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Larnaca, Cyprus

The Zenobia Shipwreck

The water here is so clear you can see the mysteriously sunken ship from the surface. 

The Zenobia was a large RO ferry that sank—some say in mysterious circumstances—on its maiden voyage in 1980. The massive wreck has since become a major diving destination, but you don’t have to scuba dive in order to see it. The water is so clear you can see it just from snorkeling at the surface, or even from a glass-bottomed boat.

The ship capsized during its voyage from Malmö to Syria. As the ferry neared Greece, it began listing to port; apparently a computer malfunction was causing excess water to be pumped into the ballast tanks. With the problem seemingly under control, the ship then continued to Cyprus. While in Larnaca harbor, however, the listing recurred and the captain was ordered to take the ferry out of the harbor in case it sank and became a hazard to other ships.

Anchored offshore, the list increased and the captain ordered the crew off the ship. In the early hours of June 7, 1980, the Zenobia capsized and sank. According to some locals, many of the crew were calmly watching this happen from a harbor-side bar.

Part of the mystery of this wreck is that despite the vessel’s own value and the hundreds of millions of dollars of cargo it carried, no investigation was ever carried out, and it is said that the owners never tried to collect the insurance. The ferry was loaded with around 100 trucks, and the vehicles and their cargo are still on board, between 50 and 140 feet below the surface of the sea.

Know Before You Go

Diving and snorkeling can be booked in Larnaca but even if staying in Paphos at the other end of the island dive centers will organize guided trips including transport. Glass-bottomed boat trips are available from Larnaca harbor.

Based on two separate dive trips five years apart, the fish life on the wreck appears to be getting better with time, but the numbers of divers on the wreck now makes it seem quite crowded.