My school diving club goes on a trip to Malta every year, to dive in the crystal clear waters and coral-encrusted wrecks of the coast of the small island. As well as enjoying the varied and colourful sea life, I also needed to complete several dives and learn new techniques in order to progress to my BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) Sports Diver qualification, the next step up from the Ocean Diver. The dives were far different to the ones I had in Plymouth Harbour, as this time I was actually able to see through the water, and the variety of different locations we visited was absolutely fantastic.
Malta sits in the middle of the Mediterranean ocean, just below Sicily, and due to the mixture of underwater shelves, caves, reefs and sandy beds, it provides an excellent home to a wide variety of Mediterranean species, both sheltered and in the open water. Fish like groupers and bream are extremely common, and tiny carnival-coloured parrot fish scrape away at the rocky cliff faces while hunting for food. In addition to fish, I saw three octopuses while diving in an area called Cirkewwa, two of which were hiding in rocky crevasses, but one, as we ascended to the surface was out in the open, trying to blend in with the rocks on the vertical shelf. Most of the life under the ocean was completely harmless, even scorpion fish and fireworms only injuring people foolhardy enough to touch them. The moray eels, however, were more aggressive, and were known to actively lash out at people on occasion, and although this was fairly rare, we were warned to keep our hands away from them unless we wanted to lose a finger.
The wrecks and swimthroughs were astounding, watching the pale blue light filter the holes in the decks of tugboats, tunnels and even an East German torpedo boat. It felt like we were exploring a piece of history, sunk down to the bottom of the ocean and forgotten about. One of the most exciting dives was into an underwater cave, navigating to the entrance, and entering a huge black hole in the side of the cliff, hermit crabs and other creatures scuttling around in the blackness, with only two beams of light from our torches to show us to way. We surfaced inside the cave, which was surprisingly warm, and found ourselves in a high ceilinged cavern somewhere underneath Malta. It was a truly bizarre experience.
After a day at the shallow reefs near Qawra Point we rounded off the trip with a day around Malta’s beautiful capital city of Valletta, built by the Knights Hospitaller in the 1500s, and a tour around the Maltese National Aquarium just nearby our hotel, which was full of the moray eels, common rays and huge groupers that we had not yet seen while diving around the island. Malta was an absolutely fantastic trip, and I hope I can go back some day to enjoy the warm Mediterranean waters again.