Words by Richard Booth
Photography by Richard Booth and Richard Moss
This year’s annual pilgrimage to the blue waters of Malta took place a little earlier than previous years trips, in the hope of encountering better weather. We were rewarded for our efforts by a week of blue skies, sunshine and clear water.
The whole party was comfortably accommodated at the Pergola hotel in Mellieha, and we again used the services of Go Dive Malta, whose dive centre is conveniently situated at this hotel.
Indeed all of the weeks diving was organised and supervised by Kevin and his Go Dive team, allowing the Tyneside members to relax and really enjoy the week.
Planned diving for the week consisted mainly of shore diving, including an excursion to Gozo, as well as a days boat diving off Comino, with the option of a further days hard boat diving for the really keen at the end of the week.
The check out dive was at Cirkewwa, with a relaxing dive down to the Madonna in the cave and the nearby gnome garden.
That afternoon the party travelled over to Anchor Bay and enjoyed an excellent dive in the passageways and cavern that are found at this site. Surfacing in the cavern, thanks to the keen eyes of Gordon, some of the group located one of the small elusive scorpions that live on the roof of the cave!
No dive trip to Malta is really complete without at least one visit to the wreck of the Rozi at Cirkewwa.
Originally constructed and launched in 1958, this small tugboat ended its working life in Malta, before being scuttled in 1992 as an attraction for a tourist submarine, which sunsequently ceased operating. The submarine’s demise however has left a legacy of a fabulous little wreck dive in 30 metres, which is easily dived from the shore.
The strength of the tugs construction has ensured the integrity of the hull and superstructure leaving an intact and very photogenic little wreck, as well as a magnet for local marine life.
The afternoon concluded with a pleasant scenic dive at the nearby Paradise bay although some of the party also opted for an optional night dive.
The excursion across to Gozo started promisingly with a calm ferry crossing. After a hectic journey across the island to the site of the Blue Hole and the inland sea, we were met by the sight of a big swell crashing in against the shore, greatly reducing the underwater visibility. Kevin made the wise decision to return back across the island in search of calmer waters. One of the dive centre’s vans however chose this time to break down, but fortunately thanks to the engineering wizardry of Chris Ireland and Tom McCrickerd, the problem was soon resolved and indeed the van continued to run sweetly for the remainder of the week.
Kevin then pulled an ace out of the pack with his decision to travel back over to Xatt l-Ahmar. Here we found a nice calm sea sheltered from the incoming swell, as well as clear water as we dived the wreck of the MV Karwella.
This particular wreck was a former Gozo ferry, originally built in West Germany in 1957. She was scuttled as a dive attraction on the 12th August 2006 and landed gently on the seabed upright and intact in 42 metres of water.
The Karwella proved to be an extremely enjoyable dive. Swimming up the central staircase deep inside the wreck makes for quite a memorable experience.
The wreck is situated within close proximity of the shore and the nearby reef also makes an excellent spot to complete any necessary decompression stops.
The days diving concluded with a scenic dive further exploring the reef along this area of the coastline.
The following morning saw an early start to load cylinders and kit aboard the hard boat for the excursion over to Comino.
First dive site of the day was the submarine chimney at Lantern point. Here we explored the various tunnels and reef walls that make up this very scenic site. We also encountered a shy octopus, which whilst unwilling to pose for a photograph, did show off its ink evasion skills.
The second dive of the day was on the wreck of the P-31.
This former Maltese patrol craft was scuttled on the 24th August 2009 as a dive site. Originally built in East Germany, the streamlined shape of the hull makes for a very scenic and photogenic wreck as the bow looms out of the gloom. The interior of the wreck has also been made ‘safe’ with the removal of any hazards thus allowing easy penetration inside the hull.
The group had an option for a third dive on the Scata Manja caves.
This site again provided an interesting and very scenic dive exploring through a series of tunnels and chambers, which cut through this area of the island.
Another of Malta’s iconic wrecks is the MV Um el Faroud, a former Libyan tanker that following a tragic accident in dry dock resulting in the loss of nine Maltese yard workers lives, was eventually towed around to Wied iz Zurrieq and scuttled in 1998 to provide yet another dive attraction.
This wreck is huge and again can be dived from the shore with a little careful dive planning. She rests in 35 metres of water and strong currents can sometimes be encountered when venturing out to this site.
On this occasion however, with no current running, we opted to spend the dive exploring around the stern area, entering the hull through a hole cut in the side of the vessel, which allows easy access to the large engine room.
From here it is an easy ascent up through the various deck levels before exploring the accommodation and bridge areas.
The second dive of the day was spent exploring the reef that runs parallel to the wreck, investigating the cave and the gullies that are to found on this area of the rocky coastline.
That evening a few hardy souls opted for a further night dive.
On the final day of the trip, some of the party chose to spend the day exploring some of the land based attractions that Malta has to offer, visiting Valletta and the impressive citadel of Mdina.
Others of the group however opted for another hard boat excursion to dive the wreck of the Imperial Eagle. Built in 1938 at a yard in Sunderland, this vessel survived WWII. She ended her working life in Malta before being scuttled off Qawra Point on the 19th July 1999 in 42 metres of water. The wreck is intact and sits upright on the seabed. One of the nice features on this wreck is the ships wheel still standing proud on the wreck.
On the seabed close by, is also the statue of the Christ, complete with arms outstretched.
The final dive of the holiday was on another wreck, the Scott Craig, a small vessel apparently once used as a ferry on the Thames that apparently was last employed in the construction of the Popeye Village in Anchor Bay.
Following the completion of this film set, the Scott Craig was apparently scuttled in 20 metres of water. Whilst perhaps not one the finest of Malta’s wrecks, this small vessel nevertheless still provided a interesting wreck dive on which to end the trip.
Thanks to Gordon Lambert for organising this trip.
Special thanks to Kevin and Lindsay Harvey and Alex and Jen Mortimer of Go Dive Malta for a great weeks diving.