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Diving in the Maltese Islands PDF Print E-mail
Written by Debra C. Argen and Edward F. Nesta   

Scuba Diving Maltese IslandsScuba Diving in Gozo, Malta with Blue Waters Dive Cove is a thrilling experience.

 

 

The Adventure Kids were off on yet another adventure, this time exploring the underwater beauty of Gozo in the Maltese Islands. As avid scuba divers, we have traveled the world in our continual quest to expand our undersea knowledge, traveling to Australia, Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, throughout Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands, and braving the cold coastal waters of New England, and without a doubt, diving on the island of Gozo presented us with our most historic diving.

Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz Pool, Gozo, MaltaWhen we were planning our trip to Gozo in the Maltese Islands for June 2007, we were thrilled to learn that not only was there excellent diving on Gozo, but that there was a dive center conveniently located on the premises of the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz where we would be staying.

Itzi of Blue Waters Dive Cove in Gozo, Malta
Itzi of Blue Waters Dive Cove

We had barely settled into the hotel before we made a beeline straight to the Blue Waters Dive Cove shop located beside by the hotel's outdoor swimming pool. After meeting with Itzi, one of the knowledgeable, professional, and very charming Divemasters, who told us that the visibility on Gozo ranges from 30 - 40 meters (98 - 131 feet) we immediately made plans to dive with PADI-Certified Blue Waters Dive Cove the following day. After completing our diving forms and presenting our Divemaster C-cards, Itzi outfitted us with fins, BCDs, and brand new dive suits emblazoned with the Blue Waters Dive Cove logo, and with our equipment stored in separate boxes, all we had to do the next day was meet in the hotel lobby.

Finally, the big day arrived, and Itzi came to wish us well on our dives, before introducing us to Owner/Instructor, Franco Bugeja, who would be our dive partner and guide. With Simon, also of Blue Waters Dive Cove, at the wheel of the truck, and two other divers, we set off for a quick 10-minute drive to the historic area of Dwerja Bay, where a 1651 watchtower remains from the days when the Knights of Saint John protected the Maltese Islands.

Franco and Edward
Franco Bugeja and Edward F Nesta at Azure Window, Gozo, Malta

We broke off into our separate groups, and walked with Franco for a dive briefing and to take a closer look at the Azure Window, which we would be diving beneath in the site known as the Blue Hole. We made our way down 2 sets of stairs and across the salt beds to watch as other divers made their entrance into the Blue Hole. Franco explained that the topography begins with a shelf at the opening of the Blue Hole where we would put on our fins and enter, and that the average depth would be around 25 meters (82 feet) with a maximum depth of 60 meters (197 feet). The depth by the outside wall is 15 meters (49 feet), is 12 meters (40 feet) at the corner of the Azure Window, 25 meters (82 feet) at the swim through, and directly under the window, an impressive 60 meters (197 feet). The huge cave has a series of shelves at 15 - 30 meters (49 - 99 feet), reefs, and a "chimney." Mentally visualizing the underwater topography, we walked back to the truck to put on our diving gear.

Fossils at Azure Window - Gozo, MaltaWalking back across the exposed fossilized shells and sand dollars, we tried to envision what this area must have once looked like when it was submerged under water, as we slowly made our way down the steps and over the rocks wearing our full equipment. After what seemed like an eternity, although actual elapsed time was closer to a few minutes, remember we are wearing tight fitting, heavy two-piece neoprene wet suits, weight belts, air tanks secured to BCDs, and the air temperature hovering around 32° C (90° F), we finally reached the site. Entering the water brought instant relief, as we finalized our preparations before entering the Blue Hole. Sitting on the shelf, we put on our fins, did last minute safety checks, and slowly began our descent into the Blue Hole.

Azure Window Dive Entry Point, Gozo, Malta
Azure Window Diving Entry

Underwater Views, Gozo, Malta  - Courtesy of Blue Water Dive CoveJellyfish undulated close to the surface, mesmerizing us with their balletic maneuvers, as we continued our descent along the wall covered with an amazing display of colorful polyps, sponges, corals, sea urchins, small lobsters, tunicates, feather dusters (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi), and bristle worms (Pharecardia striata). The underwater topography was a series of crevasses, and reefs that occasionally were so teaming with schools of small, brightly colored fish including breams and damsels, that we felt like we were swimming through an aquarium.

Cathedral Cave, Gozo, Malta  - Courtesy of Blue Water Dive CoveWe looked up as we passed under the archway of the Azure Window, and were amazed at the incredible beauty above us. Traveling back through the cavern, we slowly made our way back towards the entrance passing large sea cucumbers laying on the sandy bottom, a conger eel (Conger conger), and flying gurnards (Dactylopterus voltans). We took one last look around and at the Picasso-like profile of the face in the archway, before surfacing and committing this incredible experience to memory.

Climbing out of the water, and walking along the rocks, we encountered many tourists who had come to admire Dwerja Bay, Azure Window, Alligator Rock, Fungus Rock, and the Knights of Saint John Watchtower, who found the sight of divers equally interesting as they questioned us about what we had seen "down there." If you have ever stood with a heavy air tank on your back, combined with a weight belt, and a wet suit, you know that the very last thing that you probably want to do is stop and chat while someone asks you questions, but as "ambassadors" if you will, between the land and the sea, it is important to stop and share the beauty of the sea with those who will never have the opportunity to go below and partake of the unique frontier, the undersea world. So, we politely answered their questions, before hurrying as quick as we could to the truck so that we could shed our gear like snakes shedding their skins.

Underwater view of Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta  - Courtesy of Blue Water Dive Cove  Scuba Divers Surfacing at Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta  - Courtesy of Blue Water Dive Cove

One of the many wonderful things about diving on Gozo is that there are dive sites located on three sides of the island, making it possible to dive every day without concern for the weather, and without the fear of a "washout" day, divers can relax and pace their dives according to their own schedules, instead of according to the weather. Most of the dives are conveniently located close to shore, making diving easily accessible and very affordable since there is no need for a boat for most of the dives.

Debra C. Argen at Inland Sea Dive SiteFor our second dive, we walked two minutes down the road from the Azure Window to a spot known as Inland Sea. Once the area of limestone subterranean caves, millions of years ago when the ceilings of two caves collapsed, they created a protected lagoon with impressive cliffs. There is an opening in the rock face creating a tunnel for boats and divers to pass through. Archeologically historical, the area attracts boaters, divers, and of course tourists, who come to see the spectacular cliffs, and also take boat excursions through the tunnel to see the Azure Window from the water.

Surface Stop Between DivesSince we had to make a surface interval between dives, we sat under a market umbrella at a small restaurant set amidst colorful doors of the fishermen and boater's dwellings and enjoyed a light lunch as Franco explained about the area and about Blue Waters Dive Cove, which he and Antoine Portelli started 5 years ago, and for the past 3 three years, they have had a shop at the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz in addition to their shop in Qala. If you are interested in learning to dive, Blue Waters Dive Cove provides trial dives in the outdoor swimming pool of the hotel, as well as provides diving certification classes for all levels from novice to divemaster, and all specialties.

Scuba Diving Entrace to Inland Sea , Gozo, MaltaWe walked down to the boating ramp where we would make our entrance as Franco gave us our dive briefing for Inland Sea. We would first swim a short distance to the opening of the tunnel. The depth upon descending would begin at 4 meters (13 feet), progress to 15 meters (49 feet), and continue to 25 meters (82 feet). At first we would swim in semi-darkness and then as we reached the tunnel, which has a maximum depth of 80-90 meters (263 - 295 feet), we would see a most brilliant blue unlike anything that we had ever seen before. After taking a look at the silhouette, we would turn around and follow the wall back to the entrance, again making a safety stop at 5 meters (16 feet) by holding on the wall.  

Scuba Diving Entrance at Inland Sea, Gozo, MaltaOnce again, we donned our equipment, and made our entrance into the water holding onto the pier where young children played with small fishing nets trying to capture fish and small crabs climbing the pier wall. We swam on our backs to the entrance of the cave, took a look at the soaring cliff walls, and could not help but wonder what the Knights of Saint John must have thought when they first saw this area.

Blue Silhouette Underwater at Gozo, Malta - Courtesy of Blue Water Dive CoveWe began our descent, and as Franco said, the descent was indeed semi-dark as we followed one another, and then there was the promised brilliant blue silhouette of the tunnel opening that leads out into the open sea. Trying to describe the feeling and the actual color of the intensity of the blue is nearly impossible. Suffice it to say, that it was both a memorable and highly magical experience.

Blue Water Dive Cove Truck, Gozo, MaltaTaking time to explore the wall during the safety stop we discovered more of the singular beauty of diving Gozo. Surfacing with a rush of adrenaline, our memories of diving Gozo will last a lifetime. Franco drove us back to the hotel, where we said farewell until we can return to this enchanting island. Until then, we will always treasure our underwater discoveries and our new friends at Blue Waters Dive Cove.

Underwater View, Gozo, Malta - Courtesy of Blue Water Dive Cove  Underwater View, Gozo, Malta - Courtesy of Blue Water Dive Cove
Underwater Treasures

As divemasters, we always recommend that when visiting somewhere new that you dive with a local guide, as you would not enter the forest without a compass and working knowledge of the area, or drive without a map or directions to reach your desired destination. Local guides will not only make sure that you see the best spots, but that you have a safe and enjoyable diving experience. When selecting a dive center, remember to ask questions to pick your best diving partner. The Maltese government is highly progressive when it comes to supporting the diving industry, and have sunk new wrecks, installed steps to dive sites, as well as have provided parking, benches and picnic tables to assist in facilitating divers with donning their equipment and a place to relax between dives. Gozo also has a Decompression Chamber nearby in Victoria, as does Malta making safety an important factor to consider when selecting a diving destination.

Blue Water Dive Cove, Gozo, Malta
Blue Waters Dive Cove

Kuncizzjoni Street
Qala, Gozo
Malta GSM 103
Telephone:     +356-2156-5626
Mobile:           +356-7953-6874, Franco
Mobile:           +356-9922-4114, Antoine
Email:            
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www.divebluewaters.com  

Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz, Gozo, Malta
Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz

Triq ir-Rokon, San Lawrenz
SLZ1040 Gozo, Malta
Telephone:      +356-2211-0000
Fax:                 +356-2211-6373
Email:            
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www.Kempinski-Gozo.com

Read other articles on the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz and the Maltese Islands in the Destinations, Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, and Spas sections.  

For information on the Maltese Islands, please visit: Malta Tourist Authority, www.VisitMalta.com, and Heritage Malta, www.HeritageMalta.org.

© July 2007. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.

 
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