Recreational Diving in Greece: the professionals in wetsuits
Most divers know, even before visit for the first time, that Greece has a vast coastline, crystal clear waters and perfect, warm weather conditions for more than half a year, all in favor of recreational diving. But the profile of professionals of diving is known only by divers already visited and dived in Greece and most times return again and again. In an attempt to introduce those professionals to divers there will be some interviews with many of them.
So how is an “average” dive professional? Well the answer is simple:
Our guest, Mr. Makis Sotiropoulos is NOT an average diver!
He has a background in commercial diving (as many Greek professionals), owns a dive center since 1997 in the island of Kefalonia, at the center of Ionian Sea and he is a recreational, technical and cave diving instructor.
He is active in raising environmental awareness, but above all he is an underwater explorer.
Divers thanks to Makis know new dive sites, including wrecks, u/w caves, impressive reefs and ancient artifacts. Among his credits, he has participated in many U/W surveys of national and international cooperation programs and he has discovered one of the oldest shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.
Mr. Sotiropoulos, you started your business when diving was still limited in Greece and had to overcome difficulties. How was “navigating in unexplored waters” back then?
That time was quite difficult for the Greek dive community and especially for the dive clubs that were struggling to survive. The result was limited interest for divers to visit Greece for diving back then as Greece did not existed as a diving destination, until recently. It took the Greek authorities nearly 15 years, to realize the difference between protect and forbid.
As most divers know, diving in Greece now is like in most European countries: only local restrictions apply in special areas and apart from that divers can enjoy the U/W world. How this liberty affected your business and your customers?
First of all, increased number of divers resulting in more dive clubs, and healthy competition is good for all, clients and professionals. Greece has uncountable diving spots that offer amazing diving experiences and now we can visit them all, if that is ever possible.
Also, now it is apparent to all parties involved that alternative tourism and specially diving tourism, attracts quality tourists that Greece would like to attract and can accommodate.
What do you think can or must be done in terms of improving and protecting diving industry in Greece?
Targeted advertising, especially in diving exhibitions around the world.
Featuring the crystal clear seas and unique ancient wrecks that are part of the amazing Greek history in order to create a diving brand for Greece based to those characteristics, that no other destination can offer history, tradition, sun, gastronomy and passion!
And of course, a constant effort is needed to improve services, aiming to attract experienced and high level divers such as tech divers, cave divers etc.
Do you think that diver’s awareness is raised towards protecting those discoveries and U/W environment in general? What is your experience with your customers?
It’s well known that the common characteristic of divers around the world is their love for the sea. So there is no doubt that divers are the most enthusiastic safe keepers of the marine environment, and especially of wrecks –caves-reefs which are the places they dive. So, more divers in the water will result in better protection of the environment. Today, divers have high awareness concerning the U/W environment respecting discoveries; these are values I can see every day in my dive club.
You rather run a “dive club” than a dive resort, as I understand many of your customers demonstrate loyalty in returning every year, and sometimes more than once every season. In your experience, what do they appreciate in the services provided? And which nationalities often occupy your diving boats?
I met people that they have dived in many other diving places all around the world, but they still came back here for diving. Why? The answer is simple, the more diving places you have visited, the more you appreciate the places you had great time. The truth is that Greece is a diving destination offering much more options for the holidays and it’s not just the diving that makes your holidays memorable. The safety of a European country, the smooth weather conditions, the hospitality, the high quality of services and all this at the best prices… Why not to come again and again? And trust me some of my clients have been returning since 1997 that I opened the club. Also, I would say that most of them are British.
Greece is known for the diverse U/W environment, caves and caverns, deep waters and also world-class shipwrecks: ancient wrecks, WWII warships, submarines and planes. What a diver would expect to experience U/W?
Diving in Greece is like diving with a time machine, as due to its geopolitical position, there are many unique ancient wrecks and WWI& II wrecks. The superb U/W visibility gives you the opportunity to visit them in an easy and safe way. In addition, there are many caves that have easy access like the caves we have here in Kefalonia island and they are as beautiful and interesting as most famous caves all around the world, but not so known, while much more accessible!
I understand that dive training is among your activities. In your opinion, why a wannabe or an experienced diver would choose Greece to attend some courses or become a more confident diver? What courses are available in your dive center?
The all year friendly environment plus the excellent rate of the diving services in a compatible cost, I think is a good reason to consider Greece for training in all levels of dive courses. Also, the advantage to enrich your training diving holiday with a numerous of other interesting activities at the same time makes the combination value for money. For example, all PADI diving courses are available at the Aquatic Dive Club focusing in Cavern- Cave diving and Tec.
Greece has six months of warm, smooth weather and U/W conditions, and most divers choose this period both for holidays and recreational diving. You on the other hand, also organize courses for groups year-round, like cave diving, technical diving etc. What advantages you find in this practice, both for the divers and for you as a professional?
Divers that dive all year round, have the opportunity to upgrade their experience doing high level diving courses at the same time they have their holidays .The Greek islands like Kefalonia offer a unique combination for that. The U/W morphology (deep waters close to the shore) the temperature of he water (17C to 24C) and good visibility always make it ideal to start a course or go to a higher level.
Among things that ignite a diver’s imagination is an U/W discovery, and you’ve been there many times. Could you share with us the feelings and the experience? And which discovery was the most impressive?
The feeling at the moment of discovery is very strong; the fact that your discovery was at the seabed for so many years and you are the first person to dive there makes you appreciate diving even more!
The last year, using Side Scan Sonar I discovered a Bristol Beaufighter, KV930, and when I made the dive and saw that the plane was intact in a very good condition I felt that it was worth the 3 years of research.
If you had to choose your favorite dive, which one would be? And just to get more tips for Kefalonia Island, which one would be the second best?
My favorite dive is in a Roman wreck at 62m that is actually the ultimate ancient wreck, that I have ever dived because the wreck has kept after 2000 years its ship-like outline shape and it is 30m long.
Second Best is the HMS PERSEUS submarine, to get an idea look the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrplBaG1IUU
Interview by Gerasimos Beriatos
MSc Media & Communication