Thursday, 5 January 2012

Why should Divers look at Malta & Gozo?

As well as being only a three-hour flight from the UK, the Republic of Malta is supremely convenient for diving, as many of the best sites are accessible from the shore. In fact, as the island of Malta is smaller than the Isle of Wight, it can be quicker to arrive at a dive site by road than by boat. Meanwhile, Malta’s sister island of Gozo is small enough to get from one side to the other in less than half an hour – including the all-important stop to pick up snacks.

Shore diving can offer flexibility and independence for groups and experienced divers. An advantage of islands the size of Malta is that whatever the wind direction, you can make your way to the leeward side of the island to get in the water. Very rarely are all diving options completely blown out, and shore diving can be done all year round. We took a back-to-basics tour of the Maltese islands, kitting up in car parks and in the back of Transit vans, and have put together some of the best underwater sites that can be visited without a boat.

Car parks are generally close to the entry point, although there are some steep walks that can be pretty tough in full kit. That said, our photographer was carrying an old ankle injury but still managed the climbs down to the water and back. Facilities vary: at sites popular with tourists, such as Dwejra and Wied iz-Zurrieq, there are toilets, caf├ęs and ice-cream vans; at quieter sites such as Reqqa Point on the north coast of Gozo, you’ll find only rocks.

Dive centres can take you on guided shore dives, or will arrange accommodation, transport, air fills and kit hire and give you information on dive sites so you can go and dive at your own pace. One thing to note when shore diving is not to leave valuables in your vehicle: break-ins are not unknown, especially at the quieter sites.

Malta and Gozo are big on scenery, with many wrecks purposely sunk for divers and natural caves, tunnels and swim-throughs to explore. The deep azure colour of the water combined with excellent visibility make this a real draw for divers. You find yourself looking out from caves, tunnels or wrecks in wonder at the rich blue – it’s one of the best things about diving Malta.

Considering that the Mediterranean is notorious for its declining habitats, and that Malta is known more for its scenery than for fish, there was much more marine life than I had expected. I spotted octopus and cuttlefish on several dives, and plenty of colourful corals, anemones and tube worms on the reefs. We saw John Dory in Gozo and even asked our guides to help us track down the famously elusive seahorses.

Why not start your diving experience of Malta & Gozo by checking out dive sites available. There is a great site at Chikarma Diving - Scuba Diving Holidays Malta Gozo which has great information on the small fascinating island of Malta.

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