By Nicholas Samaras
Amorgos, that long and narrow easternmost island of the Greek Cyclades, was immortalised as the place where the opening scenes of Besson’s cult classic, Le Grand Blu, or The Big Blue, were shot; starting with its sea’s sparkling surface, filmed in black and white, to the rocky east side with its steep cliffs, and then on to the flat rocks of Agia Anna and the movie’s first underwater scenes, all presented to the music of Eric Serra’s mesmerising soundtrack.
The “forgotten” island soon gained regular ferry links with daily afternoon departures, and smooth development of infrastructure for tourismfollowed; the island now offers many options for accommodation, while retaining its unspoiled, traditional Cycladic architecture.
When arriving in Amorgos, the first thing that hits you is the scent of herbs. Spring is prime time to visit the island, hillsides and gardens ablaze with the colour of wildflowers, Amorgian herbs, pharmaceutical aromatic plants, mint, basil, camomile, oregano, rosemary; the list of herbs and flowers is endless.
Today, Amorgos is still a quiet, laid-back destination where nothing could disturb its quietude and calm, except perhaps the joyful music and dancing at the high summer season’s traditional festival. Although the Agia Anna and Liveros Bay, the places that captivated film audiences with their magnificent scenery, are not actual scuba diving destinations, they are both must-visit places to admire, photograph and snorkel. Agia Anna, with the small chapel by the sea, boasts a little beach and the surrounding flat rocks are ideal for snorkelling and sunbathing. In Liveros Bay, the shipwreck of the Olympia still stands, as featured in the movie with Reno freediving in the engine room.
Diving the Blue Spirit
The northeast side is closer to Agia Anna and the “Big Blue spirit”. Dive the Small Sparti Caves with its narrow rocky passage to the entrance of the cavern at around 18 metres. Soft corals adorn the walls and the ceiling, and holes in the rocks are full of hidden critters. At the exit, amazing rays of Mediterranean sunlight reach the cavern, ideal for wide-angle photography. You might even encounter passing tuna.
From Agios Pavlos beach on the north side of Amorgos, it is just three minutes to the beautiful Northern Wall which slopes down to about 40 metres. It’s full of holes, little pockets hiding macro subjects and the visibility is amazing all the way down to the sandy bottom. The Cavern is nearby, with walls covered with bright purple, red and yellow sponges, false corals, scorpionfish, lobsters and more small critters – ideal for macro shooting. The Deep Blue Wall on the western tip of the island of Nikouria is a fascinating dive, on which you can encounter passing barracuda, tuna and even Mediterranean monk seals or dolphins. At 26 metres there is a dramatic cave.
The iconic Amorgos has plenty of diverse sites on offer, including Grambonisi, shallow or deep, a dramatic wall full of diverse macro life; or Marina Three, a cargo wreck with massive propellers just outside the island of Kinaros; or Aegiali Bay and Limenaraki.
With such beautiful sites to choose from, and easy diving, immersing yourself in the original Big Blue is a must for any lover of underwater cinematic history.
Nicholas Samaras is a passionate underwater photographer, whose dedication to the sea and its creatures drives him to bring the unique aesthetic beauty of the marine world to the surface. His photographs have received numerous awards in international underwater photography competitions and are regularly published in magazines worldwide.
This article featured in the Scuba Diver OCEAN PLANET (Issue 2/2015)