Quick note before the post begins: The world may have me, but New York has my heart, today and every day. We’re never forgetting.
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The best diving in Europe. Unmatched in the Mediterranean. That was just some of the hope-lifting praise I’d read and heard for the dive sites ringing Malta and Gozo. And considering I was there visiting a dive instructor who’d been raving to me about the quality of his new offshore office, there was a lot to be lived up to.
I was itching to get in the water by the time we took a little road trip over to Gozo, our trunk loaded with tanks and dive gear. Our destination? Two of the island’s most famous underwater attractions — the Inland Sea and The Blue Hole.
Normally, they are completed as two separate dives. But as a divemaster and an instructor working in the area, both extremely comfortable in the water and good on air (for non-divers, that means we breathe through our tanks slowly and can stay underwater longer), we felt comfortable visiting both sites on one dive. We’d enter through the Inland Sea, swim along the coastal wall, and ascend through the Blue Hole.
We nabbed as close a parking spot as we could manage, suited up on the pavement, and waddled our way down to the Inland Sea.
There, Anders dropped our car keys with an ice cream vendor he’d made friends with, and we started preparing to descend. I hadn’t been diving in the Mediterranean since a trip to Ibiza many moons ago and I was anxious to see how this highly-hyped destination would compare.
We began our dive by cautiously making our way into the narrow channel, watching for boat traffic overhead.
It wasn’t long before we hit open ocean. Thus far I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the water temperature was — I was feeling fine in a 7mm wetsuit.
Visibility was good but frankly, there wasn’t much sealife to be seen. That did make the sightings we did have — like a flowing jellyfish — all the more special, and in the meantime we enjoyed the watching the waves crash dramatically into the wall as we moved along the edge of the ocean.
Eventually, Anders signaled to me that we had reached our destination — we were at the Blue Hole, one of Europe’s most famous dive sites. I could see why. The topography was like a diver’s playground with swim-throughs, arches, and shallow caves to explore.
Despite stretching two dives into one and taking our sweet time doing it, we surfaced long before hitting low air. Nope, I had finally given into my teeth — I have a receding gumline, and I was experiencing shooting pains from the regulator rubbing against my biteline. I vowed to get to a dentist as soon as I hit Bangkok (and I did!), but in the meantime, I just kind of dangled the reg halfway out of my mouth like I was trying to dive and chew gum at the same time. Ain’t nothing keepin’ this girl out of the water.
As we made our way towards the entrance to the Blue Hole, Anders indicated that we were passing under the infamous Azure Window. My eyes crinkled with a smile, seeing such a notorious landmark from such a completely original angle.
The hardest part of diving the Blue Hole? Walking back to the parking lot over those sharp rocks with a full set of gear and weights! But it was worth every labored step. While there wasn’t an overwhelming number of fish to admire, the topography alone would have kept the reg dangling out of my mouth (had my dental issues not been doing so already). The Blue Hole indeed blew me away.
But my Maltese diving adventures weren’t over. A few days later, I tagged along with Anders at Maltaqua, his employer on the island. This time, we were headed to shore dive in Ċirkewwa harbor. One sign of how seriously Malta takes its scuba industry? There’s a special driving lane dedicated parking for divers.
We were spending the morning diving two separate wrecks in the harbor. With Anders busy with his students, I was free to flit about with my camera as I pleased — my favorite way to dive. Unfortunately on the first dive my camera decided to seek revenge for an unidentified wrong I committed against it and fogged irreparably. By the second dive we were friends again and the camera behaved beautifully.
I really enjoyed both wrecks. While the bottom time was short due to the depths the ships are sitting at, they are impressive nonetheless. And I was just as engaged, if not more, by the shallow reefs on the way back to the shore. The sealife I had been missing the previous day in Gozo? It was all hiding here!
In fact, this octopus encounter was the best I’ve ever had in all my time diving. After almost spitting out my reg in excitement over spotting him (check out that camouflage in the top photo!) we eyed each other for quite some time.
And once I dragged myself away from the octo, there were even more swim-throughs, more shallow caves, and more inviting beds of sea grass to admire.
I ascended a happy diver. In just three (or four, kind of!) dives, I’d experienced some of the very best Malta had to offer. Haunted wrecks, curious cephalopods, glorious sunshine to surface to and some of the most noteworthy topography I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
Bottom line — don’t come to Malta without getting some bottom time in the Mediterranean Sea! And I can’t recommend Maltaqua more highly for when you do. They hire some darn cute instructors (Who, me? Biased?).
Have you been diving in the Mediterranean? What did you think?
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Curious about my underwater photography setup? Check out my Obsessions page for information on my camera gear, editing programs and more.