Wreck Diving: Zenobia vs ThistlegormJune 17, 2022
Wreck diving is an experience not to be missed if you are someone who loves exploration and adventure. There are lots of wrecks around the world to choose from, but two of our favorites have to be the Zenobia and the Thistlegorm. Both offer a huge area to explore, an opportunity for safe, easy penetration, and beautiful marine life… So which one is better?
Read on to find out what makes each wreck special, so you can decide which one you would like to go and dive at first.
The Zenobia shipwreck is one of the best wrecks worldwide, sitting at a maximum depth of 42 meters (137 feet) deep, and offering an impressive 172 meters (564 feet) of length to explore.
You could go wreck diving here every day for a week and still have more to see. A lot of divers come back to scuba dive the Zenobia year after year.
The wreck is just 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) out from the Larnaca shore, so you do not have far to go before reaching the dive site.
The top of the wreck is at around 16 meters (52 feet), making it suitable for both level one divers and those with more experience.
However, the most exciting parts of the ship are between 18 to 30 meters (59-98 feet), so advanced divers will be able to see more.
This dive site is not recommended for Try Scuba programs as it is too deep. There are not usually strong currents at this dive site, making for a relaxing dive with an easy entry. This dive site is also quite popular with experienced freedivers.
The story of MS Zenobia:
The MS Zenobia sank on its maiden voyage from Sweden to Syria back in 1980. It was carrying over 100 cars and lorries, as well as forklifts and tractors, which can still be seen while scuba diving.
During the voyage, the ship experienced computer ballasting problems and so it was brought into the port of Larnaca.
With excess water being pumped onto the port side, it was decided that the problem could not be fixed, and they decided to tow the ship out to sea where they would, unfortunately, have to let it sink.
The wreck and surrounding area are an official marine reserve, meaning it is fully protected.
Many species of marine life have made the Zenobia their home, including turtles, barracuda, tuna, nudibranchs, jacks, grouper, moray eels, trumpetfish, triggerfish, lionfish, and more.
With many open windows and doors, it is easy to explore the inside of the wreck safely. The local dive guides can take you on different routes that will lead you through the ship, with a quick exit always available.
Highlights include the cafeteria, the funnels, the bow, and the bridge. The Zenobia also boasts two massive propellers, which make for an awesome underwater selfie.
Technical divers, and those who are certified to dive to 40 meters (131 feet), can explore the wreck around the seabed and have a good look at the lorries that lie next to the ship down there.
It is also possible to take a peek at the lorry deck, captain’s quarters, engine room, and launderette, which are inside the deeper part of the ship.
When is the best time to dive the Zenobia?
It is recommended to dive the Zenobia wreck in the summer months (between June and September). The water gets very cold in the winter and a lot of dive centers close up until it gets warmer anyway.
The water temperature in the summer is between 25-27°C (77-80°F), whereas it drops down to as low as 17°C (62°F) in the winter.
Highlights of Zenobia wreck diving:
- Close to the shore.
- No strong currents.
- A variation of marine life.
- Massive with lots to explore over many days.
- Easy access to the inside.
- Great visibility.
- Suitable for advanced freedivers.
The Thistlegorm is also considered one of the best places to go wreck diving in the world and is located off the coast of Sharm El Sheikh. It takes around four hours to get to by boat and is one of the best highlights of diving in Egypt.
This shipwreck is 126 meters (413 feet) in length and lies on the ocean floor at a maximum depth of 30 meters (98 feet), with the highest point at 16 meters (52 feet).
The Thistlegorm dive site is prone to quite strong currents, so it is recommended for advanced divers only. However, these currents do not tend to affect the crystal-clear visibility.
A highlight of wreck diving here is the amount of cargo that can be spotted without having to penetrate the wreck at all.
Trucks, motorcycles, boots, engine exhausts, and rifles are just a few things you are likely to find on a Thistlegorm dive.
The story of SS Thistlegorm:
The SS Thistlegorm was a cargo steamship, built in 1940, which carried military equipment during World War II.
She left Glasgow in 1941 and was awaiting an escort to transit through the Suez Canal. Unfortunately, SS Thistlegorm was mistaken for a troop carrier and was bombed by the Luftwaffe.
The ship sank and was later rediscovered in the 1950s by none other than the famous pioneer of early scuba diving, Mr Jacques Cousteau.
Scuba divers have been flocking to Egypt ever since, to dive the amazing Thistlegorm.
This wreck offers the opportunity for penetration, with easy routes to exit without problems.
You are likely to spot turtles, eels, batfish, snappers, jacks, and barracuda, just to name a few of the species found there.
When is the best time to dive the Thistlegorm?
As this is such a popular dive site, we recommend going early to miss the crowds. Liveaboard diving offers the opportunity to dive the wreck before other boats arrive.
The water temperature gets up to around 30°C (86°F) in the summer months of July and August and drops to a low of around 23°C (73°F) in the winter.
Highlights of Thistlegorm wreck diving:
- A mix of beautiful marine life.
- Fascinating history.
- Year-round diving opportunity.
- 30 meters (98 feet) - You do not need technical training!
- Easy penetration.
- Great visibility.
- Big enough to explore over a few dives.
So, which wreck is better?
If you are looking for a huge wreck with swim-throughs, calm water, and easy access from the shore, the Zenobia is for you.
If warm water, relaxing on a full day’s boat trip, and exploring a wreck with an interesting history is more your style, then the Thistlegorm is calling your name!
But personally, we think you should have both wrecks on your scuba diving bucket list.