“So what did you think of the diving in Santorini?” A message from a blogging friend blinked on my screen. “Because I didn’t want to tell you this beforehand, but it was probably my least favorite dive of all times.”
“Um, we go tomorrow,” I replied, and tried to keep my spirits high.
Diving in the Mediterranean gets a pretty bad rap sometimes. In a way, I can understand — if you’re crazy for coral or a big fish aficionado, you’re not going to find either in spades around here. But having just spent an amazing week diving in Malta — and with distant memories of a pleasant day diving in Ibiza, too — I wanted to believe Santorini would be special.
I mean, check out the setting for this dive shop! How could this not be a good time. Right? Right?
We were picked up by our Santorini Dive Center divemaster at the extremely reasonable call time of 9am — fellow scuba fanatics will appreciate that this is basically sleeping in on a dive day. And off we went to Caldera Beach, in the shadow of Akrotiri. Gearing up in front of the Aegean, our dive guide briefed us on our first plunge. We’d be heading to Nea Kameni, the crater around which modern Santorini is formed.
And off we went.
Our dive began with a slow swim around the slopes of the crater. Mostly we marveled at the topography, and being so close to an active volcano, though nudibranches, clams and coral formations clamored for attention too.
Doubling back to the bay we dropped anchor in, we swam past the shadow of our modern speedboat and towards the hulking husk of an antique one. The 34m long steel wreck is the remains of a tourist boat that sunk in the harbor, and that no one ever bothered to pull up.
Today, it’s a shallow playground for divers and snorkelers. At only 13m deep, some might turn their noses up at this wreck — but as a natural light photographer (no external strobe on this baby!) I loved the bright color coming through.
I also loved that we were able to enter the wreck, and have a quick swim through its hallowed halls.
Not a bad view to surface to, eh? While I bummed I didn’t get to show Heather around Nea Kameni on this trip, my mom and I hiked around it on our day on Santorini in 2011.
Back at the dive center, we changed tanks for our second dive — a shore one directly off the dive shop’s beach. Waddling our way out to sea, we dropped underwater as soon as we were deep enough to swim, and made our way through the sea grass clogged shallows.
Heather and I both felt a little overweighted, and at one point — because we are incapable of being dive buddies without attempting to end each other via laughter-induced drowning — it inspired Heather to do a striking impression of an upside down beetle. I was able to steady my giggle-wracked body long just enough to photograph it.
We should probably remember to warn our dive guides about our antics ahead of time.
At least we tip well.
After the very sparse sea life on our first dive, I was curious what to expect of this mini wall. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of activity we encountered, especially from a spunky barracuda intent on putting on a show. I appreciated that, knowing our experience levels — Heather is at instructor level and I’m a divemaster — the guide let us hang back and do our own thing.
Our favorite find though? Those black and white nudibranchs, a specific variety we had never seen before. We don’t know the official name, though we dubbed it a cow nudi, and I moo-ed appropriately in its honor.
Our conclusion? We couldn’t be more pleased with our decision to spend one of our five days on the island underwater. I don’t know if it was my low expectations, my favorite dive buddy or just being happy with a camera in hand, but I had a great experience. One day was enough for me, but there’s no way I would have missed the chance to check out Santorini’s scuba scene.
Being able to see Imerovigli from sea level wasn’t too shabby, either!
Kudos to Santorini Dive Center for running a top notch operation — dive times that reflect that customers are on vacation, guides that respect various experience levels, and a seriously kick ass office.
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Many thanks to Santorini Dive Center for hosting us. As always, you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill!
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Curious about my underwater photography setup? Check out my Obsessions page for information on my camera gear, editing programs and more.
i continue to view scuba diving as the most wild, exotic thing a person could possibly do. you might as well shoot into space!! thank you for allowing us scaredy cats to live vicariously through your bravery.
These dives were totally scare-free 🙂 Shallow, shark free, and calm current-less waters. But maybe I shouldn’t say that — I don’t mind being called brave!
Just wanted to say, it prob wasn’t meant to be the most eye-catching photo of the bunch, but I absolutely LOVE the one with your flippers in the water and the boat in the distance! So glad you had a great dive and could show us landlubbers all the fun pics!
Aw, thanks Maddy! It’s always fun to hear which photos catch different people’s eyes.
Another set of photos from a beautiful dive! They make me happy-jealous (if that makes any sense) and make me wish I could scuba. Did you find out how long the tourist ship had been underwater for?
Hey Marni! I tried to find that info while I was writing this post and couldn’t anywhere… I guess it will remain a mystery for now 🙂
Always love your diving photos Alex! Looked like a really interesting site!
They were pretty cool ones. Well worth a look for any divers heading to Greece!
Sounds (and looks) like you had a great experience inspite of what you heard. By the way, the black & white photo of Heather in the seagrass is hilarious! It seriously made me laugh out loud 🙂
She’s a pretty entertaining dive buddy 🙂
Love the cow nudi – I have never seen anything like that before
It was a new one for us too — and they were everywhere!
I’m laughing so hard at the sea grass photos. This was a great post – I would have never guessed that’s what the diving would have been like there. And what a cute shop!!
Adorably scenic dive shops get me every time. We were SO relieved to dive considering we both were seriously suffering from sinus issues all week. I almost choked from a coughing fit at one point, but otherwise smooth sailing!
this looked and sounded a wonderful dive. Loved your photos as usual. I think I have become a bit of a beach photographer – I’m very proud to say i’ve just had some of mine published in the UK Essex Life magazine. Your underwater ones are amazing – wish I was so adept!
Congratulations Janice! That’s something to be very proud of. 🙂
Great pictures! I was diving in Crete before heading to Santorini and it was quite a let down, and decided not to dive in Santorini. But after reading your article, I regret not diving there. Oh well, there will always be a next time!
It’s always nice to have a reason to return! A friend of mine just went diving on Naxos and said that was pretty cool too.
Great pictures of shipwreck! Looking at them it feels almost as if we dived there with you 🙂
We’ve also hearded that diving on Santorini isn’t taht great (but we didn’t try it, since we’re not divers). I’m happy to hear that it exceeded your expectations 🙂
Like I said, always best to keep them low… especially when it comes to diving 🙂
I’d love to make it to Santorini one day and even more so now that I know there is at least some diving. I don’t expect SE Asia type dives every time or anything, but we usually like to dive when we travel so now I can bump Greece up a bit! Haha. That wreck looks awesome!
Yup, I think Greece has some nice surprises underwater! I’d definitely dedicate a day in each island to underwater time 🙂
Haha! I need a dive buddy I can mess with like that under water. I love nudibranchs (I think I say that on all of your diving posts). Looks good but it’s hard to do anything short of awesome when you’re used to SE Asia diving, innit?
Having a dive buddy who is on your level (experience-wise and mentally) is KEY. That’s why I love diving with Heather — plus, we are both great on air 🙂
Sometimes I think doing things with low expectations makes for a much better experience ha! Glad you enjoyed it. I’m so desperate to dive again after my Open Water in the summer. My next vacations are back to the UK and skiing in Japan so I NEED to squeeze in some scuba somehow- I loved it so much!
Hm…. what season are you going back to the UK? Surely you could squeeze in a chilly one there? 😉
Haha errrm December..! I’ll need a very thick wetsuit 🙂
Wow! Such amazing photos! Just wow!
Thanks Abi! They are a pain in the butt to edit but I love the results 🙂
Greece is definitely going to have to be on my bucket list to dive, but I’m a weirdo I chose to dive in Albania instead. And yes, there are no big fish or coral in the Mediterranean, but plenty of wrecks and ancient ruins. Your pictures are, like always, spectacular!
I’ve definitely never heard of diving in Albania before! I’m all about unique experiences though — that one sounds super cool.
Absolutely love posts like this.
You have an ability to capture underwater life like no other – seriously making me miss diving and i’ve only been once! Where are your top three places to dive? xo
Ooo, tough one! The Big Island in Hawaii holds a special place in my heart for the manta ray night dive there — I’ve never cried so much underwater! Donsol in the Philippines probably had the best coral I’ve ever seen. And then perhaps dry suit diving in Iceland, because of the street cred 🙂
Looks like great fun!
We’re looking forward to our first altitude dives in a few days time!
Awesome! Where will that be?
In Lake Atitlan, Guatemala!
Amazing! I definitely plan to do then when I get there, someday 🙂
Looks beautiful!!! And love you two and your antics!
Glad you finally got to meet Heather in person 🙂
Although Santorini has been at the top of my bucket list for a long time, I have never considered diving there. I am glad to know that it is a worthwhile experience!
Just stumbled across your blog and I love it. Great design and great photos. I will be back!
Thanks so much Ragan! I just had a major site redesign and am still madly in love with it. Thanks for reading and see you again soon 🙂
I love that photo of you mooing. So funny!
Haha. I do love goofing around under water 🙂
With or without diving Santorini looks gorgeous!!! I love scuba diving but wreck diving is something I just can not bring myself to do – it freaks me out for some reason. But I do love seeing wreck diving pics, especially yours. 🙂
This would actually be a great wreck for you to get started on, if you ever changed your mind — it is so shallow you could literally snorkel it! So lots of light and great visibility 🙂
I am starting to regret now that I didn’t get my dive master in Koh Tao when I was there few weeks ago. Diving looks like so much fun! I hope to try it out some time in the future though. How could I have missed out on that in Thailand?
Maybe I will get to try it in Santorini:)
There is diving all over the world, I’m sure you’ll get another chance soon on your travels! It’s a whole other world down there!
Your diving pictures are so awesome! When did you take the dip (not sure if your posting date is true to that you took the dive)? How is the water temperature?
Being from SE Asia, I am quite hesitant about whether to dive in Santorini in my trip there this July or not. Less-than-fantastic marine life aside, since we only had about 3 nights on the island, I fear I am giving up exploring more of the island life by going underwater. Hmm..
We did this dive in early August, Rain! I’m not sure the exact water temperature (I’m terrible at noting those kinds of things) but we wore 5mm wetsuits and felt good! That’s a tough call with only three nights — I had eight in total and it was my second time to Santorini. I might stay topside — there is so much to explore!
Alex! My little brother just graduated high school and for a grad gift my dad told him he could pick the family vacation destination this year- and he’s leaning heavily towards Greece! Im having a great time researching and went to poke around dive opportunities (brother and dad’s favorite activity) on Pinterest and much to my delight- here you were! Should have known to check your blog first 🙂 will definitely be checking out santorini dive center at your suggestion. Hope all is well, lovely!
What an amazing family vacation! You are going to love Greece — and diving in Santorini is a blast! Enjoy!
Well written and Very informative on what to expect for dives in Santorini. Answered a lot of my curiosities about the diving experience there. Great to have the photos a lot with the good descriptions. Thank You!!
You’re welcome Candice! Enjoy diving in Santorini — I thought it was a blast!
I am on my way to Crete on 12/8/16 till 3/9/16 and will be coming to santereina for a few day and would love to do a few dives can l get in touch say 5 days before as the dates to come to you will be arranged on our arrival in crete
Hey Tony, I’m not sure if booking ahead is necessary in Santorini. Maybe try contacting the dive company to be sure!
Could you possibly state the name of the dive you did? And do I need to be a certified diver to do it? I am on the Santorini Dive Center’s webpage, but it looks a little outdated and I don’t see a dive like yours mentioned.
Hey Dominique! I believe the first dive site is called Nea Kamini, as I wrote in the post. The second one I don’t believe was named, but it’s the dive shop’s shore dive 🙂 Hope that helps!
Thank for sharing! The pics are beautiful <3 Is must have been a great experience. I've only done snorkelling until now and I was really curious about the feeling of breathing oxygen through the diving equipment. I was a bit afraid, wanted to try once in Amorgos (another amazing island for such an activity). How was your first-time experience? Please advise, I want to try it… but I need a little push 🙂
I tried diving for the first time in Koh Tao many many years ago — it changed my life! You get used to breathing through the regulator very quickly and then it’s just magic from there 🙂 The initial course can be a challenge for some but once you get certified, you’re certified for life! Find a great instructor and go for it!
Thank you for the positive energy… it sounds great, I have to go for it this summer.! Watching those lovely creatures beneath the surface is truly astonishing. This year I had a close-up encounter with 2 sea-turtles in Mani Region, Greece (it is at the Peloponnese Peninsula). I got a bit scared at first. So did the sea-turtle, it ran away and started chasing to film it but I could hardly compete! lol
Aw, seeing a turtle underwater is always an amazing experience! Just wait till you start diving — you’ll be amazed at everything you see!
Yes, it was amazing! I thought I was looking at a moving rock <3 I can't wait! For years I wanted to see one but didn't have the chance and during the same summer, I saw 2 of them!That was Mani Region (in the Peloponnese, great place) It is a different and beautiful world down there. I have some friends that do free diving, this is how I got the idea of trying something like that myself. I want to discover everything cute that lies beneath 🙂
Awesome, Annita. Good luck!