Malta Underwater Diving Pleasures

Malta and neighbouring Gozo are fast becoming a sought-after diving destination for both their natural geological features and the fantastic array of wrecks.

The Blue Hole lying at the bottom of the picturesque Dwejra window in GOZO, is simply breathtaking. Just swim through the hole and take a look back as the light shimmers through, exposing hues of cyan, sapphire and French blue. The water here becomes very deep and at 40m you should see some lovely marine life. The Double Arch at Xwejni Bay in GOZO is equally stunning. It is one arch over another and you can swim in between. Visibility is excellent and tuna and barracuda are often seen in the area. Look out for ancient shark teeth on the seabed as you head back to shore.

The wrecks are well-positioned for both beginners who choose to go down a mere 13m (HMS Maori in Valletta) and the downright adventurous who don't mind plunging 53m or more (HMS Stubborn off Qawra). Perhaps the best is the huge 'Um el Faroud' that was scuttled in recent years after being severely damaged by an explosion at the Malta dockyard.

Visibility is normally good while marine life is abundant and it became more interesting in the past year when the vessel split in two after a severe storm. The compact ROll Tugboat just off Cirkewwa -scuttled close to around 30m from where the Gozo ferries depart -is a dive with sensational visibility and lots of wildlife (octopuses, barracuda, eels -you name it) on show. The entire area of Cirkewwa offers the best visibility on the Maltese islands.

The large majority of dive schools provide a range of Professional Association of Diving Instructor (PADI) courses and some also do the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC). An advanced open water course, which suffices for most recreational diving requirements, costs some Eur419.29 and takes about five days to complete. Introductory or taster dives for complete novices are also available for about Eur30. For those who have already qualified, accompanied dives in Malta -for as little as Eur25 a shot which includes a cylinder and weights -are among the cheapest in the world.