A bit late for this one I know, but I’m writing it anyway, if only to keep my records up to date.
Back through the mists of time, to a distant age called September, Lady Hughes and myself travelled to the sun-drenched island of Malta at the far end of the Mediterranean – is this poetic enough?
As a keen diver I’ve always wanted to visit Malta as it’s a bit of a mecca for divers with all the wrecks and diving infrastructure. Apparently there’s something like 60 dive centres on the island and they get 35’000 divers visit each year.
We stayed away from the crowds by staying at the Ramla Bay Hotel, near Mellieha. The hotel was lovely and they upgraded us to a panoramic room when they heard it was Clare’s 50th birthday – we didn’t mention that her birthday was actually six months earlier.
The Ramla Bay Hotel is a family resort with several pools, restaurants, etc. which was fine. It did ruin the ambience slightly when we sat out on the balcony, with a bottle of red wine, some evenings to watch the sun go down, only to be bombarded with screams from the kids club and loud renditions of ‘the Wheels on the Bus’, – but live and let live eh.
Highlights of the island were, the medieval citadel at Medina, the neighbouring island of Gozo and the capital Valletta.
Valletta is still dominated by the medieval fortifications and is fascinating and beautiful. We visited the cathedral, the saluting battery, the palace and the armouries as well as walking most of the walls. Valletta’s had a very turbulent history from the Knights of St John fighting off Muslim invaders through to the Second World War where the Germans battered the island so much they were all awarded the George Cross for bravery.
As for diving, Clare and myself dived twice at Cirkewwa, gentle reefs just near to the ferry terminal to Gozo and not far from our Hotel. Clare had never really done any ‘proper’ sea dives and she loved it.
As a Master Scuba Diver I was qualified to dive the Um El Faroud, which is the wreck of a huge tanker, sunk on purpose for divers. – Clare couldn’t as you have to be advanced or above. The tanker rests at about 36 metres and sits upright but split in two. The entry was a little rough but once we were in it was a very smooth descent down until the huge wreck emerged out of the gloom.
Over two dives we swam through the blades of the massive propeller, explored the interior and were treated to the sight of a school of barracuda hovering over the stern.
Our last day of diving was at the tiny island of Comino. Clare and I, and the other divers, were taken to the dive site by RIB which was almost worth the money in itself as we bounced through the waves like James Bond – well in my head anyway.
Once there we dived through caves and reefs for our first dive, spotting lots of fish including a moray eel. For our second we dived a sunken patrol boat, which was great, with lots of life and great visibility.
Malta is a fascinating island, with lovely people and a wonderful history. Some people love the place and we met several ex-pats (immigrants?)who had moved there from dear old blighty. Personally, I liked it, especially Valletta, but I wasn’t so blown away as to be desperate to get back. If I do go back it will probably be for the diving, which was excellent – special thanks to the team at Orangeshark H20 Diving who took care of us, I would heartily recommend them to anyone and would definitely use them again.