One of Europe’s smallest but one of the best Mediterranean diving destinations is the 300 km² Island of Malta. Easily accessible from the UK by a short 3 hr flight, Malta and it’s sister island Gozo offer some great diving, but what makes these Islands all the more appealing to divers is the option of avoiding choppy boat rides to dive sites and opt for some cheap and convenient shore diving. If you’re thinking, the dive sites accessible from the shore won’t be as exciting at boat dives, then you haven’t heard or been to Malta.
Small enough to get from one side to the other in less than half an hour, Malta and Gaza is a popular dive destination for diving without a boat. Dive centers offer to take you on guided shore dives or arrange accommodation, transport, air fills and kit hire according to your needs as well as give you information on dive sites so you can go and dive at your own pace. Car parks are generally close to the entry points of dive sites, although there are some steep walks that can be pretty tough in full kit (Read our post on Shore diving Entry Methods for tips).
Here’s a look at some of the amazing diving you can do from the shores of Malta and Gozo-
Sunk as a diving tourist attraction in 1992, the Rozi is a tugboat that was scuttled about 70 meters away from the jetty. Lying at a depth of almost 40 meters, the whole wreck can be seen due to the exceptional visibility which is frequently over 30 meters and is perfectly safe to explore inside and out. Often surrounded by Mediterranean fish of all shapes and sizes, this is a dive that you cannot miss seeing if you visit the Island.
Another recent addition to Malta’s already rich wreck diving scene is this former Minesweeper and Patrol Boat, purposefully scuttled on 14th August 2007 with the intention to create an artificial reef and encourage the dwindling fish population to grow here. The 52 meter long boat lies flat at 37 meters and since it’s fairly new hasn’t had long enough to establish any growth. A few fish, including some friendly groupers can be spotted here. The entry point to this dive site is a ramp from the car park to the sea, where steps are cut into the rock and a handrail leads into a small, shallow cove. The stern of the wreck and site is marked with at the surface with a small buoy you can swim to before descending.
Ghar Lapsi – Cave
Ghar Lapsi, three miles north of Wied iz-Zurrieq, which is popular with swimmers features a remarkable series of caverns and swim-throughs connecting the inner sheltered bay to the outer side of the reef. Once underwater, you leave the bay through a tunnel to the open sea, down through gin clear waters to a sandy sea bed at 15 meters. The flashing rays of light penetrating from the cracks in the ceiling above when in the cave make this a spectacular dive site with a chance to spot octopus, cuttlefish or the elusive seahorse.
The dive site Comino too is equally popular for its huge well lit caverns, fish feeding dives and spectacular lagoons.
Um El Faroud – Wreck
A grander wreck that the other two mentioned above, the Um El Faroud was a 110mt gas tanker, now sitting in two parts split down the middle at 30m deep and home to a large number of fish including shoals of barracuda and other pelagic fish. The staircases, winding gear at the bow, swim-throughs along gangways and sheer size of this wreck warrants more than one dive, which is easily doable as it’s a quick 10 mins from the shore.
Blue Hole and Azure Window
Easily the most popular dive site and a topside tourist attraction as well,the Blue Hole is world famous and is situated on the western edge of Gozo at a place known as Dwejra. At every corner of the site you will find swim-throughs, caves or large boulders.This site presents large contrasts between the reefs and deep blue waters, large fish and minute creatures living off the reef. To full appreciate the dive the entrance from shore is a must however you must prepare for a rugged walk down to the water – but don’t worry, it’s all well worth it.
The Azure Window is natural arch in the cliff around 20m high above the surface which also extends 15m below the water. Once through the arch you can turn left along the back of a reef wall, which drops down to 60m, to another reef. The stunning caves, fantastic walls and crystal clear blue waters have rightly earned this site it’s reputation as a world class dive!!
Billinghurst Cave and Reqqa Point
Found on the north side of the island, the top of the Billinghurst cave entrance is just few meters below the surface and the bottom is at 27m meters. Not recommended for beginners as it has a fairly difficult entry and exit in the form of a steep slope of solid rock with no steps or handrails which leads to a narrow ledge a couple of meters above the sea. Around the cave where you will be surrounded by lots of multi-coloured sponges, soft coral and virgin lace coral with tubeworms, scorpionfish, and anemones hiding in the gaps. You can exit this dive site through the Reqqa Reef with large boulders propped against the vertical underwater cliffs appearing as though they have been deliberately placed, and offering an excellent refuge for groupers, dentex, octopus and large scorpionfish. .
All in all Malta and Gozo offer some of the best shore diving you will see anywhere else in the World, and what we’ve pointed out here doesn’t even scratch the surface of the dive site there are. Plenty of wrecks, caves, walls, drop-off and reefs make this a destination to beat!