With a population of just over 1 million, Cyprus relies on tourism in the summer months. One of the islands' biggest appeals is its scuba diving.
It's guaranteed good visibility and warm temperatures for the whole summer (in fact the dive season out there runs from March-October). By all means it's not brimming with life and reefs like the Red Sea, but it makes for some really fun European diving.
The country itself is steeped in rich history, positioned in the Mediterranean it has a blend of cultures. Predominantly influenced by Western Europe, but its close positioning to Africa and Asia gives it a distinct essence of Eastern life too.
Life on the island is very diverse, from the small villages still heaped in tradition, to the frantic clubbers' 'paradise' of Ayia Napa. But as you take a leap into its pristine shimmering water, the hustle and bustle fades away to reveal a wonderful underwater world.
For the sake of this article I will be concentrating on the area that is best served by the various diving shops. Protaras and the rocky area of shoreline known as Cavo Greco.
Scuba Diving in Cyprus!
The people around the hotel pool, enticing you to don the scuba gear for the first time, are ten to the dozen. But usually offer decent rates for beginners and dive tours for those already certified.
A handful of hotels are within a ten minute drive of a dive sight known as Green bay. The perfect place to enter the sea for the first time. It has a maximum depth of 9 meters (29 feet). There are several “ancient statues” which in reality are probably about ten years old, having been placed there by one of the many dive centers on the island.
There is a large flattened rock at one point of the dive, with a pebble resting on top, by tapping one on top of the other. Hundreds upon hundreds of fish (saddled bream, damselfish and the odd painted wrasse) shoal towards you on mass, as local dive guides feed them bread. Obviously something they have done for years, the fish associating the noise with a free meal.
It makes the perfect photo opportunity, sitting there amongst countless fish swirling around you, some brave enough to gently nibble your fingers.
Caves and mythical creatures
The majority of the coastline is relatively rocky, scattered with various sandy beaches. One dive, aptly named, 'the caves' is a splendid little trip through numerous overhangs and tunnels, with one of the best exits I have experienced, quite literally having to hurl yourself up and out of an underwater cave.
Another is situated below a hollow in the rock upon the surface, known as The Cyclops cave, supposedly where the mythical creature once lived.
This dive is beautiful, gazing up at the sheer expanse of large cliff faces, as the waves bombard the rocks above, whilst catching a fleeting glimpse of a passing stingray. This is the perfect dive to explore the nooks and crannies of the rock covered sea floor.
Providing a home for an abundance of small aquatic life, from gurnards to the odd octopus, you can get carried away trying to find things. The dive slopes down to about 40 meters (130 feet).
Red Sea visitor
My favourite fish residing in Cypriot waters has to be the cornet fish, a migrant from the red sea, having made its way through the Suez Canal since its opening. A slender creature reflecting its name, with two large curious looking eyes.
On many occasions, by rubbing my fingers together, I have enticed them all the way to my hand. A strange experience regarding this lightning fast fish can grow up to 1.6 meters (5.2 feet).
You can see them hunt smaller shoals of fish, as their silvery backs change colour in attack mode. They pursue their prey with large hoover like mouthpieces, sucking up any hapless stragglers.
The crème de la crème of Cyprus Diving
Without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of the diving has to be the phenomenal shipwreck Zenobia. Sunk in June 1980, the Swedish ship was carrying 104 lorries, all, still pretty much fully intact to this day.
It lies in about 42 meters (137 feet) with the top of the ferry only 16 meters (52 feet) from the surface. With visibility of up to 50 meters (164 feet) the silhouette of the ship can be seen from the surface, a dark monster on the sea bed almost 200 meters (656 feet) in length.
It's the perfect wreck for all levels of certification. With an abundance of life; big grouper, barracuda, bream, damselfish, morays and the occasional green sea turtle.
For the less experienced diver, Zenobia offers a beautiful underwater tour, staying at a maximum of between 18-25 meters (59.1-82 feet). Luckily many of the sunken lorries are scattered across the sea floor, giving the chance for non penetrable divers to experience their mystic beauty. Two of which still hang, suspended in time by the chains that once kept them secure to the deck.
For the more experienced diver there is a more advanced penetration dive. This cuts through the main lorry deck. The excellent visibility transporting the diver back in time, viewing the cargo and trucks inside.
A rather cool sight is the canteen and kitchen, with dozens of eggs still intact, and an area scattered with animal bones from the meat that was onboard. In fact much of the cargo is visible, scattered throughout the wreck. It has been estimated some £200,000,000 worth of goods went down with the ferry on its maiden voyage.
Many people will tell you this wreck are reason enough to visit Cyprus.
Next dive holiday in Cyprus?
Whilst Cyprus doesn't have the best scuba diving in the world, it certainly does have a lot to offer. Crystal clear water, warm temperatures, plenty of fish to see, caves and a ship wreck that has ranked in the top 10 of many top dive and wreck site lists across world.
The country itself is lovely, friendly people with numerous dive shops and guides to cater to your every need!