World Oceans Day is held on 8 June each year. The event is intended to highlight the importance of the oceans and their protection for all life on earth. Daniel Kistler, founder of the Cyprus Diving Centre, talks in an interview about how he works to protect the sea, and what makes the underwater panorama of the Mediterranean island so special.
I spent my first holiday in Cyprus with my mother when I was six, and we both fell in love with the beautiful, crystal clear sea. After that, we always joked that we wanted to emigrate to Cyprus one day. Twelve years ago, I started diving – I was fascinated by the underwater world. Later on, I came back to Cyprus through a friend who owned a diving school, and finally moved from Switzerland to the Mediterranean island with my girlfriend Tamara in 2018. Tamara and I worked as diving instructors for my friend’s diving school, and we saw once again how important it is to protect our oceans. We also wanted to pass this on to our diving students. At the beginning of 2020, we finally realised the dream of our own diving school, which focuses on a sustainable approach to the sea. Today, Tamara and I run the Cyprus Diving Centre in the south-east of Cyprus, and currently have one other diving instructor and two trainees.
The underwater world of Cyprus is underrated as an area for diving. Clear water with visibility of up to 40 or 50 metres and virtually no currents are ideal conditions, especially for people who are new to diving. As well as turtles and seahorses, there are also some shipwrecks to be seen, like the Zenobia, for example. This shipwreck is very popular with divers, and is even seen as being one of the world’s top ten. But what impresses me most is that in the Mediterranean, we can see the value and importance of marine conservation with our own eyes. The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most exploited marine regions in the world. But educational work and protective measures are bringing life back to the sea. While three years ago we were happy to see one turtle a week, today we’re almost disappointed if we only see two per dive.
Diving is basically very environmentally friendly. We inform our students and tell them not to touch anything underwater, not to feed the fish and to keep a certain distance from turtles – “leave nothing but bubbles” is our motto. We see time and again that teaching this behaviour is hugely important. It can happen, for example, that people touch the turtles or even try to ride on them. This is unbelievably stressful for the animal. It might panic and forget to breathe, and could even die.
We regularly organise clean-ups with our diving school and offer free dives for collecting rubbish under water, for example. Another approach involves the “social clean-ups”, where people collect rubbish on the beach and get a small reward from us for each rubbish bag filled. At the same time, we run the online shop Ocean Support Switzerland offering various products as alternatives to plastic, in addition to the well-known 4Ocean bracelets. This also enables people in Switzerland to help ensure that less waste ends up in our oceans, and the income from the online shop allows us to organise initiatives like the clean-ups I mentioned. It’s also important to us to support marine research. We often make our diving school infrastructure available to marine biologists focussing on the Mediterranean Sea and its conservation.