I spent the second half of July and all of August working as an Instructor at Kea Divers…cunningly named so because it is on the island of Kea, a one-hour ferry ride east of Athens. A really nice island that has not yet been taken over by nightclubs and all that crap that infects some other similar places. August is the busy season when tourists – most of them Greek, but also a lot of French and some from other European countries – descend on the island and everything starts to get a little hectic.
It’s good diving. Lots of very nice reef dives which can actually have quite a lot of fish life, which seems to depend a little bit on the weather conditions. The Cyclades archipelago gets some pretty fierce winds during that time of year so diving could sometimes be limited to sheltered bays, though there are plenty of them with great dives. After a strong bit of wind some currents develop, but it also brings a crazy number of fish out to play, including a lot of large Grouper. Kea Divers operates out of two places: Vourkari in the north (where the main centre is located) and Koundouraki in the south-west, from where I worked in order to avoid the northerly winds. At Koundouraki the centre occupies a small cabin connected to Kea Watersports, run by Fotis Apostolidis and Efi Mantzaraki, who have working for them an excellent bunch of people who look after the watersports , sunbeds and run a bar/restaurant cunningly located next door 🙂
Koundouraki is also conveniently located next to Koundouros reef which is not only an excellent dive in itself reaching from 50 metres or so to within 2 metres of the surface, but also is where the wreck of the paddle-steamer PS Patris is located.
Water temperature tended to be about 25°C so it was always comfortable, though I still used a 5mm wetsuit for when it reached a chilly 23°C (yeah I’m going to suffer being back in the UK!)
The owner/operator of Kea Divers is Instructor Yannis Tzavelakos – a very nice bloke – and I worked alongside OWSI Vasilis ‘Bill’ Anagnostopoulos who is also an excellent instructor, boat driver and all round nice bloke. The esteemed Divemaster Stelios Berketis, another excellent diver and nice bloke, was on hand every weekend to do his thing as well. There were also some younger guys helping at the centre; Andreas was there when I first arrived, and then it was Antonis Karanikolaou (who looks like a sun-tanned young Val Kilmer and is a championship swimmer) and Emelios (I don’t know how to spell his name because it goes like this – Αιμίλιος Πούλαϊ – and I promised that I wouldn’t mention that his nickname is ‘Winnie The Pooh’). A really good crew of people and all excellent divers.
It was pretty tiring in some ways because during the entire time I was there I had only a single day off, but that seems to be the same with everybody on the island; they work extremely hard during the summer. But it’s got a great vibe to the whole place; nobody locks their cars and everybody is very mellow. I believe that during the high season the island’s police force swells dramatically to six members who also use start using a second car!
I was staying in the island’s capital, Ioulida, which is situated up in the hills, an ancient town built up there as a defence against pirates. Cars must be left at the entrance to the town and the rest of it is small winding streets with little houses everywhere. Very very cool place.
It takes about half an hour to drive from there to Koundouraki – first dive of the day scheduled for 10:30 (actually 11:00) and then one at 1:00 (ish) and 4:00 (ish) perhaps followed by a night dive.
It was a good season with most of the courses that I taught either the beginner experience programmes, Open Water and the occasional Advanced Dive. Other than that it was leading certified divers on the various sites that we used, all reachable within a maximum of about 25 minutes by fast RIB. Great stuff.
After leaving the island to return to the UK, I stayed at Bill’s house in the outskirts of Athens in order to catch my plan the next day. It seemed only fitting to pay a visit to the remains of the Temple of Poseidon from about 400-500BC which stands at the southernmost tip of Attica. It was very very cool…but the sight of several strange pouting girls armed with selfie-sticks and clearly only interested in their Facebook pout with some old rocks in the background has never made me wish more for Zeus to turn those stupid sticks into lightning rods and liven up the day a little. Sad.
The view from Poseidon’s front room (Kea is over to the left in the distance)
As an added bonus, I also found the remains of fittings used by the Wehrmacht to cover their flak position near the temple…;)