The Zenobia wreck in Cyprus is one of the most incredible and most popular wreck dives in the world. It’s been consistently ranked as one of the top dive sites in Europe and a must do when visiting the beautiful island of Cyprus. On my recent two week trip to the Cyprus, I had to see what the fuss was about and spent a day diving the incredible Zenobia wreck off the coast of Larnaca.
If you’re interested in wreck diving and plan to visit Cyprus, you should definitely include this dive into your list of things to do! It is an unforgettable experience. In this post, I will talk about the dive itself as well as everything you need to know to plan your visit to the Zenobia Wreck.
History of the Zenobia Wreck
As with all wreck dives, it’s both important and fascinating to understand the history of the wreck. How did the Zenobia end up in the bottom of the ocean? Obviously it was not on purpose just to appease divers of the world!
Of course not.
The Zenobia was a roll on roll off ferry from Sweden that went on its maiden voyage from Sweden to Syria in 1980. During the last leg of their trip, the ship was docked outside of Larnaca port when it came into severe computer system issues. They made radio contact reporting the issues but no solutions could be found. The next day on June 3, 1980, the ship was starting to slope onto its side and all efforts to save the ship failed.
The ship sunk that same day with all of its 140 crew being safely rescued. No one to this day knows exactly why the ship sunk so prematurely. Speculation ranges from computer failures to drug cartel conspiracies. Whatever the reason, it is safely at the bottom of the Mediterranean ready for divers to visit!
How big is the Zenobia Wreck?
The Zenobia wreck is 172 meters long and 28 meters wide. It weighs 10,000 tons and lies 42 meters below the surface. This is one of the biggest wrecks in the world that a recreational diver can visit (without needing to dive technical).
To put it in perspective, I visited the SS Thistlegorn battleship in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and that ship was so incredibly large
Best dive shops in Cyprus to dive the Zenobia Wreck
There are a plethora of dive shops in Larnaca and the other cities in Cyprus (Paphos and Limassol) that offer day trips to the Zenobia Wreck. This is the most popular dive in Cyprus after all so it makes sense that every dive shop offers trips to the wreck.
From Larnaca, I went with Dive-In Larnaca dive shop to dive the wreck. They’re located literally right in front of the wreck on the water. The dive shop was professionally run with up to date equipment and a competent crew of dive instructors and divemasters. The boat was also quite comfortable but given the ship is so close to shore, you won’t need much time on the boat anyhow.
How much does it cost to dive the Zenobia Wreck
The Zenobia wreck isn’t too expensive of a dive as far as European diving goes. I did a two dive day trip from Larnaca with all equipment included for €120. Larnaca port is very close to the wreck; only a 10 minute speedboat ride away. If you’re coming from Paphos or Limassol, the dive shops there will also organize day trips that include your land transportation to Larnaca.
There are a few other dive sites around Larnaca as well that the dive shop visits. However, almost all the dives they offer are for the Zenobia. I would just be very clear in your communication that you are keen to dive the Zenobia only.
How deep is the Zenobia Wreck
The Zenobia wreck sits on its portside at 42 meters below sea level. The wreck starts at 16m so you have essentially 25 meters of ship to discover. You can spend months diving the Zenobia wreck and still not see it all.
Because of its depth, diving the Zenobia wreck is almost always done with Nitrox. You’ll spend most of your dive between 20 and 25 meters as that’s where all the good stuff is. Most of the shops I saw use Nitrox and 15L tanks so you will be able to spend more time down below.
Tech diving is also immensely popular at the Zenobia wreck given how deep you go. I saw plenty of tech divers with 2+ tanks and drysuits sinking into the depths of the wreck. You’ll need the extra tanks to stay down and penetrate certain areas of the ship like the engine room.
Best time of year to dive the Zenobia Wreck Cyprus
Cyprus enjoys great weather year round. Therefore, you can dive the Zenobia wreck at all times of the year. From what I gathered, the best time of year for the best visibility is in the spring months, also when the water is coldest. The water temperature will be 28-30 during the peak summer months of July to September. The temperature dips to 20 degrees in the months of January and February. I dived the Zenobia in October and the temperature was a comfortable 27 degrees.
Visibility is normally quite good in the Mediterranean and you can expect to see visibility of 30 meters on average. Having visibility of 40+ meters is also not uncommon and this would be amazing given you could see more of the ship.
Diving the Zenobia Wreck
The diving itself was straight forward. The diving started at 8am where we did all the paperwork formalities and got fitted with the rental equipment. We left for the first dive around 9am.
Diving around the Zenobia Wreck
The first dive of the day is to circle the wreck and get to see it from the outside. The boat is absolutely massive and is incredible once you descend deep enough to see the outline of the ship appear.
We spent most of the dive around the massive ship mast which was home to a few barracuda and a resident green turtle. Lionfish are abundant all around the wreck as to be expected given the huge lionfish infestation that has plagued the Mediterranean for many years now. Don’t expect much sea life at the Zenobia. You are not diving in Raja Ampat or Komodo National Park after all.
There isn’t as much to see on the outside of the ship like the SS. Thistlegorn battle ship which was adorned with heavy artillery all over. The main deck is mostly barren but just the sheer size of the thing was enough to keep me entertained.
Nevertheless, the dive was fantastic, albeit cut too short by one of the other divers running out of air quickly.
Penetrating the Zenobia Wreck
For the second dive, we would finally be going inside the shipwreck. This is by far the coolest experience even if we barely scratched the surface of what the Zenobia holds.
In the accommodation and captains quarters, with the light zone, you can still see toilets and basins with carpet still attached in some places. The restaurant still contains a drinks machine and the serving hatch is still very much in tact all atop the bright red tartan carpet which is still on part of the floor.
The Upper Cargo deck dive on the Zenobia will show you rusty trucks piled one on top of the other some with their windscreens still in place, whilst in the Middle Cargo deck, the trucks have still retained the colors of their cabs and covers. In many you can still take a peak inside to see the cargo they were carrying! the Middle Cargo deck also holds the Zenobia’s only car, which belonged to the Captain and a forklift.
How many dives do you need to see the Zenobia?
I only did a two dive day trip to the Zenobia wreck. I’m not a big fan of diving in the Mediterranean after diving in Crete and Mykonos. You won’t see much besides a few lionfish and a lot of rocks. However, diving in Cyprus is worth it because of this huge wreck.
My two dives were enough to get a small flavor of what the Zenobia is about. However, I could have easily done another day or two exploring the other areas of the ship. I only went through to the restaurant area inside the ship which is barely even penetrating the boat.
The divemasters that were working there told me they had worked there for months diving the Zenobia everyday and there’s something new to see every day. So depending on your style of diving and what you’re into, you could spend a day or a week diving in this wreck!
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