Dive in: all you need to know about scuba diving in Malta

By Sarah Richard

If you’re looking for your next great scuba diving destination you may not have to travel as far afield as you think. From beginner level shallow reefs to sprawling shipwrecks suitable for the most seasoned technical divers, the island of Malta has it all.

Alongside it’s smaller neighbours, Gozo and Comino, Malta offers a year-round warm climate on land and unmatched visibility underwater. With flights arriving daily to Malta International Airport, the three islands are an easily accessible holiday destination from all over Europe, and it’s easy to island-hop if you’re after a mid-trip change of scenery.

Read on to discover the best dive sites for all levels of diver – family-friendly spots, beginner dive sites and dives for experienced divers – as well as some top tips if you’re yet to take the plunge into the world of scuba diving.

Best for families and kids

Anchor Bay

Anchor Bay is the perfect spot for your first dive
Anchor Bay is the perfect spot for your first dive

Anchor Bay, also known as Popeye Village having been home to the well known film set, is a dive site on the north west of Malta popular with beginner divers. With a maximum depth of 12m in the sheltered bay it makes for a great spot for your first underwater adventure, while slightly more experienced divers can swim into an open cavern named Scorpion Cave.

Colourful parrotfish and mesmerising octopus are sure to please newcomers and younger family members. Keep an eye out on the outer edges of the bay for juvenile barracuda.

Ghar Lapsi

Ghar Lapsi is both for divers and snorkellers
Ghar Lapsi is both for divers and snorkellers

This site on the south west of Malta is another fantastic sheltered spot suitable for first timers and families to discover the world of scuba diving. Many varied species of fish meander amongst boulders in the entry area, making quite the welcome party as you plunge into the dive site. Breams, cardinal fish and parrotfish are common, and if you’re lucky you may get to see a moray eel skulking through the rocks or even a cuttlefish flashing it’s fancy coloured camouflage.

For members of the family who aren’t so keen to get into full scuba gear, Ghar Lapsi is also a fantastic spot to snorkel.

Best for entry level divers

Santa Marija Caves

Plenty of caves to dive through on Comino Island
Plenty of caves to dive through on Comino Island

The word “cave” in scuba diving usually means a site that is inaccessible to newer divers, but the Santa Marija caves located off the coast of Comino are an open network of caves making them welcoming for beginners. Sunlight dancing through the caves’ entrances has almost a hypnotic quality, but don’t let it distract you from the marine life – there are bountiful sea breams as well as schools of small damselfish and spiny lobsters to be spotted.

HMS Maori

For entry level divers wanting to get a taste of the shipwrecks Malta has to offer, the wreck of the HMS Maori certainly ticks the boxes. This World War II wreck reaches a maximum depth of 16m making it perfect for newly certified Open Water divers. Having sunk in 1942, the wreck itself is relatively broken up yet still recognisable as a ship, and is home to countless cardinal fish and camouflaged scorpionfish.

If you’re lucky, you may even get to see a seahorse hiding out on the structures of the wreck, or a stingray gliding along the surrounding sandy bottom.

Best for experienced divers

P29 Wreck

P29 - wreck diving for the advanced divers
P29 – wreck diving for the advanced divers

This German built boat was initially used as a minesweeper, then went on to be adopted by the Armed Forces of Malta as a patrol boat, before being deliberately scuttled as a scuba diving site in 2007. With the top of the wreck sitting at 21m and the bottom at 33m, this shore dive from the north coast of the island is suited to slightly more advanced divers (PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent). With suitable training, some of the interior of the wreck can be explored.

Tugboat Rozi

Neighbouring the P29, and sitting at a similar depth (max. 34m), the Rozi was initially sunk by a submarine tourist company as a point of interest, but has since become popular with scuba divers as it has developed into a thriving artificial reef. Eagle-eyed divers will enjoy seeking out nudibranchs (colourful sea slugs) on the surfaces of the wreck, while eagle rays occasionally float by the outer edges of the wreck.

Qawra Reef

Don’t be fooled by it’s reputation; Malta has more to offer experienced divers than just wrecks, and if you’re a reef lover this one’s for you. The reef top sits at 15-20m, and a steep drop off forms a wall leading down to 30-40m. Explore the craggy formations of the wall and be sure to check any small crevices where you may find octopus and eels in hiding, but also keep an eye out to the blue to spot barracuda, amberjacks and tuna as they cruise on by.

Tips for new divers

Find a dive shop

The first step to dipping your toes into diving is finding a professional school to teach you. There are dive shops located on all three islands, so you can take your pick based on what’s convenient to your chosen accommodation (many will drive to you and collect you on the morning of your dive days). Do your homework and research a dive school ahead of time to take some of the stress out of your holiday; check out the Girls that Scuba Facebook group for impartial recommendations and honest advice from seasoned scuba divers.

Test the waters

Before you take the plunge, take a scuba diving class in a pool
Before you take the plunge, take a scuba diving class in a pool

If you’re new to the wonders of the underwater world, dive schools will offer the opportunity to try scuba diving before you commit to completing your entry level course. Kids can join in the fun from the age of 10, so it’s an exhilarating activity that the whole family can share. For a try-dive experience you can expect to spend half a day to a full day dependent on the dive operator. You will be briefed on some basic theory, followed by a training session in a pool (or perhaps a sheltered bay) to get to grips with taking your first breaths underwater, before heading out for an adventure in the ocean to a maximum depth of 12m.

Once you’ve fallen in love with the freedom of breathing underwater, most dive schools will allow you to continue on and complete your certification to become a fully-fledged scuba diver. You can expect a full certification (such as a PADI Open Water Diver course) to take 3-4 days, with a combination of theory sessions, pool skills training and open water dives.

Buy a mask

While we wouldn’t recommend buying a full set of scuba diving equipment prior to your first ever dive, investing in a scuba diving mask is a simple way to make your first experience much more enjoyable. A well fitting mask will make it much easier to complete your pool training, and will help ensure your underwater experience isn’t hindered by constant irritating leaks.

Even if you don’t go on to complete a further course beyond your try dive, you can continue to use the mask for any future snorkelling adventures. For some great mask options for women and smaller faces, take a look at this list from the Girls that Scuba website.

Don’t leave it until the last minute

If you know you’re looking to try out scuba diving on your holiday, make sure you don’t leave it until the final day. Many people who have never dived before are unaware that you must leave a minimum of 12 hours before flying following a single scuba dive, or a minimum of 18 hours if you complete multiple dives in a single day.

Book your dive experience ahead of your trip; we suggest scheduling it towards the beginning of your holiday in order to give yourself time to complete a course if you really enjoy it.

Complete your course at home

Tried a Discover Scuba Dive before and already know you love it? If you know you want to commit to a full course, you can often save yourself some precious holiday time by completing parts of the curriculum at home. Most certification agencies offer some form of e-learning where you can complete the classroom theory modules online ahead of time, and simply refresh your knowledge with an instructor on arrival in your sunny holiday destination.

If you want to take it a step further, you may even be able to complete your pool training before embarking on your trip, leaving you with just the fun open water dives left to complete on arrival. Discuss this with your chosen dive school ahead of your trip to explore your options fully.

Now that you’re all ready for your family scuba diving adventure to Malta, Gozo or Comino, go on and book your holiday!

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Note: These rates are based on the most recent data pulled from KAYAK.co.uk, the cheapest prices are always displayed first, regardless of specific dates mentioned. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy, are per night and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.

 

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