Underwater Activities for All

Underwater Activities for All

Snorkelling

Loggerhead turtle (Photo by David Mark on Pixabay)

The simplest and most accessible way of getting a great view of what lies beneath is to don a mask and learn to breathe through a snorkel.

With so much flora and fauna within the clear warm Mediterranean waters, you should be able to find plenty to see… volcanic rock formations, multi-hued corals, sea anenomes, shoals of darting fish, starfish, shy seahorses, grazing turtles, graceful stingrays,…

Undersea Walking Helmets or Scooters

Breathe fresh air while you walk on the sea bed

A unique alternative to Scuba diving that allows you to experience first-hand the colourful world teeming within Cyprus’ crystal clear waters. Fresh air is pumped into your helmet – a totally different experience than breathing through a regulator. As your head stays dry, you can even wear your glasses or contact lenses.

Your own personal undersea transport

Undersea Cyprus also offer the opportunity to book a ride on a BOB (breathing observation bubble) which is a scooter-like personal mini submarine with built in fresh air helmet. Getting into the bubble does involve a brief moment underwater.

Based at Ayia Triada beach in Paralimni at the eastern end of the island. Morning and afternoon dives daily in season. The complete excursion lasts 2.5 hours – involving a short boat trip to the floating pontoon, then a rotation of escorted 30-minute undersea adventures for small groups in pre-booked time-slots.

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First-Time Diving

Pissouri Bay Divers offer a ‘Discover Scuba Diving‘ course which gives you the experience of using breathing apparatus underwater – either in a pool or the sea. This exciting taster is a great introduction to diving for novices, which could be the start of a big new adventure.

There are plenty of other dive centres offering a variety of courses and activities – both local and around the island.

Scuba divers (Photo by St Louis University Madrid on Flickr)

PADI Open Water Courses

You need to be quite organised to be able to fit a full PADI Scuba Diving qualification into your holiday. That’s not to say it can’t be done, though. The theory course – taking 12-15 hours – is best done online before your stay to maximise your time for the practical.

Pissouri Bay Divers offer an intermediate PADI Open Water qualification enabling you to hire equipment and dive under qualified supervision, or if you can squeeze in 4 open water dives, you could complete the full PADI certification.

Qualified divers can develop their skills and work towards the Advanced PADI Open Water certificate.

Wreck Diving

Zenobia listing to port
Zenobia listing in June 1980 prior to her sinking

Cyprus has 6 shipwrecks which make exciting dive sites…

The first and most well-known was created by the accidental sinking of the Zenobia roll-on roll-off ferry on her maiden voyage in 1980. A computer error causing overfilling of the port ballast tanks has been blamed for tipping the vessel. As the £200 million cargo of 104 articulated lorries and their contents has never been salvaged, there is plenty to view at the site off the coast of Larnaca. (The crew were all successfully rescued.)

Trucks on board sunken Zenobia
Zenobia trucks (Photo by dronepicr on Flickr)

Around the wreck you will see groupers, tuna, barracuda, turtles, and stingrays.

The Zenobia is widely regarded as the best wreck-diving site in the Mediterranean, and often voted in the world’s top ten.

In recent years the Cyprus Government has taken the decision to add a further 5 additional artificial reefs at points around the island by sinking redundant vessels. Rest assured these were meticulously cleaned and prepared to ensure that no pollution was created in the process.

The new reefs have the same characteristics as natural reefs – providing space and shelter for reproduction, growth, feeding and refuge for marine organisms. Algae and sponges grow on the surfaces of the sunken wrecks, creating mini ecosystems and habitats.

Locations:
Protaras – 1950s fishing vessel Nemesis III – Dec 2013
Limassol – Lady Thetis, a 1950s German vessel – Feb 2014
Limassol – former Soviet fishing trawler Costandis – Feb 2014
Paphos – Laboe, a pre-World War II cruiser – June 2014
Ayia Napa – Kerynia, a navy patrol boat – Feb 2015

Atlantis

Atlantis turtle watching cruise
Atlantis turtle watching cruise

Of all the excursions from sea-fishing to wildlife-watching available from Paphos harbour, we recommend Atlantis Turtle-Watching Cruise – that we discovered thanks to our guest Natalie.

Atlantis is equipped with portholes for underwater viewing of fish, turtles, stingrays, and wrecks. Cruises start from the furthest jetty, and the skipper, George, is a genial and knowledgeable host.

Glass Bottomed Boats

You will find a variety of excursions in glass-bottomed boats from harbours around the island. Another great opportunity to view the undersea delights below.

Kingfisher – Paphos | Alkion – Latchi | Mediterranean One – Latchi

Hoping to See Turtles?

Turtle viewing through the portholes on Atlantis

George’s Turtle-Watching Cruise on Atlantis

Leaving in late afternoon from the second jetty at Paphos harbour, this delightful excursion is one of our all-time favs. Since learning about the trip from guests (thanks Natalie!) and having enjoyed it ourselves, we think it the most magical experience…

Atlantis turtle watching cruise

Atlantis has an underwater viewing platform with stools and portholes. Running these daily trips, George has a fantastic insider’s knowledge of the flora and fauna of the coral reefs off Paphos. He takes you out a short distance off-shore to an area of sea grass favoured by turtles. The surprise for me was the size of the larger ones… fully grown they approach a metre in length, although the younger ones are considerably smaller.

There are no guarantees, of course, but if you follow George’s Atlantis Facebook page, you will discover that you would be extremely unlucky not to see any. And there are plenty of other sights to savour – enormous stingrays, an amazing variety of colourful fish, beautiful coral reefs and encrusted shipwrecks.

On the way home, George drops anchor to allow you to enjoy a refreshing sunset swim off the boat. (Book on +357 9666 1737 or via Facebook message).

Lara Bay Turtles

Off the beaten track in the protected Akamas Nature Reserve, Lara Bay has the island’s main turtle beach; home to both loggerhead and green turtle nests. If you visit this unspoilt long stretch of golden sandy beach in summer, you will see hundreds of cages protecting nests from predators. Sun loungers and parasols are not allowed on the beach, lest they damage hidden nests.

There is a Turtle Rescue Centre, but be aware this is primarily for conservation, rather than visitors. The two huts on the beach contain interesting information boards about the turtles, and rescue tanks… Sometimes there are baby hatchlings being nurtured to strength in the tanks, but equally there are also times when they are empty. While this is a positive thing – meaning there are currently no baby turtles in need of support, it can be disappointing for visitors, especially children.

Protective cages over nests on Lara turtle beach

The easiest way to get there is to book a jeep safari or hire a 4×4 or quad bike to reach the beach, as it’s approached via a rutted and rocky unmade road. If you’re visiting in a normal hire car, you can park in the car park 200 metres beyond the end of the tarmac road, and continue on foot. The Turtle Rescue Centre is a mile further north, so make sure you’re prepared with good footwear, hat, water and sunscreen. To find it, continue beyond Lara Café, and when you see a sign pointing right to Ineia, take the track opposite onto the beach.

Pissouri Beach

Every summer mature female turtles that hatched here many years previously return to Pissouri beach to nest. Members of Pissouri Turtlewatch patrol the beach in the early mornings looking for tell-tale tracks, so that they can place protective cages over the nests to keep them safe. Once a nest has been established, the countdown to the exciting hatching begins.

Baby turtle hatchlings day and night

The next task for the dedicated volunteers is an overnight vigil (as nests can hatch out any time from dusk till dawn). If mother nature has arranged everything right, this will be on the night of a full moon to help them navigate towards the moonlit water.

Failing that Pissouri Turtlewatch use special red-filtered torches which provide a safe soft light to guide the hatchlings seawards. At this stage every effort is made to avoid picking up or even touching the tiny babies, as this can interfere with the development of their strength and navigational imprinting.

Red torch guiding hatchlings to the sea
Pissouri Turtlewatch vigil

How You Can Help

Turtles are endangered and protected by law, with the odds of surviving to adulthood staggeringly low.

Occasionally things go wrong, leaving the mother turtle or the hatchlings stranded on the beach in daylight when they are obviously at their most vulnerable. In that event, or if you find an injured, distressed or dead turtle, support is available from: Pissouri Turtlewatch (Jimmy +357 9946 2308), or Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre& (+357 2582 6562), or The Oceanic Institute of the University of Cyprus (24/7 helpline +357 9695 2929).

In the meantime, the expert advice is to keep well back, stay quiet, and try to leave them alone, only interfering as a last resort. Removing large pebbles and creating an obstacle-free path directly to the sea can be helpful for the tiny hatchlings. During daylight there is no problem with taking photos and videos, as long as you ensure the flash is turned off.

Tiny Loggerhead Turtle Hatchlings On Pissouri Beach

Many thanks to Chris Price and Claudine Snell of Pissouri Turtlewatch for permission to use their lovely photos.

A previous version of this article was originally posted on our old website blog by Nikki 13/7/2017