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Wreck of the ferry MS Zenobia - one of the biggest diving attractions in Cyprus - diving report and photo gallery

Probably everyone who consciously goes to Cyprus for diving has the plan to dive on a shipwreck named Zenobia. I will say this: very well done. A must-see site without question and for a variety of reasons. Suitable for experienced recreational divers and certainly for technical divers. Which base to dive with? If you do
Published: January 3, 2016 - 15:52
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 12:33
Wreck of the ferry MS Zenobia – one of the biggest diving attractions in Cyprus – diving report and photo gallery

Probably everyone who consciously goes to Cyprus for diving has the plan to dive on a shipwreck named Zenobia. I will say this: very well done. A must-see site without question and for a variety of reasons. Suitable for experienced recreational divers and certainly for technical divers.

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Which base to dive with?

If you do not want to waste time and money, use the base www.zenobiadivers.com. The price for a diving day is 80 euros and this is the cheapest option. Fees in other bases go up to 115 euros for exactly the same thing. In our case, thanks to Adam’s inquisitiveness, we reached the right base, which is used by other diving centres, buying places on the ship. The price includes two dives (cylinders, weight belts and guide) and a decent lunch. Drinks in the form of cola, water, coffee or tea are also included.

When zero hour arrived we quickly packed into our rental car and 5 minutes later we were at our destination, the dive centre. We stayed in a hotel in Larnaca. Our newly met buddy Marios got on his scooter and showed us the way to the port. We parked right by the pier in a place forbidden to mere mortals. Two steps and we were at the ship. We quickly chose seats on the port side. We got the cylinders, which we equipped efficiently. After a preliminary check to make sure everything was working properly, we put the equipment away and taxied the arriving divers and the instructors and dive masters taking care of them. There were Germans, French, Russians, Japanese, British, EU Cypriots and Turkish. More than 20 people. Initially our guide was to be Marios, but it turned out that there was an OWD-diver in the group and fortunately the group was modified. Saban from the Turkish part of the island became ours.

Briefing and into the water

The briefing before entering the water was simple and specific. The wreck lies quite deep and care must be taken with air consumption. Visibility should reach 20 metres, but there were two large vessels over the wreck and several dozen divers were going underwater. Some were diving technically and had been down for some time. On the first dive we were to do the midship and bow, after a break the stern and the rest of the midship. Signal 100 bar. After a while we were shuddering with our gear thrown on our backs, fins in our hands. The sun was shining above us, the sky was clear and the air temperature was over 30 degrees C

I jumped into the water, swam out and, after adjusting my mask, looked at the other side of the mirror. The wreck was under our fins. A great toppled colossus, overgrown with creatures, already permanently attached to the Mediterranean.

Zenobia

It never reached its destination. Built in Sweden in 1979. In the first half of 1980 she set sail from Malmö on her maiden voyage to Tartous, Syria. As a ferry, Zenobia carried tractors and some cargo. She reached the Mediterranean seamlessly, passing through Gibraltar. She made her first stop in Crete and her second stop in Athens in the famous port of Piraeus. However, on the way to Athens, the captain discovered a problem. It turned out that excess water was being pumped into the side ballast tanks in error. The ship arrived in Larnaca, Cyprus, on 2 June 1980. The water pumping problem was repeated and Zenobia was diverted 1.5 miles from the harbour where she stood at anchor. Invited engineers found a software error in the ship’s computerised software, and when Zenobia began to heel dangerously to port, the captain decided to evacuate the crew. At 2:30 a.m. on 7 June 1980 the Zenobia sank in Larnaca Bay and rests at a depth of 42 metres on a sandy bottom. Lying like this for years without moving on her port side, she has become one of the best wrecks for diving. The Times in March 2003 listed Zenobia among the 10 best wrecks in the world, and the Cypriots even say she is in the top five. It is not for me to judge, as I would have to see the other 4 or 9 wrecks on the list first. However, of the ones I have looked at, Zenobia takes a place in the very top.

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Under water

Blue all around, schools of fish and within easy reach, warm water with a temperature of 28 degrees C, good 20 metre visibility and a large piece of metal approaching. We went down to 20 metres. The wreck starts at about the 16th metre depth. The guide checked how we were and we swam on our maiden voyage to this spot, moving our fins efficiently. I watched a few dozens of large oblada swimming between the divers, looking them in the eye. A little farther on wrasse and corys were playing tag. Swimming from midship to the bow, the wreck was on our right. Huge. Zenobia is 172 metres long and 26 metres wide. There is much to admire and penetrate. Below us we observe technical divers swimming in side-mount configuration. We can see the light of their torches. We get closer and I spot a several centimetre snail, which I photograph. There are big groupers, but for the time being they keep their distance and when I try to approach them they hide behind the protruding parts of the vessel. I do not give up and finally patience and cleverness pays off. I approach them at 2 metres. They are really big. Altogether there are a few of them swimming here.

After returning on board and the prescribed long break, we descend into the water for the second time. We check the air level more frequently, as this is the second deep dive. The guide, having found out that we are swamped, decides to take us inside the wreck and we swim to the bridge. It is getting darker and thanks to the modest lighting we can recognise the details of the rooms, the stairs, the ropes and the ubiquitous fish. Finally we swim to the stern and here I am very lucky. I am at the head of the line and spot a turtle. I immediately give a “kick” from my flipper and swim around it in a semi-circle. Adam sees my behaviour but initially does not see the object of my interest. The rest of the group follows us. When they spot a large turtle, they swim directly to it using the shortest route. I manage to surround the majestic animal and thanks to this I am in front of it and there is a moment when we look at each other. The turtle, as a turtle, is not very fast, so I manage to snap a few photos before it turns left to enter a hole without divers. This is my first one in the Mediterranean. I estimated the size of the shell in terms of diameter at 60-70 cm.

We all go into deco. We start ascending. We make a stop at the lowering and have to wait a few minutes. We all have a safe supply of air, and there are bottles hanging nearby, in case someone runs out. This is good practice. It is boring, but after a while I notice a trigger fish, which swims up interested. It watches us and swims between us with fast jumps. It is difficult for me to catch it in the lens. Thanks to the cat-and-mouse game and a not very interesting photo, time passes more quickly.

Diving accident

Back on board, it turns out that someone from our team has a problem and for the first time I witness a diving accident. At the same time, a similar accident takes place on the other vessel and I learn that this is common here in general, because people are irresponsible. In the case of our diver, it turned out that the previous night he had overdone it with alcohol. On top of that, he was nearly 60 years old, and both dives took place at a depth of about 40m.
Ambulances were waiting in the harbour and immediately took the injured to the decompression chamber. After two days I asked Marios about the situation. He did not know the details, but they both came out alive.

Worth

The wreck of the Zenobia is great. Both for divers, the so-called wreck fanatics, and for those who like to admire animals. The latter swim here in abundance, and specimens of moray eels, turtles, groupers are really large. If you go to Cyprus to dive, Zenobia can not miss on the list of places you want to pass. If I ever get the chance to go back there again, I will definitely visit Zenobia.


Wojciech Zgoła
wojtek@dive-adventure.eu

TECHNICAL DATA:

Year of manufacture 1979
Length 172 m
Width 26 m
Draught 13 m
Tonnage 10000 GRT

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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