DESCRIBING A LOCATION AS HAVING A RICH HISTORY has become something of a cliché in holiday advertisements and brochures, but its a cliché that the island of Crete can use without fear of over-selling itself.
The largest of Greeces 1400 islands, Crete was the birthplace of the earliest developed European culture. The Minoans greatest epitaph lies in the ruins of the palace of Knossos, built between 1700 and 1400 BC, and now a spectacular tourist attraction.
Our dive-boat is moored in the calm bay of Dia island, just a short boat-ride north of the Cretan capital, Heraklion.
As our guide George begins the dive briefing, I get distracted configuring my computer for the dive, but I do catch the words no identifiable wreck and pieces of debris.
George finishes the briefing, having regained my full attention, and as we descend onto the steeply sloping rocky reef, I consider what dives with no identifiable wreck and pieces of debris are normally like - half a boiler and a lot of seabed.
As we start exploring the reef, my worst fears unfold; there is no sign of a wreck, or even debris!
As I wonder how on earth Im going to be get anything from this press trip to publish in DIVER, I see George picking up what I think is a rock, and shaking it.
I move closer, and realise that it is in fact the top half of an amphora.
Then, swimming down, I notice that many of what I had assumed to be rocks are pieces of encrusted amphoras - hundreds of them.
George enthusiastically picks up another, and motions drinking from it. Its a pleasant surprise - and a reminder to listen to all of a dive briefing!
Such sites apparently occur so commonly in the waters around Crete that they warrant no archaeological investigation.
George explains later that the shapes of the amphoras handles indicate that they range from the late Minoan to early Roman periods. By Cretan historical standards, they are the equivalent of shopping trolleys in a river.
The dive site is typical of Crete, as it is of many parts of the eastern Mediterranean: fantastic 30m-plus vis, deep sloping walls, the odd shoal of bream with a wrasse or two in tow, but generally light on sea life.

FOR THE SECOND DIVE, our boat moves round into the next bay. We descend onto a far more identifiable wreck, in the form of the hollow hull of a 1920s cargo ship.
No-one can quite remember its name. The vessel was carrying coal when she came to seek shelter in the calm bay of Dia island, but an explosion caused her untimely sinking.
All that remains now is a 20m section of bow, lying upright in about 18m.
This was all the diving I was going to get out of the Heraklion area, because the tourist board had organised the majority of the dives to be done out of the city of Chania, a three-hour bus ride away along the rugged coastline.
While Heraklion and its surrounding area contains much of Cretes ancient history, Chania illustrates its more recent heritage.
Crete has spent much of its modern history under foreign rule, having been sold by a crusader to the Venetians before being conquered by the Turks, and achieving union with Greece only at the end of the 19th century.
Chania is a beautiful Venetian harbour-town, much of it dominated by the former Venetian ammunition stores and also one of Cretes only purpose-built mosques (the Turks preferring to convert existing churches).
I meet Spiros, the owner of Deep Blue Adventures, outside his companys office a street back from the harbour, and he proudly promises me the best diving in the Mediterranean! Well see, I reply...
Deep Blue Adventures uses two boats, a fast RIB and a large steel-hulled Egyptian-style day boat. Today my dives are from the RIB, and it is only a short boat-ride round the headland into Souda Bay, a large natural harbour offering the best weather conditions and the chance of great vis.
We moor up close to the cliffs and begin our dive. Under water, there is a dramatic continuation of the surface topography. Not only do the rocky cliffs continue down through the water in a most striking fashion, but they also seem at first glance to have identical vegetation - the seaweed and algae look oddly similar to the shrubs growing on the cliffs above.
The slope leads down to a slight plateau at 37m, from which the vis is so good that I can still make out the RIB, bobbing at the surface.
Slowly we start to investigate the rocky overhangs. Although again few fish are in evidence, there is plenty of macro life with which to occupy myself, including several varieties of Mediterranean nudibranch and sea-hares.

AS WE START LEVELLING UP, I poke my head into a crack and come face to face with a large spiny lobster. I consider trying to entice the creature out of its refuge, but a quick study of its combative demeanour and generous armament soon leads to a change of heart, and discreet withdrawal.
This site is typical of Cretes reef diving, in that the depths involved can make training in deep diving and decompression procedures useful.
As we sit on the RIB waiting out our surface interval, my guide, Julius, points to a dusty track on the cliff side at least 10m above the water. When I dive here, I prefer to drive and then climb down into the water, he tells me.
To my mind, it would be a challenging route down even without scuba gear, but Julius maintains that he likes to use his favourite 18-litre steel tank!
The sites around Souda Bay are not particularly varied, but have a number of ingredients that make for lovely diving: beautiful scenery above and below the water, crystal visibility, and a sense of calm as you leave behind the busy tourist beaches for a quiet ride out to empty bays, with only the odd bobbing spearo to avoid.
Next day, Julius promises that he has saved the best for last. We are to dive his favourite site in the area, the Cathedral.
The name of this cavern implies grandeur, and the Cathedral does not disappoint.
The large entrance tunnel starts at 15m, leads back about 20m, then opens up into a single beautiful chamber.
This is lit from a single hole in the ceiling, and it was mesmerising to watch a diver slowly hovering in the solitary ray of sunlight.
The effect is amplified by a subtle halocline about a third of the way up the cave, which adds a dull shimmer to the water.
Our second dive was at another, more complex cavern, called Fokia.
Less impressive it may have been, but it wound round and had far more areas to explore, with various large boulders and cracks to inspect. The cavern exits further down the sea wall, so it can be dived from both directions.
Either way, its a unique experience.

NEITHER OF THESE SITES is a true cave, but caverns that any qualified diver can comfortably dive. They are not too narrow, and both have obvious overhead openings, letting in light and offering possible exit routes.
Crete struck me as a great place to learn to dive, with plenty of sheltered bays and flat sandy areas available for open-water exercises. The smiling faces of the many Discover Scuba divers that I saw returning to their boats showed just how popular this activity is.
It is also a place offering attractive compromises for non-diving members of a family, with the famous Greek nightlife for the evenings and an abundance of historical sites (or just fantastic beaches!) for the day.
During my week on Crete, I felt that I had seen only a glimpse of the diving on offer. It was a far bigger island than I had realised, and I had still not explored any of its southern coastline, nor dived any of the dozens of war-plane wrecks for which it is famous.
With diving regulations in Greece having been relaxed only in the past few years, I am sure there are many more Cathedrals still to be discovered.