I had learned in school that Lebanon lies on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean and in ancient times had been an important center for trade but it wasn’t until I opened google maps that it hit me: Lebanon LIES on the Mediterranean and I had flights to Beirut: H-E-L-L-O-D-I-V-I-N-G!
I must admit that Diving Lebanon started more as a box-ticking exercise but it was actually very pleasant diving and regret not having had more time to explore perhaps the more exciting sites such as the underwater ruins in Tyre (see here for more info on diving them).
I had contacted Nasser Saidi from the National Institute of Diving in Lebanon, a diving organization that has been running off Beirut since the 1980s. It mostly runs as a friendly and welcoming dive club with over 80 members including a lot of women and families. They also have a fair share of tourists over the summer but due to the rising tension in the Middle East this has decreased in recent years. Nassar agreed to take us diving.
This spring Beirut was exceptionally hot and by 11am it was already well above 30°C as we were putting on our 7mm suits. As Barbora slipped on her diving boot she felt something spikey and rough inside she took it off immediately, shook it and out came two massive cockroaches! Clearly they had been enjoying the humid, hot, fragrant, environment of a soggy neoprene enclosure! Once the two boot inhabitants were evicted, we went to the boat. Another club member joined us as was kitting up while having a work skype conference. It was Friday afterall!
We were dropped on the buoy and the 20°C water was definitely refreshing! At the bottom of the line at about 18m we found the top of the wall which then drops down to over 300m! We stayed at about 30m where there were lots of lionfish and a gray nesting shark (which I missed as was focusing on some squidgy things). There were lots of old ghost nets there, a clear reminder of the over fishing in the area. We then ascended to about 15m onto a ledge which was covered in rays and occasional octopus. Then up to another ledge at 5m where there are often turtles grazing but we just saw nudibranchs munching.
It was a great and fun dive! On the way back Nassar told me about another site they go to about 10km off-shore which is a War World II French deepsea submarine, Le Souffleur. It was torpedoed and sunk by the British in 1941, as it appeared to recharge batteries. The wreck now lies at 40m split into two parts and one of the torpedoes still within the hull. It is well preserved and the pictures have definitely hooked me that I now want to return to Lebanon to dive it.
Click here to read the blog post about our adventures above the sea.