Cyprus Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos, an unconventional politician known for his bikes-to-buses actions, donned his diving gear on Saturday and plunged several meters at the site of the sunken harbour of ancient Amathus, east of Limassol.
Karousos has strong ties to the sea as he previously served as mayor of Ayia Napa, probably the most popular coastal resort on the island, and wants to promote ‘undersea tourism’, by raising awareness about world-class locations.
“We are creating an underseas archaeological park that aims to raise awareness and promote our cultural heritage,” Karousos said after the dive at the ancient harbour of Amathus with the underwater archaeologists from the Department of Antiquities, the Fisheries Dept. and the University of Cyprus research team.
He said that the proper maintenance and promotion of the site could be utilised for touristic purposes, as well as to encourage organised divers.
Accompanying Karousos was Euro MP Loucas Fourlas (DISY/EPP) who braves the cold water every winter to swim off Limassol and raise awareness about children’s cancer and other social issues.
“The wealth that the Cypriot seabed hides can and should be exploited, so that it is an attraction for blue diving tourism,” Fourlas said.
Karousos added that “all archaeological sites should be accessible, whether they are onland or underwater.”
With archaeologists detecting human activity in the area dating back to the Iron Age (1100 BC), Amathus rose in fame up to the 4th century BC when it was an important port during the Ptolemaic period, and later under Roman rule up to the first century BC, after which it started to vanish below the sea.
In December 2019, Environment Minister Costas Kadis watched as experts sank the shell of a ship off the coast of Larnaca to enhance its network of artificial reefs that will develop marine life, while boosting specialised tourism by placing the island on the international map of diving destinations.
This was the fifth and largest ship sunk off the coast of Cyprus in recent years, with similar events near Limassol, Paphos and Zygi, transforming the island into a popular destination for divers.
The favourite location for diving is also off the coast of Larnaca, at the Zenobia, a cargo vessel that sank on its maiden voyage in 1980 and lies at a depth of 42m, considered one of the top 10 wreck diving sites in the world.