On a map of the Mediterranean Sea, if you let your eye fall to the center – just South of Italy’s heel and to the West of the Mediterranean’s heart, you will find an enchanting archipelago comprising Malta, Gozo, and Comino, along with the smaller, uninhabited islands of Cominotto, Filfla and St.Paul.
Serving as the administrative capital for all the islands, Valletta is on Malta itself under the watchful gaze of impressive fortifications commissioned by the Knights of St. John in 1524. For such a small geographical area – the entire group covers only about 320 square kilometres/120 square miles – the population is relatively dense at around 350,000.
As is typically in the Mediterranean, Malta really has only two seasons - a hot, dry summer and a short, cool winter. The summer season runs from a windy April to a milder October, with average high temperatures on the year of 21° C/71° F. Average low temperatures, however, only drop to 9° C/49° F in January and February so it’s not surprising that the Republic’s climate was selected by International Living as the best in the world.
As is common with many Mediterranean island nations, Malta’s geographic position was beneficial for both trading and military purposes. That means the Maltese islands have a long and checkered past that stretches back to 5000 BC and includes periods of Vandal, Goth, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Genoan, Swabian, Angevin (French), Aragonese, Castilian and Saracen rule through to it’s present establishment as a republic in 1964.
More recently, however, Malta is noted more for its nightlife than its Norman past. Tour groups can assured of excellent dining and entertainment – along both modern and traditional lines.
Plan your trip with a PADI Dive Shop or Resort in Malta.
Tourism Areas and Diving
Comino, a small island flanked by its two larger neighbors, has few permanent residents but a very comfortable resort. It is well worth a visit for its rural charm and its superb diving - including the famous Blue Lagoon (also known as Crystal Lagoon). This dive ranges in depth from about 2-15 metres/7-49 feet and has a sheltered geography that makes it an ideal nursery for a wide variety of aquatic animals. The sandy areas are home to Mediterranean Flounder and Flying Gurnards, while octopus abound in the rocky areas and young barracuda are also frequently encountered. There is also a swim through available for those suitably trained.
Other spots to look out for include Attard, Bugibba, Cirkewwa, Marsascala, Mdina, Mellieha, Salina, Sliema, St. Julians, Qawra and of course Valletta (in Malta), and Marsalforn, Mgarr, San Lawrenz, Sannat, Victoria (Gozo’s Capital), Xaghra and Xlendi (on Gozo). Approximately 35 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts provide excellent coverage of the 320 kilometres/200miles of fascinating limestone coastline. Malta boasts around 30 main shore dives and 20 boat dives, Gozo weighs in with about 20 of each and little Comino has 10 or 11 excellent sites on offer.
From an inland “sea” at Dwerja (including dive boats to the Blue Hole and Azure Window), to Comino’s Crystal Lagoon, to the wreck of the Um el Faroud the variety of diving is spectacular. Those learning to dive or continuing their education will find a haven in many of the less trafficked bays while photographers will feast on the dramatic archways and tunnels – including Marsalforn’s Double Arch. Wreck buffs will love their options - including the famed tugboat Rozi, the HMS Maori (known for its role in sinking the German battleship Bismarck in 1941) and several others at technical diving depths. But, divers looking for natural beauty will find it on reefs like Reqqa Point, which has walls, caves and reef life.
All in all, Malta truly has something for all divers – including a welcome as warm as the Maltese sun.
PADI Dive Shops and Resorts
Find contact information for all the PADI Dive Shops and Resorts in Malta.
Depth: 4-40 metres/13-131 feet. Technical diving is also available.
Visibility: Generally more than 30 metres/100 feet.
Currents: Although mostly tideless, weather patterns and Malta’s striking underwater topography can create local currents. Local briefings are advised.
Water Temp : 14.5-17° C/58-63° F from December through April and 18-25° C/65-77° F from May through November.
Dive Season : Year-round
Weather : 10-15o C/50-59o F in January and 21-30o C/70-83o F in July. There is about 12 hours of sunshine in July and about 5.5 hours of sunshine during December and January. The wettest month is October and sees <125 millimetres/5 inches of rain.
Access : There is both great shore and boat diving throughout the islands. As is so often the case in the Mediterranean, an abundance of antiquities and war relics requires a sensitive approach.
Skill level : Beginner – Advanced – Technical; the Um el Faroud (see below) and many shore dives are perfect for Enriched Air diving.
IMPORTANT: Diving in Malta is regulated by the Malta Tourism Authority, which has strict rules for the operation for dive service providers based on the European standard EN14467 (to which all PADI Dive Centers are Resorts comply). Divers must have their certification card and logbook, as dive centers and resorts will require them before performing any service, whether training, equipment rental or diving.
Wreck Diver; Deep Diver , Enriched Air Diver, Digital Underwater Photographer, Diver Propulsion Vehicle, Cavern Diver, Project AWARE Fish Identification, Technical Diving is also beneficial.
Early/Late Season: Temperate Scuba Equipment
Mid-season: Temperate Scuba Equipment
Out of main season: Cold Water Scuba Equipment
Underwater photography equipment
Diver propulsion vehicles
Length of stay :
The Maltese islands boast an impressive list of native fauna. Expect to see barracuda lurking on wreck sites, some of the Mediterranean’s bigger groupers, impressive flying Gurnard, stingrays, cardinal fish and parrot fish. The limestone caves and craggy nooks are also ideal living quarters for moray eels, octopus, squid, and conger eels. John Dory are also regularly sighted in winter. Summer time is seahorse time in Malta, but these beautiful critters are small and masters of camouflage, so challenge your dive guide to find you some. Many PADI Dive Centers and Resorts in Malta also offer a fish identification program – many also offer the Project AWARE certification – to help you make the most of your diving.
Most Famous Dive Site
It is difficult to pick the most famous dive site as the Azure Window, Blue Hole, Tugboat Rozi, HMS Maori and Reqq Point reefs all have a treasured places in divers’ logbooks. However, the Um el Faroud wreck stands out - even in this exalted company. Many consider it the best wreck dive in the Mediterranean.
Average Depth: 26-31 metres/85-102 feet. The maximum depth is 35 metres/115 feet on the sandy bottom.
A mostly intact wreck, the Um el Faroud is more than 100 metres/330 feet long by 16 metres/53 feet and was built in England in 1969. In 1995, in dry dock in Malta, an onboard explosion killed nine dockyard workers. The tanker was subsequently scuttled in 1998 as a dive attraction.
Upright on the seabed, the bow and stern have been separated at the bridge. The propeller and rudder lie at about 33 metres/108 feet and create a favorite frame for dive buddies to take souvenir photos. Doors, windows and other dangers were removed prior to scuttling and holes have been cut for entry and exit. However, as is always the case in an overhead environment, no penetration should be attempted without suitable training, briefing and planning. If you have the time and the air, you can also explore the ledges and caverns on the adjacent reef. However, the current, depth, navigation and some surface traffic make this dive more suitable for experienced divers.
Getting to the site :
PADI Dive Centres or Resorts typcially offer a boat dive as the surface swim is considerable. Enriched air is also widely available for those suitably qualified - check with your PADI Dive Shop or Resort on the islands.
View scuba images of Malta
Due to their location, the Maltese islands have frequently been in the middle of world events throughout history. In addition, they have hosted a number of visitors (welcome or otherwise) over that time. The Apostle Paul, for example, was shipwrecked on what is now known as the St. Paul’s Islands in 60 AD.
The events and the people over the years have left indelible marks and visitors can see history come alive at Baroque palaces, Napoleonic fortifications, Renaissance cathedrals and some of the oldest known human structures in the world. Malta is also home to the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni, which was excavated in 2500 BC. It is currently the only prehistoric temple yet discovered and officially named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The legendary warmth that the Maltese have shown to visitors has been documented as far back as St. Paul’s unscheduled visit after being shipwrecked. The intervening 2000 years haven’t changed a thing. In fact, a local saying has it that foreigners are tourists only on their first visit. On the second, and all visits thereafter, they return as friends.
This recently renovated offering is situated in Fort St Elmo at the lower end of Valetta, and gives a fascinating insight into the hardships of the Second World War.
The Maltese love a good fiesta, and many villages throughout the islands will have their own feast day dedicated to their patron saint. Band marches, stalls and fireworks abound, plus there is usually a procession. Check out the timetable at http://www.visitmalta.com/village-festas and visit a fiesta if you can.
- Getting there: Air Malta is the republic’s flag carrier but a number of airlines fly to Malta International Airport (MLA) from many European hubs. The terminal has all the facilities expected of the modern traveler. A high speed passenger and vehicle catamaran ferry from Sicily is also a popular choice and takes about an hour and a half.
- Language: The national language is Maltese, which is realted to Arabic, but English (the official second language) and Italian are both widely spoken.
- Currency: Malta is in the Euro Zone. You can find conversion rates online. Automated Teller Machines are widely available and all major credit cards are accepted. Some foreign currency, especially United Kingdom Pounds, is accepted in some tourist areas.
- Tipping: Gratuities are not normally included and 10 percent is customary in restaurants, for taxis, etc. Housekeeping and room service are usually included in the bill.
- Car Hire: Renting a car is easy, inexpensive and a great way to explore the main islands. Driving is on the left and speed limits are enforced with speed cameras. Car rental companies will typically want to see both a driving licence and a passport prior to releasing a vehicle.
- Other transportation: There is a daily ferry that crosses between Cirkewwa (in Malta) and Mgarr Harbour (in Gozo) in about 30 minutes. If you’re feeling posh, Harbour Air Malta offers a seaplane service linking Valetta to Mgarr. Small ferries from Cirkewwa serve Comino during the high season, or you can simply book a day cruise and take in a scenic tour along the way. If you’re not in a hurry, Malta’s bus services are almost legendary and the bustle in Valetta is a sight to experience as almost every route passes through there. Reasonably priced bicycle hire is also widely available. One thing to watch out for are the so-called “white” taxis (the ones that will pick up customers from the street, as opposed to pre-booked “black” cabs), which have earned a reputation for high charges.
- Medical Care: There are two large hospitals (one in Gozo and one in Malta) and health clinics in various towns. No special health precautions are required and tap water is safe to drink.
Related Malta Resources
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