Malta is a diving paradise, and a top destination for those who love to explore the underwater world. Perfect for all certification levels, from beginner to tech divers, the small island in the Mediterranean has something to offer for everyone. Read on to find out about the best dive sites in Malta!
Um El Faroud
A huge, 110 metre long Libyan Oil tanker just off the south coast of Malta, the Um El Faroud is a must see wreck for any serious diver. The Faroud lies around 200 metres off shore, close to the popular tourist destination “Blue Grotto” and was purposely scuttled for divers in 1998. The wreck can only be admired by advanced certified divers, as it sits at around 30 metres deep. It takes a few minutes to swim out in the blue until the stern appears ahead. Head down and explore the rudder and huge propeller, keeping your eye out for the resident Moray Eels. Up on the decks, you can find tiny nudibranch clinging to the vegetation that has made the Faroud it’s home, and if you are lucky you could catch some barracuda swimming around the chimney. The wreck is split in to, with a huge crack right through the middle, which gives great opportunity for penetration if you are certified to do so. Consider using nitrox to increase your time spent admiring the best wreck in Malta!
A popular destination with tourists in Dwejra, Gozo, the area was once home to the famous Azure Window. The window collapsed in early 2017, making international headlines. Although a great loss for the island, it has created some stunning rock formations beneath the surface. The dive usually begins directly through the “Blue Hole”, a stunning 10 meter wide pool in the rocks. The water is a brilliant shade of blue and makes an interesting sight and great photo opportunity. Divers can walk with their gear down the rocks and into the pool. Be aware it is not an easy walk, particularly in summer when temperatures soar, and so a degree of physical fitness is required. As you descend, at around 5 meters of depth you will be able to swim under an arch and out into the ocean. Take the time to look back up and get a different perspective of the Blue Hole, as the light shines down into the depths. From here, you will swim around huge boulders, the remnants of the Azure Window. You can choose to stay around the top of the rocks, or go deeper, depending on your level of certification, making the dive one of the best for Open Water Divers. Along the wall area next to the hole, at around 18 meters deep, you will find “The Chimney” – a vertical crack in the rock that leads up and out onto the shallower “Coral Gardens”. On your way back to the ascent into the Blue Hole, there is a cave that you may explore. Be careful not to kick up the silt, and check in the cracks for conger eels!
The most popular area to dive in Malta would have to be Cirkewwa, at the very northern tip of the island. Here you will find walls, swim-throughs, and an abundance of marine life. It is also home to 2 great wrecks, one of which is the patrol boat “P-29”. After descending in the shallow area near shore, you will swim a few minutes in a westerly direction. On your way, you will spot an anchor in the grass, and you know you are close! The stern lies on the sand at around 34 metres, and down there you can usually spot Moray Eels and hermit crabs. Head to the bough to check out the machine gun and look for huge scorpion fish nearby. As your no decompression time starts to decrease, ascend to the captain’s cabin and crow’s nest, where schools of fish circle around you, usually followed by hunting Dentex. The P-29 is particularly good for photographers and can be enjoyed with amazing visibility the Mediterranean is known for! On your way back to shore, if air permits, you can spend some time exploring the reef and hunting for octopus and cuttlefish in Susie’s pool.
Close to the “Blue Hole” in Dwejra, you will find the very popular Inland Sea. A shallow area of water cut off from the main ocean by cliffs and connected only by an 80 meter long tunnel. Boats regularly ferry tourists from the shore, through the tunnel and out into the ocean. This tunnel makes for an excellent dive, as the light shines down and the feeling is of swimming through a very large crack. Begin the dive from the shallow shore of the inland sea, and surface swim to the entrance of the tunnel. Don’t be tempted to descend in the shallows as there is a lot of boat traffic in the area. Once in the tunnel, stay low as depth starts around 3 meters, however you will gradually find the bottom getting deeper and deeper. After several minutes of swimming, the exit comes into view, and you are out in the open ocean. You can make your way along side the wall either side, being aware that the bottom can reach depths of 50 meters or more, so maintain your desired buoyancy. Check the wall for lobster and octopus, and don’t forget to occasionally look over head for big schools of passing fish. On your way back, enter the cave and swim back to the inland sea, making a safety stop at the very end, and keeping close to the sides before ascending and surface swimming to avoid any problems with boats.
Santa Marija Caves
Whilst most of Malta’s best dive sites can be accessed from the shore, there are a few gems that can only be reached by boat. One such site is Santa Marija Caves on the small island between Malta and Gozo, Comino. Your boat will drop you in a small bay where there are several caves. Don’t be alarmed by the word “caves” as you can easily reach the surface throughout the dive, and you can always see the exit point. I would recommend taking a torch though. You start by swimming through the biggest cave, and here you will come out on the other side of the rocks. On the left, you find the famous “Zorro” cave, a Z- shaped swimthrough which makes for excellent pictures. You will go back through the cave, and there is a chance to surface and surprise the unsuspecting tourists inside. Back into the bay, and there are several other smaller caves and swimthroughs to explore. In the middle, you find a rocky ridge which leads to an archway. Swim under and keep your eyes peeled for nudibranch. As you emerge you will begin to see lots of bream heading towards you. Make your safety stop here amongst the swirling mass of fish, who are very used to the presence of divers and get very close.
Have you been diving in Malta? Where was your favourite dive?