The Mediterranean coastline is a popular holiday destination for most of Europe, with so many different countries to choose from to enjoy the warm sun, sparkling sea and fabulous cities and villages on offer, it's no wonder people have been visiting the Mediterranean for centuries. Under the water is equally as satisfying for the beginner or experienced diver with wrecks and caves to explore and a large selection of wonderful marine life, you certainly won't be disappointed with the diving here.
The Mediterranean is almost completely surrounded by land, in fact that's where it derives its name from with the Latin meaning: 'in the middle of the land'. There is a connection to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar, which is only a passage at 14km wide, it is also connected to the Red Sea by the famous 163km long, mad-made Suez Canal. The sea covers an area of around 2.5 million km², making it the largest enclosed sea on earth. It has an average depth of about 1,500 metres.
An interesting history surrounds the Mediterranean, with ancient civilisations forming and thriving, important trade routes developed, wars broke out and stories passed through the ages of these times. The sea has always been an important food source for local people, especially for its fish. The climate of dry, hot summers and mild winters means crops such as grapes, oranges, cork and olives have become world famous in these parts.
With so many countries to choose from, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to diving in the Mediterranean. In the summer the water temperature can get as high as 28 C and in the winter around 12 C, which is still warm for European standards, but temperature to vary considerably depending on where you are. There are fabulous wrecks, interesting caves and caverns and a great selection of marine life such as hard and soft corals, nudibranchs, octopi, large schools of fish, cuttlefish, rays, lobster, eels and maybe even a dolphin or whale if you're very lucky.
Voted the best dive in Europe and in the top 10 best wreck dives in the world is THE ZENOBIA, just outside the Lanarka harbour in Cyprus. The ferry sank in 1980 on her maiden voyage and lies on her side starting at 16 metres all the way down to 42 metres. You need to be at least a certified diver to see the top of the wreck and an advanced or technical diver to go deeper. You will need a good few dives to really appreciate the 172 metre vessel, with different dives to experience such as wreck penetration, deep and technical, there's something for every diver here. The Protaras region also has a good few sites to explore.
the Maltese archipelago is made up of three islands; Malta, Gozo and Comino. The area boasts fabulous landscapes, great visibility and the next two best dive sites in Europe; the Blue Hole in Gozo and Cirkewwa in Malta. The best time to dive these sites is from February to June, when the dive conditions are best.
The Blue Hole is not visible on the surface, but descend just to 7 metres and you'll find the entrance, which then opens into a cave at 15 metres where you can swim through a chimney and arrive at some beautiful coral gardens where big schools of tuna can be found along with groupers and barracudas lurking in and around the rocks. Other great sites in Gozo include the Azure Window, Reqqa Point and Xlendi Cave.
Cirkewwa holds many hidden treasures such as caves, tunnels, cliffs, an arch down to 27 metres, the wreck of the tugboat MV Rozi close by and a statue of Madonna in a cavern, there's no telling what you might find here. Great sea life such as sharks, schools of barracuda, eels, cuttlefish, an octopus or two and maybe even dolphins! Other sites to discover are Marfa Point, Slugs Bay, Anchor Bay and for the experienced diver, the Blenheim Bomber plane wreck is a treat... if you can find it.
Greece is actually quite new on the diving world map. Prior to 2005 only 950 km of the 16,000 km of coastline was open to divers. Now access is available to all the islands, it's become a diving hotspot for European travellers. The best dive site in Greece and voted in the top 10 European dive sites is on Chios Island. Weave your way through caves and pathways, between huge rock formations, along sheer walls, over colourful reef and there's even a small wreck. Sea life is abundant with shoals of fish swarming around you and cool critters to find.
Actually great diving can be found around most of the Greek Islands. Elounda in Crete has a few great sites such as Explosion and Kamini, or the calm bay of Shinaria where there's great diving for all levels. The region of Paleokastritsa is full of caves, caverns, walls, arches and schools of pelagic fish, eels and barracuda. The island of Santorini offers warm water, excellent visibility and striking volcanic landscape. Visit the caves around Zante (or Zakynthos) Island, the walls and canyons off Lefkas Island, the wreck of Anna 2 is a great dive in Mykonos and the cave and wreck at Lesvos. A wonderful Mediterranean diving experience can be found all throughout Greece.
Italy's most popular diving revolves around Sardinia and Ustica. Sardinia is the Mediterranean's second largest island, with sheer cliffs plunging into the sea, the walls and caves surround the island are a joy of discovery for the avid diver. There aren't many big fish here though due to over fishing. Ustica however is a Marine Reserve so fish are thriving. The island is located 60km from Sicily and offers the best diving in Italy.
The main areas for diving in Sardinia are the caverns and caves of Costa Paradiso, the multitude of fish in Stintino, the tunnels and caves around Capo Caccia near Alghero, Palau and La Maddelena, the whole east coast of Sardinia, Isola Rossa and Cagliari. Around Ustica you'll enjoy the wreck of Secca della Columbara, with a fantastic wall and loads of huge fish, the amazing caves and caverns of Doctor's Rock and Grotta dei Cirri/Gamberi, the marine life at Punta Galera and the three pinnacles of The Sicchitello. Most of these sites are deep so advanced certification is recommended.
Turkey is a hidden gem for Mediterranean diving. Fethiye has some excellent sites such as Aladins Cavern, Dalyan Reef, Three Tunnels and you'll find 5 good wall sites in the Butterfly Valley. Deep diving is a favourite around Kas, with walls dropping to 40 metres or more and excellent visibility. Enjoy the canyons and wreck at the site Canyon, the sheer wall of Gurmenli Ada, the great sea life on Flying Fish Reef and the aircraft wreck of the Dakota C47. Besmi Adasi is a difficult drift dive only for advanced divers, look out for the ancient Amphora (Greek vase) at 40 metres. Kalkan is another region with the Duchess of York wreck and Middle Reef, sites suitable for all levels.
The diving off the south of France will keep certified wreck and technical diving enthusiasts busy for a while. The Togo is the deepest of them all at around 56 metres, swim through the cathedral-like engine room and see the huge engines. The Espingole lies at 38 metres and is home to many eels, lobsters, crayfish and a lot of fish. The Donator is at 45 metres and covered in soft corals, a lovely dive but currents can be strong. There is the 90 metres long wreck of the Liban, covered in sea fans with many Conger Eels to find. The French Navy Submarine Rubis is almost completely in tact and lies at 40 metres, there's the Munitions Barges, L'Alice Robert, L'Astree, St Lucien, the Samur... the list just goes on and on! This is one of the best wreck diving destinations in Europe for advanced divers.
The Medes Island Marine Reserve in Costa Brava, Spain are easily the best diving off the Spanish coastline and can be reached by boat from Costa Brava. Dofi (Meda Petita) is a cave system through one of the islands, with huge fan corals, large groupers and eagle rays, there's also a little dolphin statue and it's how the site got its name. La Vaca (Meda Gran) is like an aquarium, with lots of fish. The Costa del Sol is also another popular diving location in the Spanish Mediterranean.
A special mention goes out to a site off the coast of Alexandria in Egypt called Cleopatra's Palace. The diving here isn't the clearest but this site is an under water temple dating back to 300BC and built by Alexander the Great. You can see Cleopatra's royal districts and her sun boat, a statue of Mark Antony, monuments, carvings, building ruins and the wreck of a WWII war plane that is inside the ruins. We think that's pretty special and hope you'll get to visit this amazing and sacred site.
So, there you have the best dive spots in the Mediterranean? We have selected some wonderful areas for you to add to your dive bucket list the next time you're holidaying on the Mediterranean. Of course there are so many more and we'd love to hear about your favourite to add the to the collection. Send us your favourite photos and comment on the best sites that you've found so we can have some great dives too.
(By Kelly Luckman)