Let's have a look at some interesting options
Finally we get there, a return to pre-pandemic lifestyle, or almost.
And the good news that goes with it is that we can start travelling again, and dive abroad. For those of you who, like me, live in a location without real diving options, it is a massive piece of good news!
So where to dive? Let's have a look at your options for this coming summer. It's not too late to book.
By the way for those who wonder, the picture is to illustrate the idea of travelling. No it is not my luggage (although I find it stylish) and certainly not my underwater camera. Well...you get the point.
The first review of our mini world tour is Europe, considering it is possibly the easiest region to travel (at least once you are insie the Schengen space). But Europe is big so where in Europe? The first location that comes to my mind is Greece.
Multiple diving options
Good food (hey it matters after all)
Ease of communication
Greece is a big country. It would be difficult to give you an exhaustive list but let's focus on few of the popular choices:
Pavlopetri, Peloponnese: a sunken city! Speechless right? It is 5'000 years old, in the shallow waters of Vatika Bay. Ok, the city is partial only. No everything survived. But still, its worth it. It is shallow and easy to access. Marine life in rich with a clear sea. You could stay in (and visit) the city of Neopoli. National Geographic also mentions the island of Elafonisos as a beauty (I never been there so I can't witness). But do note that some sited are protected by the UNESCO which mean you cannot dive them. Snorkelling is an option in this kind of situation.
Zakynthos, known for turquoise waters. The city will be your base-camp. As much to see outside the water as underwater, which makes it a great deal if you are interested in history and architecture (e.g. Venetian fortress). Needless to say you will have beaches. A highlight? Loggerhead turtles. They lay their eggs from May to October. Ok that may not be THE highlight of the trip but still rare. What about Mediterranean monk seals? Cute right? You may see them. A number of wall will wait you, with giant shrimps, octopus and slipper lobsters.
Alonissos, offers a fifth-century shipwreck. A large marine park, covering circa 2'200 sq kilometers in the northern Sporades island. Plenty of other islands around. Officially counts 60 Mediterranean monk seals and different species of dolphin. Remember that the lovely Mediterranean monk seals are in danger. So be nice to them! If you get lucky you may see Cuvier's beaked whales but (there is always a but), whales are always hard to spot. So no promises on that...Important point in the sector; Patitiri, most diving trips are organized from there apparently. Book a slot (in advance) to dive the fifth-century shipwreck, otherwise you will miss it (PADI Advanced Open Water certification required). In addition, the Blue Cave (with scorpion fish, groupers, nudibranchs amon others).
I could spend a day writing about different locations but it would be too long and you wouldn't finish it anyway. So my message here is that Greece offers a lot.
Just do a bit of research, based on your criteria, and something will match, no doubt.
In terms of marine life you will have the list of usual suspects in the Meditteranean sea plus the Greek specialties:
Meditteranean Monk Sea (this is unique to Greece I think, haven't heard of them elesewhere in the Meditteranean sea). Less than 400 of them are still alive from what I read.
Basking Sharks (The second biggest of the shark family, by the way)
Do I really need to present the history of Greece? It would be long, and beside the point here. But the key takeaway for me is that Greece offers a special, if not unique, combination of diving options, historical sites to visit and even better, a combination of both!
An underwater archaeological museum located near the islet of Peristera, in the Aegean Sea. You will see a wreck of the fifth century BC that carried hundreds of amphorae of wine (th wine is gone, if you wonder...). Located within 21-28m, you will need (officially) a PADI Advanced Open Water to get in.
Queen Olga, Leros (World War II Destroyer)
Panormitis, Kalymnos, 32m down the sea. Requires some experience.
Piper Aircraft, Markronissos (hopefully not the kind of Piper you will use to go there).
Patris Shipwreck, Kea Island.
Beaufighter, World War II Aircraft, Naxos. A big piece, and a must sea to me.
I admit being a bit biaised because I love diving wrecks.
As always, if you dive them, spend few minutes reading about their history first. I guarantee it makes your diver richer, more emotional. Hard to describe but you dont dive with the same curiousity if you dont understand what happened to that boat or plane.
Hopefully not your flight...
Warm waters, ranging from circa 14 to 28 degrees (respectively winter and summer time). It means that you dont need a thick suit, don't need gloves, hood etc. (well unless you feel you need it). No extra costs incurred. I am sure a shorty is good enough if not a rash guard!
Good food, I don't need to convince anyone here I guess. Greek is popular, generous, rich yet reasonably healthy cuisine (I like to think that when I over-order at a Greek restaurant). Moussaka, souvlaki, Octopus (well I hate that but some people like it so I mention it), Feta cheese etc. A lot of goodies to fill you up post-dives!
Accomodation: it woul be useless to make any recommendation here since it needs to be based on your destination, budget, etc. Just know that Greece is a very popular destination and doesn't run short of options, although some hotels and alike had to shut down because of the pandemic. In 2019, Greece saw 7.8m tourists visiting its treasures. They are familiar with the tourism industry...
Competitive pricing, compared to other European locations, and even compared to some non-European locations. It depends on what you look at. Leaving the diving component aside, referring to different statistics found online, the average price of a seven-day trip to Greek islands ranges from USD 1'000 to USD 2'000 for a solo traveler and say USD 3'000 for a couple.
A hotel night ranges from USD 50 to USD 250. As always, these are averages but unless you aim for luxurious holidays (which it fine), you can estimate to spend about 100 euros per day excluding your hotel.
On top you will have your dives of course. And let's face it, that is what will cost you most.
You should count circa EUR 110-120 per package which includes two dives. That brings you to EUR 60 per dive on average. It is not particularly cheap, yet not as bad as you would expect in Europe.
As usual, bargain. Try to get a package, a multi-day offer or get free nitrox or else. It may not work but its worth trying. Diving is a pleasure for you yes, but make no mistake, it is a business for dive shops and it is in their interest to be pragmatic and win the deal...
Ease of communication: you are in Europe so from English to French, via German, Italian, Spanish, Greek or Dutch, there will be a way to communicate. You won't need to reach the point of hand signals or body language (although it works, my mum does that all the time).
A conclusion? A cocktail of good points to pick Greece as your next dive trip in Europe.
A good value for money as my Asians fellows would say.
If you are in Europe, it shouldn't take your more than five hours by plane to reach Greece, and no immigation paper is required. If you come from outside EU, I think it is still worth it if you stay a least one week or say ten days.
Multiple flights per day via Athens airport.
Developed and safe dive logistics. Greece has an extensive experience in the diving industry.
A broad choice of dive spots and a unique historical heritage.
An abundant offer of accomodations and a world-class gastronomy.
If you go there please share your experiences, comments, articles, advices, photos and videos. I would be happy to share them on the site (I'll guarantee your copyrights...).
Have fun, dive safe.
The Diving Bear