Having never been to Malta I was very interested to see what it was like from both a diving and general holiday point of view. The trip was a five day diving break with a diverse group of experienced divers including recreational, technical and rebreather divers.
We went in early May and were blessed with fantastic weather on all of our diving days allowing us to do pretty much any site we wanted unhindered by inconvenient winds. Three days of diving were planned with a couple of workshops included, giving a total of five dives for those that wanted to do them all. The diving was booked through Maltaqua and I can highly recommend them. Everything was organised very well, the staff were incredibly helpful and the guides / instructors (Chris, Christina and Antonio) are well trained and professional. The island itself is pleasant once out of the major towns and built up areas. The rural areas have a massive wealth of historical attractions including churches, ruins, stone structures, etc....none of which I had time to visit unfortunately. The dive guides / instructors ferrying us around during the trip were knowledgeable and informative about the sights we passed to and from the different sites.
Because of the size of our group (eighteen in total) we were lucky enough to be able to split and do different things. Those that wanted to do a deeper trimix dive on the HMS Stubborn were given the chance and Maltaqua were very cooperative. The morning of day one consisted of a check out dive on the Rozi, a tug boat that was sunk in 1991 as a tourist attraction viewed from a glass bottom boat. The boats no longer operate but the site is still very popular with divers. The wreck lies approximately 120m from the shoreline upright on the sand at approximately 33m. The wreck itself has been colonised by various marine life but we were all requested not to enter the wheel house as squid lay their eggs in there. They can in fact be seen hanging from the ceiling if you look through the wheel house ceiling. The swim back up the reef included a couple of short swim through caves (air permitting). Visibility was a little cloudy due to the number of divers and the proximity to a harbour but clarity was still a good 20m. An excellent dive to check weight and get yourself comfortable.
After a HUGE lunch (including the traditional Maltese speciality of rabbit for those that braved it) we all headed off to dive the Um El Faroud. This wreck was another scuttled ship but it was sunk after an accident killed nine dockworkers and the ship deemed to be a complete write-off. A memorial has been placed on the seabed nearby as a reminder. The 115m wreck sits upright in approximately 25m to the deck. It is a fairly lengthy swim out to the site but she is an impressive sight as she appears out of the blue. The wreck is very open with clear access to all decks including the engine room. We had a guided tour of the upper decks and passed the cargo hold which is now completely split from the rest of the ship. The swim to and from the wreck does limit the dive slightly but as long as you swim mid water to conserve your air and limit saturation you can easily spend 20-25 minutes on the wreck itself.
Day two was a single dive at the Comino Caves. A mix of large caves and caverns with smaller swim throughs and a little bit of fish feeding to top it off. A very nice easy guided dive through the network of openings and tunnels. Plenty of marine life on the rock reefs outside of the caves to keep you entertained. I would definitely recommend packing a decently sized torch to fully appreciate the darker recesses, I only had a backup torch with me but thankfully one of the other divers had his own twin portable suns attached to his camera which flood lit the caves. Have a look at the dive profile here and the photos on our Facebook fan page here.
The Final day was a bit of a mixture with everyone diving the Um El Faroud again in the morning and a choice in the afternoon of another wreck or the chance to dive in one of the tuna pens. The Faroud dive was another excellent dive with deeper penetration into the engine room then swimming up through the floors to the deck. A lot more fish life above the wreck this time. I personally thought the second time round was much better than the first. All the photos on our Facebook fan page here along with a short video of the dive here.
The afternoon included a controversial dive in a Tuna Pen that are used to keep live tuna whilst they are fattened up to full size and harvested later in the year. It is controversial because the tuna are not bred but caught wild and placed in these 50m wide by 45m deep pens. Each tuna can be worth anything up to £250,000 and each pen can hold up to 900 tuna, a potential total value of £225,000,000. I chose not to dive in the pen for a couple of reasons including the political and ethical but decided to go and see the pens up close and also watch the other divers reactions. To think that these fish are nearing extinction because of their immense worth is very concerning.
Overall though Malta is a fantastic destination for divers with sites ranging from shallow recreational divers to technical trimix or rebreather. The clear waters make a great change from the usual murky depths I dive in. The locals are very friendly (although insane drivers) and English is very widely spoken make it an ideal stress-free dive holiday.