The freedom of the sail, the silence of the underwater world. The combination of being both on the water and occasionally under it makes for a unique and exciting way to explore the islands and coastlines of Greece at your own pace.
Organising a bareboat charter in Greece and packing it with your own diving gear and crew, chartering a skippered yacht and stopping off in the well-known dive spots, or just a dive or two during a sailing holiday are some of the options sea-lovers have. There is the added advantage of having your non-diving friends and family along for the ride. Most of the best dive sights are in charming coves with good anchorage and lovely places for a swim or a snorkel while the divers explore the underwater world.
Greece offers classic Mediterranean diving, clear and warm water, excellent visibility and perfect diving conditions. What is lacking in big sea life is made up by the clarity of the water and for the patient diver there is plenty to see. Ancient relics of civilizations long gone can be seen scattered over the seabed, colourful sponges and fish including bream, scorpion fish, mackerel, moray and the ever-present black damsel fish with their electric-blue young darting amongst the bright yellow sponges. Best of all - no other divers in the sea!
Most of the main ports have full service diving centres that can provide you with full equipment rental, tanks and weights, maps of the dive sites and other information. For those with their own equipment it may be possible to organise a 'rendezvous dive' where the dive centre could bring out the tanks and a dive guide, if needed. This can be arranged by calling a ahead.
A list of diving centres and their services is available at http://www.greeka.com/greece-sports/diving.htm.
Things to know about Diving in Greece
Autonomous diving and equipment rental is allowed if you hold a certification that is recognised in Greece. The current list is: PADI, ANDI, IANTD, SDI, TDI, SSI, CMAS, although it is subject to change and should be checked with the authorities. If you have a certification from another organisation you may only dive through a diving centre.
Underwater archaeological sites abound but are, unfortunately, out of bounds at the time of writing and one cannot yet dive the ancient wrecks in Greek waters. A literal treasure trove of history- relics of ancient traders, colonists and war - would make for fascinating diving and put Greece on the map for world class dive sites. Until that changes, the diving centres and Sea Port Police can provide information about where to dive.
Spear fishing while scuba diving is strictly forbidden and you should not even have dive gear and fishing harpoons on the same boat. Fines can be given and gear confiscated.
Night diving offers some of the most fascinating diving in Greece with the chance to see octopuses hunting, soft sponges and other critters that only come out at night. However, night diving is only allowed through official diving centres and needs to be booked in advance.
The use of a surface marker buoy, as well as a dive flag on the boat is required by law.
Logistics of Diving from a Sailboat
Great care needs to be taken when diving from a sailboat because of the heavy diving equipment and the risk of damaging the boat. With some careful planning, however, this can be easily dealt with by considering the following: The setup of your sailing charter is very important and it is worth checking out the layout of the boat you are interested in, before booking, for entry/exit points, storage and space, and other facilities; you should also check that the owner of the boat is happy with allowing dive equipment onboard.
The best sailing boat to charter for diving is, perhaps, a catamaran that offers better manoeuvrability, bigger storage spaces and set up space and possibly better entry and exit points, as well as room to hang up all the dive gear to dry.
Easiest entry, if possible, from sailboat is the giant stride, or gearing up in the water and often the best way to haul up equipment after a dive is with a pulley system that can easily be set up from the back of the boat and can also prevent bangs and dents on your boat charter. Usually one person on the sailboat and one in the water is enough to ensure that entry and exit goes smoothly. Another option is to use the dinghy for entry exit and then load from the dinghy back onto the sailboat. The dinghy can also be used to transport two or three divers to the dive site if it is a little far away from the anchorage point. Non-divers may need to be a little patient during the setup!
While the logistics of diving from a sailboat are important considerations, the most important issue to deal with is your emergency and evacuation plans. All divers should have comprehensive dive insurance and the important emergency numbers. At least one non-diver on the boat should be informed of how to execute a rescue plan, if needed.
There are only 3 hyperbaric chambers in Greece; the Naval Hospital in Athens, The General hospital in Thessaloniki and the Kalymnos Hospital on Kalymnos Island in the Dodecanese. The recreational limit for single tank diving is 40 m, if you have the experience at such depths. It is worth noting that some of the dive sites are remote and that emergency and rescue services can take time.
Follow the finkicks of Jacques Cousteau, Hans and Lotte Hass; charter a yacht and come and sail and dive in Greece!
Photos courtesy: Kostas Menemenoglou and Merryn Wainwright