The Zenobia, the wreck of a large ferry a short distance off the coast of Larnaca in Cyprus, is often cited as being one of the best wrecks in the world. It definitely once appeared in a list of the top ten wrecks in The Times, but sadly I can’t see that article as The Times now has a paywall. I have to be up front with you and say that I have not dived all the wrecks in the world but also, I suspect, nor had the writer of that article. Having dived on it nearly twenty times in the last few weeks, I do have some ideas about why it’s so highly rated.
The depth is almost perfect
Probably the vast majority of wrecks are in water so deep they will never be accessible to scuba divers. Even those that happen in relatively shallow water only need to be more than 40 metres deep to be inaccessible to most recreational divers, and even at 30 metres there will be a lot of divers who can’t dive on them. In this respect, the Zenobia is almost freakishly perfect.
The shallowest points of the wreck, which includes some interesting points such as the lifeboats, lie at around 18m, and are easily visible from less than that due to the very clear water. That means that the wreck and the extensive sealife on it can be enjoyed by a diver with just an Open Water certification. Since a lot of people will learn to dive in Cyprus, this means that a dive on the Zenobia can be the perfect culmination of an Open Water course.
Meanwhile, much more of the wreck including the propellers and bridge are above 30 metres, meaning they are accessible to Advanced Open Water divers. The bottom is at only slightly over 40 metres, making it the perfect depth for an Advanced Open Water diver with a deep diver certification, and at that depth they can see more of the wrecked trucks and the vehicle ramp.
Finally, inside the wreck, part of the hull is actually submerged in the seabed, meaning that within the wreck you can go deeper than 40 metres, making for a challenging dive for tech divers with suitable equipment and training.
Honestly, if you were designing a wreck to be interesting to divers of all levels, you couldn’t do a better job of it. Even snorkelers can see the outline of the wreck and enjoy the sealife that lives on and around it.
It’s in easy reach of Larnaca
The wreck is just off the busy, fun town of Larnaca. Indeed, it was towed here before it was sunk specifically to avoid it blocking up the port. It’s less than 10 minutes by boat from the town with its hotels, bars and beaches, meaning it’s easy to leave at a reasonable time, fit two dives in and still be back by lunch. Or have lunch on the boat, if you use the big catamaran that goes out daily and offers a barbecue after the second dive.
It’s got amazing sea life
Like many wrecks, the Zenobia has become home to all sorts of sea life. It’s incredibly busy with shoals of small fish as well as eels, starfish, trumpetfish, groupers, and the pretty but invasive lionfish.
The wreck is 178m long, a very large wreck by most standards. This makes it visually impressive to dive on and means that even after dozens of dives on it, there is still plenty to see. It also means that even on the busiest days, when there might be 30 or 40 divers at the site, it doesn’t feel overcrowded.
The Zenobia has plenty of features that make it interesting to explore; the numerous lorries that slid down the deck and many of which have spilled onto the ocean floor, the lifeboats still hanging in their davits, the huge loading ramps at the back, and the enormous propellers still in situ. The last is particularly unusual since propellers are worth a fortune (these ones are worth probably around €500,000) and are usually one of the few parts of the ship worth recovering.