Tarpon Springs (Pinellas County), Florida has a population of close to 25,000 and is the Greekiest Greek Town in the world outside of Greece. It is a very convenient day trip from Tampa, Orlando, Clearwater, St Pete, Sarasota and Pasco. This small town embodies it motto, ‘When Culture and Fun Collide’ and is a great place to experience the traditional Greek culture and cuisines.
It is also known as the ‘Sponge Capital’ of the world. Tarpon Springs claims to be the only place in the world where living sponge can be found today! And guess what! You can witness sponge diving! Sponge is the second lowest form of life to Amoeba. Sponges are plentiful in this part of the world and are the means of livelihood for the locals. Different forms of sponge can be seen growing under the waters including base sponge, finger sponge etc.
Sponge diving is one of the most common livelihood here. The diving suit weighs an astonishing 172 pounds including the metal helmet. Any leakage in the suit can cause 50 gallons of water to fill inside the suit leaving no way for the diver to come back up. The only mode of communication between the boat and the diver is a rope and the bubbles. The number of tugs of the rope (1,2,3), each have a different meaning. Due to such intricacies, sponge diving is proclaimed to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
Due to its uniqueness, sponges have a huge demand all over the world. In fact, the demand exceeds the supply as not many locals are keen to be sponge divers these days. If you like to buy few sponges, there are many shops here selling the authentic products.
Though there are many tour operators in this area, we did the sponge diving tour with St. Nicholas Boat Line at USD 8.9 per person. I must say, it is one of the best and most effective tours. After a splendid experience of witnessing the sponge diving, we just walked around the area. The streets are full of restaurants and local shops which exemplify Greek culture very well.
We took our lunch at ‘Mama’s Greek Cuisine’ which serves authentic local Greek food with a fine dining experience.
Witnessing the Greek culture, relishing local cuisine and sight of sponge diving made my day!
Have you been to any place that looks so native outside the native country. Share it here. 🙂
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