It started badly then went downhill........
Despite our best efforts, the meeting time was unavoidably way too long before our flight. Inevitably this meant meeting in the Alexandra pub in Norwich, or the "office" as Julian and Lincoln call it. The Alex sells really good ales brewed by Tiny the Landlord (2nd from left). After sampling a few of these we were kindly taken to Norwich airport.
After usually travelling through the London airports, Norwich Airport was a breath of fresh air, the staff were extremely helpful, we were treated as individuals and made to feel that the flying from Norwich was also part of our holiday.
Rejoicing in the start of our holiday, and now beginning to relax, a number of the airport beverages were sampled.
Eventually we were poured on to the plane where we were lucky enough to have the front seats with the most legroom (well worth £18 each way including extra luggage allowance).
Entry into Malta was surprisingly easy as was the transfer to our hotel called the Sunseeker Holiday Complex? Whilst it was very clean and the family owners were helpful and friendly the place was spoilt by a gang of
retired hooligans who were determined to share their cackling laughter with everyone at the hotel until dawn.
Very early the next morning we were picked up by Jonathan from Dive Deep Blue who are by far the best dive centre on Malta.
After a quick gear set up and introduction to our dive guide Jon, we were on our way to the first dive which was a wreck called the Um L Faroud.
UM L FAROUD:
This is a 110 meter long tanker wreck sitting upright on the sea bed 100 meters (though we were convinced it was more like 500m) off the shore of Blue Grotto at a depth of 36 meters. This site also offers depths ranging from 5 to 40 meters as you travel seaward.
We parked on quite a steep slope and after jumping off a small quay had to swim round a head land then straight out to the wreck.
Jon our guide (Zendiver.co.uk)
Photograph from VisitMalta.com (you know our opinion of underwater photographers)
Overall, being used to "proper wrecks" (not deliberately sunk) we found it to be picturesque though quite sterile. That said however, it was a very pleasant start to the week.
In the swing of it now
The second day's diving started with some discussion about doing some "real wrecks". Jonathan was really helpful and we came up with a plan to do the Maori in Valletta Harbour, then the X127 again around Valletta.
The HMS Maori
This is the wreck of one of the Tribal class frigates that was on mine sweeping duties during WW2 and now lies in 15 meters of water just 50 meters off the shore.
Another shore dive, we kitted up by the truck then entered the water via some steps. A short swim and we were on the wreck. This one was a lot more reminiscent of the wrecks we are used to, combined with great swim throughs and areas to rummage.
Exiting was slightly more tricky due to the waves at the steps.
We had lunch and some refreshments at the local fishermen's cafe. Whilst there we spent the time boring Jon the guide and his girlfriend Marion with the usual stories that guides hear every week of the year.
Fortunately they were gracious enough to smile and nod in the right places.
The second dive was at the shipwreck of the x127 waterlighter. again this was close to Valletta but situated in a different creek. The ship is a veteran of World War 1 having been designed for the Gallipoli Landings, but was sunk in World War 2. She was a water lighter serving around the harbour and was sunk when the submarine moorings off Manoel Island were bombed.
Above us on the swim round to the wreck was a building previously used as a hospital, the workers clearing the hospital dumped everything they didn't want into the creek, this gave us the opportunity to treasure hunt. Henry found a halo that must have been thrown from the hospital.
A really nice dive on quite a big lump of wreck, as it was square in shape we nicknamed it 'the skip'.
Diving day 3 and we were on another deliberately sunk wreck previously called the P29, for 1 dive.The P29, a Kondor Class former Minesweeper and Patrol Boat, was sunk on 14th August 2007 just off of Cirkewwa, at a depth of 33 metres. She can just be dived from the shore, but it is a fair swim. Clearly a very popular wreck site, it was like diver soup in the water and a diver fashion show out of the water.
The 2nd dive was opposite the film set of the Popeye film in a site called Anchor Bay.
A lovely relaxing swim around the headland to a cave where we could surface, then out into the bay again where we found and irritated a large octopus. Finally on to the anchor and length of chain along the concrete blocks and out. Julian and Lincoln decided that they would miss this dive and use the time to forage the popeye village for food.
If It's Gozo it must be day 4
Day 4 started with a short ferry ride across to Gozo.
The first dive was at a site called the Inland sea; this dive involves entering the water in what looks like a volcanic crater, swimming through a tunnel to the open sea, then plunging to whatever depth you want along a wall, returning the same way through the tunnel. An atmospheric dive in an unusual location.
The second dive was at a location called the Blue Hole. After a longish climb down to a hole (under the arch in the photo) the plan is to swim along the wall at whatever depth you like, then up into a different pool.
Needless to say, without a guide we all came up in different places and regrouped by an ice-cream van in the car park.
Last diving day, let's hope it's a good'un
After some deliberation we decided to try a little dived wreck of a passenger ship called the Margit. Swimming out from a cafe (very civilised) for what seemed an eternity, we came to a large wreck but because there are no currents in the creek the whole wreck was dusted with a thick layer of very fine silt. The slightest touch and the visibility was ruined. In our typical fashion we ruined it.
Having enjoyed this wreck so much we decided to do it again for the second dive. Lincoln decided to do shore-cover.
Whilst exploring the wreck Henry and I were split up from Julian and Jon, when the time came to return to the shore we realised that we didn't have a compass and we couldn't surface due to the Maltese zipping around in their boats over our heads. After some ingenious signals we decided to try and follow the sun. Luckily before we set out on our underwater meanderings we all stumbled upon each other and headed back.
Last day and time to explore the island.
We climbed aboard on of the classic buses and headed off to explore Medina then Valletta.
Very touristy with nice cake
We intended to have a couple of hours at the Maritime Museum, but when we arrived at the bus depot there was some confusion as to where it was, whether we could walk to it, or needed a bus.
Julian and Lincoln did the decent thing and scarpered on a very touristy horse and carriage after getting a "really good deal". Henry and I asked a policeman about the museum who told us that it was a 30 minute bus ride away and anyway it was closed. Horrified at the peril of our buddies we decided to explore (after falling around laughing). Cutting through an alleyway 100 metres from the bus terminal we saw the same horse and carriage that the others had done a deal with and the driver even asked us if we wanted a ride!! The driver had apparently told the others that the museum was just down an alley so that would give him enough time to turn around a escape.
Valletta sells the worst pies in the World by far.
To be continued