Swim through history at Israel's best shipwreck dive sites
These ancient and recent shipwrecks provide a unique view into the past.
Shipwreck diving is a popular way to get a taste of adventure. Indeed, some retired ships have even been sunk on purpose to attract wreck divers. Marine creatures often flock to sunken ships, creating an artificial reef environment that adds to the appeal of these sites. Mostly, though, divers come to shipwrecks to get a glimpse into the past.
Israel is one of the most overlooked shipwreck-diving destinations. With access to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, divers can visit many underwater ship ecosystems during the same trip. Divers don’t just travel underwater in Israel; they come face-to-face with both ancient and modern history.
One of the oldest shipwrecks in Israel is found off the northern coast, in an area that is now part of the Rosh Hanikra Marine Preserve. Known as the Markab, the ship was an ancient merchant vessel that ran aground on a shallow reef. It was most likely headed to an ancient port, the ruins of which are now part of Achziv National Park. Pieces of the Markab are scattered over a large area. Since it was constructed with wood, the ship's beams and hull have rotted away. However, shards of pottery and larger containers still remain on the sea floor. There is a strict look-but-don’t-touch policy in place to preserve these ancient artifacts. The remnants of the Markab have attracted marine creatures of all types.
Another ancient dive site is the former Roman port known as Caesarea Maritima. Remnants of ancient ships have been found in the area, but the major draws here are the submerged port structures, which have withstood erosion and rotting because they are made of stone. Since these ruins sit in shallow water, they are easily accessible, even for novice divers. Special dive outfitters are on hand in Caesarea Maritima for guided trips to see the underwater sites.
The World War II-era Scire submarine sank off the coast of Haifa. Destroyed in 1942, the sub now sits 100 feet below the surface. Because of the depth and open water, this is not a wreck dive for novices. Sections of the submarine are still mostly intact, though the front was salvaged and sent to Italy to be part of a memorial.
The Scire wreck is a worthwhile dive for people who are interested in World War II history. Before its sinking, the sub was involved in covert missions in the Mediterranean, attacking merchant marine vessels in Ally-held harbors.
A more modern wreck is the Eitana, which worked as a tugboat in the port at Haifa for many years. It was scuttled to create an artificial reef in 1996. Sitting in about 100 feet of water, the Eitana is largely intact and has attracted a variety of marine life. The shape of the tug is still distinctly visible, though most of it is now covered with coral and sea sponges. The depth and silty seafloor make this a site that is best for experienced divers. One wrong kick with a fin can stir up the silt and create a muddy cloud that will ruin visibility around the boat.
An accessible wreck, that of a Turkish freighter, can be found in the far north of Israel near the small city of Nahariyya. Though it was purposely destroyed after running aground on rocks just offshore, the ship is now popular with divers because it only sits in about 30 feet of water. This makes it accessible to less-experienced swimmers.
The Red Sea is also home to several interesting wrecks, many of which can be reached from the resort town of Eilat. One of the most famous sites in the area is the Sufa Wreck (also known as the Satil). Used by the Israeli Navy until the early 1990s, the Sufa now sits in 60 to 90 feet of water. Because of the intact nature of the vessel and the outstanding visibility, this has become one of the most famous dives in all of Israel. Though parts of the interior have been sealed off for safety reasons, divers can still visit the engine room, the main bridge and the missile control room – the explosives have long since been removed.
Thanks to its diverse list of shipwrecks in both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, Israel offers divers a chance to literally swim through history.
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