My Top 3 EMEA Dives – Part 3: The Zenobia, Cyprus (Guest blog by Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler)

In this article, guest blogger Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler concludes her list of top 3 dives in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Missed the previous articles? Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.


Dive Site: Zenobia Wreck

Location: Larnaca, Cyprus
Description: Wreck
Length: 174 meters
Depth: 18 – 42 meters

The Zenobia wreck is one of the top wreck dives on the planet, originally a roll on-roll off (RO-RO) ferry, not unlike the ferries that service the Dover-Calais route between the UK and France.

She sank in 42 meters of water in Larnaca, Cyprus on her maiden voyage in June, 1980 after departing from Malmo, Sweden. Her final destination was Tartous, Syria but she never made it; after just a short while at sea her captain noticed severe steering problems. Investigations showed that the ballast tanks on the port side were filling with water, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

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My Top 3 EMEA Dives – Part 2: Ari Atoll, Maldives (Guest blog by Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler)

In this article, guest blogger Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler continues her run-down of her top 3 dives in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Missed Part 1? Read it here.


Dive Site: Ari Atoll

Location: Maldives
Description: Trench
Depth: 0 – 30 meters

I was lucky enough to celebrate my 30th birthday on a liveaboard in the Maldives. Four dives a day, in a location that is all about diving, was a dream come true. If I had to choose one dive that has stuck with me however, it has to be the whale shark encounter that I had in the Gaafu Atolls.

Strong currents are something that I am not used to (I come from a Mediterranean environment which is notorious for its calm, clear waters) and this trip was my first use of a reef hook. The current was particularly strong on this dive; my brother and I made a quick, negative entry and headed straight down to 20 meters – as we had been briefed to do beforehand. The plankton-rich waters were teeming with life, the cleaning stations were prominent and the dive group was experienced. This meant that the conditions were perfect for a very close encounter indeed.

The maldives are world-renowned for crystal clear waters and stunning marine life

Our dive guide must have been psychic. No sooner than the 10 of us making the dive had tucked ourselves away, a whale shark with an adolescent pup came into view. She was enormous. She was gentle and glorious. She was here for a cleaning and my brother and I were just meters away. I could have reached out and touched her if I had wanted to (I didn’t of course).

After 10 minutes the other divers started getting fidgety, but I didn’t want to move. I looked at my brother and could see that he had no intention of moving either. I signaled to the dive guide that we would stay, and that we would end the dive when either of us became lower on air with the safety of my DSMB, and that they should continue their dive. They signaled “OK”, released their hooks, and were a distant spec within minutes.

We stayed there for almost an hour. The whale shark was cleaned and we watched every second of it.

Whale sharks are regular visitors to the Maldivian atolls

This dive stays with me forever. I felt like I was on a conveyor belt of wonder, that my brother and I were the last two humans on earth and we had front row seats to all the action. I have seen whale sharks before, but this was the dive of a lifetime…. and that’s why it has made my top 3!

If you’ve enjoyed this article, watch this space for Part 3!


Alexandra DimitriouAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa.

My Top 3 EMEA Dives – Part 1: Million Hope Wreck (Guest blog by Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler)

“So what’s your favorite dive site?” asked a freshly scuba addicted student yesterday.
“Ummm… That’s a really hard question!” I’d replied.
He looked puzzled, “Why?”

Why indeed. I am a PADI Instructor, as are many of you. I am sure you get asked about your favorite dive site all of the time too – don’t you? What is your answer? How do you choose? How is it possible to remember every amazing experience underwater and then pick only one? It is almost always impossible. Diving is incredible in so many ways. You can enjoy a wreck dive as much as a wildlife dive, but we love them each for very different reasons.

So I thought I would write about my top 3 dive sites in this three-part blog series. Surely I can narrow it down to 3!

Dive Site 1: Million Hope Wreck

Location: Nabq Sharm El Sheikh
Description: Wreck
Length: 130 meters
Depth: 0-30 meters

Million Hope

This wreck has it all. It’s huge, it’s in shallow water, it’s covered in coral and teeming with life. This wreck is rarely dived due to its proximity to the shore line, and notoriously choppy waters make it hard to get there. However, if you are lucky enough to dive it you will be in for a real treat. It took me three trips to Egypt and many attempts by RIB before we had the right conditions to dive the Million Hope Wreck!

Why I love it…

Some of the ship is still visible above the surface but the majority is underwater. The shallow depth makes this wreck one of the most colourful and vibrant wrecks that I have ever seen. The traffic of fish was thick and the nudibranch were out in force. Beautiful.

It’s a big wreck! It is possible to get round it in one dive, although the use of nitrox to extend bottom time will make it a lot easier. This wreck sank in 1996 whilst heading for Cyprus. It was carrying fertilizer high in phosphates; the cargo had to be removed following an algae bloom, but there is still lots to see. The cranes that lie on the bottom create overhangs and there is even a Caterpillar crane at 22 meters; a bizarre addition to the dive that’s covered in colourful soft corals. The rotten seat and flooded controls are contrasted by the many scorpion, lion and glassfish that have made their home there.

Million Hope Wreck

White broccoli coral hangs from the ship’s stern but unfortunately the prop and rudder have been removed, leaving a void that the coral struggles to fill. It is one of the places on this ship that makes you feel very, very small! The hull is covered by enormous fire sponges and pajama slugs, as well as there being numerous starfish and pipefish clinging to it. There is a rotary telephone and a toilet seat in the sand surrounded by raspberry coral. There are penetration points everywhere; crew quarters, illuminated by various portholes; a work room complete with spanners on wall hooks, and where a piece of cloth still tied around an old radiator reminds us that this was a working ship.

You can also see the two boilers and twin six-cylinder engines before going up to make your safety stop. My “safety stop” lasted for more than 15 minutes! It was so beautiful between 3 and 5 meters that I could have stayed there forever.  The Million hope is a photographer’s dream – so full of natural light. The contrast of this huge rusty beast next to the multi-colored coral is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen.

Million Hope Wreck

If you’ve enjoyed this article, watch this space for Part 2 next week!


Alexandra DimitriouAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Women’s Dive Day: Go Pro, Girls!

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Today is PADI Women’s Dive Day, and in this guest blog article, Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler shares exactly why she wants to encourage more women to take the next step and become PADI Pros…


I have been a diver since 1992 and I can say, without a doubt, that scuba diving has been the driving force behind my own personal development. I became a professional diver on Halloween 2005, joining the largest diving family that is PADI, and it changed my life forever. How have I felt throughout my journey? How did I feel entering a sport that I had considered a “manly” activity? Why am I passionate about encouraging more females to take the plunge and Go Pro?

Cultural

Equality. It is a beautiful word. It opens so many doors and scuba diving is definitely one of them. Women are being encouraged to lust after everything, women are encouraged to try anything that takes their fancy. Scuba diving is no exception. What was before considered extreme has become safer. What was before considered unusual has become an experience not to be missed. Equality has given women the confidence to think “I can do everything” and we can. Cultural differences may have meant that men were considered to possess greater physical strength, finding it easier to lift heavy scuba equipment, but that perception is a thing of the past.

Alexandra DimitriouExperience

When I became a scuba diver I was seen as a “tom-boy” – a little unusual, and it makes me extremely happy to say that this is no longer the case. When I was a child my father had over 10 friends who he would dive with – only one was a woman. She was seen as a dare-devil and I wanted to be just like her. I was the only girl on my dive courses from my PADI Open Water Diver course to Rescue Diver.

When I signed up for the Divemaster course, however, things had already started to change. The dive center where I received my training had more female instructors then male and my course had a balanced split of students from all genders and backgrounds. I felt more at home, and less of an anomaly. It became more and more evident that diving could be an interest for anyone, that is was a uniting force that allowed global discovery across the board.

Equipment

Diving equipment now exists that has been developed with females in mind. Female specific BCD’s can now shift the load of our equipment from the upper back onto the hips – making it more comfortable. Wetsuits are now tailored to fit the female form, they fit better and are definitely more flattering! All equipment comes in a huge variety of colours and girls can now express themselves underwater. Diving equipment has become more female friendly.

Becoming a PRO

So why should more women think about taking the next step? Why should more women “Go Pro”?

Because we can do anything we want to do.

We can teach and spread our passion to the next generation. If I can do it, so can you. When a guy signs up for his PADI Open Water Diver course, encourage his girlfriend, sister or mother to sign up too! Any doubts that she may have can be immediately dispelled when she sees that you can do it – and that you have made it your career. She can become “one of the gang” and it will be life changing.

In my experience dive centers like to keep ratios even. They like to have both female and male instructors, as it allows them to cater to more of the market. This can improve your chances of getting that dream job in an exotic land.

So, over the years I’ve seen a shift in the diving world. A shift in perception, a shift in involvement and a shift in the pursuit of adventure. We can do everything, and anything that we set our minds to… so tie up that hair and jump in girls!


Alexandra Dimitriou selfieAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a dive center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner at Scuba Monkey Ltd.

Skills Deconstructed: The “How-To” on Happy Hovering

Alexandra DimitriouAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa. Her next article shares advice on teaching the tricky skill of hovering to new students…


Good buoyancy control is one of the most important skills that a diver must master for two reasons: It keeps the diver in control throughout their dive and protects the marine environment at the same time.

Many students find hovering a tough skill to master. I know I did when I was an open water student, and that was over 20 years ago. I can still remember the frustration of not getting it right the first time. I can also remember the calm reassuring voice of my instructor.

So let’s see why students struggle sometimes.

Being overweighted: Take a lot of time with your guests when you first enter the water on day one. If a diver is overweighted, hovering is a nightmare. Take the extra time at the beginning and you will save time later.

Not thinking about how they are breathing: Try to emphasize that buoyancy should become a habit, and they should not just treat it as an isolated skill. Get them thinking about their breathing. Nothing more than that. Just make them aware from day one.

Getting Frustrated: Emphasize that hovering will take a little time, and because it is a skill that is controlled largely by the lungs, any changes to their rhythm of breathing will affect their success. If they get frustrated, their breathing will change, which will make it harder to control their buoyancy…. then they will get even more frustrated and the issue compounds itself.

alex_d

The Perfect Buddha Pose

So, what techniques can help you help your student?

#1 – Briefing

I like to tell my students the steps that I will go through before going into a hover. I ask them to kneel, stand or lie on the bottom, but I also emphasize the notion that, soon, contact with the floor will be eliminated altogether. I ask them to visualize their lungs once they get into the position that they would like to stay in for 30 seconds.

“Hovering requires control and it requires calmness” – This is my opening line when I start briefing them about this skill.

I keep this briefing for hovering only. I reassure them that they will be able to do it because they have already done multiple fin pivots and that hovering is almost the same – except this time ALL of their body will be off the bottom. I warn them that this is tricky because it is mostly about feeling the differences in their buoyancy as they inhale and exhale.

“As soon as you feel your body start to rise…. Exhale.

“As soon as you feel your body start to get deeper then inhale”

I repeat this several times. I show them how to signal this thought process underwater.

I find that keeping my voice to an almost yoga whisper keeps their nerves at bay. I keep repeating that they should stay calm, to have fun with this lesson and within a very short while they will never touch the bottom again if they don’t want to. I tell them that this is where the magic happens.

#2 Underwater

I find that this briefing is the key to success underwater. Students are prepared for the possibility that hovering will take time and therefore they give themselves the mental space to get their head around the physics of it.

michelle finlay (alex blog hovering)

Success for Michelle Finlay, hovering like a Pro!

I demonstrate the exaggerated breathing hand gestures that we instructors have used since our IDC. I get my legs into position and inflate my BC in tiny bursts to get to that bouncy feeling, signifying that I am neutrally buoyant. I show them that I am inhaling, that I start to rise because of it and that I exhale just as I get to the mid-water position. I show them the signal for thinking. Thinking about how full my lungs are as I control my position in the water.

In my experience students get to the mid-water point quite easily, but they cannot help but try to balance themselves with their hands and fins. Let them do it for a few seconds before gently silencing the movement. You are looking for a calm face. Let them feel the movement of a slightly-too-deep inhalation – how they ascend a little too far as a result. Let them feel it – don’t correct them too early but also be ready to stop them if they go up too fast. It’s a fine line between trial and error. Keep them safe above all but give them some learning room.

It won’t be long before they’re hovering like a pro – and they will remember your methods long after they have completed their first logbook entry all the way to the day when they might be teaching their very own students to hover!


Don’t forget, once your students have completed their PADI Open Water Diver course, they can sign up to complete a PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty course to further improve their diving skills. For more information on becoming a PADI Peak Performance Specialty Instructor, click here or contact the PADI Training department.