Larnaca, Cyprus, September 2012

On June 7th 1980, the MS Zenobia, a 10,000 tonne RO-RO ferry had a problem with its ballast system, causing it to sink in 42m of water in Larnaca Bay. It is now the most famous dive site in Cyprus. I decided it was about time I dived it, so booked a 5 day trip out there in September 2012. Dive In Cyprus looked the best option, so we booked 3 days of diving with them. The flight out was with Thomson. Fitting all my dive kit into the 20kgs allowance was a bit of a challenge, but I was hiring a wetsuit, so I just about managed it. The flight was uneventful, and 4 hours long, which dragged as there was no entertainment system on the plane. There was on the flight home, but it wasn't active, so you need to bring your on entertainment.

Dive In met us at the airport and took us straight to the shop so that we could set up our gear and sort out wetsuits for the following morning. We were using 12l manifolded twinsets with a bottom mix of 28% and a 7 litre aluminium stage of 50% for our deco gas. Everything prepared, we then went to the San Remo hotel which was a 5 minute walk away from the dive centre. It was basic, but clean, had a pool, a bar and the room had aircon. The shower seemed to wildly fluctuate between hot and cold, but that was my only real complaint. It was also quite cheap. Breakfast was included. It was a bit basic, but it did the job.

On the top of the wreck
The centre of town is about a 10 minute walk away along the sea front. Larnaca isn't that big, but the are more than enough bars and restaurants to keep you happy. A bit nearer the hotel was a place called The Depot. They did simple food, like burgers, steaks, ribs and pizza, but the prices were good and the portions were huge. They also did a pint of local beer for €2. There was also a pool table where some of the dive staff could usually be found most nights of the week.

The next morning, we went down to the dive centre and loaded the kit up onto the RIB. Well, I say we loaded it up, we only put the light things on. During the whole 3 days, they didn't let us carry our twinsets and loaded them up for us. It's something I could certainly get used to. Sadly, I don't think I'll have the opportunity. Then we put our suits on and walked the 5 minutes to the harbour. The trip out to the wreck took another 5 minutes. It was nothing if not convenient.

Kitting up for that sort of dive in a RIB is obviously not ideal, but the sea was flat and there was plenty of help available, so it was really easy. Then it was a backwards roll off the side and into the water. The top of the wreck is about 18m. On all but one dive, you could see it from the surface.

Our first dive was on the outside of the wreck. There are various things to see, like the lifeboats and their davits, a couple of huge propellers and some of the trucks that fell out of the decks when it went down. They're lying on the sea bed including one which had a cargo of eggs. There's some weed growth on the wreck and there are some fish, though not that many. I did see some parrotfish on the hull, which is the first time I've ever seen them in the Mediterranean. All the dives were decompression dives. We typically had 10-15 mins deco on 50% to do at the end of every dive. There was a trapeze though it was a bit shallower than 6m, especially at lowtide as it's tied to the wreck. The temperature in the first 20m was about 28C, so nice and warm for the stops. Then a thermocline kicked in and it was a slightly chilly 21C down at the bottom in 42m. The two piece 5mm wetsuits we had were OK, though I was glad I'd packed a hood and a Lavacore top.

Truck wreckage
On subsequent dives, we spent most of the time inside the wreck. The accommodation block used to be a maze of corridors, but the walls were made out of plasterboard, so these have mostly disintegrated. It's now quite open and light. The bathrooms are the main surviving features as you swim through.

The upper cargo deck wasn't that full when it sank. It's also not as long as the other cargo depths, so you can swim from one end to another on a single dive. As the wreck is lying on its side, it's quite a deep dive to get down to the assorted wreckage of the trucks. We spent most of our time at around 35m. The doors at either end are open, so you can see blue light during the dive, though you definitely need a decent torch. Up floating at the ceiling level are a load of blue plastic bottles which used to contain denatured alcohol.

The middle cargo deck has a spooky atmosphere to it. The only access is a hatch which isn't that big. Exiting whilst sharing air with a long hose wouldn't be a problem. I wouldn't like to try to get through it sharing air with a standard length octopus. There's hardly any life in there, just a few sponges on the walls, and the water has a cloudy appearance to it as it's contaminated with the leaking diesel from the trucks. This probably explains the lack of life in there. There's a huge jumble of trucks lying on their side, with one still hanging from the wall from the original chains. The cargo included planks, sleeping bags and novelty sweet dispensers shaped as truncheons. There's also the wreck of the captain's car.

Exiting the middle cargo deck
We didn't have time to do the lower cargo depth. We did do the engine room which was an interesting dive. It's pitch black in there, so our guide kept watch with his torch by the door. It's a big room with plenty of room for the three of us who went in together. It's not that silty, though it is at 42m, so you have to question the wisdom of the divers we saw going in after us with single cylinders.

I thoroughly enjoyed the break. It made a nice respite from the constantly blown out UK trips I've had this year. The surface temperature was in the low 30s and it was sunny every day. Dive In made everything easy for us. I'll definitely be going back, probably next year.