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Sites open for scuba divers

- by Dabs Banner

Historic wrecks to explore on sea bed.

Scuba diving holidays are set to play a much bigger role in the Greek Island holiday market according to tourism leaders.

Next season sees the launch of two underwater archaeological theme parks in Aegean waters where divers can explore underwater wrecks and enjoy the rich marine life of the Mediterranean.

The marine parks are located off the south western Peloponnese coast near the holiday area of Pylos. Here scuba divers can discover the historic treasures ships dating from Roman, Byzantine and medieval times.

The wooden hulls of the sunken ships have long since disappeared but divers can still explore the sea bed for cargo scattered over the sea floor that includes stone urns, sarcophogi and amphorae near the remote island of Sapienza..

Further north in the Bay of Navarino are a number of 19th century shipwrecks that are now open to visitng scuba divers.

These include the remains of three Turkish warships that were sunk by allied British, Russian and French forces during the Battle of Navarino in 1827.

The sea battle was a key engagement in the Greek War of Independence and was the last major naval engagement to be fought entirely with sailing ships.

The dive sites are not only of interest to those who enjoy underwater archaeology but divers can also enjoy the teeming marine life of the Mediterranean.

Underwater caves and reefs in this part of the Mediterranean are home to grouper and sea turtles while dolphins are a common sight in Pylos Bay.

The dive sites will be open in the summer of 2014 according to a spokesman from Marketing Greece, a new promotional agency for the Greek tourism industry.

The spokesman said: "Without doubt tourism is a great strength for Greece and the Greek islands. Into the new year will be put into operation two archaeological theme parks where visitors will see exhibits in a museum at the bottom of the sea."

Underwater diving tourism is set to be a big growth area in Greek island holidays following the relaxation of laws which once barred divers from exploring underwater wrecks.

The Agean seas are littered with shipwrecks but severe restrictions were imposed over fears that tourist divers could plunder artefacts from important sites.

But rules have been relaxed to allow divers to explore dozens of sites with special theme park areas designated to allow guided underwater exploration by tourists.

The Greek government is confident that relaxing regulations could boost the name of Greece in the world's scuba diving industry and offer a chance to promote alternative tourism.

An underwater museum park with ten shipwrecks on the sea bed is currently being developed in the Northern Sporades and could be open to the public in 2015.

Tourism leaders say the development of dive sites could pave the way for Greece to extend the tourist season beyond the traditional summer months as well as promote the country's cultural heritage.