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8 Jul 2024, Jo Charter

Malta diving, gozo diving

Malta and Gozo offer exceptional dive sites and facilities thanks to the dedicated efforts of local diving experts. Product Executive Jo Charter recently visited, exploring popular spots such as St Paul's Bay and the Cirkewwa Marine Park in Malta, in addition to the Blue Hole and the Inland Sea in Gozo. Find out more about Malta and Gozo's must-visit locations for diving enthusiasts.

Malta, and its little neighbours, Gozo & Comino, have been ‘go to’ scuba destinations since the early 90s and had an active diving community long before that. Malta is the shore diving location of Europe, if not globally, and the passionate diving industry experts who serve these islands are the ones to thank for the facilities it has today. During my recent visit, I had the opportunity to experience both the incredible dive sites and the amazing people behind getting divers in the water. 

Before we get cracking, I want to cover local pronunciation to save anyone else the embarrassment of ordering a Cisk beer and pronouncing it ‘Sisk’. In Maltese, ‘c’ is ‘ch’ and ‘x’ is ‘sh’. You can now walk into any Maltese bar and proudly order a pint of Cisk and tell them you’re staying in Xlendi with full confidence.  

Xlendi Bay in Malta. Image by Jo Charter

Flying into Malta is simple from the UK; there are options with both charter and scheduled airlines. On landing, my first stop was St Paul's Bay, on the north-western side of the island, which offers spectacular sunsets. There I would be diving with our long-time partners Maltaqua. St Paul's Bay is a bustling town with restaurants, cafés, and bars, and the National Aquarium, which is housed in the Bugibba. I know I sound mad, recommending this to divers, but the food and ambience are lovely, so it's well worth a visit.  Sands self-catering apartments are situated around the corner from the dive centre, about a 10-minute walk from the seafront. The Doubletree is wonderful for those who want a catered option, whereas Villa Michael is ideal for small groups and families who want a seafront location and to be in the midst of the action. 

Now back to the diving, one of the main diving areas in Malta is the Cirkewwa (Chir-kehwa) Marine Park. This is right on the northern tip, tucked away around the corner from the ferry terminal. This area was Malta’s first marine park and has been heavily advocated for by the Maltese diving industry. In return, facilities have been provided by the government to not only make diving more accessible, but also safer, cleaner, and less environmentally impactful. Malta’s rocky landscapes can be tricky underfoot, but here steps have been discreetly cut into the entry/exit points, railings and hand-support points have been added, there are wide concrete benches to assist in kitting up, there are dive maps to help with briefings, and there are even toilets, showers, and an excellent snack van.  

Exit point for Cirkewwa in Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

Housing the wrecks of the P29 and the Rozi tugboat, the training area of Susie’s Pool and the beautiful geological feature of the Cirkewwa Arch, this area alone has enough sites for a few days of diving and the facilities make diving here a vastly more enjoyable experience. The Maltaqua team were incredibly knowledgeable and patient with me, guiding me through not only the dive but entry and exit techniques too.  

P29 wreck at Cirkewwa, Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

During our dives, we spotted schools of silver jacks, a sting ray, and black damsels, and hit both wrecks and the arch. At the start of June, the water was a fresh 20°C but I (who gets cold in the bath) was comfortable in my trilaminate drysuit, and my buddy was good with a 5mm and hood vest on. The visibility was great, allowing endless views of the panda grass dancing under the sun’s rays.  

Cuttlefish and diver at Cirkewwa in Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

Many say that Gozo is what Malta was 20 or 30 years ago; small towns predominantly surrounded by stone-walled agricultural land and hidden gems of seaside bays. Although less visited, Gozo has over 40 dive sites and has been supported in a similar fashion. In the stunning bay of Xlendi (you’ve got this!) is Gozo Dive St Andrews. This operation has been in the industry for over three decades and has played a big role in diving tourism development along the way, alongside others.  

North coast of Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

While diving with them, I covered the renowned Blue Hole and collapsed arch, as well as the Inland Sea. These sites are only dive-able when then conditions are right, so we were lucky the wind changed direction on our last diving day.  

Collapsed arch in Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

Now, we know the beautiful, azure-kissed Blue Hole, encircled by limestone that looks like it was baked in God’s own Mediterranean kitchen, but what people don’t talk about is the entry/exit point. It’s tough! But again, facilities have been put in place to make it easier and safer. This includes two railed staircases and a path with steps which have been cut into the boulders for you have to cross - even with equipment on, it’s a possible route for the vast majority of people.  

Looking down to Blue Hole in Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

Gozo Dive St Andrews were incredibly supportive and thorough in our brief, talking about different techniques and options. I felt I was in very safe hands. For those who can’t cross the boulders, there are tourist boats which pass through the Azure Window, for a small supplement you can rent one of these and access the site via boat instead ... easy! The site of the collapsed arch is breathtaking: gigantic boulders tower in the crystal-clear water and are truly humbling. As you return to the Blue Hole its beauty shines, sunbeams enter the pool-sized opening at the surface and cascade through the water and the submerged arch sitting at 8-15m. The geological architecture is astounding. We were even treated to a visit from an octopus, which is always a win. 

Divers in the Blue Hole in Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

 Xlendi is an idyllic bay, and everything is within a few minutes' walk (although some of it is up a steep hill). There are a variety of restaurant options, and there are generous designated swimming bays, in addition to good public transport links. The St Patrick's and San Andrea Hotels offer comfortable and modest accommodation on the waterfront, just a few steps from Gozo Dive St Andrews.  

Malta and Gozo continue to improve their diving facilities year-on-year, creating sites to suit divers of all levels. The friendly islands have a rich cultural history and numerous attractions which are well worth exploring when out of the water.  

View from a cave in Gozo. Image by Jo Charter

For me, Malta and Gozo are the top diving destinations in Europe, and I can’t thank the dive centres enough!  

Find out more about diving holidays in Malta and Gozo, or get in touch with our dive team.