Cyprus is the heart of the Mediterranean that beats in sync with the rhythm of your life: anyone is bound to find something to his liking here. Those, who are on vacation and love to bike, can take advantage of the many steep biking lanes. Those, who like picnics, will be able to enjoy the specially designated picnic areas in the mountains. Those, who prefer to spend time at the beach, will love Cyprus’ scenic shores.
However, the most fascinating thing to do in Cyprus that attracts a great number of tourists is located several hundred meters off the shore of Larnaca. Experienced divers have probably already figured out that I am talking about Zenobia — the largest sunken ship in the Mediterranean. After I learned about an opportunity to go underwater and see the famous ship with my own eyes, I couldn’t say ‘no’ to it.
Diving turned out to be harder than I expected. Even a one-time dive requires a training course called «Open Water Diver». The course consists of three stages. The first one is theory, where you learn basic diving terms, become familiar with the equipment and the potential hazards. I remember our instructor saying, «Your world will never be the same after your first dive». Hmm… So what would be different? I wondered.
The second stage includes testing all the information we learned in the first stage. This turned out to be the most intense part for me. First, I put on my equipment and was told to walk towards the sea. That’s only a 100-meter long walk! But I couldn’t even stand up, let alone walk anywhere. I was wearing additional 24 kilograms, which included a 17-kilogram oxygen tank and another 4 kilograms that included a vest, boots, swimfins, a mask, a regulator and so on. I am so grateful for my patient and caring instructor, who helped me carry my oxygen tank to the sea. There I put my tank back on and entered the water… And that’s when I started bobbing! I was so clumsy, my instructor had to remind me about the things we learned in our theory class and help me with everything. I started doing 2-meter dives and practicing my skills. I made a lot of mistakes: my movements were too jerky, I came up too fast, didn’t breathe correctly and had difficulty moving underwater. I thought I was going to swallow the entire Mediterranean Sea! But I was also really excited and full of energy and kept working hard and finally nailed it.
The third stage meant diving alone: first 12 meters, then 18 meters — where I practiced in order to fine-tune my diving skills. I saw beautiful fish and small colorful reefs covered with corals. But I couldn’t really enjoy any of that, because I was very tense from trying to control my body movement. But it was worth it, because at the end of this experience I became a certified diver to a maximum depth of 18 meters.
This is when I learned, however, that one course wasn’t enough to dive the Zenobia, because the ship is located further down. So I decided to keep going and take the «Advanced Water Diver» course, which lets you dive 30 meters deep. The course has two parts: theory and practice. After completing the first course, this one seemed easier and more fun.
I entered a new level (both literally and figuratively) and finally felt weightless under a thick layer of water. I learned to control my body through breathing alone. My body felt light, cooperative and agile. I was in love with the feeling of lightness and the surrounding beauty. Flocks of fish were swimming around us and the variety of corals were making my head spin. In the beginning I kept turning my head left and right in order to see and capture everything.
I was finally allowed to dive the famous Zenobia together with a group of other people. Her fate, just like the fate of Titanic, is very tragic. Zenobia was a huge ship measuring 172 meters in length. In 1980 it left Syria and was heading to Larnaca with hundreds of 40-ton trucks carrying various types of cargo. It was caught in a storm and capsized taking all of the cargo with it.
The weather is quiet and the water is calm. We descend underwater and I can see the contours of the bow, but I can’t see the whole ship. The stern is hidden in the blue abyss. Over the last 36 years Zenobia has become a respite for incredible marine wildlife: flocks of sea martins, silver crucian carps, snappers, mackerels, green sea parrots, turtles and eels.
But the thing that struck me the most are the trucks chained to the deck of the ship, which makes them appear almost perpendicular to the bottom of the sea. It is hard to describe the feeling, but it looks odd, dangerous and beautiful at the same time. We then went on to explore the restaurant hall that still contains coffee machines of that time period, bottles of beer and Coca-Cola, dishes and even carpeting. Because the ship is so large and has so many cabins and compartments, you can keep coming back here over and over again and each dive will reveal something new about Zenobia.
Diving is both a type of an outdoor activity and a journey into the unknown. I am thankful for the opportunity to witness and feel the underwater world. I am also thankful to my patient instructor named Oleg and other friendly Cypriots who supported me through this experience. The idea that: «Your world will never be the same after your first dive», turned out to be true. I discovered new things about myself, widened my horizons and entered a whole new universe, where you can be a guest for as long as your oxygen tank allows it.
It’s hard to describe all the feelings I had. I went back to my regular life and keep doing the things I love, but I think about diving almost every day. The beautiful and mysterious underwater depths keep luring me back in. If you are a diver, you’ll know what I am talking about. If not, then take my advice: when you get a chance to take a diving course — do it!