Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia. With its turquoise bays and beaches of white sand, the island is a popular holiday destination for summer visitors. Its remoter beaches are also visited by an endangered Mediterranean species that have inhabited these waters since time immemorial. This is the loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, which lays its eggs on the beaches at Girne and between Karpaz and Gazimagosa on this green island adorned with citrus trees. In particular, the coast between Karpaz and Gazimagosa is noted for its beautiful beaches and crystal clear sea.
Diving holidays have become ever more popular over recent years, and people travel all over the world to enjoy underwater sights like the Napoleon fish of the Red Sea, dolphins of the Caribbean, sharks of the Maldives and South America, mantas or devilfish of Palau, and stingrays of the Grand Cayman Islands. Northern Cyprus also offers a fascinating array of sea life, the most famous being the loggerhead turtle, over two thousand of which inhabit the seas around the island, and the green turtles numbering around five hundred.
Turtles are to be seen throughout the year around Gazimagosa and from May to September off the other beaches, where signs warn visitors not to disturb the turtles.
Professional divers, underwater photographers and scientists from many countries come here in search of turtles, since this is probably the best place in the Mediterranean to get close to them. It is not unusual to see holidaymakers of all ages wearing goggles wade up to their waists to watch the turtles swimming near to the shore. You do not have to be a professional photographer or even a diver to take pictures of them. All you need are a simple underwater camera, goggles, snorkel, and flippers.
Indeed, you would be mistaken if you thought that scuba diving was preferable for turtle watching since the sound of the regulator tends to scare them away.
The water here is shallow and beautifully clear. However, if you disturb the sandy bottom the water becomes cloudy, so you must move carefully when walking and swimming in shallow water. The best time for diving is from early in the morning until 14.00, because in the afternoon the wind gets up, reducing visibility in the water. The color of the sea here is not turquoise as in the other diving areas, but slightly greenish due to the beds of seaweed covering the sand. The seaweed forms the main article of diet for the turtles, and you will often see them feeding off the species Caulerpa prolifera. The fact that turtles are a common sight by daylight and are not easily frightened away by human beings makes them one of the main attractions for visitors to Cyprus.
On the other hand diving by night is the way to see many creatures which hideaway by the day. A greater diversity of underwater life is to be seen in the sandy rather than the rocky areas near Gazimagosa. These include Mediterranean barracudas, Red Sea trumpet fish, octopuses, and various crustaceans. The crustaceans hide in holes in the rock and in the sand during the daytime, keeping out of sight of the loggerhead turtles which hunt them. Instead, they come out at night when the turtles are rarely seen, and this is the chance for photographers to capture other creatures on film.
These beaches demonstrate clearly how with a little care people can enjoy the natural world without endangering the lives of the animals that live there.