The hopes and dreams of divers who come to explore the waters of Gozo and Comino are as varied as the many places in which to do so. With wrecks, bays, caverns and general topography there is something for all tastes. Even after over 13 years of diving here there is much left for me to explore and still lots to see in what is a constantly changing environment. So picking my favourite dives on Gozo and Comino is not easy!
In guiding and teaching I often take for granted the very picturesque setting in which I find myself. I’m normally helping somebody else to have that perfect dive. I’ve always tried to please my customers and to show them what is on offer. That is why I wrote the book, Diving Gozo & Comino, to complement their experience and give them the best advice possible. I am frequently asked “what is the best dive site?” But find it difficult to give a single answer, and this list is my personal preference and won’t be to everyone’s taste.
It may surprise some that I am not a lover of depth, wrecks or stunning scenery. Instead I prefer the marine biodiversity that often goes unobserved and underappreciated. The underwater garden, if you like that, is made up of algae, tunicates, bryozoans, sponges, cnidarians and grasses that on close inspection you will find are full of molluscs, echinoderms, crustaceans and worms that dazzle you with spectacular colours (a magnifying glass is optional).
So, pressed to make a list of five sites that interest me I have chosen because of what I expect to see and what I would hope to find in the future. I could dive the following sites time and time again for many different reasons…
On most dives to Ras il-Hobz I may expect to find for example the nudibranchs Phyllidia flava and Flabellina affinis. On any particular day or week I will only know where they are for a short while. These animals are moving and changing constantly. Access to this site is quite easy and it can be dived several ways, This ensures a good dive profile. It is usually teaming with all forms of life, all year round. For these reasons it ranks very highly on my list.
Dwejra area in general (Inland Sea, Blue Hole, Coral Cave, Coral Garden, Crocodile Rock and Rogers Cave)
I’ve done many hundreds of dives here and it still has that ‘wow’ factor about it. The topography has changed little apart from the collapse of the Azure Window of course in March 2017, but that has opened up many new possibilities for life to really flourish. The amount of grouper taking up residence in the newly fallen rock hints at a very promising outlook for the area, given time. Many who have dived this site both before and after the collapse see a big difference in the way it has opened up so many new profiles to all genres of diver. I was lucky enough to dive it a few days after so that it could be included in my book. Although access is still a challenge, the site’s facilities are very good and staying there for two or three dives is a good idea.
This must be one of the most relaxing dives on the island with an entry just a few feet away from your vehicle. You can stay shallow, so there is plenty of time to search the sand and walls for all manner of creatures, and no worrying about decompression. In the summer, however it’s wise to be mindful of boat anchors. Again, for me it’s the challenge to find things that I love: buried in the sand, or in plain sight but so well camouflaged you are straining your eyes to see it.
Seahorses are such a delight to find here but it saddens me to see so many divers, not so much the anchors doing them harm. We have a great responsibility as ambassadors and for this reason I included diver guidance for seahorse safety in the book with the help of marine biologist Neil Garrick-Maidment of the Seahorse Trust. We need to try to monitor and protect this endangered species.
Lantern point, Comino (boat dive)
I love all boat diving here as you are no sooner on the boat than you’re ready to get into the water and usually the only ones there! But Lantern Point just does it for me better than most. It has so many holes and fissures in and under rocks – I want to look in them all to find as many things as I can. I like the fact that most of the dive area is quite compact and if you don’t go too deep it gives you plenty of scope to look around some exquisitely shaped rocks and a very interesting chimney/tunnel.
Santa Marija Reef/ Comino Caves
Both dives are next to each other and if you are good on air you can do both quite easily. For me, the light is its best feature – streaming in at you from all angles when going through the tunnels and arches. A torch is useful for the dark areas but the natural light illuminates areas to form some breathtakingly beautiful views without the aid of artificial light. I expect to see lots of nudibranchs here and I am rarely disappointed. It’s also shallow which usually makes for a nice long dive.
All images © Richard Salter unless stated otherwise.
Richard Salter is a working dive guide on Gozo, Malta and the author of Diving Gozo & Comino: The essential guide to an underwater playground (Dived Up Publications, 2017).