Malta is an archipelago located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and northern Africa. A country with a rich history, Malta is known for its temples, fortresses, and an impressive collection of burial chambers dating back to 4000BC. While the landmarks and historical sites are fascinating to see, visitors should know that with over 200 dive sites, scuba diving Malta is considered to be some of the best in the Europe.
Diving in Malta is available around three islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. This guide will highlight the best dive sites throughout the Maltese islands; including how to get there, what you can expect to see, where to stay, and other helpful tips. Whether you have time to dive as many as possible, or can only have time for a few few, this article will act as your guide to help you get the most out of scuba diving Malta.
– NOTE: The locations on this list are indeed the best in the country, but are not ranked in any specific order. Number 3 might be just as good as number 1. You get to decide.
GUIDE TO SCUBA DIVING MALTA
Gozo is the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago. It’s more rural than Malta island, and known for its picturesque scenery. Stunning shorelines and sandy beaches make it a popular vacation spot for tourists and locals alike. While Gozo has many historic landmarks, the island also has some ties to famous Greek mythology. It is believed the Gozo is Ogygia the island home of the nymph Calypso, Odysseus’ lover in Homer’s Odyssey.
Gozo may be a small island, but it has plenty of dive sites. Shipwrecks, colorful reefs, and a variety of marine life, has given Gozo the title of being one of the top diving areas in the Mediterranean.
How to get to Gozo:
The closest airport to Gozo is on the large island, Malta. From the airport, the quickest option is to take a taxi or hired car to Cirkewwa, where you can catch the ferry to Gozo. Public transportation is available, either by bus or the Malta Transfer shuttle. However, you can expect it to take up to two hours. If you are not in a hurry, public transportation is the cheapest and most scenic option, but be sure to allow yourself the extra time as Cirkewwa is the last stop.
Once you arrive at Cirkewwa, you will need to take a ferry across to Gozo. The ferry departs year round, leaving every 45 minutes. The ride is about 30 minutes long and round-trip tickets are less than 5 euros for adults.
Dive sites in Gozo:
- Double Arch: The arches with the light shining through the water gives this dive site an ethereal look that photographs beautifully. Be sure to explore the inside of the arches for sponges and corals, but keep an eye at the top for schools of Barracuda. Due to the depth of the arches (34m) this site is not recommended for open water divers.
- Reqqa Point: Considered to be one of the most popular dive spots in Gozo, Reqqa Point is characterized by walls, a large cave, and chimney. There are several dive sites on Reqqua point including: Shrimp’s Cave, Billinghurst Cave, Anchor Reef, and Bottleneck Cave. While the point itself is suitable for all levels, the additional levels are for more advanced and experienced divers.
- Blue Hole: Perhaps the most popular site for anyone interested in scuba diving Malta, the blue hole is a 15m sinkhole. Colourful corals and sponges line the walls, and at about 9m there is an underwater window that opens out into the sea, and on the opposite side, a cave. It’s usually best to save the blue hole for afternoon dives, when currents make other nearby dive sites inaccessible.
- Inland Sea and Tunnel: The inland sea is a semicircular area, and the tunnel, which is 80m long, is what connects the inland sea to the ocean. While the inland sea itself isn’t very exciting, diving through the tunnel is a unique experience. At the end of the tunnel are reef walls, and a 50m drop off.
- Azure Reef: While the loss of the Azure Window in early 2017 was heartbreaking for much of the world, a little bit of good did come of it as it has created an interesting dive site. Sharp rocks and massive boulders with swim throughs give the site a moon-type landscape, and already marine life has started to grow and make a home in the area.
What to expect to see diving in Gozo:
There is a lage variety of marine life in Gozo, and the additions of shipwrecks and artificial reefs have helped increase the numbers of a variety of species. The most common species you will find include parrot fish, sting rays, octopus, squid, groupers, and flying fish. Large species are not commonly seen when scuba diving Malta. Only the very lucky will see tuna, dolphins, or bonitos; all of which tend to be seen during the winter, rather than summer, months. Gozo also has plenty of colorful corals, and it is advised to do at least one night dive as some of these species glow in the dark.
Other things to see in Gozo:
While the diving in Gozo can’t be missed, you should leave some extra time to explore some of the island by land as well. Sadly, the famous Azure Window of Gozo collapsed in early 2017, however, there is still plenty to see and do. Top recommendations include: explore the ancient citadel, visit the Tal-Massar Winery, try caving, and explore some of the ancient archaeological sites such as the Ggantija temple, which is older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.
Comino is a tiny island between the islands of Gozo and Malta. While the island has an exciting history which includes both pirates and knights, today it is a very isolated place. There are very few vehicles on the island, and it is home to only three permanent residents. Most visitors go for a day trip as the island is known as bird sanctuary and nature reserve. While this island may only be 3.5 square kilometres in area, the waters off it’s shores offer up some of the best scuba diving in Malta. Especially for those interested in cave diving.
How to get to Comino:
Comino is accessibly by ferry from both Gozo and Malta. There is one dive center on the island, however dive shops on Gozo and Malta also run trips to the dive sites around Camino as well which, depending on your schedule and travel interests, may be preferable.
Dive sites in Comino:
- Blue Lagoon: The main attraction in Comino, the Blue Lagoon is only about 3m deep, which means it’s more popular for snorkelling than diving. However, there is neat underwater cave nearby suitable for divers of all levels. Cave access is roomy, about 4m all around, and bright making it a great first for newbies. However, the floor is sand so good buoyancy control is a must for this dive site.
- Crystal Lagoon: Close to the Blue Lagoon, the Crystal Lagoon is another dive site perfect for divers of all levels and, thanks to the brightness, a popular spot for underwater photographers. The lagoon itself is a nursery for young fish while the nearby boulders and seagrass are popular hiding spots for octopus. There is a spacious tunnel with a gravel bottom, and a large 10m high pinnacle, nicknamed mushroom rock. Be sure to check around the nooks and crannies of the base for cuttlefish and lobster.
- Lantern Point: Dives at lantern point usually start in a chimney; go down slowly and use a flashlight to see the different corals. When exiting, keep going straight til you reach a large boulder with swim throughs, and crevices that provide shelter for an array of fans, sponges, and crustaceans. Continue on the left side of the boulder along the reef wall. Here you can look out into the blue for larger species, and check the wall for eels, octopus, and groupers.
- Lantern Point West: Opposite Lantern Point, Lantern Point West is best known for its swim throughs. Large boulders, a wall, and a shallow cave make it a fun place to explore. This is best done as an afternoon dive, when the sun shines through illuminating the colourful red and green sponges on the wall. If the waters are calm, the two inlets are worth exploring as well.
- P31: P31 is a patrol boat wreck, and perfect for all divers; including open water. Most of the ship can be explored by entering from the stern. Keep an eye on the bottom for sting rays, flounders, and razor fish, and check the interior crevices for nudibranchs, oysters, and octopus.
- Comino Caves: One of the best dives in the area, Comino Caves offers up some great cave diving, photo ops, and fish encounters. As you navigate your way through the cave system keep an eye out for the Z shaped swim through; the Z is shaped almost like Zorro’s signature. There are two caves to explore; the north cave where, if so inclined, you can surface (and possibly scare some adventurous climbers). The west cave is known for it’s tradition of fish feeding, and whether you choose to engage of not is up to you. However, being surrounding by a frenzy of hungry saddled bream is an incredible experience and great photo opportunity.
Where to stay in Comino:
As mentioned earlier, Comino is a tiny island with only three permanent residents. As you can expect, this means that accommodation on the island itself, is not readily available. That being said, there is one 4-star hotel on the island for those looking for a quiet, low-key stay.
Most people however, choose to stay on Malta, near Cirkewwa. Or, by the port on Gozo. Dive boats to the sites around Comino island leave from both of the larger islands throughout the year. Hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and apartment rentals are available on both Malta and Gozo.
What to expect to see diving in Comino:
The highlight of the dive sites in Comino are not so much the marine life, but the geography. The area is best known for the underwater caves and tunnels which are recognized as some of the most interesting cave systems in the world. That being said, you will also, of course, see a variety of species of marine life including; sponges, corals, and fans, crustaceans, octopus, cuttlefish, moray eels, and reef fish.
Other things to see and do in Comino:
Unless you love the idea of remoteness and solitude, Comino is best visited as a day trip. The nearly non-existent population and lack of vehicles makes it an easy escape for those looking to experience nature. Comino is popular with hikers; the island is classified as a wildlife sanctuary with dozens of species of flowers, plants, and birds. Sites worth visiting include the watch tower, and of course the famous Blue Lagoon where you are welcome to swim.
3. Malta Island
The largest island in the Maltese archipelago is Malta, also sometimes called Valletta (which is also the name of the capital) to help distinguish the island itself from the name of the county. It’s the liveliest and busiest of the islands, so those looking to experience the more social side of the country, will be happiest here. While it is the largest island, Malta still isn’t very big. Only 17km long and 14.5km wide, it’s easy to explore the whole island during your visit. Perfect, because like Gozo and Comino, Malta is surrounded by a number of dive sites.
How to get to Malta Island:
The international airport for Malta is located on Malta island. Taxis and car rentals are available at the airport, or you can get around by local buses. There is a third option, the Malta Transfer Shuttle, that stops at many of the main areas and popular hotels. All modes of transportation, including renting a vehicle, can be arranged at the airport when you arrive.
Dive sites in Malta Island:
- P29: A former patrol boat, P29 was purposefully sunk in 2007 to create an artificial dive site. Prior to being scuttled, the ship was cleaned up to be declared safe for the environment, as well as for divers wishing to penetrate the interior of the wreck. The deepest part of the P29 lies at 33m which the highest is at 12m. For those who don’t want to explore inside, there is plenty of aquatic life to spot around the exterior.
- The Madonna Statue: Named after the Madonna statue that was placed at the entrance of a small swim through over 25 years ago, this dive site is great for spotting some interesting marine life on the walls and through several swim throughs. Shallow plateaus from 10-30m and tunnels make it an interesting spot for divers of all levels. It’s also known for being an awesome site for night dives.
- Quwra Reef: A large reef with a maximum depth of 40m, Quwra reef is considered to be the best reef in the country. Numerous species from nudibranchs to damsel fish to spider crabs can be found here. There is a network of safe caves, and a small grotto towards the end. It is also one of the best dive sites to spot larger fish species, such as barracuda.
- The Rozi Tugbot: Scuttled in 1992, the Rozi Tugboat sits upright on the sandy sea floor just 100m from the shoreline. The boat is still full intact (except for engine and propellers which were removed prior to the sinking), and is a popular spot for both divers as well as for a variety of fish. The inside of the wreck can be explored, or for those who prefer not to go inside, there is a beautiful reef nearby.
- Um El Faroud: Considered to be the best wreck for scuba diving in Malta, Um El Faroud was a Lebanese oil tanker. It was scuttled in 1998 after being damaged in an explosion three years prior. The funnel of the ship lies at 18m while the propeller is at 36m, and there are plenty of penetration possibilities for experienced wreck divers.
- The Blenheim Bomber: At a depth of 42m, the Blenheim Bomber is for experienced divers only. But, for those qualified, it is not to be missed as it is the only one of its kind in the world. The history surrounding the plane is somewhat unclear, but considering it crashed into the ocean, the wreck is in very good shape. The wings (spanning 17m) are still intact, although the cockpit cover is missing implying that the pilot was safe ejected before the crash. Today, much of the plane has been taken over by soft corals.
The capital city, Valletta, is on the coast making it a great choice for those looking to see the city as well as explore the waters. There are plenty of other smaller around Malta where you can find accommodation as well. Areas close to several dive spots include St. Paul’s Bay, St. Thomas Bay, and of course around Cirkewwa, which is also where you catch the ferry to Gozo and Comino.
What to expect to see diving in Malta Island:
Marine life around the island of Malta is similar to that of Gozo and Camino. Expect lots of vibrant corals, parrot fish, octopus, crustaceans, moray eels, nudibranchs, and groupers. Scuba diving Malta is popular for many because there are very few dangerous species. However, you will keep to keep an eye out for urchins, stingrays, and scorpionfish. Malta, as a whole, doesn’t get many big species, but don’t gorget to look out into the blue; you may see dolphins, tuna, or barracuda.
Other things to see and do in Malta Island:
Malta is a haven for history lovers, so be sure to take some time to explore on land as well. Must sees include the fortifications of Valletta, the ancient capital of Mdina, the prehistoric temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, and the Dingli Cliffs. Game of Thrones fans may also want to take the time to scout out some of the filming locations which include Fort Ricasoli and Fort St. Angelo.
Best time of the year to visit Malta:
Scuba Diving Malta is available year round; the waters never get too cold, and visibility is almost always good. The most popular months to dive are between June and September when the water temperature can reach up to 28C. However, many recommend visiting later in September, or early October when the dive sites are less busy, but the water temperatures are still relatively warm. April or May, ahead of the main tourist season, are also good months to visit.
It may be small in size, but for those looking to scuba dive in Malta, the selection of dive spots throughout these three main islands is incredible. Whether your interests lie in cave dives, reefs and walls, or wrecks; Malta’s dive sites truly do have something for everyone. With over 200 dive sites, clear waters, warm water temperatures, and the possibility of diving year-round; it’s no wonder why scuba diving Malta is considered to be some of the best in the world.