“So what did you think of the diving in Santorini?” A message from a blogging friend blinked on my screen. “Because I didn’t want to tell you this beforehand, but it was probably my least favorite dive of all times.”
“Um, we go tomorrow,” I replied, and tried to keep my spirits high.
Diving in the Mediterranean gets a pretty bad rap sometimes. In a way, I can understand — if you’re crazy for coral or a big fish aficionado, you’re not going to find either in spades around here. But having just spent an amazing week diving in Malta — and with distant memories of a pleasant day diving in Ibiza, too — I wanted to believe Santorini would be special.
I mean, check out the setting for this dive shop! How could this not be a good time. Right? Right?
We were picked up by our divemaster at the extremely reasonable call time of 9am — fellow scuba fanatics will appreciate that this is basically sleeping in on a dive day. And off we went to Caldera Beach, in the shadow of Akrotiri. Gearing up in front of the Aegean, our dive guide briefed us on our first plunge. We’d be heading to Nea Kameni, the crater around which modern Santorini is formed.
And off we went.
Our dive began with a slow swim around the slopes of the crater. Mostly we marveled at the topography, and being so close to an active volcano, though nudibranches, clams and coral formations clamored for attention too.
Doubling back to the bay we dropped anchor in, we swam past the shadow of our modern speedboat and towards the hulking husk of an antique one. The 34m long steel wreck is the remains of a tourist boat that sunk in the harbor, and that no one ever bothered to pull up.
Today, it’s a shallow playground for divers and snorkelers. At only 13m deep, some might turn their noses up at this wreck — but as a natural light photographer (no external strobe on ) I loved the bright color coming through.
I also loved that we were able to enter the wreck, and have a quick swim through its hallowed halls.
Not a bad view to surface to, eh? While I bummed I didn’t get to show Heather around Nea Kameni on this trip, my mom and I hiked around it on our day on Santorini in 2011.
Back at the dive center, we changed tanks for our second dive — a shore one directly off the dive shop’s beach. Waddling our way out to sea, we dropped underwater as soon as we were deep enough to swim, and made our way through the sea grass clogged shallows.
Heather and I both felt a little overweighted, and at one point — because we are incapable of being dive buddies without attempting to end each other via laughter-induced drowning — it inspired Heather to do a striking impression of an upside down beetle. I was able to steady my giggle-wracked body long just enough to photograph it.
We should probably remember to warn our dive guides about our antics ahead of time.
At least we tip well.
After the very sparse sea life on our first dive, I was curious what to expect of this mini wall. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of activity we encountered, especially from a spunky barracuda intent on putting on a show. I appreciated that, knowing our experience levels — Heather is at instructor level and I’m a divemaster — the guide let us hang back and do our own thing.
Our favorite find though? Those black and white nudibranchs, a specific variety we had never seen before. We don’t know the official name, though we dubbed it a cow nudi, and I moo-ed appropriately in its honor.
Our conclusion? We couldn’t be more pleased with our decision to spend one of our five days on the island underwater. I don’t know if it was my low expectations, my favorite dive buddy or just being happy with a camera in hand, but I had a great experience. One day was enough for me, but there’s no way I would have missed the chance to check out Santorini’s scuba scene.
Being able to see Imerovigli from sea level wasn’t too shabby, either!
Kudos to for running a top notch operation — dive times that reflect that customers are on vacation, guides that respect various experience levels, and a seriously kick ass office.
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Many thanks to Santorini Dive Center for hosting us. As always, you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill!
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Curious about my underwater photography setup? Check out my Obsessions page for information on my camera gear, editing programs and more.