In this latest installment from guest contributor Navjot Singh, a well-known British author, journalist and photographer, we are transported to the magical diving world of Malta. Be sure to check back in with us for some more insightful reviews from Navjot’s travel exploits.
Upon landing at Luqa International Airport, it feels as if you have arrived in a city in the Middle East. As you make your way to the city center you come across a sea of buildings made of yellow limestone, the main material used for construction on Malta.
It’s remarkable that such a tiny country as Malta is home to 365 Churches and chapels, one for each day of the year and most serving the Roman Catholic community (which accounts for around 90 percent of Malta’s population). But, apart from the delicious food, the beautiful beaches, and the mesmerizing skyline of the old city of Mdina, with its Baroque cathedral, bastions and palaces, this tiny country is also famed for diving.
Diving? Yes, the Maltese islands are home to numerous deliberately-sunk vessels, scampered for the express purpose of diving.
The Lady Davinia, Sliema Harbor
The Lady Davinia is one such wreck, located around 15 meters deep in the harbour. The Lady Davinia was formally known as the Zuara when it was with the Libyan Navy in the 1960s and also the HMS Greetham when it was with the British. The Engine room and wheelhouse is in pristine condition, complete with a telephone. There are a myriad of large wine bottles and bits of complete cutlery scattered around on the harbour bed. Plenty of shiny silvery fish can be seen as well as some large groupers. We even came across a large lobster. The views down at this wreck are truly breathtaking.
X127 wreck, Manoel Island
The Lighter X-127 is accessible from Manoel Island in Marsamxett Harbour. To reach the wreck, it takes about fifteen minutes, and divers have to swim in a south westerly direction at a depth of around 10 meters. The greatest difficulty here is balancing on the seabed, especially with currents pushing you away from your standing position, as well as the rather muddy seabed around the wreck! However the most amazing part of the dive is when you go through the wheelhouse and come out the other end, as well as the huge torpedo damage at the stern of the vessel. Around the wreck there are lots of sea life lurking around, such as octopus, small groupers and thousands of small silvery fish.
Qawra Point, St Paul’s Bay
Qawra Point is located at the southern tip of St. Paul’s Bay. The dive profile here drops slowly at first and the repetitiveness of the meadows gives way to a steep slope that goes down to a depth of 40 meters. The bottom is scattered with sharp ended rocks – much to my unpleasant surprise when I tried to balance myself by putting my knees on the rocks. Hence there is very good reason why someone should wear a full body wetsuit when diving (apart from protecting yourself from the cold water)! We did not come across any interesting crabs or lobsters though…I guess they must have been hiding that day!
This dive is without a doubt the highlight of any diving trip to these beautiful islands. The sea can sometimes be a bit rough due to high winds, but the dive takes you to a picturesque arch at the bottom where there is also a statue of statue of Madonna. And, rather strangely, people leave candles there as a mark of respect. The water is remarkably clear and clean. The arch is a cavern with a large hole in the top that creates a narrow bridge of rock under which divers can easily gain access. It was one of the best things I have ever seen; and although you can read about dives and see photos, seeing it in real life is just amazing. You have to experience this dive to fully appreciate the real joy of this wonderful sport.
The area around Cirkewwa is also beautiful. There is a tiny beach on the other side of the dive resort; and regular ferries to Gozo and Comino operate from here too.
Places to stay:
Malta may come across as being very laid back and simple but the country does have its fair share of good quality four and five star hotels. I stayed at the four star Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa, which is interestingly separated by a picturesque road, and an underground tunnel connects the rooms with the hotels spa and restaurant.
The deceptively quiet Malta Luqa International Airport is serviced by a number of international airlines, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Air Malta, British Airways and many others. The airport is also well used by budget carriers such as Ryanair, and Easyjet if you are flying from Europe.
To learn more about Navjot and his travels, be sure to check out his website: www.navjot-singh.com.
Featured Image: Cirkewwa (Navjot Singh)