Messenia is a region in the southwestern corner of the Peloponnese, Greece, that offers many attractions for visitors, from beautiful beaches to historic castles. But one of the most exciting and unique features of Messenia is its underwater parks and diving spots, where divers can explore the rich marine life and the ancient ruins of this area. In this blog post, we will introduce you to some of the best underwater parks and diving spots of Messenia, and give you some tips on how to enjoy them.
Underwater Parks of Messenia
Underwater parks are protected areas where divers can observe and interact with the aquatic environment in a safe and sustainable way. They usually have marked trails, information boards, and guides to help divers learn more about the underwater world. Underwater parks are also great places to see artificial reefs, shipwrecks, and archaeological sites that have been submerged by the sea.
Messenia has two underwater parks that are worth visiting: the Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO) Underwater Park and the Sapientza Underwater Park.
Navarino Environmental Observatory (NEO) Underwater Park
The NEO Underwater Park is located in the bay of Navarino, near the town of Pylos. It was created in 2014 by the Navarino Environmental Observatory, a joint initiative of Stockholm University, the Academy of Athens, and TEMES S.A., the developer of Costa Navarino, a luxury resort in the area. The park aims to promote environmental awareness and education, as well as to preserve and enhance the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the bay.
The park covers an area of about 15 square kilometers, and has four diving trails that showcase different aspects of the bay’s ecology and history. The trails are:
- The Roman Trail: This trail takes divers to see the remains of a Roman shipwreck from the 1st century AD, as well as some amphorae, pottery, and anchors from various periods. The trail also passes by a seagrass meadow, where divers can spot seahorses, octopuses, and cuttlefish.
- The Biodiversity Trail: This trail focuses on the diverse marine life of the bay, from colorful corals and sponges to fish and crustaceans. Divers can also see some artificial reefs that have been created to enhance the habitat and attract more species.
- The Naval Battle Trail: This trail commemorates the Battle of Navarino, a decisive naval battle that took place in 1827 between the allied forces of Britain, France, and Russia, and the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet. The battle was part of the Greek War of Independence, and resulted in a victory for the allies and a major blow to the Ottoman Empire. The trail features some cannons, cannonballs, and anchors from the battle, as well as some modern warships that have been sunk as artificial reefs.
- The Cavern Trail: This trail leads divers to a spectacular underwater cavern that has a depth of about 30 meters. The cavern has a large opening that allows natural light to enter, creating a stunning visual effect. Inside the cavern, divers can see stalactites, stalagmites, and fossils.
The NEO Underwater Park is open to divers of all levels, but some trails may require advanced certification or experience. The park also offers guided tours, educational programs, and research opportunities for divers who want to learn more about the bay’s environment and history.
Sapientza Underwater Park
The Sapientza Underwater Park is located around the island of Sapientza, near the town of Methoni. It was created in 2016 by Fini Divers, a local diving center that operates in cooperation with the Municipality of Pylos-Nestoros and the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature. The park aims to protect and showcase the natural and cultural heritage of Sapientza island and its surrounding waters.
The park covers an area of about 12 square kilometers, and has three diving trails that highlight different features of the island’s underwater landscape. The trails are:
- The Volcano Trail: This trail takes divers to see the volcanic formations that shape Sapientza island, such as lava flows, craters, and vents. The trail also passes by some hydrothermal springs that create bubbles and warm water currents.
- The Shipwreck Trail: This trail takes divers to see two shipwrecks that lie near Sapientza island: the Mentor and the Kythira. The Mentor was a British brig that sank in 1802 while carrying some of the Parthenon sculptures from Athens to London. The Kythira was a Greek cargo ship that sank in 1968 after colliding with another vessel. Both shipwrecks are home to a variety of marine life, such as groupers, moray eels, and barracudas.
- The Reef Trail: This trail takes divers to see the coral reefs that surround Sapientza island, which are among the most diverse and colorful in the Mediterranean. The trail also passes by some caves and arches that create interesting underwater scenery.
The Sapientza Underwater Park is open to divers of all levels, but some trails may require advanced certification or experience. The park also offers guided tours, educational programs, and research opportunities for divers who want to learn more about the island’s environment and history.
Diving Spots of Messenia
In addition to the underwater parks, Messenia has many other diving spots that offer exciting and varied experiences for divers. Some of the most popular diving spots of Messenia are:
- Kardamili: Kardamili is a picturesque seaside village that has a rich history and culture. It is also a great diving destination, as it has several dive sites that range from shallow reefs to deep walls and caves. Some of the highlights include the Kardamili Wall, a vertical drop that goes down to 40 meters and hosts a variety of fish and invertebrates; the Kardamili Cavern, a large underwater cave that has a depth of 25 meters and a length of 50 meters; and the Kardamili Wreck, a small wooden boat that lies at 18 meters and attracts schools of fish.
- Stoupa: Stoupa is another charming seaside village that has a lively atmosphere and beautiful beaches. It is also a good diving spot, as it has several dive sites that offer different levels of difficulty and interest. Some of the highlights include the Stoupa Reef, a shallow reef that has a depth of 12 meters and hosts corals, sponges, and fish; the Stoupa Cave, a small underwater cave that has a depth of 18 meters and features stalactites and stalagmites; and the Stoupa Wall, a steep wall that goes down to 35 meters and hosts groupers, octopuses, and lobsters.
- Finikounda: Finikounda is a popular tourist resort that has a long sandy beach and a lively nightlife. It is also a good diving spot, as it has several dive sites that offer different types of underwater scenery. Some of the highlights include the Finikounda Reef, a rocky reef that has a depth of 15 meters and hosts corals, sponges, and fish; the Finikounda Wreck, a small fishing boat that lies at 22 meters and attracts schools of fish; and the Finikounda Caverns, a series of underwater caverns that have depths ranging from 10 to 30 meters and feature stalactites, stalagmites, and fossils.
- Koroni: Koroni is an old Venetian town that has a medieval castle and a picturesque harbor. It is also a good diving spot, as it has several dive sites that offer different types of underwater scenery. Some of the highlights include the Koroni Reef, a rocky reef that has a depth of 18 meters and hosts corals, sponges, and fish; the Koroni Wall, a vertical wall that goes down to 40 meters and hosts groupers, moray eels, and barracudas; and the Koroni Caves, a series of underwater caves that have depths ranging from 10 to 30 meters and feature stalactites, stalagmites, and fossils.
Tips for Diving in Messenia
Diving in Messenia is an amazing experience that can be enjoyed by divers of all levels and interests. However, there are some tips that can help you make the most out of your diving adventure in this region:
- Choose the right diving center: There are several diving centers in Messenia that offer equipment rental, courses, tours, and other services for divers. It is important to choose one that suits your needs, preferences, and budget. You can check online reviews, ask for recommendations from other divers or locals, or visit them personally to see their facilities and staff.
- Choose the right diving season: The diving season in Messenia runs from April to November, with water temperatures ranging from 16°C to 26°C. The best time to dive depends on your personal preference and what you want to see. Generally speaking, spring (April-May) is good for seeing colorful flowers and plants on