The mysterious allure of the deep and life in the depths of the sea have kindled the imagination of many, but only few have the ability to experience them. Underwater photography, however, has brought the wondrous world of the deep closer to the 'landlubbers'.
The Greek seas are rich in such photographic material, and underwater photography in Greece was permitted, through legislation, just a few years ago.
Taking advantage of the 2005 legislation allowing recreational diving throughout the country, with the exception of designated archaeological areas, local government administrations throughout the country have launched a campaign to attract "diving tourists".
Some 250,000 divers from abroad, with their families, are expected to visit Greece up through the end of October, while the number from June to the present has already reached 115,000 divers, according to Society for the Protection and Promotion of the Submarine Environment and its Surrounds president George Tzanakis told ANA-MPA.
Some 70 percent of the divers who have already visited Greece this year were from Germany, Russia, Spain, France and Italy, while the other 30 percent were from the US.
This is the first year that the number of foreign visitors coming to Greece expressly for diving is being recorded statistically, as well as their favored destinations.
According to Tzanakis, Greece was selected as the favored diving destination by 95 percent of a total of 7,500 divers who responded to questionnaires in the period 2006-2007.
Greece earned this "title" for three main reasons cited by the respondents to the survey, namely "theme", given that there are more than 20,000 shipwrecks in the Greek seabed, of which 6,000 have been formally recognised; "price", as diving in Greece costs about one-third of that in other diving destinations such as Malta, Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Cyprus; and "family", since the families of the divers are quite happy to accompany them to Greece, which offers a plethora of other activities for an enjoyable holiday.
Greece, says Tzanakis, has an impressive 16,500 kilometers of coastline suitable for diving, with the main destinations of foreign divers being the islands of Kos, Corfu, Zakynthos and Crete, while the recent approval of the re-delimitation of the Northern Sporades area, with 14 new diving spots, creates a new momentum to the Greek market for diving tourism.
Diving tourism, he adds, is not only a reality now in Greece, but also a powerful "magnet" for attracting more visitors, while also noting that, according to figures from the international organisation PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), which provides training for divers, more than 20 million certificates have been issues at global level.
Given that 3.5 million of those certified divers are from Europe and 800,000 of them travel abroad each year for new diving experiences, it is easily seen that "Greece has immense prospects of potentially becoming even their top destination", Tzanakis believes.