Malta offers all the best ingredients for a diving holiday. Expect good weather conditions, crystal-clear visibility and mild water temperatures. Discover amazing underwater caves and rock formations, diverse natural reefs, and several dive wrecks forming artificial reefs teeming with Mediterranean marine life. Diving in Malta offers you some of the best diving experiences available in the Mediterranean Sea.
Indeed, year after year, scuba diving in Malta keeps appearing in top diving destination lists worldwide. Malta even earned a second place in the ‘Top diver destination of the year 2018’ awards by the acclaimed Divernet, which placed it ahead of the Maldives and only after Egypt. While Malta gets all the credit, diving in Gozo is widely considered the best.
“Malta has cemented its place among UK divers’ big three, offering wrecks, marine-life and interesting topography, plus shore-tour diving combined with affordable pricing and in easy reach of home.” ~ Divernet
The Maltese Islands include Malta, Gozo and Comino, as well as the tiny Cominotto and Filfla islands. Diving in Gozo is internationally acclaimed for its spectacular cave diving opportunities. However, the island of Malta is most ideal if wreck diving is your thing. Comino, too, has its points of interest, with one dive site regularly appearing in the top ten list. Fortunately, all the islands are within easy reach of each other. The marine life of the Mediterranean Sea adds curiosity about what lies within the islands’ inviting azure waters.
Discover Mediterranean Marine Life
Malta and Gozo’s sheer cliffs, shelves, caves, and sandy and rocky sea beds make an excellent home to a large variety of Mediterranean flora and fauna. In addition, several wrecks create artificial reef habitats for several species. A wonderful orange to pink coral is common on arches, reefs and caves, its glow delightful in night photography. You’ll also see anemones, sea urchins and starfish.
Mediterranean marine life is so different to tropical marine life and uniquely interesting. You will typically encounter bream, groupers, parrot fish, amberjack, barracuda, meagre, bogue, red mullet, gurnard, flying fish and sting rays. With luck, you may spot a moonfish, John Dory, bonitos, tuna, the near-threatened blue shark, a dolphin or turtle. There is more chance of seeing some of these in winter, when warmer waters attract them closer to shore. More common finds are the octopi, squid, moray eels, delightfully colourful nudibranchs and shrimps. Look out for the less common seahorse! John Dory and moray eels are more commonly seen at night.
Dangers To Avoid While Diving In Malta
Maltese waters are generally safe, but you’d best know about some lurking dangers. With a little care, you can easily avoid any risk. Under all circumstances, always dive with a buddy. Dive or consult with a local who understands local weather conditions and has experience at the various dive sites. Mediterranean waters can get wild in rough weather and undercurrents can be strong even on good days. Safety first – please don’t get your name on the news headlines as others have before.
What’s more, keep an eye out for these dangerous marine animals. The scorpion fish or rock fish, puffer fish, greater weever, spotted weaver and silver cheeked toadfish are venomous; the bearded fireworm, sting ray, jellyfish and Portuguese man o’ war inflict a nasty sting; and the moray eel, barracuda and great white shark (highly unlikely encounter!) offer a mean bite. Watch your step on rocky bottoms for the sea urchin, bearded fireworm and moray eel; the sting ray lives on sandy bottoms. If you spot any of the other fish, don’t attempt to feed or touch them.
But relax! Bear in mind that these marine animals will only sting or bite if disturbed or accidentally touched or stepped on. The risk is low and physical reaction largely depends on your age and health condition. In any case, if you do step on or touch these sea creatures, don’t panic and seek medical attention.
Dive Sites In The Maltese Islands
A diving experience in the Maltese Islands promises to be a special one. The best known dive sites range from labyrinthine caves and arches to reefs and wartime wrecks. There are over 200 scuba diving sites in Malta, Gozo and Comino, including a variety of interesting shore dives, boat dives and technical dives.
For a taste of adventure, try a night dive or deep diving to 30 or 40 metres. The Bristol Beaufighter wreck and the Blenhiem Bomber wreck both lie at 42m. If you are also a history buff, there’s more. Dive to the HMS Maori or the HMS Stubborn, both sunk during World War II, or the Polynesian, which was sunk by a torpedo from a ‘U’ boat in 1918. Several other boats, from tug boats and ferries to tanker Um El Faroud, were purpose sunk to create artificial reefs.
Some of the most popular boat dives include the Billinghurst Cave, Dwejra Point, Fessej Rock, Fungus Rock and San Dimitri Point in Gozo; Cominotto Reef, Irqieqa Point, Lantern Point and Santa Marija Caves in Comino; and the Imperial Eagle at Xatt L-Ahmar in Malta.
The Maltese Islands are a delightful playground when it comes to wreck diving and cave diving. We’ve listed the top five wreck dives and top five cave dives in Malta, Gozo and Comino so you know what to expect.
Top 5 Wreck Dives
The seabed surrounding the Maltese Islands is littered with wrecks. Some were sunk during wars and others were intentionally placed to create artificial reefs and embellish the divers’ underwater playground. Wrecks include tug boats, ferries, oil tankers, destroyers and aircraft carriers as well as some aircraft. Check out the top wreck dives in Malta and Gozo.
1. HMS Maori, Malta
The HMS Maori dive site in St Paul’s Bay is one of the best of the islands. It offers an interesting exploration of the hull while most of the superstructure now lies on the seabed beside the vessel, although the guns have been removed. Expect to see saddled sea bream, cardinal fish, camouflaged scorpion and even seahorses.
2. Patrol Boat P29, Malta
The P29 patrol boat wreck lies nearby the Rozi tugboat wreck in Cirkewwa. However, it attracts more scuba divers due to its interesting features, including an intact machine gun. The Maltese Patrol Boat was an East German minesweeper and it was sunk in 2007. It sits on a sandy bottom at 36 metres in a flat position.
3. Oil Tanker Um El Faroud, Malta
Following an explosion at the Malta dockyard in 1995, this massive 10,000 tonne oil tanker Um El Faroud was scuttled to a sandy bottom at 35 metres to serve as an artificial reef in 1998. The 110-metre long wreck stands upright, but it broke in half during a storm in winter 2005/6 so that the rear right aligns with the front left of the vessel. Located near Wied iz-Zurrieq, it is considered one of the best dive sites in Malta.
4. MV Karwela, Gozo
After a long career serving as a ferry from 1957 until 2002, the Karwela found it end as a wonderful artificial reef. This 58-metre ship was scuttled off Xatt l-Ahmar in 2006. The MV Karwela wreck stands perfectly upright with plenty to explore on its three decks, ranging from 30 metres to 42 metres in depth. There is also a natural reef nearby, making this one of the best dive sites in Gozo.
5. Bristol Blenheim Bomber, Malta
The Bristol Blenheim Bomber wreck lies near Xrobb l-Ghagin at 42 metres. The wings, engines, pilot’s seat and control column are virtually intact, however, the port side propellers and cockpit cover are missing. Only a few diving centres know its precise location and only advanced divers are allowed this exclusive and exciting dive. The area includes colourful sponges, anemones, coral, lobsters, turtles … and the remains of a De Havilland Mosquito nearby.
Top 5 Cave Dives
Malta, Gozo and Comino possess a fascinating topography. They feature a large number of extraordinary sea caves and underwater caves, as well as cliffs, shelves, arches and other astonishing natural rock formations. Many of these features are locations of unique diving sites. Check out the top cave dives in Malta and Gozo.
1. Double Arch, Gozo
A truly marvellous topography awaits you at this dive site near Xwejni, known as the Double Arch. From shallow water, a 14 metre wall takes you to the first arch at 20 meters and then a second arch at 45 metres. Apart from the wonderful rock formations, enjoy the cuttlefish, octopus, sea urchins and scorpion fish that have made a home here.
2. The Blue Hole, Gozo
Probably the most famous dive site in the Maltese Islands, the Blue Hole in Dwejra is accessible in different ways at different depths. Following a worthwhile effort to reach the entry point in your kit, the Blue Hole dive leads you to the Coral Gardens, a cave, ‘the chimney’ and an exit at the Inland Sea.
The stunning rock formations and marine species will amaze you during this dive. Located at the site of the fallen Azure Window, you’ll also be able to explore the rubble of this former Maltese icon laying on the seabed, a new attraction at this dive site.
3. Inland Sea, Gozo
The entry point to this dive is the extraordinary 60-metre diameter inland sea at Dwejra that’s connected to the open sea via an 80-metre tunnel. As you leave shallow water to follow the tunnel, dramatic walls and extraordinary light effects meet you as you descend to 26 metres. Emerging into open sea, a reef teeming with marine life, including octopus, barracuda and parrot fish, lies at 30 meters.
4. Santa Marija Caves, Comino
A variety of marine life including nudibranchs, moray eels, octopus, crabs, shrimp, lobsters and red mullet live in the shallow waters of the Santa Marija caves. Scuba divers enter from one end and exit the other, admiring the light reflections on curious vertical walls. This dive site is popular as a boat dive as it is ideal for divers of all levels.
5. Reqqa Reef, Gozo
Enjoy a wonderful variety of marine life at the Reqqa Reef at 60 metres, a great spot for underwater photography. Expect groupers, barracudas, scorpion fish, moray eels and lobsters. It also features a vertical wall covered with sponges. There are also caves to explore at this dive site located near Ghasri.
So that’s a heads up on the top diving spots in Malta, Gozo and Comino, but there are many more! Try diving in Malta and discover them for yourself. Learn more about Malta’s wrecks and marine life by contacting the Malta Marine Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation of Malta’s marine habitat.
Dive Shops In Malta
In 2016, over 100,000 divers visited the Maltese Islands to scuba dive. In the same year, another estimated 50,000 tried scuba diving during their visit. Whether you are a seasoned diver or wishing to scuba dive for the first time, there are almost sixty dive shops and diving centres in Malta to serve you.
A diving centre or dive shop can provide you with a qualified diving instructor and scuba diving equipment. Whether you’d like a try dive, cave diving, wreck diving or technical diving, you’ll find a dive centre to provide the diving experience you want.
PADI scuba diving courses are available with experienced diving instructors. Open water PADI scuba diving courses and other PADI courses are popular, with many choosing to learn scuba diving in Malta. You will find a qualified PADI instructor at every dive centre on the Maltese Islands. Find a dive shop or diving centre near you.
So, dive Malta. Quite simply, Malta and Gozo are a scuba diver’s paradise. Let’s sum up why.
The islands’ weather conditions make scuba diving possible all the year round, with May to September providing the best conditions. Meanwhile, its limpid Mediterranean waters offer great visibility. Most importantly, diving in Malta offers scuba divers a delightful variety of wreck diving and cave diving opportunities, while the Mediterranean marine life is fascinating and abundant. The vast choice of over 200 shore dives, boat dives and technical dives is suitable for all levels, from beginners to advanced divers. What’s more, almost 60 diving centres offer scuba diving equipment and open water PADI certification with qualified and experienced PADI diving instructors.
In addition to all this, there are several other attractions in Malta. Truly, what more could you want of a diving holiday?