Cyprus winters are amongst the mildest in Europe and, even during the coldest months, you’re likely to encounter a swimmer or two in the sea.
Although most often people who are used to far colder climates or are experienced year-round swimmers, these bathers prove that winter-time swimming is possible far beyond the popular May to October season.
Other beach-goers may not actually venture into the water but are happy to soak up the rays on sunnier winter days and enjoy the pretty views and peace and quiet at beaches that are bustling with visitors during the warmer weather.
Clear seas and warm waters make Cyprus ideal for diving. Sea temperatures around the island range from 27 to 16 ºC, resulting in one of the longest diving seasons in the Mediterranean, while the absence of plankton makes for great visibility.
The underwater coastal reefs teem with a wide variety of colourful fish, sponges, coral, sea anemones, octopus, mussels and the ubiquitous sea urchin providing a spectacular picture. Sea turtles can be spotted regularly, thanks to a turtle conservation project that has increased their numbers around the island considerably.
Spectacular underwater caves and tunnels and a number of interesting paths are just waiting to be explored, while the remains of ancient amphora and stone anchors make it a veritable adventure.
Thick full-body wet or, even better, dry suits, meanwhile, make snorkelling and scuba diving feasible almost 365 days a year, provided the sea is calm enough.
Many divers advocate wearing a diving vest and hood under the wet suit and, particularly when including gloves and boots and their dramatic impact on a diver’s warmth, a suitable kit offers more than adequate protection from the chilly water.
This means that—as long as scuba divers have got a towel, change of clothing and perhaps a hot drink waiting at the end—the only thing to consider before winter-time diving is the strength of the currents and height of the waves.
Keep in mind that lower temperatures will impact on the length of your dive, still a relatively small price to pay to be able to enjoy the water year-round.
Professional divers advise taking off your wet-suit immediately after the dive, drying off and putting on dry clothing as soon as possible. Even a dry set of swimwear will make a vast difference. Hanging the suit in the winter sun will also make suiting up for a second dive a great deal more tolerable.
Divers who are not yet familiar with using dry suits may consider adding a new qualification to their scuba diving repertoire through tailor-made instruction such as the PADI Dry Suit Specialty Course or NAUI Drysuit Diver class, both of which teach divers how to dive safely while wearing one and maintain their suit.
Popular diving sites like the Zenobia wreck off the coast of Larnaca can be visited at any time of year. It may be a bit trickier to get a boat ride out to the wreck but certainly not impossible, particularly if you get a satisfactory number of interested divers together or go through one of the many diving schools around.
Globally considered a top diving site, Advanced open water (AOW) qualification required when scuba diving at the Zenobia Wreck. Highly popular with local divers as well as visitors from around the world, access is by boat, usually from the nearby Larnaca Fishing Harbour.
According to the Cyprus Dive Centre Association (CDCA) and Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO,), just 1.4 kilometres off the coast of Larnaca, the Zenobia is rated one of the 10 best wreck dives in the world. The Zenobia, a Swedish Ro-Ro 172 metre ferry carrying 108 articulated lorries, sank in 1980. It lies on its port side on a flat bed of sand and rocks. Both the ferry and its cargo are still intact and fascinating to explore. The wreck is also home to schools of fish, including grouper, barracuda and tuna.
The dive starts at 17 metres and bottoms at 43 metres. Visibility is up to 50 metres and water temperatures a comfortable 16 to 28 °C.
Diving centres announce regular dives to the site throughout the scuba diving season.
A significant part of the wreck is also visible from the surface for those who prefer snorkelling.