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Explorers of the "silent world" into the deep sea

18 August 2011 / 20:08:12  GRReporter
6892 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

"The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the globe. It is an immense desert where man is never alone, because he feels the vibrant life around. The sea is just the embodiment of supernatural and amazing life. There I am free. "

We do not know whether the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau imagined that his passion for the deep sea will find so many followers around the world when he made the aqualung along with the engineer Emile Gaius. However, the fact is that diving attracts more fans who want to experience the magic of the underwater world. We talked about diving, the interest of people towards it and how it could become an important branch of Greek tourism with the owner of the Sea World Scuba Diving Center in Sani, Chalkidiki peninsula, Kostas Mavrochoridis.

Tell us about diving.

Diving is a sport, which is divided into three stages. The first is when the diver leaves the surface and proceeds to the bottom of the sea. The second stage is the diver’s stay under water and the third, when the diver ascends to the surface again. There are two types of diving: free and individual. Free diving is associated with the capabilities of each separate organism. Individual diving means that each diver has a breathing apparatus.

How long can a diver stay under water?

The duration depends on the depth at which the diver descends, his activities, the volume of oxygen cylinder as well as on unforeseen factors such as underwater currents and big fish. Therefore, we can not talk about specific time limit. The rule is that the deeper you go the more rapidly you deplete the oxygen you have.

Can anyone who wishes become a diver?

Diving begins at the age of 10 in children and continues until the health of every individual permits. In our classes, we had students at the age of 65 who wished to learn to dive.

The duration of training depends on the time available to each trainee. If a person is able to attend the classes every day, the training lasts about ten days. The training of busier people usually takes just over two weeks.

The training is in theory and practice. The trainees receive their textbooks, complete an application and submit a medical certificate. As required by law. We immediately begin a course of eight theoretical lessons combined with practical training in the pool or the sea. Four dives into the sea to a maximum depth of 18 m are held during the training. The applicants receive their diplomas recognized worldwide, having passed a written exam in our school. We are members of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors PADY.

What is the interest to this sport?

We have been doing this for 25 years. During this period, we have issued over 9,000 certificates and we have made over 30,000 dives. This sport has a future, interest and development prospects.

We do not dive just in Greece but abroad too. Each year, we organize trips to the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean to Cyprus. There is interest, which I think is a ticket to culture, because we do not only look at the sea bottom but we are acquainted with the traditions and customs of the various peoples we meet.

What draws people's interest in the seabed?

In Greece, there are many shipwrecks. A very beautiful such ship is Mytilene, which is located on the seabed in the Gulf of Thessaloniki, about two nautical miles from the village of Sani on the first sleeve of the Chalkidiki peninsula. All divers have the opportunity to dive there - from the beginners to the most experienced, because the depth starts from 14 and reaches 22 m. The ship was carrying food from the island of Lesbos to Thessaloniki and sank in 1961. Now, there is formed a cliff where many fish live. There are different types of epinephelus and eels, and depending on the season, large fish such as tuna fish and amber pass. This causes divers to go down and explore the underwater life.

The limestone rocks are interesting, which are located on land and are home to various organisms. Therefore, we can say that there is a great diversity in Greece compared to other areas, because here we have variable temperatures and increased or decreased visibility depending on the season. The "golden" period for divers is from late May to late October. Then the temperature reaches 27°C at a depth of 30 m, i.e. our sea is becoming tropical gradually.

In the tropics, the temperatures are between 22°C and 27°C all year round. In addition, there are corals there and rich sea life, whether we are talking about flora or fauna. Nevertheless, I can say that there is no difference between diving in the Red or the Aegean Sea. The view is equally wonderful.

Is diving still banned, due to concerns that some divers want to usurp ancient objects?

The law on illegal trade in antiquities was changed in 2005. Since then, diving is banned only in specific locations, which have not yet been studied to take out and evaluated the antiquities. However, the law provides that these sites and sunken ships will become sea parks that tourists can visit.

I would like to say that it was the first law on diving in Europe. So, I think we should be optimistic for the future, if our country manages to emerge from the current serious crisis.

Has it hit your business?

No, it has not hit us because we have been on the market for many years. But the crisis has affected the business in general, because people are faced with financially difficulties and serious problems. On the other hand, there is increased interest from tourists, many of whom come to Greece specifically to dive. These are primarily visitors from Britain, Germany and Russia, who actually triggered diving related tourism in Greece. This is something that none of the responsible institutions has considered seriously so far. That is why I mentioned the statutory protected marine parks that would attract many visitors with their beauty.

Is this an expensive sport?

No, I would not say it is expensive. A diving, which includes our equipment, boat and guide and lasts two hours, costs about 60 euro. The customer must have a diploma and a diving book and signs the necessary documents.

Has there been an accident ever?

No, there has never been an accident. It is not easy anything like this to happen and in all cases it would be the result of pathological causes. I would say that diving is a sport that guarantees a hundred percent safety for the diver.

What is your most memorable diving experience?

It is not just one. I swam with dolphins; I've seen sharks close and some of the largest rays, called manta, shipwrecks. In 1999, we went to Cyprus to dive to one of the most beautiful shipwrecks in the world. Its name is Zinovia and is one of the largest in the Mediterranean. The ship is long 180 m and it sank during its first trip. We dove twice and we did not manage to surround it on all sides. It was carrying cars, from which amber fish go out now and the experience is unique. The depth there starts from 17 and reaches 40 m.

Where exactly did you see the manta rays?

We saw them in the Red Sea, midway between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. There are two large underwater rocks, which are called The Brothers. A little further in the south, we saw different kinds of sharks. These are such beautiful pictures. Diving is a sport which gives you power, and divers are people who fight for environmental protection.

What are the most beautiful dive sites in the world?

One is the Red Sea and 2.5 to 3 million people from around the world visit it annually for this purpose. Other such places are the Maldives, Caribbean, Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands and the largest coral reef in Australia. We are also able to attract divers in Greece if we take the right steps towards this type of tourism. This will create new jobs, young people will not leave their home islands and local communities will be able to develop in a better way. If diving centres are created where hotels are built, we will have tourism of higher quality. Then, people who look at things quite differently will come and they will change the attitude of local communities to the environment.

Tags: SportsDivingSeabedShipwrecksFishUnderwater worldTourism
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