Travel review: Diving off Cyprus

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If you think there’s nothing left to discover on our diverse and beautiful planet, then you’re missing out on a whole other world beneath the waves. James Hardisty goes diving off Cyprus

Diving holidays are the new frontier, everyone is invited and the pool is always open.

As an experienced scuba diving with more than 500 logged dives, an invitation to a rapid tour of the underwater world around Cyprus was irresistible.

And so I found myself at the Capo Bay Hotel (www.capobay.com)in Protaras, a charming resort and a more sophisticated alternative to the buzzing and wild atmosphere of its neighbouring town; Agia Napa.

Our first two dives of the trip began at Taba Diving Centre (www.tabadivingcyprus.com).It is run by Englishman Steve Fox-Kirk and is a Padi 5 star training facility.

We headed for The Cliffs and The Caves, in an area that offers great views along the Cypriot coastline with the impressive Cape Greco peninsula dominating the scenery.

The Cliffs caters for all levels of divers, due to the natural formation of the sea bed. It has a shelf depth of between 7m-15m with a gradual decent to around 60m, depending on your level of training.

The dive consisted of a gentle swim around the reef, admiring the rock formation along with the variable Mediterranean fish life.

Our next dive was at The Caves. This is a site only dived if you have the right level of qualification, but it is possible to swim through each cave admiring the rays of light shining in. Some are narrow at the beginning then widen inside with an exit through a naturally made bolt hole. Others are large overhangs with very little current and tidal range making these dives great fun, in a very controlled and safe environment.

Out of the water, Protaras is particularly suitable for package-holidays because of the impressive array of hotels that have been built in the area.

The next stop was Arnacamarina, for a short boat trip of about 15-20 minutes to the wreck site of the famous Swedish-built ferry, The Zenobia,

The Zen, a Challenger class roll-on, roll-off ferry, sank on its maiden voyage from Sweden to Syria, off the coast of Larnaca. The dive was amazing and is an absolute must. As soon as you enter the clear warm waters there is a abundance of marine life such as groupers, barracuda, bream, triggerfish, and wrasse.

I was breathless at the sheer size of the wreck. There was even a resident green moray eel.

Dropping down within the second deck, the light started to fade, our torch lights picked out the ghostly shadows of spilled cargo and, trapped in air pockets, hundreds of blue plastic bottles from one of the lorries.

Next we descended down to a depth of 33m through more tight passageways, our heart beating more than ever with anticipation of what could be around the next corner, air bubbles rushing up to the surface from previous divers, and the odd fish popping out from the dark.

There was more cargo, and darker holes to explore but with our time clocking up we left the internal part of the ship through what seemed to be a vent shaft

Our next port of call was to the Western end of the island stopping off at Aphrodite’s Rock, the birthplace of Aphrodite’s (the goddess of beauty and love) and one of islands most famous attractions.

Rumour has it if you swim around the Rock naked you will be fertile for life!

With only one full day of diving left we said goodbye to Paphos, and headed North West, to Latchi, a working fishing harbour 10 miles away.

Our dive operator this morning was Latchi Watersports Centre. With kit sorted we headed out to our first site at St George’s Island, featuring a wall dive starting with a gently slop from 10m to 40m.

It’s a dive site for all levels with a high chance of spotting octopus, moray eels, peacock worms, sea slugs, bream, grouper and even barracuda, with visibility normally 25m plus there’s lots to see.

The second dive site was at Mazaki Reef, right on the tip of the coast, an area not normal dived due to the swell.

The last dive of the trip was a night dive with Cydive, one of the largest dive operators on the island.

Instructor Mark guided us around the gullies and overhangs, pointing out a sea slug commonly found in this area, as well as octopus and cuttlefish.

Cyprus has suffered from over-fishing over the years, but there are now plans to make things right once again.

Within the next year five new dive wrecks are planned along the coast, along with mapped marine areas for non-fishing holidaymakers, and there are plans to expand these in the future.

But Cyprus diving has loads to offer. The number one reason to go of course is the Zenobia - though a suitable level of training is necessary.

Cyprus is a good place to go to improve your general diving ability, and a great place for the family.

It is a friendly place to dive with many dive operators to choose from. Water temperatures are around 26°c, with visibility of more than 25 meters.

And, as flights from the UK take just over four hours, why would you not travel to Cyprus to discover the beautiful underwater world that exists there?

TRAVELFACTS:

Capo Bay Hotel, Protaras: www.capobay.com/reservations@capobay.com.cy.

www.tabadivingcyprus.com.

Almyra Hotel, Paphos: www.thanoshotels.com.

www.limassolmarina.com

www.cydive.com

www.latchiwatersportscentre.com

www.antoniadeswinery.com

www.cyprusvillages.com.cy

http://cyprusair.com. Flights from around £220 return out of peak season.

As a rule of thumb 10 dives plus accommodation for a week starts from around £500.

www.visitcyprus.com

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