Sponge Treasures in Symi

September 06, 2011
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Greece's rich history as one of the world's earliest civilizations sometimes overshadows the smaller details of the country's landscape that offer incredible nature travel opportunities.

The island of Symi, surrounded by striking turquoise waters, is not devoid of culture. Sites important to the Trojan Wars and World War II speckle the island. But perhaps most significant in the island's history is its sponge industry. Thriving in the 19th century, sponge diving is now prohibited in order to protect the other archaeological gems that dwell deep beneath the island's shores, according to Diver Magazine.

The classical houses that line the harbor are a product of the height of the sponge diving industry. The island once provided the sponges for the Ottoman court, and in return brought extreme wealth to the island.

The sponge diving industry created a "gold rush" atmosphere on the island by 1880. The difficult process of diving down 20 meters with no mask and no flippers to cut sponges off the rocky Mediterranean ocean floors was a career dangerous to humans and the environment alike. Now, though sponge diving is illegal, snorkelers can swim around the harbor to see the natural sponges that are gradually growing back.

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