Though it’s not a tropical destination, Malta offers clear, warm water, wrecks and caves — and possibly the best diving in Europe.
Malta is a small island nation, actually made up of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino, all of which feature prime dive sites. And with a location actually south of the North African coastline, both the weather and the water are warmer than along most of Europe’s Mediterranean coast.
Diving in Malta
It’s always possible to find a diveable spot in Malta, as you can simply travel to the other side of the island to avoid any bad weather. Most of the dives are shore dives, with a few boat dives sprinkled in. Though there’s abundant marine life, including turtles, dolphins, barracuda, octopus and moray eels, the wrecks are Malta’s primary draw. Depths range from 15 to 130 feet, and even beyond for those with appropriate training.
Main Dive Sites
With hundreds of dive sites scattered across the three islands, there are plenty to choose from. Here are a few of the most notable.
- CIRKEWWA, AND THE WRECK OF THE P29 – Cirkewwa harbour on Malta’s northern point, and the port for the ferry to Gozo, offers easily accessible diving in a shallow area called Suzie’s Pool. From there, divers can continue into deeper waters and head for the wreck of the P29. This former East German patrol boat and minesweeper was deliberately scuttled here in 2007 and sits in about 110 feet of water, though the highest point, the radar tower, is at 40 feet. Divers will spend most of their time checking out the bridge, the hold and the anti-aircraft gun, still mounted on the rear deck.
- THE UM EL-FAROUD – This Libyan oil tanker was in dry dock in Valletta in 1995 when a gas explosion cost the lives of nine dockyard employees and left the boat stranded. The ship sat in the dock until 1998, when it was scuttled it off of the southern tip of the island near the famous Blue Grotto. It sat in 120 feet of water until a powerful storm swept the island, lifted the tanker up, and tore it in half just in front of the superstructure. Now, it sits in pieces in 82 feet of water, with the bow section just a little ahead of the stern section, but still resting on its keel.
- THE INLAND SEA AND THE BLUE HOLE – On Gozo, just off of the Azure Window, is a saltwater pond fed by a narrow tunnel in the surrounding rock walls. A dive here starts in the Inland Sea, where divers swim through the tunnel into the open ocean beyond, then through a short tunnel into the Blue Hole, a circular pond formed by rock, and surface inside it before exiting. Divers may encounter a number of swimmers in the Blue Hole, some of whom will be quite surprised when divers surface next to them.
Best time to go
Diving is possible year round in Malta, though fall offers the best conditions with air temperatures around 75 degrees and water temps between 75 and 85 degrees. Summers get hot — 110 degrees is not unheard of — and in the spring and winter the ocean can get quite cool, requiring a thick wetsuit or a dry suit.
The total population of Malta is just over 452,000 and the islands cover an area of 120 square miles. The main island of Malta features both the international airport and capital city Valletta, original built in the 15th century by the Knights of the Order of St. John. There is a ferry connection from Gozo to Sicily, 50 miles north.
Malta is part of the EU, and the official currency is the Euro. The island has two official languages, Maltese and English. Electrical plugs are English standard three-pins and are 240v.
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