After visiting some of the more usual diving locations over the last few year (Red Sea, Malta, Lanzarote etc) Bude Dive Club decided to go some where different for 2015; so we looked at Greece. The reasoning behind the venue was it was within a sensible flight time (2.5hrs). There was plenty to do top side for non divers and post diving and the weather would still be good in October.
As usual we went and spoke to Emma at holsworthy Travel http://www.holsworthytravel.co.uk who gave us some excellent advice on where about on the island was good to stay and our flight options. The All-inclusive hotel was booked with First Choice and we were off via Bristol. Ten days before we were due to travel the reason why we use a local travel agent, over an internet site, once again was proven. They were closing out hotel!
Not an issue you would think as the travel company was going to upgrade us to a sister hotel, it looked nice, it had better facilities – but it miles from a dive centre! A short chat with Emma and a phone call to First Choice and we were upgraded, but to the Northern end of the Island where we wanted to be. This still removed our preferred choice of dive centre, Scubanauts - http://www.scubanauts.gr as these guys are based just outside of Corfu Town. They had offered us a ten dive pack along with lunch and t-shirts. We emailed the centre that was now local to the hotel, Apollo Dive http://www.apollosub.com/corfu_diving.aspx . However they weren’t overly helpful, eventually replying that they may or may not open depending on their mood on the day – great customer service. Next we tried Dive Easy -http://www.tauchenkorfu.com/index.html. Now these guys were a different kettle of fish; emails answered same day, positive replies, ability to dive confirmed and that was the dive centre sorted.
Initial check in at Bristol was -0230 so we arrived at Silver Parking just before 2 am! We find the Silver zone the easiest parking option at Bristol, it’s a 5 minutes bus ride into the terminal, you get dropped off and picked up right outside the entrance and using the BSAC Plus discount it’s as cheap as the local off airport options. The bad news is the Subway that used to be open in the check in area has been replaced by Costa, which was open. The good news is once through security the shops were all open by 0330 with a large number of them open before 3.
The flight passed smoothly, the baggage recovery was quick and efficient and the First Choice reps ensured we were on the correct bus for the area. We were now staying at the Nissaki Beach Resort http://nissakibeach.gr and first impressions upon arrival were cemented with a large glass of very chilled apple juice. Reception was welcoming and easy, paperwork completed we were directed to the large, airy rooms and then lunch.
Over the week there was a really good selection of meals with a range of starters, main courses and sweets. I did find the sweets better looking then they were tasting, unlike the main dishes which in the main were lovely. The highlight of the week was shared between the coffee liqueur steamed till hot (and far nicer then the coffee) and the veal stroganoff – both were just great. The only down side was for our vegetarian – she got fed up with the rice and salad as the only other option was fish which was sometimes rather oddly cooked. To be fair to the hotel there was a number of pasta options, but none of these were wheat free! The only thing we avoided was the packed lunches. They were happy to produce these for us but the dry bread with no butter was a tad hard to swallow. Instead we made our own at breakfast as the fresh bread (rather than the sliced) was superb along with a choice of eggs, hams, cheese etc. Bottled water was available at each of the bars and reception so no need to buy this when out. As the rooms all had fridges we made sure we had a constant stock. We had an issue with our bath during the week ( it cracked) so we moved rooms. The hotel provided a bottle of wine, which was much nicer then the AI stuff along with a large tray of fruit - which went in the packed lunches. The hotel run a free shuttle into Corfu Town which we planned to use on our last day - but a lay in and day in the pool won.
The next morning we took the hire car up to the dive centre, completed the normal forms and sorted out hire kit where it was needed. The kit supplied looked well maintained and worked well. There seemed to be enough kit of various sizes so that everyone who needed kit had the correct size. The only down side to the kit was the hire fins were full foot, this means the centre don’t need to worry about boots but I did feel for those on the rocky shore dive!!
The first day’s diving was moved from the boat to the shore due to the wind. We had two interesting dives from the beach just under the local astro turf at Gialisari. There is a fish farm here and this brings a fair amount of fish to the easy pickings on food as well as a large number of escapees. A couple of grouper were seen along with octopus, scorpion fish and bream. A good 8-10m of viz was coupled with 23 degree water.
Sunday was next, and this was spent touring the island in the hire car as the centre decided to have a day off. Apparently this doesn’t happen during the main season as the centre opens 7 days a week. That said the island tour was interesting, roads ran out into stone tracks (which the hire car coped with quite well considering) and the drive over the top of the island gave some great views. It was clear that the whole island is in need of some finance. Massive construction sites were just mothballed. Hotels and villas seemed to be left partially complete, factories looked empty and the cumquat processing plant looked abandoned. It wasn’t and they do advertise trips and visits but the volume of weeds and lack of paint really doesn’t make a number of so called tourist areas appealing. If anyone wants a holiday home this seems to place to buy one currently. With a little work some of the places are ready to go – we looked at one that all it needed was a front door and a kitchen.
Monday brought a good days diving from Dive Easy II, the centres custom built dive speed boat, designed for up to 22 passengers with 2 toilets, 2 X Yanmar 315HP engines and a maximum speed of 30 knots. The boat boasted 2 CD size O2 cylinders, 2 x VHF, TV-DVD-USB and Radio Player. The boat has a large dive platform with 2 ladders that can be used with or without fins.
We dived at Agni, which oddly enough was just around the corner from the hotel and M.Kefali. Both sites were simple reefs where you could pick your depth, we ranged from 25 – 5m and two lovely dives were had with moray, more octopus and a range of reef fish as well as some of my favorites – nudibranchs.
You need to take your own water and food as nothing is provided on the boat which is a shame but they did tell us this at booking so it doesn’t come as a surprise.
The next day was interesting, we again headed East from the dive centre on the boat and visited a reef that contained some really interesting sights. We started under the boat at 5m and headed down the reef to33m. On the way at around 25m we found a lovely anchor from what could be British origins?
Then dropping further down to the bottom of the reef at 33m there was the explosive sight we’d come to see; a complete WWII mine ;
For the afternoon we headed off to Lighthouse Island which was nearer to Albania than Corfu. It was a shallow site with a reef interesting containing a few small caves, swim throughs and more nudi
The final day was the deepest. We headed back to Agni reef and this time descended the Southern side of it down to the sea bed at 43m. There we swam over another mine, this time exploded by the local bomb team;
The reason for heading this way was to dive one of the many wrecks in the area. The boat was a private yacht that ‘sank’ in some very interesting circumstances – think Admiral or Direct Line!!
The wreck is pretty intact hull wise with plenty to see including a massive grouper and plenty of smaller fish and the obligatory nudie;
They have plenty of wrecks to choose from in the area at a range of deepths. It was a shame we weren’t there the following week as a British Club were going out for a week or wreck diving – the joys of taking ten people – you choose the sites.
Our final dive was the Barbarous caves. An interesting set of swim throughs alongside a reef, a nice 7m bimble following the mornings dive. Most of the reefs have abandoned fishing gear on them, either lines or nets, but some of these make interesting features;
And all contain a great mix of life;
To sum up the week is was great. The hotel was simple and easy, the diving varied with plenty to see without the hustle and bustle of some of the more preferred diving locations and the island an ideal place to go if you like the sun, but not so great for mooching around people watching. Would we go again? Oh yes, in fact I’m looking to see if we can run a long weekend to the area once the regular flights start running again.