show us his new home), and we found plenty of fish hiding in the engine rooms. Both wrecks are great to explore and kept us entertained at 24m, while the surface intervals are made for a splash about in the warm blue water, looking out over Limassol.
Paphos and Limassol are both lively cities with plenty to offer, but we were so content with diving and exploring around Pissouri that we never ventured beyond! The local food is fresh and delicious – sharp green olives, halloumi grilled to perfection and yoghurt drenched in honey – and we loved the village square’s weekly ‘Cypriot Night’ with live bouzouki music (enthusiastically accompanied on vocals by the taverna owner), folk dancing by two eminently bearded Cypriot locals (no spoilers, but things get set on fire!) and mesmerising belly dancing. The local Keo beer on the last night went down a treat too.
Our diving experience in Cyprus was made exceptional by Cyprus Diving Adventures; showing us the best frappé in town, the most amazing spots underwater and everything in between, they made us feel incredibly welcome and in completely safe hands throughout our holiday, and so they come with our highest recommendation. Thank you to Steve and his fantastic team – and to Oonasdivers for planning our perfect week diving the Mediterranean. We will be back!