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Deep dive: 10 of the best dive spots in the Mediterranean

By Richard Watkins   24 July 2019

Discover some of the most exciting and rewarding dive sites to visit on a Mediterranean yacht charter.

The Mediterranean is a dream destination for scuba divers, with countless diving sites peppered along the coast which promise unique and thrilling underwater adventures that are suitable for both suitable for novices and seasoned experts.

It can be difficult to choose where to visit; but of course, travelling on a private yacht charter opens up so many more possibilities, including some remote and lesser-visited locations.

Whether your interests lie in spectacular marine life, exploring historic wreck sites or simply enjoying the open water, here are just a few ideas you might like to think about on your next yachting vacation in the Mediterranean.

1. Christ of the Abyss, Portofino

Distance below sea level: 17m

Popular with divers visiting the Italian Riviera, Christ of the Abyss - Cristo degli Abissi in Italian - is a 2.5m-high bronze statue of Christ standing 17m below the surface of the sea just offshore from the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, near Portofino.

The statue, depicting Christ with outstretched arms, was placed on the seabed in 1954 as a memorial to the scuba pioneer Dario Gonzatti, who died near this spot. Today it has gained additional significance as  a monument to all divers who have lost their lives at sea, and, lying in relatively shallow water near the shore, is easy to access.

Christ of the Abyss lies within the Portofino Marine Reserve, and the clear waters here are home to a wide variety of marine life including moray eels, groupers, corals and sponges, making this one of the best dive sites in Italy for underwater photography.

2. Premuda, Croatia

Distance below sea level: 10-30m

Lying off the coast of Croatia, Permuda is home to one of the country's most popular diving sites;  the Cathedral. Sitting on the northern portion of the Dalmatian islands, this system of interconnected caves lies between 10m and 30m below the surface of the Adriatic.

It's easy to access these caves if you're still getting to grips with scuba-diving. The porous ceilings of the caves let natural light to filter through, allowing for clear visibility which allows you to explore the flourishing marine life.  Permuda's ecosystem includes sponges, corals, crustaceans, octopuses and a variety of fish species including sheepshead breams and rainbow wrasses.

Meanwhile, more experienced divers will enjoy investigating the wreck of the First World War Austro-Hungarian battleship, the SMS Szent Istvan, which was torpedoed in 1918 and lies at a depth of 66m

3. Baiae, Italy

Distance below sea level: Between 10-20m

The ancient Roman city of Baiae, on the Gulf of Naples, was once a fashionable seaside resort, notorious for its wild parties and opulent lifestyle. It was later abandoned and much of the city was submerged under the Mediterranean. Remains of villas and bath houses can be seen on shore, but more survives beneath the waves, and today divers can explore this remarkable sunken city for themselves.

The underwater archaeology park at Baiae covers a large area just offshore, where you can discover remarkably well-preserved mosaic floors, intact statues and the remains of public buildings and villas, including one thought to have belonged to the Emperor Claudius. Today the remains are home to large numbers of fish and other marine life.

Easily accessible in summer for those on an Amalfi Coast yacht charter, Baiae offers a fascinating insight into the life of ancient Rome.

4. Amfitriti Caves, Pantieronisi island near Paros, Greece

Distance below sea level: 50m

Located near tiny Pantieronisi island, just off the coast of Paros in the Cyclades, Amfitriti is a stunning underwater cavern that sits 50m below the Aegean Sea. It is adorned with giant stalagmites, stalactites, columns and other curious rock formations.

Amfitriti is a thrilling sight to explore for certified and experienced cave divers, who follow a line guiding the through the narrow entrance into the cavernous main chamber with its white sandy bottom and clear water. It's easy to see why this is regarded as the most impressive sea cave in Greece.

5. Dakota DC3 wreck, Kas, Turkey

Distance below sea level: 22m

Wreck divers will enjoy exploring the remains of this Dakota DC3 transporter plane, which lies at a depth of 22m off the coast of Kas in southern Turkey. The plane, which formerly belonged to the Turkish air force, was retired from service and sunk here deliberately in 2009 to provide an artificial reef and an attraction for divers.

Since being deposited on the seabed, the still-intact Dakota has acquired a coating of algae and coral, and, with a wingspan of 30m, is an impressive and eerie sight, standing in an otherwise largely featureless environment.

Visibility is good, especially in the mornings, and divers can swim up to the cockpit for a glimpse inside. Experienced divers can even enter the plane through the main door in the hull. While exploring, you will also encounter green turtles, gobies, groupers, moray eels and various other marine species.

6. Secca della Colombara, Ustica, Sicily

Distance below sea level: Between 3-50m

Found on the small island of Ustica, off the northwest coast of Sicily, the protected marine reserve of Secca della Colombara is among the best dive sites in the Mediterranean. This is largely due to to the sheer numbers and variety of fish life you will encounter, including shoals of barracudas, sea bream and groupers, as well as a variety of corals.

More experienced divers can continue down to a depth of 50m, following a steep wall covered in corals, sponges and nudibranchs, while spotting conger eels, moray eels, lobsters and other species.

Also down here is the wreck of a merchant ship, which ran aground in 2005 and is now serving as an artificial reef that's home to an array of sea creatures.

7. Iraklia, near Naxos, Greece

Distance below sea level: 9m

Lying just to the south of Naxos, the small and peaceful island of Iraklia is known for its secluded beaches, wild, rugged scenery and shallow waters which are ideal for novice divers and snorkellers.

The main attraction for divers is the wreckage of a Second World War German Arado AR196 reconnaissance seaplane, which lies at a depth of 9m just offshore from Alimia Beach. The plane's fuselage is visible from the surface through the clear emerald-green water, and now hosts a rich variety of marine life.

If you are visiting the Cyclades as part of your Greece yacht charter vacation, Iraklia is an ideal place to make a stopover, enjoy the tranquility of its sandy beaches and explore the clear waters. For nature-lovers, there is a fantastic selection of sea creatures down here, including bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles and Mediterranean monk seals as well as numerous fish species, corals and sponges.

8. Stintino, Sardinia

Distance below sea level: Maximum depth of 18m

With its white sandy beaches lapped by a transparent blue sea, Stintino, on the northwest coast of Sardinia, is the idyllic image of the Mediterranean.  North of Alghero, the seas are some of the best spots on the island for diving.

Off-shore, the Asinara protected marine reserve is home to a rich and colourful array of marine life, including numerous Mediterranean fish species, nudibranchs, crustaceans, rays and octopuses, as well as several species of coral and sea urchins.

There are several dive sites dotted all around Stintino and Asinara island, suitable for beginners and more expert divers, each offering a unique experience, with underwater caves, tunnels and ravines to explore. Swim with shoals of fish, encounter dolphins and discover the site of a Roman shipwreck at Cala Reale, which is now a protected archaeological site.

9. Plane wrecks and the Um El Faroud motor tanker, Malta

Distance below sea level: Between 25m-42m

The island of Malta is the perfect destination for wreck diving, with numerous plane and shipwrecks to explore around the coast at varying depths suitable for divers of all experience levels, and generally good visibility.

Lying on the seabed around 500m off Malta's east coast is the wreck of a British World War Two Bristol Blenheim bomber, which nosedived here in 1941 after the crew made an emergency exit. The wreck lies at a depth of 42m, and only experienced scuba divers should attempt to visit the site. The plane is still in relatively good condition, with intact wings and engines.

The wreck of another British warplane, a Bristol Beaufighter, can be explored some 900m offshore from St Julian's Point in Sliema. The two-man crew survived when it ditched in 1943, and it now lies upside down at a depth of 38m, with its fuselage and wings mostly intact.

Another truly memorable sight is the Um El Faroud motor tanker. The Libyan ship succumbed to a gas explosion in 1995 while docked in Malta, and was declared a write-off. She was deliberately sunk close to the shore to serve as an artificial reef in 1998, and is now home an impressive selection of marine life.

The shipwreck is one of the most popular sights to visit in Malta, particularly on account of its sheer size.  At 115m (377ft), experienced divers are able to access the inside of the hull and look around the interior of the vessel, which now lies in two halves.

10. Coral reefs, Corsica

Distance below sea level: Between 5-60m

Offering some of the most varied diving experiences in the Mediterranean, Corsica is a dream destination for snorkellers and scuba divers of all levels of experience. There is plenty to discover close to shore, and visibility is usually very good.

In the Bay of Ajaccio on the west coast, Les Cathedrales is a popular site suitable for beginners and more advanced divers, swimming at depths between 6m and 60m. The area is noted for its colourful corals and anemones and rich variety of fish life.

Further north, Capo Rosso is said to be one of Corsica's most beautiful diving sites, home to magnificent corals and fish such as moray eels, scorpionfish and stingrays, while experienced wreck enthusiasts can explore the remains of the Alcione C, a wartime tanker lying at a depth of 24m on the east coast, and an impressive American Boeing B17 - a 'Flying Fortress' - which rests 27m down on the sea floor near Calvi.

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