Malta's been hogging the headlines of all the travel features this year, from romantic regaling of Valletta's butterscotch streets (which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, don't you know) to poetic prose on the archipelago's eternal sunshine. But we think a rather large, rather spectacular secret has yet to be uncovered: Gozo. Only a short boat ride away, Malta's rural, laid-back sister also happens to house some of Europe's best diving. Boasting warm waters, superb visibility, wreck and cave diving, it can be hard to narrow down which dive sites to choose. Luckily for you, we've put together our favourite dive sites for an unforgettable Mediterranean diving adventure.
Cathedral Cave, Ghasri Valley
Accessed from the shores of Ghasri Valley, Cathedral Cave (or Blue Dome) is a huge enclosed dome accessed via a steeply sloping wall located five metres below the surface. Once you enter the dome you can surface to a large air pocket lit up with dancing cobalt reflections by a fissure in the roof.
Descend into the cave to see huge boulders carpeting the seabed offering views out of the cave to the open blue. Dive this site in the afternoon when the maximum amount of sunlight seeps into the cave giving a spectacular light show.
Level: Open Water
Depth: 5 - 30m
Xlendi Cave & Reef, Xlendi Bay
This dive site is so beautiful it's even been used as a wedding venue. Located in a shallow, sheltered bay, this dive is ideal for the whole spectrum, from snorkellers to advanced divers. More a tunnel than a cave, follow the wall through the headland until you reach a gentle drop off to the outer reef where you can often see shoals of jacks and juvenile barracuda.
Level: Snorkeller to Advanced
Depth: 2 - 25m
Wreck MV Karwela
Arguably Gozo's best wreck, the 48 metre MV Karwela began life as a passenger ferry, progressing to a floating disco before being sunk in 2006. Reaching a maximum depth of 40 metres, she spans three floors with numerous entry points for safe exploration. While the wreck is ripe with interesting nooks and crannies to explore, we love the grand central staircase and the Volkswagen Beetle shell located on the sun-deck.
Coral Cave, Dwejra
The giveaway is in the title. Located conveniently close to the Blue Hole (in fact, Coral Cave, Inland Sea and the Blue Hole can all be completed in a single trip), this cave is covered in corals - from sponges to sea fans alive with marine life. Spot anthias, anemones, hermit crabs, seahorses, tube worms, starfish, parrot fish, amberjacks and more.
Level: Open Water
Depth: 1 - 10m
Inland Sea, Dwejra
One of Gozo's most unique offerings, Inland Sea begins in a landlocked lagoon leading to the ocean through a dramatic 80 metre long tunnel. While there are crevices and caves to explore, the view from the tunnel to the indigo open ocean is the real spell binder. If you can draw your gaze away from the light at the end of the tunnel (sorry), there is an abundance of marine life to spot.
Level: Snorkeller - Advanced
Depth: 0 - 30m
Blue Hole, Dwejra
The Blue Hole is Gozo's most famous dive site for a reason. Once hailed as the best dive site in Europe by Jacques Cousteau, the Blue Hole reaches a maximum depth of 14 metres and features an archway leading to the deep blue on one side and a spectacular cavern on the other. Enter the archway, pass huge boulders and interesting rock formations in to the open ocean where you might spot groupers and shoals of schooling fish. Circle back to the Blue Hole to explore the cavern for marine critters lurking in crevices (think: shrimp and conger eels).
Depth: 9 - 30m