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Legend has it that Odysseus was tempted to Gozo by Calypso and was so entranced, he stayed for seven years.
George Vella and his team at Calypso Diving run a pretty good operation and are happy to accommodate experienced to novice divers. Calypso Divers is one of the oldest dive shops and SCUBA schools on the island and I have dived with them on many occasions. George Vella the owner is one of the nicest and most accommodating people I have ever met.
All you have to do is arrange your flights to and from Malta. Flights are the most costly item of a Maltese holiday. Now that EasyJet will fly you to Spain for little more than the price of a pint, having to pay Air Malta upwards of £200 for a return flight to Malta makes a big difference to your holiday budget. It is possible to get cheaper flights, but they are invariably from Gatwick, in the middle of the night. As I am based in Scotland I had to pay the extra to get down to Gatwick.
It's also necessary to remember that once you get to Malta you've still got a minibus ride to the ferry terminal at Cirkewwa (about 45 minutes), a ferry to Mgarr on Gozo (about 30 minutes plus hanging around time), and then another minibus transfer to your resort. During the summer the ferries continue all night, but the summer schedule finishes at the end of September.
You cross to Gozo on
the ferry as a foot passenger (one minibus leaves you at Cirkewwa, and another picks you up at Mgarr). Beforehand, I wondered how I would cope with heavy dive bags on the ferry. However, the bags were loaded, airline style, into a baggage container (for which we were given a receipt) and then we collected them on the other side - simple.
In 2003 there was a helicopter transfer from Malta Luqa airport to the heliport on Gozo, but this is due to end during 2004. For most dive groups this is no great loss, as the cost is much greater than the ferry and the departure times are not always convenient.
On arrival in Marsalforn, on the north coast, I found the apartments we were allocated to be clean and tidy, with plenty of room. The family who own/manage the apartments live in the next-door building and are very helpful and friendly. There were four of us, so we had two two-bedroom apartments in a building just off the seafront at Marsalforn.
That evening we decided to hit the town and went out for a meal. The choice of places to eat in Marsalforn is fabulous and we ended up eating somewhere different ever evening. We usually had lunch in St Paul's Bar or Smugglers Restaurant as they were very close to the beach and served excellent food.
We were provided with a Maruti jeep (with lots of ground clearance and 4WD) that was ready for our collection from the dive shop after we arrived. Some of the dive sites have rough road access, and we took the jeep down some "roads" that I wouldn't have wanted to take a normal hire car along. With the jeep there was plenty of room for the four of us, plus dive bags and cylinders.
The one concern is that there is nowhere to lock valuables (or your clothes etc) while you are diving. If you have a non-diving member of your party, they can keep keys, money and so forth, but if not, I would suggest you take as little cash and valuables out with you as possible. Gozo is not quite the crime-free island that it once was.
------------------------------------------------------------------- The dive sites
As an island, there is always a sheltered lee side, regardless of the wind direction. The Maltese islands are prone to winds, particularly from the Northwest. The major dive sites tend to be around the north and west coasts, and so a period of high winds can severely limit the dive options. It is strong winds that tend to stop divers getting in the water.
The two sites that regularly feature, when discussing Gozo diving, are the Blue Hole / Azure Window, and the Inland Sea. These are both on the West coast of the island, in an area called Dwerja. The Inland Sea takes you through a tunnel and out into the Mediterranean. This is a spectacular dive going from the cloudy green of the Inland Sea to the pure crystal blue of the Med through a very atmospheric tunnel some 200m long. Both the Azure Window and the Inland Sea feature the potential to be in 50 metres of water, with good visibility and the possibility of bigger fish life - predominantly grouper. We managed to dive both sites - which are very close together - during the week, despite strong winds, but the north coast sites, such as Reqqa Point and the Billinghurst Cave, eluded us.
The underwater geology of Gozo is some of the most stunning in the Mediterranean with caves and tunnels to provide that little bit extra. During the week we saw shoals of Saddled Bream that enjoyed being fed with bread, Flying Gurnards, Octopus and some small Barracuda. On one of our dives we swam out and saw a truly huge (for Malta) Moray Eel with a length of around 2m. It was simply lying coiled up on the sandy bottom sunbathing. We stopped and watched it for a while and then it decided to move on, it seemed to uncoil forever and then swam off. George had never thought that they had such an animal in the bay.
As the winds prevented north coast diving for much of the week, we spent more time on the less-favoured south coast. Here, is a wreck of a scuttled Gozo ferry, called the Xlendi (not to be confused with the place of the same name further along the coast to the south-west) which is upside down in 40 metres. There is a reef dive at the same place, and a very sheltered site, ideal for night dives, at Mgarr-ix-Xini. On the day when the alternatives were very limited, this site got very busy.
----------------------------------------------------------------- Other things
On non-diving days there is plenty to see and explore; the capital Victoria being a pleasant place to spend a day. The island is much quieter than Malta, and we enjoyed its laid-back style. It's not a place for those who like a lot of night-life, particularly during the winter months (November through to Easter) when many of the more tourist places close down. However, go during the main season, get some good, calm weather and enjoy some spectacular diving. Probably the best evening was when we drove across the island to Hondoq Bay where the locals were having a mass barbecue. It was fantastic - loads of food, wine and beer and really friendly people.
We ate out all the time and the cost was very acceptable, full breakfast for about £2.00, light lunch £2.00 to £3.00 and evening meals at around £5.00 to £700 per head. Local dishes are, I find, fun and a lot of rabbit is used, although I never saw a live one on the island! Local wines and beers are very good and cheap.
The Gozoan people are very warm and welcoming and once they get to know your name you are warmly greeted and looked after.
Whether you are new to diving or experienced Gozo can provide some very exhilarating diving experiences. It is one of the places I simply love returning to both for diving and enjoyment.
Try "The Gozo Experience" you will not be disappointed.