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M EDITERRANEAN SEA MA LTA & G OZO

different feel to Malta as my journey to Marsalforn Bay in the north took me through an island awash with yellow. The limestone buildings made way for significantly more countryside to that I had seen in Malta and the journey was a lot more relaxed with considerably fewer vehicles on the road. I was diving and staying with Atlantis Diving Centre based just a short walk from the seafront of Marsalforn Bay. An array of restaurants line the main street of this pretty little bay, giving visitors plenty of variety to choose from during their stay. I also got the chance to catch the FA Cup Final on the Saturday evening with my meal, a real bonus for a big footy fan like myself. Gozo also differs to Malta underwater. While it’s still mainly shore diving, it’s not the wreck fest that Malta is famous for. Here you are greeted with more reefs, caves, caverns and swimthroughs. My first dive saw me at Ras il-Hobz, better known as ‘Middle Finger’. Best described as a huge pinnacle rising from deep waters to just under the surface, the site is awash with small life. It wasn’t long before we saw an octopus protecting its eggs in a hole in the reef, and an eel hiding in the reeds. The real fun happened once we hit the pinnacle though, as my guide Denis, who I have now nicknamed the ‘Nudi Whisperer’, showed me that he’s an amazing talent underwater. I thought I was back in South East Asia critter spotting as Denis found nudibranch after nudibranch. Some were barely half the size of my little fingernail but sure enough Denis would find them hiding amongst the reef. I forgot about the chilly water as my concentration was fixated on each little beauty that Denis would point me towards. I was so glad I had taken my macro lens with me as this area was, unexpectedly, Nudi-Heaven. Our second dive was a short drive away through scenic countryside and we wound our way through the hills to Mgarr ix-Xini. A small bay with a tiny beach, we had travelled there

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in the hope to find the seahorse Denis had spotted on his last dive in the bay. Once again the entry was from the shore but it was a little easier this time. It was a relatively long surface swim as we had to cover quite a distance to get to the end of the bay where the seagrass provided the perfect habitat for seahorses. Unfortunately, this particular seahorse remained elusive but it was still an interesting dive as we spotted numerous creatures in or on the sand including a stingray undeterred by our presence, and a couple of Scotch Bonnet sea snails. A visit into a small cave also produced even more nudibranch species. Luckily for my second day in Gozo the wind had changed and we were able to dive the north and, in particular, the famous Blue Hole and Tunnel of Inland Sea. Topside, the Blue Hole used to be situated under the famous Azure Window, whose arch unfortunately collapsed due to stormy weather in March 2017. For those on dry land this is a real shame but divers have now benefitted as the collapsed rock has created numerous new swim-throughs and chimneys to navigate. This is a true diver’s playground and as we worked our way through the maze and in to the cave, we found plenty of conger eels amongst the cracks and holes. Again, numerous nudibranch were found by Denis along the way but my wide angle lens was on for this dive. It was typical then that we would find a rare nudibranch - the Crystal Tips (Janolus cristatus). I could see Denis almost bursting with excitement underwater and knew that we’d found something special. We were down at around 35m and close to deco but my fisheye lens managed to grab a couple of record shots. My dilemma for the next dive was do we attempt to go back down with my macro lens and hope it hasn’t moved much, or do we head to the Inland Sea? After careful consideration, I decided that due to the depth and risk of not finding this treasure again, it was probably best to try a shallower site that is

I THOUGHT I WAS BACK IN SOUTH EAST ASIA CRITTER SPOTTING AS DENIS FOUND NUDIBRANCH AFTER NUDIBRANCH.

IMAGES Top: Scorpion fish on the house reef at Divewise. Above: Salt-andpepper (Caloria elegans) nudibranch in Gozo. Left, clockwise from top: Street in the old capital of Mdina, Malta. Pink Coryphella (Edmundsella pedata) nudibranch in Gozo. Marsalforn Bay in the north of Gozo. A diver poses in an opening of Um El-Faroud wreck.

also regarded as one of the best dive sites on the island. I wasn’t disappointed with the Inland Sea as the tunnel provided a blue colour underwater that I’d never seen before. So vivid, I was in awe of the light as we made our way out of the tunnel and onto the reef. A lobster greeted us along the tunnel wall as it stood proud out of its hole and then, once we were on the reef, Denis again didn’t disappoint with his Nudi spotting. He also took me to see some cuttlefish eggs; they were still a while away from hatching but it was great to see new life starting underwater. My two days in Gozo were gone in a flash but what an amazing couple of days! It was time to head back to Malta for one more night before my flight home. For my last night I was staying in St. George's Bay, which is

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DIVE TRAVEL ADVENTURES - SUMMER 2019  

Join us on some of the most spectacular and exciting Dive Travel Adventures worldwide in the Summer 2019 (Issue 4) of the new premium quarte...

DIVE TRAVEL ADVENTURES - SUMMER 2019  

Join us on some of the most spectacular and exciting Dive Travel Adventures worldwide in the Summer 2019 (Issue 4) of the new premium quarte...