Cave Diving in the heart of Athens “Riviera”? An interview with your guide, Spyros Kollas
Spyros Kollas is a full time technical, trimix, sidemount, rebreather and cave diving instructor. He offers courses in Greece, Cyprus and Europe and he is the instigator of the international dive team ‘’InnerSpace Explorers Greece’’.
Mr Kollas, right next to some of the most luxurious hotels, beach clubs and sea view restaurants of Athens “Riviera” there is Vouliagmeni Lake, in which a labyrinth of caves lies beneath the peaceful surface. How come this wonder is not well known while Greek seas are open to recreational diving since 2005?
I assume exactly because diving in general was not so well known in Greece until 2005. People in Greece were unaware about this kind of activity and as a result, our country didn’t had enough trained and certified divers. So, as Vouliagmeni lagoon is an advanced diving terrain only very few people knew about the caverns and the cave as diving spots.
The other reason is that there are just a few instructors in Greece that can offer this kind of training and guided dives there.
What should a diver expect to see/ experience once underwater?
First and most important is that the lagoon has stable water temperature from 22 to 24 Celsius 12 months a year. Starting from the open water environment, the visitor can do snorkeling and see the endemic anemone Paranemonia Vouliagmenisis and hundreds of Garra Rufa or “DrFish” known also as fish spa.
For scuba divers that are at least Advanced Open Water certified, there are four (4) different, beautiful, crystal clear (over 60m vis) and unique caverns.
Except the guided cavern dives someone can take his/her cavern diver training.
Most caves are a perfect set for impressive u/w photography. Do you think Vouliagmeni is a must-visit site for professionals and lovers of u/w photography?
Yes if they have really good cameras and very powerful lights, as the spaces are really huge. The caverns of Vouliagmeni lagoon are a great option for those who love underwater photography and video because of the excellent visibility and formations.
What is your favorite part/ element of Vouliagmeni u/w caves?
As I previously said the chambers are huge and you feel like you are at the outer space. The combination of the excellent and diver friendly facilities of the lake, with the warm water and the impressive icons that the divers lights create are just amazing.
Why did you choose to do the cartography of the caverns and what is the purpose of this project?
First of all thank you for this question.
Let me make clear that the main cave is mapped form other cave explorers that have being in the past, like Zan Zak Bolanz, Dr Vasilis Giannopoulos, George Tzavelas and others.
Safety, education, real experience, creativity and social supply are just some of the reasons that motivated me to go on with this project.
The purpose is to further educate my students in communication, respect, submissiveness to achieve the goals, patience, collective work, mutual help, and so many other skills that every human needs in the 21st century, either in diving or in their work and everyday life.
In this way we also create the next generation diving professionals in Greece. In my opinion this is the most important if we want to see diving in Greece developing in all aspects.
How many different dives could be done in Vouliagmeni lake?
At least seven (7) different dives are available.
Are there dives suitable only to certified and experienced cave divers or even recreational divers could have a taste of the experience?
Advanced Open Water divers can participate in guided cavern dives. As they will need at least six (6) dives to the caverns of Vouliagmeni lagoon, they can apply to complete their Cavern Diver certification.
If they want to get into the cave they must be already cave diver certified, but dives into the cave are not allowed at the time.
You developed an expertise in cave diving. Would you like to share with us your experiences in cave diving in Greece? And why cave diving?
Cave diving is the mother of diving in general. Everything that we have according to safety rules and diving gear come from cave diving.
So in the beginning as technical diving instructor I wanted to learn everything about why and how, in order to offer more quality and safe technical diver training. I had the opportunity and the luck to have great mentors and instructors, both in dry and underwater cave exploration so it was very easy to addict. The demanding environment, the darkness, the quiet and the different decoration of each cave are the reasons that I love this type of diving. Every single cave dive is completely different from the previous one, even if I dive at the same site.
Greece has a vast variety of geological phenomena, shoreline and islands. Probably they are home for many more caves and impressive u/w formations. Could you handpick some for us?
The Elephant Cave in Crete, Drakos at Selnitsa, Sitzi, Kefalovryso, Amfitriti in Antiparos, Dersios, Polydroso and so many more caves that is not possible to remember them all.
The good news is that Greece offers plenty of cavern diving possibilities in Athens, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Kalamata, Kythira, Alonissos, Crete and more.
What would you say to someone who hasn’t experienced cave diving in Greece yet? And what you think he will say for it afterwards?
First of all not to dive caverns if the guide or the instructor is not cavern – cave diver. It looks easy and fun until you hit the limits. If this happens, diving is not fun any more. If there is no cavern certified guide to the place you want to dive, take the class close at home before you go.
People that have done guided cavern dives and students of mine are saying that they should have done this earlier and that this type of diving changed their way of thinking about diving. They say that they became more responsible and better team players underwater.
Not only impressive caves but diverse u/w environment, deep waters and also world-class shipwrecks: ancient wrecks, WWII warships, submarines and planes, SS Burdigala and of course HMS Britannic. Technical diving at its best in Greece?
Absolutely correct. It’s a pity to compare Greece with Malta with all these real and not artificial historical wrecks lying down to the bottom of our seas. I hope that the government will act the soonest possible so as people from other countries to be able to visit Greece for real wreck and technical wreck diving.
Interview by Gerasimos Beriatos
OWSI, MSc Media & Communication