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OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2012 NEW 2011 Atlam Committee Members :Nader Bassily President Joseph Azzopardi Secretary Albertine Risiott Treasurer Dorian Law Diving Officer Steve Farrugia Sacco Activity officer Anton Debatista Activity Officer Simon Ciantar

PRO steven@farrugiasacco

IN THIS ISSUE page • Note from the Editor 2 • Website of the month - Dorian Law 2 • “Who is your Buddy?” - Dorian Law 3/5 • Species Page - Jellyfish- Edward Vella 6 • Book of the month - Dorian Law 7 • BA-Atlam Uwater Photo Competition 8/11 • Dived Where? - Ras il-Hobz, Gozo - Dorian Law 12 • Ustica - Kingdom of the Groupers - Paolo Marino 13/14 • Dive Logs - Ras il-Hobz - 07/10/12 - Edward Vella 15 - Il-Qaws to id-Dwieb - 21/10/12 Tano Rolé 16/17 - Santa Maria Caves - 21/10/12 - Joe Formosa 18 - Reqqa Point - 04/11/12 - Edward Vella 19 - Wied il-Ghasri - 11/11/12 -Tano Rolé 20 - Return to Wied il-Ghasri - 18/11/12 -Tano Rolé 21 - Crocodile Rock - 25/11/12 -Edward Vella 22 - Dives Location Map - Joe Formosa 23 Photo by: William Hewitt Winner for best photo BA-Atlam Underwater Photographic Competition

Editorial Note Dear Members, As announced in the previous issue of Bubbles, Edward Sultana after editing over the new format Bubbles since March 2010, has now decided to retire. Well editing a newsletter which has grown into an e-magazine, which without false modesty, has grown (and is still growing) into a world class publication is not to be taken lightly – it takes a lot of effort and time, so it is very understandable that at some point in time, the baton will be passed on. Of course the hard work, is not just the editor’s, but the whole team’s which is made up of the sub-committee members – Ivo Caruana, the prime pillar of Bubbles – responsible for all the page design work, Joe Formosa – regular supplier of excellent photographs and contributor, Tano Rolé’s scientific background is the prime driver in his precise and interesting articles. Bubbles however, was never intended to be the sole domain of the sub-committee. There is nothing which is more rewarding to the sub-committee than to receive articles and pictures from our members, such as from regular feature contributor Dorian Law (see the excellent article “ Who is your Buddy? on page 3) and for example, the occasional travel dive articles from globe trotters Paolo Marino to make us dream (incidentally, in this issue you can dream about Ustica!) and Victor Fabri’ Diving in Far East and others. So an appeal to you members, please send us your photographs …. and your articles! This issue is heavy on the now almost annual BA – Atlam Photographic Competition. This year the competition went to the BA participants – and a well deserved well done goes to William Hewitt who won the first prize with the highest voted set, and also the best picture, which is the cover for this month’s Bubbles. The second prize went to Victor Fabri, and the third to Guzi Azzopardi Falzon, both Atlam members. In all there were 15 participants, and with three pictures each, the judges’ life was made quite difficult. The contest was then finished off with a super presentation dinner at the Victoria Hotel. Did you like Bubbles on Issuu? This website is a collection of publications from all over the world, and the idea therefore is for our magazine to obtain more exposure worldwide. We also liked its nice page flipping presentation – we thought that it looked quite professional! Let us know what you think. Finally, we are pleased to see that the boat dives are still well attended even though the summer is long gone now. There is no better way to spend a good Sunday diving morning than the Atlam boat dive – see the dive log pages for details. Keep Diving.

Edward Vella

www. Website of the Name of website: The Scuba Geek. Access to website: Other access: Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and Linkedln. Purpose of site: To promote diving in the Honduras, mainly in the islands of Utila and Roatan. It also introduces the user to and promotes the work and aims of the website’s creator Steven R. Craig Junior, freelance website developer, graphic designer and dive instructor in the area. Features: The header features the name and logo of the website on the left, with a search bar and share option on the right. Just below the header a nine option menu further expands the options just by going over with the mouse pointer. The options’ most important features are as follows: Home: Most recent posts, Twitter & Honduras links, my friends & websites and blog archives. About Me: Subpages, posts, and categories like artwork, dive philosophy, photos and video. Scuba Diving: Posts including dive logs and diving in Honduras. Web Design: Self-promotion including portfolio and posts.

Roatan Guide: Information on the place and the coral reef including recent posts. Rum Drinking: Yes, this includes posts on the art of drinking this alcoholic beverage. Island Maps: Interactive maps of diving sites on Roatan and Utila islands. Crazy Stories: Includes posts on the Tsunami, The Silent World film and the Yellow Submarine. Contact me: As the name implies. A quick fill form to make contact with or send a query to the scuba geek. The website is a mix of the website’s creator personal experiences and social aspects of the life and diving industry in Honduras. Why visit this website: If you are looking for new diving experiences in out of the mainstream Honduras, or just want to take a quick peek at this different but fun to be in, energetic website, then this is a must site to visit.

JOIN ATLAM SUBAQUA CLUB and share the fun & experience

Activities for Divers: • Shore Dives • Boat Dives • Night Dive • Diving Excursions Abroad • U/W Photo Competitions • Lectures on various subjects • Nitrox Courses. • Free e-magazine

Activities for the whole family • Weekly Club Nights & Bar • Barbeques • Majjalata • Pasta Nights • Boat Parties • Gozo Diving Breaks • Camping on Comino and other places.

For more info contact the President Nader Bassily on 99499101

Who is your BUDDY?

by Dorian Law

Dear Atlam divers, The reader of this article might be saying that the question, ‘How should you choose your buddy?’ is very easy to answer with straight simple answers. But, contrary to popular belief amongst the diving community, many answers to this question are gathered in one wrong answer to the extent of having buddies in the water performing an ‘unsafe’ dive. This will be explained further on. As a qualified diver you might choose the way of a ‘Solo Diver’ and start diving alone. On the other hand, you might also choose to dive in a group. According to the Oxford dictionary ‘group’ means, a number of people located, gathered or classed together, while a ‘number of people’ means, any number more than one. With this choice being done, you are choosing to be a buddy of another diver, whilst also having the other diver as your buddy. The following statement contains the most important aspect of this choice: By agreeing to be a buddy, you take on a moral and sometimes legal obligation; to stay together, to help each other, to provide assistance in an emergency and to follow generally accepted safe diving practices to the best of your ability. The wrong number for a group. When you ask, ‘How many divers should form your group?’ you get many answers and theories to back them. Here is the wrong answer and the reason behind it. The wrong answer is three. To be correct, any odd number is the wrong answer, that is, the wrong choice for a group of divers. The reason is as follows: when you have a buddy you will look after him and he will do the same for you. What happens with the third? In a group of three there is a tendency to assume that you are being looked after or that buddy one is looking after buddy two while you are busy playing with an octopus. The others might be thinking the same and at the end you will end up with no

one looking after the other. The same happens with other odd numbers. A group of seven is made up of two, two and three. The three factor comes in again. My opinion is, stick with an even number that is, two, four, six and eight. If this is not possible decide who will be taking care of you and who you will be taking care of. Now to correct some wrong answers. Question: Who is your buddy? or How should you choose your buddy? Wrong answer: My buddy is my best friend or My buddy should be ………. (fill in any adjective you like). This is correct, to the point, where you are not expected to enjoy a relaxed dive while diving with your ‘enemy’. Unfortunately, this answer gathers various wrong answers like, ‘my wife is my buddy’, ‘I can buddy with anyone even if I have just met that person on the dive site’ or ‘as long as we stay together you can buddy with me’. Many important safety aspects come against these answers. Just consider the following, and apply them to your buddy and yourself:

divers with open- circuit and close-circuit equipment diving together. You might also note an un-frequent diver joining a group of frequent divers doing a deep dive. Other instances might include freshly qualified divers on the boat, buddying together and diving what is for them a new site. This list might be endless and could lead to a bad or serious experience or worst of all to dive injuries if Am I fit, experienced and qualified to do the same dive actions are not taken to remedy these bad choices. that my best friend is doing? Following are a number of traits (distinguished qualities or Am I using the same air or equipment needed for this dive characteristics) and practices you should apply to yourself and expect from your buddy. When used these should as that of my best friend? produce good dive buddies. Is our mentality compatible in terms of reaching the dive’s Keep physically fit and well practiced: If you are not ‘fit to goals? dive’ and you do not spend time honing your dive skills and Just looking at your wrong choice of buddy or looking staying practiced, you won’t be able to call on your training around at other groups, you might notice that in certain to assist you or your buddy in a dive emergency. In fact, groups, even in yours, pairing is not always ideal. This your lack of practice and staying in shape may cause a dive includes divers with different air mixes, meaning that a emergency. A good dive buddy is fit to dive and ‘blowing diver might be diving with air while his buddy is using bubbles’ (diving) on a regular basis. Remember that diving nitrox or trimix. This is also true where a group includes skills rust when they don’t get wet.

both buddies are on the same page at all times. Whilst you and your buddy might have developed an extensive underwater vocabulary, this might be useless if you are buddied with another diver coming from a different group or course type from yours. Some basic hand signals might differ from one training body to another. To ensure precise communication underwater these signals have to be agreed upon on land. Buddies should monitor each other’s air consumption. Part of the dive plan should include at which point you should turn or start the ascent whilst allowing enough reserve for you and your dive buddy to get back to the surface safely. Remember that your buddy Keeping Together, Communication and Cooperation: is carrying your spare air on his back. The ability or the willingness to stay close together at an appropriate distance is a safe diving practice that you Question: How close should members of a buddy team stay? should impose on yourself and your buddy. Sometimes we hear the phrase ‘same ocean buddies’, meaning that there Correct answer: Close enough to call a partner’s attention is a long distance between two buddies. This practice is and reach him in the matter of a few seconds. most often abused on ascents and descents and is an Here are some tips on how to stay near your buddy and accident waiting to happen. Many divers joke about it or maintain buddy awareness. sometimes even use it to make a statement about their ‘diving ability’. Good dive buddies take extra diligence to Choose your buddy wisely. The ideal buddy should feel stay together during the whole dive. As a rule ‘if during that the buddy system is important. If you are partnered ascents and descents, or any part of the dive, you are not with a random buddy on the boat only to find that he is a able to see the eyes of your dive buddy, then you are too lone wolf and deserts you underwater, stick close another far away’. Buddy diving is a team event, not a ‘you lead and diver, or ascent and make sure you delete his name from I will follow’ activity, thus communication is important your list of buddies. above and even more below the water to ensure that Discuss your dive plan and objective with your buddy before the dive. Let your buddy know if you are likely to have any issues that commonly lead to buddy separation, such as ear equalization trouble on descent. A compromise as to the dive pace will need to be made when having divers with different objectives like photographers mixed with site seers. Dive planning: Every dive should have a clear, concise and agreed upon plan. This includes the purpose of the dive, heading, depth, time, air, signals, emergency procedures, buddy separation rules, equipment failure and contingencies. Pre dive checks include dive buddies familiarizing themselves with each other’s equipment, air supply and configuration prior to entering the water. Checking is the only effective way to learn about each other’s equipment and this will be most evident during a dive emergency when you will not have time get accustomed to your buddy’s equipment configuration.

Define your comfort zone and training limits: When selecting a dive buddy, it is important to communicate your level of ‘current’ experience, training, and comfort level in the water. An honest dive buddy voices his honesty with himself and his buddy. An agreed underwater signal is to be used to communicate discomfort when reaching a comfort-zone limit or to abort the dive. Every member of the dive group should not feel embarrassed or intimidated to tell his dive buddy that he is not comfortable. Compatibility: This begins with having a common objective or activity in the dive. If the objective is a deep dive, do not pair with someone who is not equipped or trained for deep dives. A claustrophobic diver joining a group of cave divers is a recipe for disaster. An underwater photographer should buddy with a diver who is willing to stop and wait or even act as a model and he should steer away from choosing an adventurous diver who will be wandering away while the photographer has stopped to take his best shot, only to realize that his buddy is not there when he needs him. The contrary is also true. When your buddy is more interested in his activity as if you are not there, probably when you try to call for his attention or worst his assistance, you might realize that he would not even take notice of you. Your buddy should complement not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses in diving skills. A good dive buddy knows his strengths and weaknesses.

Pick a leader and a side. Decide who will make navigational decisions during the dive. One buddy swims to areas he finds interesting, and the other follows his lead. If the follower wants to check out a specific spot, he simply notifies the leader and they move together. Choose what side of your buddy you will remain on, and remain on that side. Being disoriented underwater and knowing where to look for your buddy is helpful. Remember that higher above or deeper below are not the correct position to choose.

When one diver is at a shallower depth his buddy should follow. When one diver goes deeper, he should not expect his buddy to follow, especially if his buddy is restrained due to his abilities, different air mix or other issues which would put the buddy in an unsafe position at that depth. Knowing who will lead and where your position should be, makes the dive safer and more organized. Attracting each other’s attention and communication. If you and your buddy know what to listen for, you are more likely to be able to get each other’s attention underwater. These include sounds from underwater noisemakers, tapping on the tank, or even shouting into the regulator. Agree on land on the hand signals to be used and do not assume that everyone knows your hand signals, especially new buddies. Divers who are in constant communication tend to stay closer together and are more aware of their partners. Ask your buddy if he is okay and communicate your tank pressure or any other issue periodically, say every ten minutes or so. Emergency procedures. This includes, getting to know your buddy’s state of mind and physical or dive plan related problems prior the dive, his equipment configuration, procedures when losing sight of the buddy or emergency air sharing and any contingency plans. A diver using the standard single-tank equipment configuration cannot solve all emergencies himself. In any other equipment configuration, even if redundancy equipment can solve emergency situations, one must admit that a dive buddy apart from adding his equipment to help in emergencies, he also provides an additional brain to solve problems in emergency situations. Before arguing that in an emergency a diver can hold his breath for a long time and swim to his buddy, remember that an out-of air diver discovers his plight after he has exhaled and attempts to inhale against an empty tank. An out-ofair diver has little or no air in his lungs to start with, and must reach his buddy in this state. This gives the troubled diver significantly less time to reach another diver than if he had a lungful of air.

Buddy Separation Fatality. According to the ‘Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) 2010 Dive Fatalities Workshop Report’, 40% of diver fatalities occurred during a period of buddy separation. In an abstract, published by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society Inc, in 2003, they discuss 866 diving fatalities between 1992 and 2001. Approximately 93% of the diving fatalities occurred while the diver was alone. This means, that they either entered the water by themself or they were separated from their buddy during the dive. A question pops out, ‘Were they properly trained, equipped and diving within their limitations?’. This question demonstrates the difference between diving ‘solo’ and diving ‘alone’. Diving solo means planning for and doing the dive by yourself, relying only on yourself and your equipment. Diving alone, as the name implies, is that instance when you are separated from your buddy and you are left alone to finish the dive. These reports also suggest that these same people who suffered diving greatest tragedy may have been separated.

Diving with a known and trusted buddy reduces stress and increases comfort and safety. If you have a buddy who makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious, get another one or stay dry. Ideally buddies should know each other well, know each other’s limits and comfort level and can be trusted enough to take care of each other. The scuba diving instructor teaches the buddy system for a reason, Could a buddy have helped prevent these fatalities or this so; ‘Stay close to your buddy and stay safe!’ is just poor buddy diving practices? My opinion is that, in many cases the presence of a buddy could have avoided these fatalities. Will this prove and support the solo diver’s premise (solo diver’s anti-buddy philosophy), that the buddy system has an inherent flaw, that is – ‘you are relying on someone else?’ Unfortunately it will, if the buddy system is not refined by the ‘group’, taking into account the various factors that might influence the successful completion of a safe dive, like a good dive plan, weather, equipment and divers’ abilities. In a dive group, each diver should be able to continue solo if separated but should never feel alone in the water. Having said all this, I am strongly in favor of choosing your best friend, your wife or anyone in a close relationship with you as your buddy as long as you take note of what has been mentioned previously. Just like socializing at an event or over a meal or a beer, diving adds another unforgettable input to the relationship and thus, this should be a planned, safe and wonderful experience.

Species Page Research by: Edward Vella

Jellyfish have been drifting on the currents of all of the world’s oceans since time immemorial, one source states 500 to 700 million years, and have adapted to a lot of different environments … and yet this creature has no eyes ( some do have light sensors), no central nervous system, and most astounding of all – nothing that can be called a brain! I wonder if there is a lesson to be learnt here?!! Jellyfish whose only commonality with fish is that they are both marine creatures, come from the phylum Cnidaria which is derived from the greek “cnidos,” which means stinging as with nettles – as nearly all of us can vouch for! A simple brush against the tentacles of for example, a mauve stinger will mean a laceration with a high and sustained pain level. Thus whenever there are numerous jellyfish (also called blooms) especially during the summer months, the physical deterrent will also have an inevitable economic backlash.

Photo by Mario Micallef



And what about their life cycle? The stuff of science fiction! I can imagine this taking place on a light years remote planet – OK, so we got first a newly hatched gland shaped free swimming larva. The larva starts looking for a place to stop and form a new colony. Once the ideal spot is found, then the larva attaches itself to this surface – its free swimming days are over – and becomes what is called a polyp – much like the corals, which after all are fellow cnidarians. The polyp then starts growing and multiplies into a colony in the form of a segmented body. Then for reasons that are still not fully understood, with the right conditions, the body splits up and each segment becomes an individual jellyfish, (Weird!) resulting in the so called blooms, which may be made up of hundreds of thousands…. As regards reproduction, this takes place in both states, that is when the animal is in its sessile (non-mobile, stuck to a firm surface) stage as a polyp, and when it becomes a mobile jellyfish – this is called its medusal stage, but even here, the method of reproduction of the polyp and the medusa is not the same. So here we have an animal which changes from an individual, to a ‘community’ living within a single body, and then with the right conditions, becoming a multitude of individual jellyfish. A concept that takes a bit of time to sink in. Locally, the more common sightings undoubtedly consist of the Mauve Stinger (Pelagia noctiluca) and the Fried Egg Jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata). The Fried Egg is harmless, and is frequently seen locally towards the end of summer.

A curious feature which I have seen myself, is that sometimes you get juvenile fish hitching a ride in the jellyfish’s tentacles. Harmless is not one of the qualities of the Mauve Stinger! It can inflict a painful sting, and can spoil your holiday, especially since it can be found in huge numbers. The eggs are laid in December. Another feature of this jellyfish which I learnt while producing this article, is that it has the ability to glow in the dark. Here mention has to be made of the ‘Spot the Jellyfish’ initiative headed by Dr Alan Deidun, which although is primarily intended for youngsters gives a very good idea of the local ‘jellyfish scene’, and may be seen at jellyfish/jellyinfo.html (and has also been advertised in previous issues of Bubbles). Recommended.

Photo by: Joe Formosa

Photo by Kevin Sciberras

Photo by: Joe Formosa

December Species ­- Painted Comber (Burqax) PLEASE SEND PHOTOS

Book of the Month Article by Dorian Law

Name of Book: Scuba Diving Malta Gozo Comino. The ultimate guide to diving the Maltese islands. Author: Peter G. Lemon. Publisher: Peter G. Lemon. Printed by MPG Books Group UK. ISBN Number: 978 – 0 – 9541789 – 2 - 5. Book in short: This book is basically divided into four sections. These sections complement and build on each other to produce this book regarding diving in the Maltese islands. These sections are as follows:

Section 1: An extensive mapped index with more than 75 dive sites, is followed by a forward by ex-tourism minister Michael Refalo and a note by the author. This is followed by a brief introduction and information regarding the islands and travelling to Malta. The key to symbols used and the topic Islands for Divers are a conclusion to this part and an introduction to the next two sections which are of great interest to divers. Section 2: Malta and Gozo shore dive sites. The author starts from the ports of Valletta in Malta and Mgarr in Gozo and goes clockwise around the islands describing each dive site. After more than 25 shore dives in Malta the journey ends in the Sliema area whilst in Gozo it ends at Ghasri Valley after more than 15 shore dives. Section 3: Malta, Gozo and Comino boat dive sites. The author again goes clockwise around the islands, starting from The Bristol Beaufighter in Sliema to the MV Imperial Eagle in Qawra. In Comino diving starts from Lantern Point to end on Sultan Rock, whilst the journey from Ras ilHobz to Hondoq ir-Rummien takes us around Gozo. More than 35 boat dives are described in this section and these include wreck dives like HMS Southwold, Le Polynesien and the MV Pippo. Section 4: This concludes the book and also the journey of the visitor to Malta. It includes information about places to visit on the islands, and information concerning local dive schools and centres, acknowledgments and indexes. The book in general is well planned with many coloured and black and white photographs. The same pictorial type / style of underwater coloured plans, as in previous editions, are again used by the author to describe the underwater topography. These are now smaller in size than the previous editions and this makes them more pleasing to the reader’s eye. Aerial photography is a big boost to these underwater topographic drawings. In most of the cases the author has aligned the aerial photo with the drawing thus making the dive site and its description very vivid and realistic. One can feel the dive at this stage. On page 103 the reader can find the author’s contribution towards our club, Atlam Sub Aqua Club. This full page describes the club’s history, the present and the future and also the monthly newsletter, the Bubbles. The book includes photos by club members, Joe Formosa and Victor Fabri (pg95). The quote from the back page, gives an end to this book, but it also introduces the reader to diving the Maltese

islands, and makes this the book of the month: ‘Shipwreck, reefs, caves, dramatic drop-offs, shore and boat diving with a huge variety of marine life for the diver to see around these beautiful Mediterranean islands. Scuba diving Malta / Gozo / Comino is the diver’s key to this rich variety of diving. Its pages unlock the way to a wealth of dive sites all with aerial photographs, underwater plans and accompanying text covering access and services – everything the diver needs to know’. Availability: Now available at bookstores or from the publisher in the coming days. Personal note: The contents and presentation of the book are impeccable and it is hard to find any way that this edition can be improved. Crystal clear photos, detailed description of the dive and the story behind the site make this the best choice amongst other books on the topic of diving in the Maltese islands. An ideal Christmas present for any diving friend. Having said this, I hope this is not Peter G Lemon’s ‘ultimate’ edition of this series of guides to diving the Maltese islands!

The Author, Mr Peter Lemon at a book signing session at the Atlam Club in Valletta

BA-ATLAM UW Photo Competition N 足 ov 2012 Ist Place: William Hewitt

These photos are the entries of all the competitors in sets of three The photos have not been retouched, cropped or enhanced in any way. They are being presented as the photographers shot them and oriented to the photographers wish. Only1st, 2nd and 3rd places have been announced the remaining photos are displayed according to the competition registration number.

2nd Place: Victor Fabri

Tano RolĂŠ (2) Third Place: Guzi Azzopardi Falzon

Edward Vella (3)

Joe Formosa (4)

Tom Cowan (6)

Geoff Bowan(12) Mario Micallef (8)

Noel Abela (14)

Veronica Busuttil (13)

Rueben Borg (15) BA Atlam Competitors

The Dive

“Dived Where"!!! Unfrequented dive sites of the Maltese islands, where you will ask your buddy ”Where’s everybody?” Article by Dorian Law

Ras il-Hobz. Ghajnsielem. Gozo. Type of dive: Shore or boat dive. Air or Nitrox. Day or night dive. Location: When coming from the Gozo ferry terminal, drive towards Ghajnsielem on Triq l-Imgarr. Take the first turn left past Rexi restaurant on Triq Ta’ Cordina. Drive past the buildings, then take the first turn left through the fields just as you start Triq Ta’ Bwier. When coming from Xewkija drive on Triq L Zammit Haber towards the Heliport. Just as you see the heliport’s landing strip, take the road on the right when it splits in a y-section. Both ways would lead you to the Gozo Sewage Purification Plant. Take the road on the East side of the plant through the fields which leads down to a parking space just above the rocky shoreline. Access: From the rocky shoreline. When Not to dive: When winds blow from Southwest (Lbic) to East (Lvant). Depth: 10meters on the East side reef, 12meters on the pinnacle and 50+meters at the bottom.

Base photo by Edward Vella: The pinnacle

Current & Visibility: Slight current on the pinnacle. Visibility good, sometimes over 30 meters.

Although entry can be made very close to the pinnacle which lies on the Southern side of the promontory, the safest entry and exit point lies on the Eastern side of the promontory and the parking space and this should be surveyed before beginning the dive. There are many ways to dive this site. The best way to explore the pinnacle is to reach your maximum depth then spiral around the pinnacle on your way up before heading inshore (North), or surface swim due South, locate the pinnacle’s top (ideal for anchoring the boat) and spiral down the pinnacle then head Northeast towards the exit point. The pinnacle starts at about 40meters with the sandy bottom further down at 50+ meters, where a huge anchor is to be found. This underwater feature takes the form of ‘the middle finger (pinnacle) pointed out of a clenched fist (mainland)’, hence the name ‘middle finger dive’ which is sometimes used to refer to this site. On the Eastern side, a 200meter long reef can be explored on the last part of the dive and this area should be chosen if night diving Ras il-Hobz. The information contained might not be accurate or reflect the conditions found daily at the site. More accurate information should be obtained prior to planning to dive these sites.

USTICA- The kingdom of the groupers About 40 miles north of Palermo, in the Thyrrenean Sea, lies the volcanic island of Ustica. Ustica is the visible tip of a huge volcano chain stretching west from the Eolian archipelago. Ustica has been an underwater protected area for over 25 years; what allows divers to witness a Mediterranean sea still full of life. All diving activity starts from the tiny harbour of Cala Maria. The small village of Ustica is reached with a ten minutes walk up the cliffs. I chose to dive with Misterjump dive centre as they organise two dives in the morning, so leaving the afternoon free to relax or explore the island. Other centres will provide full day trips including two dives and lunch or two separate dive one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So you have all possibilities open to you. All dives are done by boat. Due to the success of the protection policies you don’t need to go deep to see the fish life. Dives are mostly between 25 and 30m, although to see some of the deeper caves you will reach 40+m for short periods. 15l litres cylinders are standard. All dives are done on air, as Nitrox is not easily available on the island. Anyway due to the dive profile decompression was never really a problem. The two most famous and exciting dives are done off the north coast the island.

Article and Photos by: Paolo Marino

The Scoglio del Medico is a rock with a wide underwater base perforated by tunnels and caves. Beware of the current here; it could be very strong! In case most of the dive can be done inside the tunnels and caves coming out of the cracks in protected spots to admire the fish life. When the current is off or low most of the dive is of course done outside the cave system. Here you may see several brown groupers lying on the rocks and half a dozen golden groupers swimming often together off the boulders. A huge shoal of 300/400 barracuda is always around higher up. Being a protected area both groupers and barracuda are not scared of the divers; if you approach careful without blowing too many bubbles they let you get close for a good shot before they swim slowly away. At least two dives are needed to explore the whole Scoglio as the underwater area is fairly wide.

The Secca della Colombaia is a circular reef with the top five meters below sea level. Again currents can be present, but if the current is strong the dive is not normally done here as there are no caves for protection. The real feature of this dive is a shallow plateau where around a dozen golden groupers are always in attendance. Some are really curious and come within hand’s reach of you. It’s really amazing to be able to swim in the middle of them without causing them to run away! Occasionally some big brown grouper comes by adding to the traffic! This spot is done on the way down and again at the end of dive so that they’re plenty of opportunities for photography.

But this not all; a shoal of around 300 barracuda is there as well sometimes in mid-water sometimes right on the posidonia that cover part of the area. Again you can get right in the middle of them without causing panic. A wreck of a small cargo that hit the rock some years back is also there. It’s pretty smashed up. But one size of the ship and mast are still recognisable adding to the scenery. All other dives are done by the southern coast. Although big fish is also present the main focus here shifts to the smaller critters. This is the place for the caves of the shrimps. The most famous is obviously the Grotta dei Gamberi. It’s a big cave with an entrance at 25 and one at 40. You can see light from almost all the cave so you don’t get lost and the ceiling is high enough to

avoid kicking sand around. The top and sides of the caves is full of cracks literally filled with hundreds (maybe thousands) of shrimps. Spiny lobsters and forkbeard are also common dwellers of the cave.

brown grouper of the lot. It was probably 50kg of weight and was patrolling the areas in mid-water keeping a few meters distance from divers, but without looking specially upset by our presence!

A similar dive is the Grotta dei Gamberi Nr2. It’s a smaller shallower cave, but still full of shrimps with the added bonus of several groupers found on the rocks on the way to the cave.

Punta dell’Arpa has some very nice branches of red gorgonia and various groupers.

Sicchitello is a dive in the blue on top of some spectacular underwater pillars, that would deserve a closer inspections but were too deep to dive going down to 50m+. Anyway on top of the pillars there is a big shoal of about 300 barracudas and lots of big breams of different kinds. Another feature are the branches of red and white gorgonia Sotto Zelisa is a shallow dive with several swim-throughs, but here I saw the biggest

Punta Falconiera has on the inside some small caves with more shrimps, several midsized groupers and white gorgonia; on the outside some rocks with thick branches of red gorgonia At Massi Fuori outside of Punta Galera you will see various groupers, breams and a cave full of shrimps. Grotta Pastizza is a shallow cave with various yellow rocks that are actually sulphur deposit from an old volcanic eruption. In the rocks outside the cave lives a large grouper of maybe 20/30Kg.

This is for the underwater world, but you should take time to trek around the island; there several marked trails and even a public minibus service that can take you anywhere around the coast. There is a small Spanish fort overlooking the village with a beautiful view over the island and surrounding seas. The island is full of colours: hibiscus, bouganvillas and more, are all over the place; the fertility of the volcanic soil make some of these plants grow much bigger than what we are used to see elsewhere. If you just like to go for a swim there are a lot of small rocky bays (not much sand in Ustica I’m afraid) with easy access to the water. Last but not least there is a healthy choice of restaurants serving excellent fresh fish to be washed down with a good bottle of Sicilian white wine and bars with great ice creams and granita.

Ras ir-Raheb

- Malta 07/10/2012

Most people I meet, especially those prone to complaining, frequently moan about high humidity and general discomfort, whenever there is an Easterly blowing, but for us divers in Malta, given the orientation of our Islands, we should consider the Easterlies as a blessing. Most of our better dive sites face West, so with the wind going in the opposite direction; it means that optimal conditions on these dive sites are to be expected. Given the forecast with a moderate South Easterly blowing, Ras ir-Raheb was chosen. The original plan was to start the dive as usual, in front of cave at the Ras ir-Raheb headland, and then continue due South, and finish the dive in another cave – Ghar it-Trozz. On the way however, it became obvious that the Atlantis II would have had a hard time during our dive, because although sheltered from the Easterly, there was a marked rolling swell from the South West, so the decision was taken for the boat to pick up the divers from within Fomm irRih bay. In other words, in the opposite direction to

Photo by Joe Formosa

Article Edward Vella

Ghar it-Trozz, that is, keeping the cliff wall on the right which would lead into Fomm ir-Rih. The original plan was more appealing, but no real disappointment here, because for most divers, it is the cave at the headland that makes up for the greater part of the reward given by this dive. On the surface, the cave presents itself as a crack in the cliff face, but then enlarges a sea level. The crack continues up to about 7m beneath the surface. The entrance is encrusted with delicate purple plate like growths, which being remind of coral. Once through, the diver finds himself in a circular chamber, whose floor, seems to have given way, and rests about another 10m below. With one’s back to the exit, and to the right of the sunken floor, there is a vertical shaft, down which we went. The shaft floors out at about 21m, and immediately, the blue sunlight can be seen. This looks like another crack in the cliff face, and forms a sort of corridor which widens towards the exit. For myself, this is one of my favourite underwater ‘places’. It is a pity that sometimes, the constraints of being in a group in a boat dive places limits on the time that you can linger, but this place is mystical…time stops…, and no it is not nitrogen narcosis! The actual exit is at about 24m, which gives out onto another lower terrace with a drop-off starting at about 35m. Beyond that the cliff continues down to beyond 60m. Once out of the cave we followed the cliff face, keeping it on our right hand as per plan. The cliff face here, becomes extremely sheer, with the sea bed barely visible. Looking away from the cliff, the sea is a deep blue, but then as one approaches and enters Fomm ir-Rih bay, the colour becomes more turquoise due to the sandy bottom. Another ‘attraction’ is the wreck

of the ‘De Water Joffer’ yacht which lies in about 32m directly beneath the cliff. Here, the point may be made, that it is not possible to include both the cave and the yacht in the same dive plan, without making a provision for a severe decompression penalty, since the distance between these two is too great to then go allow another descent to 32m. So for normal sport diving, it has to be either one or the other! We spent the rest of the dive scouring the cliff wall for nudibranchs. We only found one – a nice blue and yellow that I would place as a Hypselodoris cantabrica. As regards sighting of sea life, most divers came up empty, with the exception of a sun fish (Mola mola) sighting! The sighting took place close to the cave exit at a depth of between 40 to 50m by two separate divers – who unfortunately, did not carry any cameras. The dive ended with the now customary galletti dip feast on the way home..

Base photo by Edward Vella

Il-Qaws to Ghar id-Dwieb The Qaws-Ghar id-Dwieb dive site has always proved popular with our Sunday divers and this was no exception. This area is absolutely beautiful. It is composed of a semicircular embayment framed by a series of sheer vertical cliffs. We were dropped off at the southern tip of the bay, where the Qaws cliffs commence, and made our way underwater towards the inner parts of the bay. The name Ghar id-Dwieb indicates the origin of this embayment. It is actually an old

Photo by Tano Rolé: Spiny lobster- Palynurus elephas

Base photo by Tano Rolé Ghar id-Dwieb dive site

- 21/10/2012

collapsed cave structure and most of the remnants of the cave floor are now buried below a layer of marine sediment. Some boulders, however, can still be found along the cliff wall and offer some shelter for marine life. An easterly wind was blowing on this Sunday morning but there was also a swell from the southwest which was strong enough to spray a little bit of water over the bow. Visibility was excellent but there was a current on the surface which seemed to be crossing the bay from the southerly point. Once inside the bay, the current seemed to die down.

Photo by Tano Rolé: Dolphin skull

Article Tano Rolé

Edward and I decided to keep to a shallow depth (about 20-25 m) and reserve our air for exploring the two large, but shallow, caverns located at the inner part of the embayment. Perhaps it is better to describe these caves as one large cavern separated by a “tongue” made up of a huge rockfall.

Photo by Tano Rolé: Bryozoans - Myriapora truncata

These caves are the remnants of a much larger cave that had covered the entire bay. In fact, within the innermost cavern, I spotted at least two freshwater seeps. This indicates that cave-forming processes are still quite active in this area. The reddish tinge covering the rocks, inside one of the seeps, seemed to be an iron oxide deposit carried there in solution in the freshwater. Another indicator of active marine erosion was a pot hole which was about one metre in diameter. This was occupied by a large circular stone which is surely responsible for the deepening of the hole. The cliff wall offered several small crevices which offered some refuge for wildlife. A pleasant discovery was a sizeable spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) sighted at the beginning of the dive. This made up for the disappointment of our seeing virtually no nudibranchs during this dive. We had promised our friends from the British Airways team a feast of nudibranchs and labels such as “nudibranch heaven” were thrown about with a great degree of abandon. This made the lack of nudibranchs a source of some embarrassment. At least, Bill Hewitt saw one and Rueben said that he pointed out two of them to Mario Micallef. He said that this was meant to make up for his (Rueben’s) ploughing up the seabed during the photographic competition! Oh well, enough said about that. Sessile marine life (i.e. organisms growing on a fixed rock face) varied considerably along the bay. Those places which received a substantial amount of sunlight were occupied by a range of photophilic algae – mostly phaeophytae or brown algae. This presented a rather drab environment and stood in stark contrast to the obscure and semi-obscure locations which were covered by a colourful riot of sciaphilic organisms made up of a wide variety of sponges and coralline algae. These were mostly dominated by beautiful plates of purple coralline algae (Mesophyllum expansum) interspersed with bright orange bryozoans (Myriapora truncata) and encrusting sponges. This is the kind of habitat favoured by our absent nudibranchs.

A Dolphin skeleton had been sighted during our last trip to this site and it was quite unsettling from a distance since the rib cage was distinctly mammalian and looked almost human. This dolphin carcass probably drifted in on the surface and sank by the cave entrance. We noted that there was now far less soft tissue on the carcass and much of the bones had been picked clean. No relatively large fish were seen on this trip. It is probable that the numerous fishing lines and lost fishing equipment may have something to do with this. I wonder whether it is worthwhile for all those fishermen to be spending Sunday morning hoping to catch something. I did manage to see a couple of very small grouper but their chances of living to a sizeable age seem to be quite negligible. Edward and I spent 92 minutes underwater and the relative warmth of the sea (24°C) ensured that we were very comfortable for the whole duration of the dive. This is despite the fact that I was wearing my 3mm summer wetsuit! The crowning glory of the boat dive was surely the sumptuous feast of galletti, dips, and cheese, offered by Anton, on the return journey from the dive site. I have never seen a more ravenous group of people diving onto the food! Anton was doing his best to outdo the wonderful meal we had for the Photo Competition awards on Friday and people tucked into this with great enthusiasm. The Good Lord had been quoted as saying “blessed are those who feed the hungry”. In this case, Anton has a special place in heaven! Safe diving to all.

Photo by Edward Vella: Dolphin skeleton

Photo by Edward Vella: Psychedelic Sponge

Base photo by Tano Rolé

Santa Maria Caves

- Comino 28/10/2012

Following an additional hour of sleep in the night, many of us woke up prepared for a deep dive at Fungus Rock. There were 4 rebreathers and lot of pony cylinders being loaded on the boat. But the sea conditions and the wind forecast were not looking favourable: there was an insisting big SW swell coming in, and a NW wind was picking up; white waves were seen hitting on the south comino coast and a phone call confirmed that no boats were leaving from Marsalforn Harbour. Virtually, the only possible place to dive was the shallow Santa Maria Caves located on the northeast corner of Comino.

Article & photos Joe Formosa The trip to the dive site was just 30 minutes long, and soon after getting in the water we headed for the caves followed by a big shoal of two-banded sea bream. The caves are a series of interconnected caves and tunnels, the most interesting one forming a Y at the edge of the bay, depths varying 6 to 15m. The cave then leads to another swimthrough tunnel with a Z-shaped exit onto the blue facing Gozo. The sea bed on this side does not exceed 25m and is covered with boulders on sand and posidonia meadows. Absolutely no sea life encountered on this side of the bay. Return to the sheltered bay were the boat was anchored via the same way vice versa, passing through the Z-swimthrough and then through the Y-tunnel cave taking the alternate other side. We inspected some other adjacent interconnecting caves, and then stayed long wasting the remaining available air on the sea bed enjoying being surrounded by the numerous sea bream. Once on the boat, the weather was now overcast and cold. The NW wind picked up to force 5 creating big waves across the ‘Fliegu’. The return trip was enjoyed with the usual treat of beer, galletti, cheese, bigilla and dips.

Reqqa Point The announced dive site was Il-Blata talMelh which was chosen because of the forecasted SE wind, but the wind direction shifted towards the West and that put paid to that site. A pity because the Atlam boatdive had not been there for quite some time… however, the wind direction made it viable to take the longer trip to Gozo’s North coast – and there the diver is spoilt for choice! As usual when the plans are radically changed, there is the usual discussion, (and canvassing) to select the alternate site – and the choice this week fell on Reqqa Point. Now we had been to Reqqa at the end of September, but the choice was approved unanimously (I think!) by all present. Reqqa is a firm favourite - there is so much to see and do. The divers grouped up and all had their plans – and so many permutations are possible at Reqqa. The previous time, we visited the huge Reqqa Cave (let’s phase out calling this cave Billinghurst!)and on the way back, we visited another cave, which lies due East of Reqqa Cave. Due to its depth we had a very brief look, this time we decided to first visit this cave, then progress along the wall past the entrance to Reqqa Cave, and then pass on the outside of the reef on the way back. So after a brief snorkel swim we descended on the East side of the reef, and soon we could see the cave entrance below. The cave lies at about 36m – max depth reached inside was 37.5m. The bed is quite silty so good buoyancy and an anti-silt stirring finning like the frog kick is required here. If then the silt does end up stirred, here there

- Gozo 04/11/2012

Base photo by Edward Vella

Photo by Edward Vella

Article Edward Vella

is no real danger of disorientation, since the cave is not deep and the exit is large, but it would mean the end of any photographic session for example! Since there is a degree of light penetration, even though the cave mouth faces North, there are quite a number of colourful sponges. We also noted a good number of long spined sea urchins (Centrostephanus longispinus), a tubeworm with unusual white plumes, and also a small Pinna nobilis. As per plan, our dive then took us further along the wall until we went past the huge entrance of Reqqa Cave , and then started our way back, keeping ourselves away from the shore wall, and towards the outside of the reef. We swam in mid water until we got there. We had spent some time in the cave and so we kept careful watch on our buoyancy control. The sea bed really starts to fall away here. This time we did not encounter the large groupers which are frequently seen here, and we had resigned ourselves to another of those not too rare blank runs, but then, in a recess quite close to the Atlantis’ anchor, we actually found a large one – 45cm plus – so at least there was some consolation at the end. So OK il-Blata tal-Melh has to wait, but who is counting - as long as there is Reqqa Point.

Photo by Joe Formosa

Photo by Joe Formosa

Wied il-Ghasri -

We were meant to dive at Hagret il-General (Fungus Rock) on this particular day but the weather dictated otherwise. A strong southeasterly wind had generated a significant swell but a southwesterly wind had been expected to freshen so this made the choice of dive site rather difficult. In the end we decided to try our luck along the northern Gozo coastline. The swell from the east south-east dogged us for most of the trip until we anchored just outside Wied il-Ghasri. This, for me, was a happy choice of divesite since this area is rich in marine caves and most of these are quite spectacular. Our dive plan was simple. We decided to start with Cathedral cave (Ghar ir-Rih) and then proceed to Ghar il-Qamh further east. Cathedral cave has got to be one of the most beautiful marine caves in the Maltese islands. The sun lights up the cave by reflecting off the sandy bottom just outside the cave entrance and this intense blue light gives a magical aura to the cave. Once inside, divers can surface in a large chamber (hence the name cathedral cave) and behold the spectacle. Some additional light enters the cave from a slit-like opening located about two metres above the sea level. This also allows fresh air to enter the cave and one can breathe easier here, unlike Ghar il-Kbir at Reqqa. The cave bottom slopes steeply and is occupied with many large boulders which must have originated from partial roof collapse.

Cathedral Cave (aka Ghar ir-Rih) - Gozo 11/11/2012 I would hate to be inside this cave while a northwesterly storm hits the area. The pressure generated by storm waves must be intense and would account for dislodging the large boulders from the cave roof. Further testimonies to the forces generated by such wave action are two circular shafts located in the inner recesses of the cave. These are man-made features which were meant to supply salt water to feed the salt pans found just above the cave. Historical documents show that these shafts had to be closed off since salt water, spraying out of them, was ruining the cultivated fields surrounding the area. Once outside Cathedral cave, we headed east towards Ghar il-Qamh keeping relatively shallow; mostly no deeper than 20 metres. There is an interesting and promising cave half-way to Ghar il-Qamh which needs to be explored systematically. I strongly advise divers not to try exploring this without the necessary skills and equipment. The outer chamber is heavily silted and the slightest stir would reduce viability to zero. This chamber is probably the only way out and, once stirred up, may easily become a lethal trap. Ghar il-Qamh is an interesting cave which exhibits features caused by surface water flow dating back to the last ice age. One of these is a deeply-incised channel but there are also quite a few pot-holes cut into the bedrock. This cave is exposed to wave action and this can be seen by the rounded boulders lying on the bottom but it is evident that there have been more recent episodes of cave collapse.

Article & photos by Tano RolĂŠ

Throughout the dive we encountered no larger fish life; just a couple of small grouper – about 20cm in length. It seems that the shoreline area has been fished out and this is quite characteristic of most of the north-western Gozitan coast. We keep seeing a great deal of lost fishing gear; including traps, nets and fishing lines. When we headed back towards the boat, which was anchored just off Wied il-Ghasri, we realised that we still had plenty of air left so Alex, Edward, and I proceeded towards Ghar iz-Zokkor; located further west from Wied il-Ghasri. There was a large shoal of small fish (vopirella) in this cave, along with several jellyfish (Pelagia spp.) which seem to have been swept into the cave by currents. We had a difficult time trying to avoid the jellyfish but there were several bristleworms feeding on those that were damaged and had sunk down to the bottom. The western cave wall warrants further exploration but, by this stage, we were getting low on air and had to return to the boat. In all, it was a marathon of a dive. We managed to get inside three caves but had to swim quite a distance. For me, this is true value!

Return to

Wied il-Ghasri

Much like the previous Sunday, and a couple of Sundays earlier, we were meant to be diving at Hagret il-General (Fungus Rock) but our plans had to be changed yet again because of the weather. This time, it was worse than the previous Sunday since, not only was it showing signs of stronger winds from the southwest, but the sky was totally overcast. It even rained as we surfaced after the dive.

- Gozo 18/11/2012 Article Tano Rolé

Photo: Joe Formosa

During the previous Sunday boat dive; I had spied the entrance to a cave, deep below us, while we were on our way to Ghar iz-Zokkor. We, therefore, decided to check out this “deep cave” which I had estimated to be at some 35 metres depth. I had caught sight of the “entrance” on another two occasions last year but I was always low on air and would have got into some punishing decompression if I tried to descend to that depth. I had even braved the steps at Wied il-Ghasri and made a shore dive searching for it. This large “entrance” kept calling me much like the sirens on Ulysses’ voyage of the Odysseus. I was so keen to explore the cave that I was secretly thankful that we had changed our plan to dive at Hagret il-General and returned to this site. Imagine my disappointment when this promising entrance turned out to be almost totally filled by sand. Only two small, narrow, shafts could be identified above the sand but it was impossible to enter these. Under all that sand there is a large cavern which must have been carved out when the sea level was much lower than at present. It’s a pity that I would have to wait for another Ice Age before I can explore it! Visibility, during this dive, was poor and the seabed was covered by a fine layer of silt which billowed into plumes at the slightest approach. Each diver looked like he, or she, was setting off miniature atom bombs as we swam underwater. All this silt must have come from Wied il-Ghasri following the heavy rainfall that Gozo had experienced a few of days earlier. There were even leaves from terrestrial plants strewn about the seabed. The second part of the dive plan was to visit Ghar iz-Zokkor which is located further west from Wied il-Ghasri. This is a curiously shaped cave which obviously developed along a vertical joint or fault line. This must have facilitated the passage of groundwater along lines of geological weakness. In fact, the cliffs in the immediate vicinity of the cave show a remarkable series of vertical fractures. The most interesting part of the cave is on the western cave wall where one of these fault lines, or joint, has been widened into a narrow ravine. The rock walls here have been smoothed by the passage of running water and erosion has produced some interesting formations. Ghar iz-Zokkor is quite shallow in that the entrance to the cave is only 10 metres deep and it is about 15 metres wide but, just inside the cave is a depression which extends down to 16 metres. There are several pot holes with near-vertical sides and some are even 6 metres deep. It is quite probable that the depression just inside the cave entrance may have been carved out of the bedrock by a series of pot holes which coalesced to form a big depression. All of the pot holes we saw during the dive had some rounded rocks resting on the bottom. These rocks are primarily responsible for deepening the pot holes since they get spun around with the passage of running water. As such, they can be considered as “teeth” which are very effective in deepening the pot hole. Such pot holes probably originated when fresh water drained out of the cave but rising sea levels brought wave action to the location and the process accelerated. Ghar il-Qamh, further east, has similar pot holes and it is worth noting that both entrances of these caves point towards the north-west. Therefore, they are both exposed to violent Majjistral storms.

The low visibility and gloomy weather ensured that we did not stay in the water for our customary long dive times so we were back on the boat in less than one hour. Even the rebreather boys did not spend a long time underwater. I managed to take a few shots of them while breathing off their units above water as well as below it! The best part of the trip was the return journey when Anton brought along a nice supply of galletti, dips, and cheeses which were devoured at no slower rate than a UN refugee camp! The crowning glory was Reuben’s birthday cake which was ceremonially cut with Ruben’s dive knife. We joked that this gave a suspiciously fishy taste to the cake! Once again... Happy birthday to Ruben! Base photo: Joe Formosa

Crocodile Rock

- Gozo 25/11/2012

Article by Edward Vella

Photo: Joe Formosa

Photo: Edward Vella Base photo: Joe Formosa Photo: Edward Vella

This was the third time this year that the Atlantis II discharged the Atlam divers at the Crocodile Rock at Dwejra. Actually, on the day the weather was unusual – it has been really a long time since the sea happened to be so calm. It was a real flat mirror calm – not even in summer had we been in such conditions. The cliffs at Ta’ Cenc reflected as in a landscape painted for tourists…. And these conditions brought on a debate, as to whether to maintain the declared destination of the dive – Xlendi Reef, or given the excellent conditions, to press on further along the Gozo’s West coast to the Crocodile. In the end it was put to the vote, and well no prizes for guessing which was the preferred! Actually this did not come as a surprise. In almost every dive that I myself have done at Crocodile Rock, there have been sightings of large fish and other sea life. This time, it was no exception. At first, it looked like the visibility was a bit lower than usual, but at depth it improved, however we did not have time to stay evaluating the visibility,

because on reaching the slope, before we realised what was going on, we found ourselves in a shoal of barracuda – how is that to start a dive eh? They were close to the sea bed, and obviously as soon as the divers invaded, the procession of barracudas took to the deep. A brief but significant encounter. We adopted the usual dive pattern for this site – that is after the descent, we stayed a bit on the boulder slope, and then start a gradual ascent until we reached the reef wall. This heading was to be maintained until we reached the cavern which the tourist dive brochures call Roger’s Cave, and then back track along the reef ascending still. So with this agreed plan, we left the barracudas, and started the gradual ascent. Then out in the blue we saw a shoal of what I at the time thought were amberjacks (acciol), but later during the après dive discussion, someone said that those were actually what in Maltese are called Sawrel talImperjal (Pseudocaranx dentex ) English: White Trevally. I was still intrigued by this, so I looked them up on the

internet, and now after looking at the photographs which were taken there, I am not sure if what we saw could have been Trachinotus ovatus, Maltese: Strilja, English: Derbio. If any of the divers present have positive identification, please let us know. Only a couple of minutes were spent in the cave, but in that time it seemed to me that this cave is suffering from the visits of too many divers. I do not know but I got the impression that there were more sponge and false coral growths before. During the return leg, we found a large ‘cow’ nudibranch (Discodoris atromaculata), and after locating the dive start recess in the reef, we spent the remainder of the dive around the Atlantis’ anchor area. Here another encounter was made with a sizeable moray eel in its lair. Other divers, who reached the sand beneath the reef, came up raving with the sighting of what they insisted was a very large stingray. So not a bad dive at all - really not bad at all!

Bubbles Oct-Nov 2012  

Atlam Sub Aqua Diving Magazine