Gozo - The Return

Having dived Gozo in 2006 we had to return to this beautiful island off Malta where relaxed shore diving can be enjoyed by hiring jeeps, cylinders and weights. We based ourselves in Marsalforn, a lovely seaside town with plenty of good restaurants along the seafront on the north coast of the island.

With some knowledge of the dive sites from our previous trip we hoped to get even better, more challenging diving and a small experienced group made this possible. Shore diving can often involve long snorkels to & from the best dive sites, or long underwater swims back to exit points. In Gozo sea conditions and cliffs can limit entry and exit points. Dive planning, good navigation, careful monitoring of decompression limits and good air consumption is vital.
Having organised airport transfers, jeep hire, apartment rental and diving in advance by e-mail everything ran seamless without a hitch. This left us to enjoy the great diving and food available stress free and at our ease.Jeeps(s).jpg
Fully equipped with our Maruti Jeeps, cylinders, weights and southerly winds forecast on Wednesday, our first days diving we dived Reqqa Point and the Billinghurst Cave.
Cominoland Props(s).jpg
On Thursday morning we snorkelled out to the marker buoy and dived the wreck of the Karwela at a depth of 42mt to the propellers. We dived the Karwela on nitrox to get the optimum time on the wreck & least decompression time while making our way back to shore, finishing our stops on the shallow reef.Lidl Twins(s).jpg
I was to be buddied up with the “Lidl twins” for the rest of the week (Andrew & Tony) Both supporting Lidl shorties, arguing over who had the latest fashion release and both getting down to zero lead on their weigh belts.
Andrew continues the story .........
Thursday at 1.30 pm marked the arrival of Mr. Murray on the ferry at Mgarr after having being released on compassionate leave for 5 days. We fed him a bacon baguette and because he had been on a lay off from diving since the summer holiday, we decided it would be prudent to offer him a ‘refresher’ dive in Ix Xini bay, max depth 15 metres with easy navigation. Mr. Murray was to dive with Liam W and Tony who forgot to inform him that they would be travelling approx. 40m up a very narrow cave and also forgot to ask him if he had a torch! He completed the dive well, occasionally groping the other two mangetouts in the darkness of the cave, but the details of that are too upsetting to tell... A nice easy dive, just what the doctor ordered (,”).
That night we ate for the first time in what was to become our favourite restaurant (the one with the Red umbrellas fronting Marsalforn bay). Andrew picked it at random and we all wondered how he got it so right first go! He must have a natural feel for it. Sure look at the size of him – well fed. It just so happened to be Patty’s birthday (I couldn’t say what age she is but its somewhere between 40 and 80). Tony had gone to serious lengths to organise a lovely birthday cake with her name on it (but with the age blurred out) to be presented by the owner’s son for dessert. “Husband of the year” crown is seriously under threat after that performance. Andrew was also to find out that Patty had a seriously sore ear infection and couldn’t dive at all but showed his sympathy by offering to mind her torch for the remainder of the week. Nice chap, is Andrew and torches are handy in dark caves!Azures Window(s).jpg
Andrew(s).jpgOn the 18th, when the group was sure Andrew could indeed dive, we headed to the spectacular Blue Hole / Azure window. We did a nice easy 30m dive along the wall for a hour in the morning and were disappointed that there were no Russian free divers swimming in bikinis in the blue hole while we were decompressing- like there had been in the blue hole, Dahab in May 2008. Probably just as well, as one of the mangetouts’ head had a bad bruise the last time from swimming backward into the side of it. After collecting new cylinders in Marsalforn and lunch we headed back to the same area to dive the Inland Sea. Liam W lead Tony and Andrew to a swim through no bigger than a broom cupboard at 55m and no time was lost getting through it! Some of the divers were diving weightless - and to do a 55m dive only touching your BC to dump air at the descent and again to inflate it on the surface at the end of the dive is a really exhilarating feeling. Needless to say air consumption wasn’t a problem.
The next day saw the weather turn a bit cloudy and we had approx. 23 degrees air temperature. The morning dive was a nitrox special (€6 extra per cylinder) and we dived the Cominioland wreck which is situated on the south side of Gozo, close to the ferry port. Andrew expertly led the Tony and Liam W and Liam S and Joan again paired up for this one. The dive is an approx 200m snorkel to a buoy, then dropping down to the sea bed at 40m. The wreck is a small ferry with fairly little fish life and growth on it, but with some nice easy ways into and along the decks. They helpfully removed the windows in case anyone wanted to make a quick exit!  Andrews’s navigation was about 10 degrees off on the underwater swim home, but in fairness at least he found the wreck!  He also expertly managed a long pyle stop on the swim back and a 6 minute safety stop so as we would have less chance of meeting the lovely young nurses in the Gozo chamber (,”). The afternoon was the group’s half day........so we dived Xlendi Bay for an hour at 10m or less. This dive has a long swim through / tunnel right through a headland and it is a good swim out and around the headland back into the bay. A very relaxing dive, not a huge amount to see apart from the tunnel.
Joey was the man who filled our cylinders. Its fair to say that he didn’t seem to be in the best of humour most days but neither would we if we were up at 5am pumping cylinders 6 days a week! We managed to break the deadlock mid-week and were getting more than one word answers when, after 4 days of fills anywhere between 190 and 205 bar, Liam asked him did he ever consider filling the cylinders! Back to square one...! A word of advice here, many of the dives in Gozo involve depth and a serious pedal to and from the point of interest so with this sort of fill, a 15l cylinder is worth considering for such dives. Flying Gurnard(s).jpg
After our ‘half day’ on the 19th, the 20th was a three dive day (,”). In the morning we dived the Coral Cave from the Blue Hole as it was too rough to drop in over the cave. This involves a good pedal each way, best done at about 15 metres to keep the NDL in check. The coral cave’s roof is in about 20m and the floor is in 30m and the cave is very wide so relatively straight forward to dive. In the afternoon we set out for the Double arches from Xwieni bay. Following on from NSAC’s ‘in-depth exploration’ of this area in 2006 (!) Liam S and Joan are said to have just reached the top of it before having to return. Liam W on the other hand guided Tony and Andrew to the “Triple Arch” which is considerably to the east of our intended location. But he was not to be berated after the dive, boldly telling the lads that “I got ye 50% extra free”. Strangely, one of the dive guides in Calypso diving had never heard about the ‘triple arches’... Having missed training in The Curragh the night before, the dive team made up for it on this dive! The final dive of the day was a night dive to Ix Xini for a night dive where Liam S and Andrew guided the two groups to the cave in darkness, but this time Andrew had a torch. The water in the cave was crystal clear so we were able to see the fire worms well in advance of colliding with them (NOT recommended!). Cuttle Fish(s).jpg
This was a cracker of a night dive and we all saw flying gurnard, octopus (who are not members of the Tony Leeson photography appreciation society!), cuttlefish and a free swimming moray. Octopus(s).jpg
A really nice dive, well recommended. Patty and Carmel minded the jeeps, which is recommended, as this dive represents an easy chance for the jeeps to be visited by n’ere do wells in search of goodies. A three dive day requires good timing in order to get back to McDonalds in Victoria for ‘good healthy food’ before it closes (,”). Nice to be reminded of diving Dun Laoghaire mid week on holiday.Moray(s).jpg
Our final day saw the north westerly’s ease and the group unanimously decided that Andrew should get an opportunity to dive the Billinghurst cave which can dropped onto via a fair leap into the sea to the west of Requa Point. He did well, in fairness, for a lad who doesn’t dive much and thoroughly enjoyed it – although he did comment that it was not a dive for everyone because 80-90m directly in with no way up but to go back out the cave mouth is challenging to say the least. A minimum of three torches between three divers is not recommended (!) as it is pitch black on the ascent to the very small air pocket right at the end. The lunch break saw the two Liam’s actually reading the local directions on how to reach the Double Arch. We entered just 100mt to the west of Xwieni bay at a point known as ‘the washing machine’, a name very well deserved! An approx. 200m swim due north at a depth of 15m brings you to a point where the reef ends in a point with drop offs from 15m to 40m all around. Barracuda can be found here, but not on the 21st September as its a bank holiday! The top of the reef is lovely for watching small sardines fish being hounded by larger predators.  But what we were really here to see, three years and approx. 26 cumulative dives later, was the double arches which are a great formation of one arch upon another. There was a serious thermocline here as we dropped from 15m to 30m to enter the bottom arch – at least 4 or 5 degrees C. Lovely on the way back though! A really nice dive to finish the week.
To conclude, a week in Gozo in September “feels like more”. We will be back! 
 Gozo Group(s).jpg
  Gozo - September 2009    
   1 16 September 2009  Reqqa Point  30 Mt  39 Min
   2    Billinghurst Cave  23 Mt  36 Min
   3 17 September 2009  Karwela (Wreck)  42 Mt  31 Min
   4    Ix Xini  15 Mt  56 Min
   5 18 September 2009  Blue Hole  31 Mt  50 Min
   6    Inland Sea  54 Mt  36 Min
   7 19 September 2009  Cominioland - (Wreck)  39 Mt  43 Min
   8    Xlendi Bay & Cave  13 Mt  46 Min
   9 20 September 2009  Blue Hole - Coral Cave  26 Mt  55 Min
 10    Triple Arches  34 Mt  44 Min
 11    Ix Xini - Night Dive  10 Mt  46 Min
 12 21 September 2009  Billinghurst Cave  25 Mt  52 Min
 13    Double Arches  34 Mt  52 Min
     Average Dive Time  45 Min  
     Average Max Depth  30 Mt  
Diving Gozo (Malta) 15th - 22nd of September 2009  
  Ryanair Return Flights (Dublin - Luga) €208.00
  Airport Return Transfers (Luga - Marsalforn, Per Person) €20.00
  Cirkewwa - Mgarr ferry (Return - Per Person) €5.65
  6 x Day Dive Pack (Cylinders, Weights, Air Fills) €95.00
  2 x Cylinders of Nitrox €12.00
  7 x Day Jeep Hire (Per person) €50.00
  Petrol for jeeps (Per Person) €8.00
  1 x Weeks Rental of Apartment (Per Person) €82.00
   Diver Total Cost: €480.65
   Non Diver Total: €373.65
Gozo Dive Sites
(Positions are not precise but should be accurate enough to find the dive sites)
1 Mgarr ix Xini N36 01.224 E14 16.284 South Side
2 Xlendi Karwela & Cominoland N36 01.049 E14 17.186 South Side
3 Xlendi Bay N36 01.770 E14 12.899 South Side
4 Fungus Rock N36 02.810 E14 11.325 West Side
5 Crocodile Rock N36 03.037 E14 11.173 West Side
6 Blue Hole N36 03.232 E14 11.137 West Side
7 Coral Cave N36 03.148 E14 11.255 West Side
8 Inland Sea N36 03.234 E14 11.450 West Side
9 Moffitt's Cave - Boat Dive N36 04.518 E14 11.969 North West Side
10 Ta Gamma (Gudja Cave - Boat) N36 04.677 E14 12.129 North West Side
11 Billinghurst Cave N36 4.868'N E14 14.131 North Side
12 Reqqa Point N36 05.003 E14 13.860 North Side
13 Xwieni Bay N36 04.747 E14 14.897 North Side
14 Double Arches N36 04.884 E14 14.806 North Side
15 Marsalforn N36 04.259 E14 15.541 North Side
16 Fessej Rk (Shore Access Point) N36 00.980 E14 16.706 South Side