Divers from Cyprus create digital tours of wrecks and reefs

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Oroklini (Cyprus) (AFP)

Divers in Cyprus create immersive digital tours showing the underwater locations of the Mediterranean island to raise awareness of biodiversity and promote tourism.

Ten meters below the sunlit blue sea off the south coast of the island, divers slowly swim around the shipwreck “Lef 1” and film it.

The 16-meter-long ship, surrounded by schools of small black damselfish, is one of five popular sites on the project, which aims to map them using photos and videos to create 3D digital models of the sites.

“We take a lot of information through photography of the ocean floor and then stitch it together by programming on the computer to create a video that gives you a 360-degree tour,” said visual designer Marios Constantinides.

Constantinides says the tours and mapping of dive routes will enable divers to “understand the potential hazards or points of reference”.

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The tours will be available on an online platform in the project called Larnaca Virtual Underwater Routes by the end of the year.

It is a joint venture between the Cyprus Maritime and Marine Institution and the Larnaca Tourism Board.

The sites include two natural reefs and three wrecks, including the famous Zenobia, a colossus of iron and steel that sank to its final resting place at 40 meters in 1980, just a 10-minute boat ride from the coastal town of Larnaka.

While authorities hope the mapping project will boost tourism, it also aims to raise environmental awareness.

Artificial reefs, such as the sunken boats, can increase the biodiversity of nearby natural reefs by creating new sanctuaries for marine fauna.

Mapping the sites makes them “more accessible to tourists and the general public,” says Constantinides.

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“With new media and technology, the inclusion of these dive sites and the ability to project them into the rest of the world, hopefully more dive sites will be discovered and more and more people will be interested.”

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