WE DIVED WITH Abyss Diving Centre, now part of Diving Group Portofino, which was formed by a merger between the three most-established dive-centres in the region. It runs a full range of SSI and PADI courses as well as being a specialist centre for TDI and UTR courses. As a result, nitrox and trimix refills are available, and it also offers rebreather facilities and courses.
Our first dive was to check out the marine life at one of the many sites that all lie within a 15-20-minute boat-ride of Rapallo. All these sites inside the marine park have their own dedicated mooring. All are marked with a small buoy, and only one boat is allowed to tether at any one time.
The sun was shining and the water looked crystalline from the surface. As we descended, following the steep sloping walls that, disappointingly, appeared to be covered in algae, schools of fish came up to greet us.
Then, as we descended further, colours appeared to explode before us.
Gorgonians and anemones of red, yellow and orange enveloped everything on the vertical walls, and once we got our eye in nudibranchs of all colours and sizes and shapes seemed to appear everywhere.
There were large grouper patrolling their turf and large grey morays hiding in crevices while being cleaned by striped shrimp. It was sometimes difficult to focus on the nudibranchs and anemones, as schools of fish swooped from left to right in front of our eyes. All told, it was quite hard to believe that we were diving in the Mediterranean Sea.
Our second dive was on the wreck of the Mohawk Deer, a Canadian cargo ship that was being towed to be scrapped for iron in November 1967.
The weather turned nasty during this operation and, as the storm picked up, she broke free from her towline, hit the rocks and broke in two.
The vessel sank to the seabed and can now be found pointing upwards in 18-50m of water on a steep slope, with both pieces in the same orientation and close together. The bow of the wreck is at the top, with the stern down at 50m.
We stayed for the whole dive in the shallowest section of the wreck, where schools of fish swam in and out of the remaining structures, eels hid in metallic crevices and substantial coral growth decorated the superstructure.
Both of the dives were easy-going, with very little current, and the clarity of the water allowed us to feel comfortable diving in 5mm wetsuits.