Diving into a Volcano - Santorini Caldera
Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. It was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, forever shaping its rugged landscape.
The whitewashed, cubiform houses of its 2 principal towns, Fira and Oia, cling to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater). They overlook the sea, small islands to the west and beaches made up of black, red and white lava pebbles.
How is a caldera formed?
Collapse calderas form when a large magma chamber is emptied by a volcanic eruption or by subsurface magma movement. The unsupported rock that forms the roof of the magma chamber then collapses to form a large crater.
The Santorini caldera reaches depths of 370m!
Staying at Kamari Beach there are a few dive schools around. I decided to dive with Navy’s Water World as I preferred the sound of their dive spots. Some schools dive out the front of Kamari Beach and I got the impression that this was because it was easier even though there wasn’t much to see. Navy’s dive in the Marine Protected Area in the caldera which sounded like a much better option!
The Dive Site
We drove from Kamari Beach over the ridge and finally down a steep rocky road into Caldera Beach. This is the only beach on the caldera side of Santorini and the view of the volcano from the beach is amazing. We were to do one dive heading out to the left (lion head rock) and another on the right (no idea what this one was called).
Our Greek dive guide Dimitri was fantastic. Telling us stories of the island on the drive in and also had great knowledge of the divesite. He also talked about how good his family wine was (although I never got to verify it!)
Both shore dives with almost no waves made for very easy entrance/exits. The visibility was great and must have been close to around 20m.
Swimming out from the shore we got deeper and deeper until we hit around 22-24m and then there was a cliff wall. I dropped down over the wall to a comfortable 30m with Dimitri and one other diver above me.
The wall sloped down into the abyss. Unlike anything I have ever dived before, it looked like it went on forever! There was definatelty something special about the vast space beneath me and the feeling of insignificance you have in such a huge space.
We seen cuttlefish, octopus, grouper and nudibraches but the highlight for me was seeing bubbles rising out from the rock from the volcano. It made you stop and think for a moment about what was actually going on down there.
If you find yourself in Santorini, I would definitely recommend a dive in the caldera. There may not be a huge abundance of life but what we did see and the unforgettable volcanic landscape make this dive a must. Diving along the edge of the caldera looking down into the abyss with such amazing visibility is something I will always remember.
Regardless of where I go on holiday, I always find the time to do a dive or two. They may not be your typical dive locations, but there is always something special to be found.