Opening a new scuba dive magazine, flicking through the pages and then wide spread pictures of an underwater wreck got my attention. The Zenobia Wreck just of the coast of Larnaca in Cyprus on the Greece side of the island made the blood flow faster. Heaps of steel, cargo,cars and trucks all submerged in nearly 50 meters of water made me decide on the spot: “I need to dive this wreck”
Named after a Syrian queen from the third century the MS Zenobia was a sturdy roll-on-roll-off ferry build in 1979 in Sweden and capsized and sank in 1980 just of the coast of Larnacca Cyprus.
Plans were easily made. Friends in Nicossia, the capital of Cyprus, could provide some of the local logistics for our scuba dives and after a few phone calls; the trip to Cyprus was easily planned. Arrival mid February, checked into a local hotel, and grab a taxi to find a dive operator.
Diving in February
After trying six dive operators, it seemed that nobody was diving at this time of the year. All dive boats were out of the water for repairs and maintenance. One operator was prepared to fill our cylinders and put us in contact with some local fisher men who might be able to take us to the wreck.
After checking in on the harbor where the fishing boats just returned from their daily routine, we easily found a captain that was prepared to take us out to the wreck of the Zenobia the next morning.
Permits For The Zenobia
Highly illegal, as we officially needed to have permits to dive the wreck and we took the chance to get caught and fined and from what we heard the authorities like to confiscate all diving equipment on the spot. We nodded and agreed; let’s go ahead. Next morning at day break we would meet the captain at the harbor wall.
The MS Zenobia was a roll-on-roll-off ferry wish sank under dubious circumstances. The ship lies on its port side in the white sand not far from Larnacca harbor. It leaves a legacy of a prime diving destination for Greece and Cyprus. No lives were lost during the sinking. But all cargo, merchandise, cars and trucks were still on board.
Scuba Diving The Zenobia
The captain would not stay on site during our dive, we entered the water when the boat was doing at least eight knots, but spot on, we looked down, and there she was. We made a free descent and landed on the starboard side of the huge vessel. When we swam over to the deck side and looked down, we saw cars and trucks like dinky-toys scattered on the sea bottom, amazing. We found a hold to swim into, and entered which looked like the cafeteria area below the bridge. My buddy even found aBlack Label laying on the ground behind the counter, stunning, we swum out of the cafeteria and into a large room, where in the far distance we could see light, it was the cargo deck. In the deck the trucks and cars were pilled up on top of each other, one truck was floating because of its cargo existing of thinner fluid for painting purposes. The whol thing floated in the cargo hold and made an eerie sound, we made an exit at the aft deck, swam close to the bottom, not the most ideal dive profile, and came back to where we had started our dive on the starboard side. We saw the fishing vessel circling above us, and we ascended in a mild drift back to the surface. The waves had picked up, and it was not easy to crawl back on deck.
Exhausted but satisfied the three of lay out on the fishing nets; “What an awesome dive” – “world class” – “enormous” were some of the words uttered. That week we made three more dives on the wreck; all the efforts were well worth the trip to Cyprus.
In 2003 The Times rated the Zenobia in Cyprus one of the 10 top dives in the world. If you dived it, you know why.
Author - Frank Amptmeijer
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