As Malta & Gozo begin to safely open up to tourists and divers once again, we got in touch with our good friends and partners at St Andrew's Dive Centre on Gozo to find out what they have been up to and how they have been preparing to welcome visitors safely once more.
Here, owner Mark Busuttil shares insights with Regaldivers...
We did not have a lockdown in Malta and were open throughout the pandemic upgrading the premises and preparing for the season. We had many restrictions, but it was actually very nice, more time to do things we enjoy and it felt calmer. Gozo had a break with very few people around and very few cars. It really was great. The environment got a well-deserved break. Friendly dolphins were spotted close to the shore in Comino on several occasions!
Malta has done quite well with battling the virus. We only had two confirmed new cases in the last week and the number of active cases has now gone down to five. Many restrictions have been lifted but there are protocols in place for every sector of the commercial and tourist industry.
No protocol was issued by the authorities for diving centres so we (Professional Diving Schools Association, Gozo Tourism Association with the help of DAN) got together to make our own based on protocols issued for other sectors and with a bit of common sense. Clients are not allowed to use our shower. The toilets are cleaned with soap and sprayed with disinfectant regularly. Hand sanitiser is provided for all those who enter the shop and crowding in the shop will be avoided by asking people to wait outside. (No crowds so far!). Divers are to keep the same diving equipment for the whole stay and not rinse it daily like we usually do. After use, the rental kit is sprayed with fresh water, allowed to drip dry, later sprayed with disinfectant, then left 3 days hanging in a separate room before being put back in the hire department for other guests to use. Regulators and masks are being dipped in a solution with a strong dose of disinfectant, then rinsed thoroughly before being used by other divers. In restaurants tables are 2 metres apart and people are obliged to wear a mask in certain shops, on buses and in taxis.
I believe that life post Covid will be different to the life we've lived so far. The Covid pandemic forced most busy bodies, or rather busy fools like me to take some downtime and reflect about what's important in life. All of us in tourism are going through what probably the worst financial crisis in the history of our working lives, having to take loans to survive, drastically cut down on expenditure and rethink our business models. However, in my opinion and in a strange way, the pandemic was a godsend for many of us who had time to find ourselves, our families, our homes and appreciate the importance of the simple things in life over the materialistic world we live in.
I've always wanted to grow my own vegetables, and this was the year to do it. I don't have a garden, so I used flower pots and got mixed results. My tomatoes were delicious, but my aubergines are miniature versions of the ones I expected to have. I'll do better next year. I've always wanted to go for a daily walk, and this only materialised in the Covid period after a couple of weeks of slowdown and far too many ZOOM parties with family and friends across Europe, far too much food and far too much drink. One Saturday morning I made a conscious decision to go for a long walk and kept it up since. During the Covid weeks I watched more films than I did in the last thirty years and even managed to watch the news every day.
It's over now. As from today the airport is open to most destinations around the world and we're expecting some tourist arrivals. It's time to get back to work but lessons learnt since the pandemic struck will not be forgotten in a hurry. I'm now looking forward to visiting my favourite dive sites, the drop off at Crocodile Rock, the caverns at Wied il-Mielah and of course Comino. The Covid pandemic gave us time to do major upgrades on Divemania, our dive boat and she will go to the water first thing Monday morning. I can't wait. It's hard to put words together that describe how I miss the intensity of our deep blue Mediterranean Sea, the clarity and the underwater scenario. A picture says a thousand words, so, voila, a few pictures of only a few of our dive sites.
We offer a range of self catering apartments and hotel options for divers on Gozo and neighbouring island Malta. Just three hours from the UK, Malta & Gozo make for a perfect short break. Alternatively, extend your trip to fully explore the delights of both Malta and Gozo on a tailor-made twin centre itinerary.
Speak to the friendly Regaldive team today to begin planning your diving holiday to Malta & Gozo.