In and Amongst the Shipwrecks of Greece
Reviews of Greece and her surrounding island can often be mixed; on one side it’s a party haven for 16-20 somethings heading out for a post-exam release, whilst for others it is an enticing historical destination with tiny cafes serving food that would knock most Michelin starred places out of the water.
What we don’t hear so much about, however, is the experience of life below.
Greece rests in the middle of the Aegean sea, and until 2005 divers could only access 620 miles of the 10,000 miles of coastline. With a free reign to explore below the waters, these days Greece is shooting to the top of the list for divers. Sea temperatures are favourable almost all year round (Sea temperatures range from 15 oC in February to 26 oC in August), and what’s more, the wealth of artefacts and remnants above ground are equally matched by those littering the bed of the sea.
So where to go for the best underwater sights?
One of the best preserved wrecks in the area, the Bristol Beaufighter plane which sunk off the coast of Cape Kouroupas (to the west of Naxos) is great for divers capable of reaching up to 34m. The nose has been separated from the main part of the plane, and the propeller is missing, but machine guns and other details are still visible within the plane.
For those interested in heading over to Naxos, it’s a 2 hour ferry journey from Santorinia (which itself is home to an abundance of diving hotspots), or a short plane ride from Athens. Compared to the other islands, it’s not brimming with things to keep you entertained above water, but you can find a few good ideas here.
For divers who haven’t yet completed a course to gain their open water certificate, Seagull Island is a great snorkelling spot easily reachable by boat. For the more serious divers, head out to see Volcano’s Tears; solidified lava formations creating strange, mesmerising shapes under the water.
Diver to Diver is the oldest school on the island and runs a range of PADI courses. Or if you prefer to charter a private yacht, you can arrange to do so at the Iliomare Seaside hotel.
Thankfully, Thassos (or Thasos) isn’ttoo built up yet, and boasts some of the best beaches in the country (such as Alexandra Beach). Although it’s only home to a population of 16,000, it’s easy to see how popular the island is, boasting over 400 hotels. The summers get very busy, so it would be wise to check reviews and book well in advance.
For some of the best dive-able shipwreck sites, this is the island to head for. The ANNA II is a 62m long cargo ship which met its fate here in 1995. At 18-36m deep, this is the better wreck spot for more inexperienced divers. Most of the ship is still intact, and you can actually get inside. It’s now home to an array of marine life and lots of tropical coloured sponges.
For those willing to get a bit deeper is thePeloponisos Wreck, a 64m long ship which sunk in 1926. This one suffered slightly more before going under, and is now split into two and strewn out across the sea floor. Due to the age of the wreck, it now acts as a man-made reef, and is home to an abundance of sea life. Depths of up to 55m can be reached at this site.
(Those travelling in the autumn, however should take note: storms often hit at this time, causing local businesses to shut up shop. Spring is the best time for divers, as the waters will be warm enough and the beaches won’t be overcrowded with the summer tourist influx.)
You can read more about how to get there here.
Crete is a fantastic spot for seeing some unlikely below-the-surface sights. Take, as an example, the Messerschmitt wreck; a WW2 German fighter plane which now rests off the coast of Malia after falling here in 1945. Though divers will have to battle with grouper eels, cuttlefish and crayfish for space, there’s still plenty of room to have a good nosy around in this well-preserved wreck. It lies at approximately 30m down and offers fantastic visibility levels.
Malia can get quite busy as a resort, so check and book before you go to avoid disappointment. (This site has 114 reviews of Malia based hotels). While you’re there, it would be worth checking out the above ground attractions; King Minos’ Palace makes a particularly good trip.
For those wanting to take courses to enable them to head out to the wreck, the Malia Diving Centre inside Sirens Beach Hotel is widely recommended by divers.
Been to any other amazing diving spots in Greece? Let us know!