The world is full of adventure and exploration for those who choose to brave it, and scuba diving offers no exception. The exhilaration one feels when breathing underwater has no equal, and is often realized through the surrounding wildlife. The ocean contains an immense diversity of life which varies by region, depth, temperature and turbidity of water. The Ionian Sea, off the northwest coast of Greece, is an area that offers particular and unique beauty.
Ionian Scuba is a five-star PADI diving resort located in Paleros, Greece. This beautiful and traditional Greek village sits in the heart of the Ionian in Paleros Bay, and has served as a fishing residence for its entirety. Ionian Scuba’s five dive sites are well-chosen and the ocean life is plentiful.
The new diver would enjoy an adventure at Friday Bay. This shallow, protected bay only reaches a depth of eight meters and is perfect for the learning diver. The soft coral is ubiquitous and many species of fish utilize the protection of the coral caves. The Ornate Wrasse (Thallasoma Pavo) and the Cuckoo Wrasse (Labrus bimaculatus) are commonly seen lazily swimming betweens coral clusters, picking at algae covered rocks or searching for worms to feast on, while the Mediterranean Parrotfish (Sparisoma cretense) follows suit not far away. These fish are a great example of the wildlife seen in Paleros Bay, brightly colored and small; they consider the Ionian their home. A night dive at Friday Bay presents a whole new cast of characters. The Wrasse family falls to rest while the Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris) comes out to hunt.
The Common Octopus reaches a total length of about one meter, and is a treat to view at night. This animal is shy but brave; to see an octopus stand its ground against a team of divers is a truly amazing sight. Many other molluscs are about at night as well, including the Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) and the Calamari Squid (Loligo vulgaris). Both of these creatures are curious and intelligent, and often take to figuring out a scuba diver’s torch.
Brother Islands and St. Nicholas Island are similar dive sites that differ mostly by location and size. Brother Islands consists of three small islands which Submerged divers circumnavigate. Both Brother Islands and St. Nicholas have sheer walls which are littered with natural caves and crevices. The sunlight hits these features with beauty and elegance, a view that is most appreciated in the solitude of the diver’s mind. The sheer walls fall to meadows of Neptune Grass (Posidonia oceania), a species of seagrass that indicates clear, clean water. The seagrass beds offer a teeming habitat for many algae species and feed various fishes as well as sea turtles. Damselfish (Chromis chromis) are the most commonly encountered species at each of these sites. They are small, territorial herbivores who create algae gardens on rock spaces. The juveniles are extremely small and bright blue, and exist in multitudes. A thorough search in the deeper rock caves could reveal a Moray Eel (Muraena helena), shy and unique animals who breath with an open-close motion of the mouth. These creatures stay mostly sedentary during the day, becoming more active in the hungry hours of the night. Brother Islands and St. Nicholas also house large grouper such as the Dusky Grouper (Epinephelus marginatus), a species which can reach five feet in length and moves only slowly and deliberately, as there are not many natural predators for this large fish in the Mediterranean.
The Cave is a dive site renowned for its daring exploration rather than the diversity in wildlife it offers. A trip into the cave always allows an escape to the surface, but once inside darkness takes over. In the middle of the day one must dive with a torch in order to illuminate the surrounding walls. Once inside the cave, divers surface to find a dark musty environment mostly inhabited by bats. The experience is monumental and this dive is sure to be one of a kind.
The Pinnacle begins at a depth of about eight meters. This deeper site exhibits many interesting species of invertebrates, including a wide variety of nudibranchs. The Purple Nudibranch (Flabellina affinis) is a flamboyantly decorated sea slug that is found in plenty at the Pinnacle, often close in association with the Spotted Doris (Discodoris atromaculata). Many species of fish enjoy this site, as it is an oasis of shallow land in the middle of a very deep bay. Seastars live on the Pinnacle in great numbers, including the Long-Limb Starfish (Ophidiaster ophidianus), which is the most brilliantly colored of the large starfish found in the Ionian Sea. These animals can range from violet to bright red and reach a two-foot diameter.
Wildlife in the Ionian Sea is widely variable and deeply beautiful. Each scuba diving trip brings with it a new adventure into the depths of the Greek sea, with promises of incredible visibility and teeming life. For a brand new exploration into your own mind and experience, try a day of diving with Ionian Scuba in Paleros, Greece.