Greek diving delights
With a wide variety of aquatic scenery, Greek Island scuba diving has always been a spectacular way to take shelter from the blazing summer sun. A combination of a resurgence in the tourist industry, and a relaxation on laws governing marine parks, has only made things easier and provided better choice. This makes 2015 the perfect year to experience Greek Island scuba diving for the first time.
Whether you are an experienced diver, a beginner, or just a snorkeler, there will doubtless be an ideal location helping you to get the most out of your dive. Most areas feature amazingly clear water which is often teeming with marina life. There are also numerous caves, cliffs and a number of fascinating shipwrecks some of which have been sitting on the seabed for hundreds of years.
With the lifting of diving restrictions, scuba dive centres popped up all over the place in 2014, many offer lessons and yacht-based diving experiences. We always recommend that you only use diving centres which are PADI approved. This ensures that equipment is modern and in good working order. It goes without saying that even with the correct equipment diving is not without its risks. The shallow bays and jagged rocks can be very dangerous, especially for the uninformed.
To help you choose the best area for you, we have broken down our top diving locations into three distinct groups. 'Beginner friendly', for those who are just getting started, 'A cultural treasure trove' for those interesting in visiting historic wrecks, and 'Off the beaten track'. The third of these categories includes locations which we don't recommend for those who are new to diving.
Our selection of beginner friendly locations lack none of the stunning scenery of the more advanced dives. We have selected these locations as there tends to be a greater number of PADI approved diving instructors and as a general rule the dives are more suitable for those with less experience.
A good starting point would be the popular island of Skiathos. It may not be quite as spectacular as some locations, but the water is breathtakingly clear and there is an abundance of marine life all year round. A great location for underwater photography.
Cofu is another excellent destination for the amateur diver. A number of the popular dive centres exist, and most are modern and staff informative. The other appealing thing, is that most dives include a little bit of everything. Colourful reefs, underwater caves and the odd shipwreck here and there are all within easy reach.
Alonissos is an interesting diving location as it has been classed as a marine park for many years allowing undisturbed wildlife to thrive. There is a multitude of fish and colourful plants awaiting divers. Expect to see multi-coloured stripey fish, sponges, corals and lumper eels. There are also some interesting caves to explore.
If you like your wildlife, you should also consider Zante. Here you will regularly encounter octopus, barracuda and moray eels. You can also find dolphin fish, greater amberjacks and even the odd endangered turtle. Just be careful you don't accidentally step on one! The average water temperature is 27°C, with visibility up to 35 metres. We recommend heading to the dive sites around the Keri coast, if you only have a short amount of time to experience your dive.
A cultural treasure trove
Ancient shipwrecks litter the Greek coastline in places. The unpredictable tides, sharp currents and jagged rocks have claimed many vessels over the centuries. Those interested in the history of these wrecks can find out more at a dedicated Wikipedia shipwreck page.
The sea bed around Skiathos, Alonissos and Skopelos is home to the second largest concentration of ancient sea wrecks on the planet. Numerous important wrecks have been found near the islet of Peristera, including a vessel from the 5th century. Following the relaxation of diving rules, some of these areas have only become accessible since 2015. Protected zones still exist though, and diving in these is strictly forbidden. Check with local diving centres if you are unsure.
Corfu features two British ships including a large world war two steamship and the British minesweeper HMS Regulus, which perhaps unsurprisingly was hit by a mine at the end of the war. Those interested in military history are also encouraged to hunt for the British bomber aircraft which crashed into the sea off the coast at Cape Kouroupas. For those more interested in ancient history, there is the wreck of a much older ship, thought to be Roman, off the coast of Kassiopi.
Naxos also has it's fair share of interesting dive sites including a group of three caverns between Antiparos and Paros. This is known locally as Mermaid's Cave and is the final resting place for the cargo ship Marianna which sunk some 30 years ago during a bad storm.
Also recommended is the islet of Agios Georgis which lies close to Petra. Rock slides have formed fascinating reefs including many rare species of plant. Over in the southeast, the tiny islands off the coast of Tarti have particularly clear waters giving divers an excellent view of the wrecks of a couple of commercial ships.
Off the beaten track
Halkidiki is a popular Greek holiday destination and is about an hour's drive from the airport at Thessaloniki. Only recently becoming popular with divers allows for very private dives. You can often swim around for hours without ever encountering another diver. The waters are beautifully clear and there are sponges, eels octopus and lobsters all in abundance.
Samos provides a similar experience having only really taken off as a diving location since 2012. Although more popular than Halkidiki, Samos offers an even greater array of marine life including starfish and incredible undersea walls covered in sponges.
For the more adventurous the underwater caves and caverns off the coast of Lefkas may have more appeal. Make sure you check with a diving instructor though, as there are hazards within the network of caves. This is not a location for the amateur diver unless properly supervised.
For the experienced diver, the popular pastime of spear fishing may appeal. However, it is illegal to spear fish without a licence. Port authorities can grant licenses but you will have to wait at least a week to get one. Local diving centres and diving website can provide more information.