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Blue water, sun - and brilliant diving!

06.11.2008 (07.11.2008)

Fairly warm, easy to get around, plenty of wrecks

Lots of deep sites  -  make sure you're qualified !

Recommendable Yes:

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I recently came back from my first diving trip to Malta. It's been heavily promoted in recent years as a rival to the Red Sea for British divers, and they've sunk a number of wreck deliberately as artificial reefs. It's only a 3 hour flight away from here, and as an already popular destination makes for a pretty easy trip. The water temperature ranges from about 25C in summer to 14C in winter, with good visibility at most times.

Due to the size of the islands you're not particularly tied to any particular sites. The main choice initially is whether to stay on Malta or Gozo (there's also the option of staying on Comino, the smallest island - though it only has one hotel). I actually got round that by staying a few days on each of the 2 bigger islands. While Malta has a large number of resorts with plenty of restaurants and clubs, Gozo tends to be much quieter - not to say that there aren't quiet areas on Malta. But I'll mainly focus on the diving.

Malta isn't the place to go to dive if you like coral, pretty reefs or big fish - though they do get the occasional shark. (Not saying this to worry non-divers - they're rarely seen.) There's some fish life, but the big draw is the underwater topography, complimented by the growing number of wrecks.

Among the more famous sites are the Blue Hole in Gozo and the Santa Maria (or Comino) Caves, obviously in Comino. I dived both of those during my week long stay, and both were excellent. Due to rather English weather conditions (i.e. torrential rain) the previous day, the Blue Hole wasn't actually blue but a very murky green, but the vis was 25-30m below this, with loads of large boulders and rock walls to swim around. There's a narrow chimney you can swim up which I doubt I'd have found without a guide. The Comino Caves are really cavern dives, and are mainly a sequence of swim-throughs, with plenty of natural light and a max depth of about 10m - great as my last dive of the week.

Among the wrecks I dived were the HMS Maori (the only one which wasn't sunk deliberately or semi-deliberately), the Karwela and Cominoland, the Rozi tugboat and the Umm el Faroud. The Maori is sunk in fairly shallow water near to capital of Malta, Valletta, and is a pretty easy dive, though the vis wasn't very good, and doesn't tend to be due to its position. It's an old WWII wreck, of which there are plenty in Malta - other examples are the Blenheim Bomber, a plane in about 40m of water, and the Carolita barge, which also lies near Valletta.

The Rozi is a pretty little wreck near to the Gozo ferry which was sunk as an attraction for a tourist submarine, but now serves as a magnet for divers. It can apparently get very busy, but when I was there there was only one other small group on the wreck. She's a small boat, but the upper deck in particular is covered in fish.

The Umm el Faroud lies near to the Blue Grotto on Malta, and as such you have to be a bit wary of boat traffic around the site. After an explosion while being cleaned in Valletta harbour (resulting in the deaths of several Maltese dockworkers) she was towed round the island and sunk as an artificial reef. The ship's been broken in half by storms, and I only really explored the stern section on the 2 dives I did - a shame, as the bow looks quite impressive in pictures. There's a few opportunies to swim through the wreck, and it's quite easy to swim up staircases to the next level, with loads of natural light inside. That's one of the attractions of Malta's wrecks - as many have been specially prepared for divers, they're much safer to dive on (though you could argue they lack history).

The Karwela and the Cominoland are very near each other in Gozo. They were a kind of experiment, where one was left wih paint on and the other stripped - much more grew on the paint-less boat underwater. One of them (think it's the Cominoland) has a VW Beetle on the front deck - which appeared after it was sunk! One thing to be aware of is that both wrecks are very deep - about 40m to the sand - and if you stay on them for any length of time you will go into deco. For those equipped, one of the nice things about this site is that there's a shallow reef nearby in the range of about 4-10m, so you can occupy yourself on a safety stop or deco stop.

Though there isn't masses of marine life, there's still lots to see. Underwater, there are dozens of octopuses hiding in rocky holes. There's a few small moray eels, which can be difficult to see. There were loads of cuttlefish of all sizes when I was there. One of the more bizarre creatures are the fireworms, which are everywhere; very pretty, but apparently sting! As well as this, there are lots of small to medium-size fish, but not in big schools, unless you feed them - something that's done at the Comino caves, and possibly elsewhere.

There's plenty of dive schools to choose from, though it's good to do a bit of research to find a reputable centre. I did my diving on Malta with Dive Deep Blue, a well-established centre in Bugibba. I dived in Gozo with Atlantis diving in Marsalforn - they have some great little apartments to rent that are clean and pretty cheap.

Overall, I'd recommend Malta fo any level of diver, but there's more to see if you're qualified to 30m. It's particularly good for those interested in wreck diving. I'm definitely planning to go again!

Pictures of Malta (Dive Sites)
Malta (Dive Sites) Rozi tugboat
Near Gozo ferry on Malta
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Comments about this review »

pinotprincess 24.08.2015 18:18

just returned from there, comino is stunning if not a tad dangerous.

manlybeach 07.11.2008 11:33

It must be lovely to dive below the surface and see all the treasures of the sea x

majeedkazi 07.11.2008 10:11

Malta is one place which i want to visit, Well Reviewed..

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