We decided to venture to Cyprus this year for the family holiday. Why I chose the holiday and then looked for a dive centre is beyond me surely it should be where do I want to go diving and then book the family holiday. Anyway, Cyprus was the agreed location and Aphrodite Hills in Paphos was going to be our home for the next few weeks. ( I wouldn’t recommend Aphrodite Hill’s by the way, it’s very very nice but very over rated and very overpriced).
Looking around on the web it seems the only real major attraction to dive in Cyprus is the Zenobia near Laranca. So off I went in pursuit of a dive centre able to accommodate the rebreather. After a few exchange of emails I found Sheri and Chris at the Dive Inn, in Lanarca to be best suited for rebreathers as many other places still operate with single or twin cylinders. However, this meant taking some of my own unit, hiring some and driving an hour and half from Paphos in a hire car to find the dive centre and then go diving. As I would also most likely have to do the trip twice to prepare the unit and discuss dive plans this wasn’t looking the best option for time or the pocket. So better look at a plan B. I came across Pissouri Dive Centre, run by Tracey Bevis, Neil Bevis and their in house TDI Instructor Steve Ford www.pissouridivers.com and they would be only 15 minutes away, perfect. Having exchanged a few calls with Tracey and Steve, not only were they English but they were fully on-board with the whole diving arrangement and could accommodate my wishes to explore inside the Zenobia rather than the usual holiday follow my leader swim around the outside and up because the air hog has blown his 15L in 10 minutes. I was invited by Steve to come into the dive centre and discuss kit arrangements and put together our diving plans ahead of the actual dive date. I thought this was very professional on their / his part as the usual holiday diving is turn up and pay as you go type arrangement and hope you don’t get the air hog as your buddy or the bloke who dived 3 years ago. With a nice twinset and kit arranged, we went about discussing possible dive plans from a nice big diagram of the wreck they had on their wall. With dive plans and deco times agreed, it was just now the date. The alarm clock went off and its 5.30am on Friday 24th August, leaving at 6.15am to meet Steve in Pissouri Village. Off we set for our hour and half dive to in the lovely morning dusk skies these were beautiful. I’m so glad I didn’t drive because I would have never found the way through all these little side roads. Well this couldn’t get any easier from here onward. After arriving at the end of the jetty we were given a very large cart to put the kit in and wheel for about 200 yards onto a hugh Cat which was already starting to fill up with a dozen or so divers from other dive centres around Cyprus. I understand this used to be a Fire Patrol Boat on the River Thames in previous years gone by and now is the main taxi to and from the Zenobia a few times a week. With a few hands of help and some experienced ‘ were sit here ‘ guideness from Steve to avoid the sun, the excitement was mounting. The dive site is only 15 minutes out so we quickly got the kit sorted and headed off for a recap of the plan and a cup of tea. Steve then introduced me to the Skipper Chris, on our tour of his fine lady so I was fully aware of what and where everything would be and how we get off and on the boat. Well……… here comes the best bit, off we jump and I look down and can immediately see this massive wreck before me, a little hazy as it starts at 16/18m and the deepest part being 42m but wow it’s big. First stop egg truck at 38m just off the stern area, well I wish I had packed something more than my 3mm long because upon descending to about 18m, hooo that’s cold. I thought we was in Cyprus I remember thinking, it’s like being at home in the Chepstow puddle.
Quick explore of the remaining eggs around the egg truck and up across the deck area to where the three large groupers live. After saying hello to them we moved off to the bone truck, which sits in the open hull area in the middle of drawing. This was a lorry full of frozen meats and once the meat thawed and the marine life had their fest it just leaves this massive lorry with bones scattered everywhere. Along from here we entered into the upper lorry deck area which meant the torches needed firing up as not only was it starting to get darker and darker but that cold feeling was coming again. We swam along towards the bow area looking around at all these over turned lorry’s with their sides ripped open and slit slowly starting to cover the remains but not enough that you could sit make out the controls and steering wheels in the cabins. In the distance you can see this beam of light from a door way / window up at the bow section, Steve had told me a previous story how he had seen silhouettes of others divers here before to later find out he and his buddy were the only two divers on the wreck and also how some photos that have been taken over the years have divers in the back ground but again no others divers were on the wreck, scuba ghosts maybe. Behind is very open so no issues with exits at this stage. We travelled a fair way up into the upper cargo deck and then decided to turn back and head up a lift shaft on my right side, after tucking a few gauges and bits in, we entered the lift shaft, half way along Steve turns right into another very small opening and points upwards. I recall the plan, this is the laundry room and he is pointing out that if I look up I will see some washing machines on the ceiling area. This area isn’t big enough for two divers so I will have to wait for him to drop out through a hole the other side before entering. We come out the other side, I believe into the Captain’s quarters and head off around the bridge / wheel area, here you can see all the controls and exit through a window of the bridge. We then head up onto the top of the wreck and back towards the stern and look over the prop area before collecting Steve’s stage bottle for the slow ride up back to the boat. The wreck has a few permanent shot lines and a trapeze so there is plenty of places to stop, we took the free ascent approach away from the shot lines, I’d forgotten how nice it was to just slowly ascend looking around at other divers and the bottom without a care in the world, usually its 60 minutes on the SMB floating along in 2m of viz watching the PPO2 readings on the rebreather handset every few minutes.
Back up and a cup of tea and some melon. We were the last two divers back so we quickly dropped my twins over to Chris to refill with another 28% Nitrox fill as they are able to fill on-board with their compressor. After a nice long surface interval divers started to disappear again and we were the last two remaining as we planned it this way. It was more likely we would go into deco this dive as we were entering the second cargo deck area and will be deeper for longer so will rack up some deco, I’m sure it won’t be my usual 50 minutes. Getting down again and that cold thermocline hit me, whoosh off we went to the bow area and this wreck is so big you just can’t take it all in, the wow factor is just amazing. We entered through a door / windows / opening towards the bow area and I remember thinking not only is this dark and cold but it’s like entering an air craft hanger the size is just hugh. We made our way along the second cargo deck but staying nearer to the ceiling area to minimise the deco, this was still around 25-28m and the compartments above my head were full of patterns from the oil and water mixture, very strange but pretty. Looking down was just complete darkness and upon shining your torch you could see the other lorries laying in their graves, I would love to be on the rebreather and go poking around down there, that will have to be another time. We headed along this cargo area and come across loads of blue water bottles on the ceiling area they must have come out of the cargo of one of the lorries and now sit awaiting the day to be launched to the surface. One day the boat will arrive on site and it will be flooded with these blue bottles or they will be lining the shores of the beach. I’m sure some silly bugger will cut them loose at some point. I remember venturing down these tight corridors, tucking the torch and camera in at times to make it through the gaps, a red carpet was hanging on the wall which would have been the floor previously, going under and over parts of wreckage and ducking for pipes going across breath taking whilst amazing at the size and wreckage everywhere. I think this was along by the canteen area and accommodation blocks. We came out towards the stern area with 16 minutes of deco and spent the rest of the dive exploring around the props and upper side watching as the minutes slowly counted down ready for that lovely free ascent.
Would love to go back and take the rebreather next time for some serious time on this wreck, there is so much to see. I think you could easy spend 3-5 days exploring this and not return to the same part twice.
Big thanks to Pissouri Divers, Tracey and Neil they made me so welcome, very professional. If your looking for a professional and friendly dive centre then these guys are perfect. Not forgetting Steve for his 121 tour you certainly gave me that taster of the second cargo deck to want more…. thank you. I will be returning soon.
There are lots of videos and pictures on the web of this wreck, so fill your boots I have pulled a few off for the purposes of this blog, hope people don’t mind me borrowing their images, I was so busy diving I didn’t stop to take to many pictures myself.
- Marc Dellow