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Aqaba Underwater – an overview

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Sean Chinn concludes his travels in Jordan with an overview of the diving highlights on offer in Aqaba.

Hopefully you have all read my article on diving the new C-130 Hercules dive site in Aqaba. If you haven’t then you can find it here: www.scubaverse.com/making-history-aqaba-scuttling-c-130-hercules/

As well as the Hercules site, Aqaba has a host of underwater delights on offer. In my opinion, Aqaba is a perfect destination for those new to diving who want to enjoy some nice relaxing easy dives to gain experience while being amazed at the colour and thriving fish life the coral reefs have to offer. It is also perfect for clubs from the UK or Europe to organise trips to and potentially use as a base to run courses; making use of the warmer waters and working with the local friendly dive centres for a great professional service.

A Wreck Specialty would be perfect on my personal favourite dive site of the trip, The Cedar Pride. This is a relatively shallow wreck at a max depth of 25m to the sea floor. With clear waters it really is a fun wreck to explore, with 32 years of coral growth creating stunning areas of colour and fish life. Many lionfish can be found hiding within the nooks and crannies. It is also easy to penetrate and find small schools of fish hiding inside using dark areas for protection. I only did the one dive there and was concentrating more on photographing the outside but would love to go back and explore more of the wreck.

Japanese Gardens and The Power Station were also extremely pleasant dive sites full of coral and fish life, providing lots of colour typical of the Red Sea. These are also sites where you were able to explore a little deeper if you wanted to, as they either slope to around 30m in the case of Japanese Gardens, or have a steep wall drop off like The Power Station. However, both also provide nice, easy shallow dives on the coral plateau for those willing to take their time and look for the little creatures that call the reef home. Sometimes taking your time can be the most fun as you’d be surprised at how much you miss whilst working along the reef and neglecting taking a closer look.

One of the major highlights for me was getting under the jetty of Berenice Beach Club. As I stated in my previous article, Sindbad Dive Club have their own jetty meaning all the dive sites are within easy reach of the club. What you should realise though is that you don’t need to get on the boat to have an amazing experience underwater. Grab a tank, or even just your mask, snorkel and fins, and jump in under the jetty and explore the house reef. The life under there is amazing and I decided on one surface interval to have a little snorkel and loved working my way through the piers, following the school of sardines that call the jetty home. Lionfish would creep into view as they came away from the camouflage of the pier and into the blue. I could have stayed there all day but I needed to save my camera battery for the dive on the Hercules in the afternoon.

I also got the chance to do a sunset dive and explore the macro life of the reef under the jetty and beyond. The peppered moray eels are bountiful and are great to watch as they explore the sea grass, keeping an eye out for scorpion fish camouflaged in the reef. Again, this is a place I would love to explore more and see what other critters were hiding from me.

I’m looking forward to the day I get back to Aqaba and explore more of what I missed on this short trip. I would definitely recommend it as a destination for people looking for an enjoyable diving experience that is not too challenging, and where you can also enjoy land based adventures. Be sure to think of Aqaba when booking your next holiday!

Sean Chinn’s scuba diving adventure started in a freezing cold quarry back in January 2011. Maybe the reason he wasn't instantly hooked! However, after an amazing trip to Indonesia in 2013, he realised he needed to see more of the underwater world. With no photography background, he enlisted some help in developing both his diving and photo skills. This kickstarted his diving and underwater photography adventure which has become something of an addiction. Seeing and photographing wildlife is Sean’s real passion in diving but he is always keen to try new ideas.

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Mamma Mia! Diving Skopelos (Part 2)

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Our second days dive itinerary was to the famous Christoforos wreck! This is arguably the best dive in Skopelos and though only open to divers with deep diving experience, this 83m long wreck is well worth the visit.  

The Christoforos sits in 43 meters of water with the deck at 32 to 35 meters.  A 30m dive can give an impressive view of the wreck, though such a large wreck needs a few dives to truly do it justice.  Given its ideal location just a 2 minute boat ride from the dive centre dock it is an excellent first dive of the day.  The sheltered site is also diveable in all but the absolute worst weather so although deep, the water is usually clear with little to no current making it a very pleasant dive.  The site is superb for technical diving and a great training site for the Tec 40 and 45 programs, offered by Skopelos Dive Center.  

The Christoforos wreck was originally a collier ship built in 1950 at Grangemouth shipyard under the name “Thomas Hardie”.  In 1976 she joined the Greek merchant fleet as “Christoforos”.  On the 2nd of October 1983 the Christoforos was carrying 2600 tonnes of cement from Volos to Piraeus Port. During the voyage the weather turned, resulting in the ship developing a 7 degree list, whereby she changed course for safe anchorage at Panormos, Skopelos.  The ship reached Panormos at 16:00 with a list of 17 degrees and water ingress to No. 1 hull.  Though attempts were made to right the vessel, the crew were ordered to abandon ship at 22:00.  The captain, lieutenant and the quartermaster remained to try and save the ship, but had to abandon the attempt themselves and the Christoforos finally sank at 05:30 on 3rd October 1983.  She now sits upright in 43 meters of water less than 200m from shore in Panormos.

Diving has only been allowed here since 2018, so the wreck is very well preserved and a real treat to dive.  Permission to dive here was granted by the authorities after lots of incredibly hard work by the Skopelos Dive Center staff.  Having a fantastic wreck in such an amazing location and in excellent condition is a real privilege.

Of all the sites in Skopelos this was the site Mike and I were most keen to experience.  Having kitted up and zipped across the bay to the mooring, we left the surface and followed the descent line until the wreck emerged spectacularly from the blue at 15m.  She is a big and beautiful wreck, sitting as though calmly continuing her journey along the seabed.  With most of her original features still intact there were points of interest everywhere, including the anchors, winches, ships telegraphs, the wheel and RDF antenna.  

We found that aquatic life had colonised the ship, with schools of fish, electric blue nudibranchs, a large moray eel and the resident scorpionfish lurking inside the bridge.  The Christoforos was truly a stunning wreck and despite maximising our time at depth we eventually had to say our goodbyes and begin the slow and steady return to the surface. 

After a superb morning dive we had the afternoon to do a little sightseeing of the island, with a trip to the church of Agios Ioannis Kastri made famous by the blockbuster movie “Mamma Mia!”. Mike and I spent a happy afternoon pootling around in our little hire car before meeting up with Lina from Skopelos Dive Center.  An underwater archeologist as well as a dive professional, Lina had offered to show us a rather special attraction, the Christoforos shipwreck Digital Spot public information and awareness centre.

A fantastic initiative made possible from the collaboration of the government and hard work of the staff at Skopelos Dive Center is the “Digital Spot” in Agnontas port.  This information center has a number of displays on the history of the Christoforos wreck, the process by which the wreck was allowed to be opened to the public for diving tourism, other sites of historical interest in the area, a video of the wreck and the best bit, a virtual reality dry dive experience!  The beauty of the VR system is that non diving members of the family can see what you have seen on the wreck, or you can see areas that you may not have explored during the dive due to time or depth limitations.  It was a truly immersive experience and a great addition to the dive itself.

After a wonderful day we celebrated our last evening on the island with an exquisite meal in Skopelos Town with fabulous views over the town and bay, washed down with the excellent local wine.  The lamb with lemon and potatoes was a meal which I could happily eat every day for the rest of my life! 

Skopelos is an island that truly has it all.  The diving is excellent, the landscape is beautiful with plenty of non diving activities, the locals friendly and the food and drink superb.  Given how accessible it is as a holiday destination it has avoided becoming overcrowded and even in peak season offers a fun yet relaxing atmosphere.  We highly recommend giving Skopelos a visit.  We will certainly be back again!

Thanks to:

Municipality of Skopelos (https://skopelos.com/

Skopelos Dive Center  (https://sporadesdiving.gr/)

Ionia Hotel (https://www.ioniahotel.gr/en)

Dolphin of Skopelos (https://dolphinofskopelos.com/)

Ta Kymata restaurant (@takymata)

The Muses restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/TheMussesMousses/)

Aktaiov resturant (https://skopelos.com/listings/aktaion-taverna/)

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Mamma Mia! Diving Skopelos (Part 1)

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If you have a dream of a sunny holiday spot with great diving, take a chance on Skopelos!

A small island in the Sporades of the Northern Aegean Sea, Skopelos is a quintessential Greek island, with warm mediterranean climate, friendly locals, delicious cuisine and clear turquoise blue waters. It is such a stunning location that many of the scenes from the movie “Mamma Mia!” were filmed on and around the island.

The diving here is excellent, with good visibility and warm summer water temperatures making for relaxed diving conditions with plenty to see.  Skopelos has something for everyone and is a perfect location if you are holidaying with non-divers, want a mix of diving and land based activities or simply to spend some time relaxing in the sun.  The island has a wealth of diversions: picture perfect beaches, a thriving and picturesque harbour town, great food, boat trips, and beautiful resorts with well-stocked pool bars and sun loungers for topping up the tan in style.  

Having read about the beautiful diving available Mike and I were excited to experience it for ourselves. During our stay we dived with Skopelos Dive Center at their West coast Panormos base. On arrival we were greeted by Lina and Tasos, who provided our equipment and briefed us on the day’s dive plan.  The first dive was to be at the Gallery and the second at Dasia Lift.  Eager to get in the water, we were soon kitted up and on the boat heading out to our first dive.

The island of Skopelos is blessed with some incredible topography.  We marveled at the views of nearby Dasia Island where the dive sites were located; the bright green pine forests covering white limestone and dolomite rocks along the coastline contrasted nicely with the clear azure waters below.  As we would find on our dives, the many sea caves along the shore made for great swimthroughs and caverns to explore on dives and the bright white rocks reflected the sunlight for beautifully lit and colourful seascapes in the shallows.

Our dive at the Gallery began on a sloping wall with multiple pinnacles, the first of which had a huge and completely beautiful Hypselodoris elegans nudibranch.  Following the wall deeper we came to a cavern filled with sponges, tunicates, corals and cardinal fish.  Working shallower and enjoying the light reflecting off the pale rocks and deep blue of the deeper water we came to the Gallery’s namesake passage at a very shallow 1.5 meters.  A tunnel in the rock created this wonderful feature, while light played through the shallows illuminating the benthic life as our group swam through.

All the dive sites in this area were a very short boat ride from the dock so travel times to and from the dives was a matter of minutes.  After a break back on land with a frappe from the resort bar, we headed out for the second dive at Dasia Lift. The wall here featured a cavern and tunnel swim through rising from 10m to 5m.  Once again my eye was caught by some nudibranchs (Hypseldoris coelestis and Flabellina affinis) as well as several large groupers lurking in the deeper waters.  Having enjoyed the wall at around 20m we worked our way up to 10m and to the entrance to the Lift where we stopped to appreciate a huge sea slug which posed graciously for a few photos. 

The Lift was a fun swim through with windows of light illuminating sponges and a rather grumpy looking scorpionfish.  Emerging at 5m the light in the shallows was nothing short of breathtaking.  The combination of sun streaming down on the white rocks and beautiful blue hue of the sea made the light dance, creating underwater rainbows.  All divers surfaced wishing the safety stop could lasted just a little longer.

That evening, having worked up an appetite diving, we had one of our best meals of the trip, the traditional specialty of giouvetsi; served beside the bobbing boats in the old port it was nothing short of stupendous.  Despite our discovery of a microbrewery taproom, it was an early night as the next day’s dive was to the famous Christoforos wreck!

As a destination, Skopelos really has everything you could ask for both for a diving holiday and a fun summer vacation.  Look for our next blog “Mamma Mia! Diving Skopelos (Part 2)” for details on our trip to the Christoforos wreck!

Thanks to:

Municipality of Skopelos (https://skopelos.com/

Skopelos Dive Center  (https://sporadesdiving.gr/)

Ionia Hotel (https://www.ioniahotel.gr/en)

Dolphin of Skopelos (https://dolphinofskopelos.com/)

Ta Kymata restaurant (@takymata)

The Muses restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/TheMussesMousses/)

Aktaiov resturant (https://skopelos.com/listings/aktaion-taverna/)

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