Going down in Gozo

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of Malta  ,
Sunday, June 4, 2006

For a total of 30,000 residents on Gozo (the rest of Malta's 400,000 population live on the main island), the ferry service is pretty large and reliable. A whole years' transport budget was probably spent on these two comfortable and fast ferries, so the short crossing between the two rocks was pleasant despite a howling wind and quite choppy seas.

But the weather didn't bode well for the diving I was hoping to do around here. Gozo has a good reputation as a Mediterranean dive destination but unseasonable seas could ruin the party. Still I didn't let that worry me as we passed the tiny, picturesque islet of Comino and headed to Mgarr ('arrr!!!) harbour.

Apparently the castle on Comino was used in the recent movie, the Count of Monte Christo which starred Pierce Brosnan. Didn't see it so can't verify, but it looks pretty cool anyway, perched on the highest point of the craggy island. Comino also houses the Blue Lagoon - one of Malta's prime swimming spots and partially visible from the sea outside. Would have to try and make it there later.

After more bus traumas friendly Joseph from Lantern Guesthouse picked me up at the bus station and I had a comfortable and reasonably cheap room for the night in Marsalforn. Next morning I went out to explore this small resort town and found a pleasant place built around a tiny wedge of pebbly and seaweed covered beach. Heavy, luminescently blue seas were pounding the artificial shore sending up spray metres into the air. I gulped and visited a couple of dive shops.

Calypso were going out in the afternoon to a sheltered cove on the southeast corner of the island so I signed up for a single dive. Soon after we zoomed across this tiny, sparsely vegetated island in Calypso's chunky 4WD. Something needed grease because it moaned forlornly each time we went around a sharp corner. Once we'd negotiated the single lane road down an interesting gorge I found myself at Mjarr Xi'nii (Shinii).

The beach isn't much better here but the tiny fjord looked like an interesting dive site. Donning a long wetty and hood (better hot than cold down there) we plunged in and soon found ourselves amongst wave after wave of gnaly pink and purple stinging jellyfish. Yikes - they were everywhere, obviously sheltering in the cove from the harsh open seas. Some had stinging tenticles as long as your arm so I was glad I wore gloves. Still, my face was partially exposed so it was quite a swim out through the 50 metre wide minefield.

Once we got through that the interesting feature of the dive engulfed us. A large underwater cave had formed which you could swim into for twenty metres or so. Some Nudibrancs and a bunch of yellow blobs were inhabiting it, hardly threating stuff but good to photo all the same. Funny how the best pictures come out in almost total darkness.

Back out onto the sandy floor of the fjord and there was some more animated marine life to check out. One very cool thing (unpronouncable name) had bright blue tipped wings when cruising about so I'll dub it a Sea Angel. Divemaster Graham called another sandy coloured guy with a single black fin on its back a Star Gazer although I couldn't tell the resemblence and there was a few very camoflaged plate fish that pootled about trying to look inconspicuous. I took a great video of one of them so will try uploading that too.

Still, the easiest pics are of the other divers as we just don't move that fast. To return we had to navigate the jellyfish minefield again but by now the dive masters had devised a fun but pointless strategy of slicing them up with their knives. We made it through unscathed but I was left wondering if the severed tentacles can grow heads and therefore multiply...

We passed a hilltop Jesus with arms outspread that reminded me a little of the big guy in Rio that hopefully I'll get to see one day. Everyone round here is pretty religious except the expats. All I was interested in by then was the beer o'clock, so I struck the bell when we got back.

It was a quick stop in Gozo as the dive shops were closed Sunday and the weather wasn't forecast to change for a number of days. Comino was possible but the weather wouldn't have helped an expedition there either. So a pleasant place in all, but from the rugged, rocky coastline it seems pretty difficult to access the water and I wonder how it survives as a resort destination when there are other, easier options around the Med. There are definitely better dive sites around here when the weather is favourable, but a Red Sea it ain't, so it will be a while before I make it back to find out.

One final note after savouring a well cooked rabbit dish (local specialty) in the restaurant at Lantern. If you're looking for budget accommodation on the island see Joseph at Lantern (on the main street pretty central in town) as they have large rooms with balconies, great breakfast and excellent food in general all for a very resonable price.

Next entry -> onwards and northwards from here - back to Sicily.

Great Brands of the World - Malta

There are brands here, but I can't pronounce them. So I have to award this one to the tasty and not-too-difficult to pronounce Cisk (pron. Chisk).

Malta's home grown beer delivers the goods at a reasonable price and with a nice ring to it to boot.
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