Wreck Diving In Malta

The diving gods must have been smiling on me when I booked my day of diving a few weeks ago. Yesterday the winds were so bad there would have been no way to safely enter and exit the water but today was beautiful and calm with not a cloud in the sky, though I was worried about the viz. I was picked up from Boho Hostel by Casey at 7.10am prompt and we went to the dive shop in the north of St. Julian’s where I parted with €135 for three dives. We’d be heading to the south of the island to the Blue Grotto, apparently with Malta being so tiny, if the wind and waves are mental on one side of the island they’ll generally be okay on the other. They thought the viz would be better there. Well here’s hoping. We battled through the rush hour traffic to Wied iż-Żurrieq.

Probably the most fish we saw on our first dive. Malta seems like it’s similar to Cyprus in that it’s hugely over-fished.

So I’m qualified to rescue level but I wouldn’t trust me to rescue anyone in a panic situation. I don’t remember any of that course and if you’re stung by a jellyfish I’ll probably just run around in tiny circles screaming, “Piss on it! Somebody piss on it!” My point is, I don’t dive very often and my confidence isn’t great, it’d rather sit in a dark corner eating donuts and crying than propel me to greatness. But Casey was brilliant, helping me when I needed it, not acting like I was a massive fraud if I had questions despite my qualification level, checking my set up to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I already felt safe and comfortable and we hadn’t even hit the water.

Yeah so all of my comfort ended as soon as I hit the water because it turns out the water in Malta in March is bastard fucking freezing. I whooped like a slapped monkey as the sea flooded into my wetsuit. Actually I was wearing two 5mm wetsuits, I wasn’t going to die of hypothermia any time soon but guys, fifteen fucking degrees isn’t the kind of temperature I enjoy being immersed in. We descended for what I think was more of a familiarisation dive. There’s not much alive down here, just the odd fish and a lot of rock and sand and a random statue for the “Altam Sub-Aqua Club”. To be fair I just enjoyed being underwater and I quite like not having too much distraction whilst my brain recalls my training and I get used to my buoyancy again rather than floating up and down like a tellytubby on a yoyo string.

If I see a stinging creature on land I tend to panic and flail and scream things like “KILL IT WITH FIRE!” I see a stinging creature under the water and I follow the fucker.

Getting back to the van from these shore dives is fun, if by “fun” you mean very upsetting for your entire lower body. I flopped my fins and camera onto the side and hauled myself up the ladder with all the grace and finesse of a drunk elephant who doesn’t want to go home being poured into a taxi by its mates, wiped the transit van load mucus from my face because there’s something about diving that causes your sinuses to panic and release all of the snot into the world into your mask, and began the trudge up the hill, in full SCUBA gear, with 8kgs of weights around my waist. Up. A. Hill. I was going to have buttocks of steel by the end of today. I’d also lost the use of my fingers because my hands were so bloody cold. Zips were an alien concept to my poor, frozen digits and I needed help changing tanks because apparently even turning off my air was quite the challenge.

Thankfully it was lovely warm and windless day today and that combined with a cup of tea which I largely bought to wrap my hands around sorted me out in time for the next ritual freezing. I must have looked like I was waiting for a bus in the middle of a Moscow winter the way I was pacing and shivering and complaining loudly to anyone who’d listen. Then Casey told us we were going to see a wreck next which was the whole reason I wanted to come diving in Malta. They have a metric shit tonne of wrecks. I figured the marine life would be similar to Cyprus in that it’s all been eaten, but I fucking love a wreck. Even better, the wreck we’d be diving was the one I’d really really wanted to see but knowing where it was I didn’t think I’d get to. We were only on this side of the island on account of yesterdays winds, and because of this I was going to get to dive the Um El Faroud shipwreck. Fuck. Yes.

This stunner of a wreck though!

We kitted up and shuffled back down the hill and all without face-planting and hopped around to get my fins on which isn’t always that easy in SCUBA gear. My feet always seem like they’re a bit further away when I’m encased in neoprene and a BCD. A giant stride into the water at the same entry point as last time and a brief second of horror from all of my nerve endings and we descended, just a little bit, for the nine minute swim to the wreck itself. The viz here wasn’t too bad at all but the wreck still loomed out of nowhere. Oh man, it’s so fucking cool! They say you need to dive it twenty times to see it all but this would do me for now.

Casey pointed out the wheel room and the plaque on the front with the ship’s name. He took us through it too, nothing too dangerous, it had all its doors and windows removed before it was scuttled so divers could easily penetrate it. In 1995 she exploded in I think a dry dock? It killed nine Maltese people in the process. Over a period of three years she was cleaned of all traces of fuel and oil etc before she was sank in 1998 as an artificial reef. Honestly, this dive alone was worth this whole day for me. I couldn’t get enough of this wreck. I was excited the whole swim back, not even the slog up the hill could diminish my joy though my calf muscles would absolutely disagree with me on that. I keep thinking about it even now and getting giddy, it’s incredible, and still very much a ship too. The last shipwreck I dived was awesome in its own way, largely because of the marine life, but it was barely recognisable as a ship any more.

We headed back to the dive centre for some lunch and a decent surface interval. I was the only one doing three dives today, the others seemed to have more than one day of diving but I needed to cram as much as possible into today without replacing all of my blood with nitrogen. Tarrant isn’t a diver and it wouldn’t have been fair to abandon her for more than a day but she seemed to be having a nice time in Valetta, applying liberal quantities of Cisk to her facehole in the sun. I did wonder if I’d still have a girlfriend left by the end of the day, or sort of a red, crispy puddle of flesh and hair.

For my third and final dive I was with a British bloke called Conny who took me out to Sliema. The viz here wasn’t as good on account of the previous days waves, but there’s an actual WWII wreck here rather than a ship that was scuttled as a reef. Conny told me that were we were this morning was considered typical Maltese water, all blue and lovely. In the bay here it was greener. It wasn’t any fucking warmer though, I can confirm that. Thankfully he gave me a dry wetsuit, I’m not sure I could have coped with shoehorning myself into the wet one from this morning.

I will never not get excited when I see one of these fuckers!

This boat was used for many things during the war including fetching and carrying stuff, and alerting submarines that the enemy had gone so they could surface again. She was hit and sunk in 1942. For years they didn’t actually know what she was, they thought she was an ordinary barge or some shit, it was only when they finally surveyed her properly that they realised she was actually known as X127. She’s on a right old slope. We had a look around, Conny showed me the smaller gash where the torpedo entered her and the huge fuck off hole on the other side where it exploded out. We gawped through a few holes before we went for a little swim to see if the storms had churned up any clay pipes that the sailors used to use. We didn’t find much but we did find a cuttlefish for me to harass.

The exit here is much easier and doesn’t involve any manner of incline. I got dried and dressed and Conny dropped me back at Boho Hostel where I indulged in my second favourite post-dive pastime (after consuming my body weight in carbs) or standing under a hot shower. It doesn’t matter what temperature it is after a dive, the water and the air can be toasty as fuck, I’m still going to want to scald myself under a stream of water. Tarrant got back an already fetching shade of red and we headed off to watch the fiery skyball sink at Dingli Cliffs, because if you come to Malta and don’t watch the sunset from the cliffs, have you even been to Malta? You’ve got to do it at least once or they’ll revoke your Instagram account and you won’t be able to tell the world what you had for breakfast via the medium of Boomerang.

The obligatory Dingli Cliffs sunset. There. Now I can say I’ve been to Malta.

Fun fact though, don’t follow your GPS to Dingli Cliffs, it’ll lead you to a plot of private land and a man in a 4WD will politely advise you of this before pointing you up a different road. We were told there was a cafe there but the only one we could find was closed, but it didn’t matter. One clifftop sunset is the same as another and I’m not sad about the secluded little place we found for this. We watched it disappear, a mere smattering of clouds colouring the horizon, before heading back for some food and an early night.


Malta
Stayed at: Boho Hostel
Activity: Scuba diving with Cresta Dive Centre


Dive Log
Dive #: 58
Country: Malta
Area: Wied iz-Zurrieq
Dive Site: Blue Grotto
Max. Depth: 28m
Time: 40 mins
Weight: 8kgs
Exposure Suit: 5mm long john, 5mm shorty, hood, booties.
Type: Shore
Water: Salty af
Temp: 15°C
Tank: 12 litre steel
Pressure In: 190
Pressure Out: 75

Dive #: 59
Country: Malta
Area: Wied iz-Zurrieq
Dive Site: Um El Faroud Wreck
Max. Depth: 22m
Time: 37 mins
Weight: 8kgs
Exposure Suit: 5mm long john, 5mm shorty, hood, booties.
Type: Shore
Water: Salty af
Temp: 15°C
Tank: 12 litre steel
Pressure In: 190
Pressure Out: 70

Dive #: 60
Country: Malta
Area: Manoel Island, Sliema
Dive Site: Coralita
Max. Depth: 17.5m
Time: 37 mins
Weight: 8kgs
Exposure Suit: 5mm long john, 5mm shorty, hood, booties.
Type: Shore
Water: Salt
Temp: 15°C
Tank: 12 litre steel
Pressure In: 200
Pressure Out: 120

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