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Corfu: Divers Guide

Corfu is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in all of Greece. Known for its glorious beaches, good food and traditional Greek culture, the island is the perfect place to escape everyday life. However, unbeknownst to most, Corfu is not only an exciting place to be above sea-level, but also below. For me, what makes Greece so exciting compared to other countries is that, until recently, the coasts were very difficult to explore. In 2005 the Greek government lifted restrictions on diving around Greece, opening up over 9,000 miles of previously inaccessible coastline. While the prospect of getting to see something nobody else ever has is rather thrilling, there are also drawbacks. Even ten years after the restrictions have been lifted, a lot of Greece’s underwater world is still unexplored, and so it’s difficult to know where is good to go and where isn’t. However, this is not the case with Corfu. I have been diving around the island for over twenty years, and can ensure that you get the best from a diving excursion in Corfu. First off, you’ll find a number of dive schools on the island, who will accept anyone from a complete novice to professional sports and commercial divers. Boat hiring on the island is also very easy to do. So, if you’d rather follow your own route than the an instructor's, it isn’t at all difficult. I don’t, however, recommend this as having an excellent understanding of the local weather conditions is an essential feature of a safe dive. All in all though, if you aren't reckless and know what you are doing, the waters of Corfu are pretty safe. There are only a few large predatory species and even they are very few and far between. The last confirmed fatal shark attack was all the way back in 1969. The waters around Corfu are also a vibrant shade of blue and crystal clear, calm and with very few currents; perfect for diving. If you’re a bit of a wildlife enthusiast, your best bet for spotting something interesting is on the west coast. Its unsheltered nature means that it’s on the frontline for the currents sweeping in all those rich Mediterranean nutrients and, as a result, the place is teeming with life. For the best diving spots, two places spring to mind. The first is a place just off the coast of a small town called Agios Gordis, known as the Rock of the Bride. Legend has it that a woman who fled from her wedding with another man took to the seas near here, but their boat fell pray to the rocks. Some say she haunts the rocks to do this day. While I haven’t seen any ghosts on my trips, I have seen some incredible undersea life, including schools of Barracuda, patrolling dusky Groupers and the occasional octopus, along with many other smaller species. The location also has a number of tunnel systems and archways to explore, all with their own unique feel and inhabitants. The second spot is further up the coast, just off the shore of Paleokastritsa. There is a famous rock wall which goes down about 30 metres, covered from top to toe in coral and beautiful species of fish. It’s a colourful place to be, with a number of cave and tunnel systems weaving their way about the structure. Like anywhere in Greece, if you hang around long enough you might be joined by dolphin pods if you are very fortunate. If you are more into wrecks than you are reefs, then you’ll want to head over to the east-coast of the island. Personally, my favourite spot is off the beach of Angi, as you’ll find a number of Second World War naval wrecks that are great for exploring. I’ve found a number of old German soldier helmets and other little bits on the seabed over the years. However, my favourite thing about this location has to be the old Second World War contact mine floating near the shore. It’s an incredible, live piece of history that is just amazing to see first hand. The authorities of Corfu are well aware of the explosive device, but they fear detonating it could take out a nearby villa, so they’ve let it remain. Another great site exists on the most northerly point of the east coast, near the port of Kassiopi. Known as the Nisopoulo wreck, it is believed to have links to the ancient Greeks or Romans. While the boat has been all but been destroyed by the ocean, the site has some excellent examples of amphora (clay pots) that date back thousands of years. They have become one with the seabed now and are either home to marine life or corals, but are nevertheless a special sight. While I may have covered most of my top picks for diving around Corfu, I can’t finish this article without mentioning the incredible cave systems present all around the island’s coast. If you have access to a boat, it won’t take too long before you find a cave system worth exploring. However, instead of naming all of them, I’ll just mention one, known as the Hole of Ha. A stunning location, similar to the famous Melissani Cave on Kefalonia, you begin by mooring up outside the entrance, before diving down and swimming through a wide cave tunnel. Eventually you’ll come up into a large, open cavern, with a glorious natural skylight that allows the hot midday sun to illuminate the waters below. It’s a very serene place to be and an unmissable experience. Of course, these aren’t the only worthwhile sites to visit while diving on Corfu, but they are certainly among my favourites. The Greek islands are an incredible place to dive, but are sometimes overlooked for more exotic climates. While it is a bit of a shame that many divers won’t ever experience Greece’s underwater world, it also leaves most of it undisturbed and unexplored. It’s an exciting prospect, I think anyway, to adventure out into a piece of the world only a handful of people have been before. Who knows what you’ll find beneath waves of Greece? Cliff Blaylock is a commercial diver and owner of www.deepblueyachting.co.uk.