” Tonio, I have dived all over the world and this HAS to be one of the three best dives ever.”
This was said to me by a retired engineer who had dived every waterhole there is to dive in the world. After one particular dive, as soon as his head was out of the water, he spat his regulator out and said this with an urgency of one that has been keeping a feeling locked up.
What a sad contrast to the opinion of some of local divers who underrate Malta’s waters in preference to places like the Red Sea!!!
I’ve written this post to flesh out why Malta has the most incredible diving, to challenge preconceptions of what it’s like to dive here, and to encourage newcomers – both experienced and novice – to dive Malta. I draw on great memories of just some of my 30 years and 12,000 logged dives (and 48,000 man-dives). What strikes me is the camaraderie among divers… and that too makes Malta special.
You see, when one dives, one never, or rarely, dives alone, so that experience is enhanced and multiplied by the number of divers in the group. Sometimes, what blows my mind out is not so much what we are watching, but the expression of joy, incredulity, disbelief even, on the faces of the divers I am leading.
More often, these are divers that have many years globe trotting diving experience. Divers that have dived the most exotic place in the world, the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Florida..yet little Malta, without coral reefs, without colorful fish, manages to leave them not only surprised but in awe of their experience.
I have been diving Malta’s waters most winter days and certainly all summer for the past 30 years. I’ve gathered countless dive memories; each obscured and then forgotten by yet another special, last memory, only to resurface while sharing a bottle of wine with friends or fellow divers at a bar.
We all have that special moment to share, and we all think we have a memory to ‘out do’ the last experience narrated. I don’t think there is a single diver that is not in awe when sitting in 6m of water surrounded by hundreds of Barracuda as they parade to and fro within arms reach. It’s a breath-taking sight.
Actually the only diver I do know that is not in awe is my love, Myriam, to whom they are just fish; she tends to prefer the smaller, more colorful creatures, like corals plants and the many invertebrates.
You see the problem with Malta divers is that as soon as we start going on about the things we have seen, it’s like we’ve unlocked a treasure trove of memories as each seemingly fantastic sight, reminds us of an even more fantastic experience. And so our tales of underwater life go on, resurfacing, and submerging again.
So if you’ve a few divers sitting together, drinking, then you’re going to experience a good few seasons of Sea Treck or National Geographic playing there in front of your eyes. So many experiences shared.
Hovering, (yes divers hover even if, as in my case, it’s the hover of a 95kgs dragonfly) on the edge of the reef watching a few hundred barracuda milling around, it is not uncommon to be distracted by Little Thunny shooting by, picking food like demented shoppers at Lidl while sardines try getting out of the way – not unlike Lidl’s employees on a specials’ day.
Or to glance a little to your right to see an approaching school of two hundred Crevalle Jacks coming in from God knows what journey to have a look at overweight dragonflies.
Or looking up from 16m to see a large ball of barracuda circling at 10m, my eyes wander to my left, to the open sea, where I spot some 50 large squid at my depth and 50m away from the barracuda. It looked like two opposing armies ready for battle, but apparently neither was in for a bit of a sushi take away that day.
I could go on and on, describing what I have seen, shared or experienced while diving in Malta but I think I will finish with the most common expression I have heard from some of the most experienced divers I’ve been with…
” This is just unbelievable!!!”
Phil Goldacre says
To quote Danny Jones, “Driving on the proper side of the road”? You know that’s nonsense. Maltese drivers always have driven, and always will drive, IN THE SHADE!! It’s famous for it!
One of my favourite memories was descending to the Um El Faroud at Zurrieq through a mass of mating squid. Large sections of the hull were festooned with egg cases and I was watching a couple of squid near me as I passed and was amazed to see the male flashing brightly coloured lights all along his body to warn me off – the female he was with was HIS!! I was fascinated until my dive leader tugged at my fin to get me back with the rest of the group. Thanks, Antonio!
Another time we were diving Lantern Point on Comino when we came back up to the shelf at 6m and saw a largish school of fish pecking away at something on the ground. When we got there, we found a very big and very grateful octopus who stayed and played around with us for a good while.
And then there was the biggest cuttlefish I’ve ever seen on a night dive at Cirkewwa…. the pair of eyes I saw poking out of the sand at Ghar Lapsi. Investigated a bit and a cuttlefish exploded out of the sand and zoomed away across the reef like a guided missile. I’ve never seen anything move so fast under water! Until, that is, I had a barracuda coming towards me at Cirkewwa. Thankfully, he thought better of it and scarpered but not until he’d got within about 2 metres. The water seemed a tad warmer that day, but maybe that was just me.
Yeah, you’re right Antonio. Every memory evokes another one and they’re all wonderful. Some of the nights in the bar bring back pretty good memories too. And the great thing about diving with the school that Antonio’s attached to is that you’re not a customer, you’re family. Or is that just the feeling you get whenever you’re in Malta anyway?
steve LeBourn says
Tonio though i had many dives before Malta i dont think i new what diving was definately how good diving could be untill “Tonios Malta” the first time i ever met Tonio was on a Guided dive we drove what i know now the long way round to the dive site only so that Tonio could impress on us tourists the beauty of the Maltese sights then to the dive site wow great water great guide great country
Tonio eat’s sleep’s and breath’s Malta i now consider after many visits Tonio to be a great friend and Malta the first place to go diving
thank you to Antonio Anastasi
Mikko Heikkilä says
To all you who question Antonio’s dive log book I suggest you take the flight and see yourselves. Once you meet him you will not be in doubt.
I think by man-dives Tonio refers to his freediving. Once his 20 liter lungs are inflated he can take the plunge to 50+ meters and meditate for 0,5 hours and wrestle with 100kg octopusses.
The only true diving is done in the Baltic Sea on the coast of Finland. I would not even call it diving unless water temperature is over 10 degrees C.
Please feel free to comment.
Martin Dore says
Malta has an amazing range of diving. It has caves, wrecks, huge drop-offs, big fish, amazing night dives and so much more. I’ve dived from Northern Scotland to idylic tropical islands. Malta is right up there in my list of dive venues I’d love to return to. Don’t get me wrong, I love diving tropical reefs. But the sheer variety of Maltese diving makes for an amazing holiday.
Jef Proudfoot says
I quite like diving in Malta. I’ve done one or two.
Danny Jones says
Malta has so much more to offer than a trip to the red sea. Ok so the red sea has colourful coral but does it have caves, caverns, swim throughs, deep historical wrecks, deep recent wrecks, shallow wrecks, reef dives with massive shoals of barracuda, dives where you swim through 25m deep 60m long tunnels, vis of 40m plus regularly AND THEN TOPSIDE, buzzing nightlife where many of the dive centres get together in the same place, history dating back thousands of years, DRIVING ON THE PROPER SIDE OF THE ROAD, World Heritage sites, safety to leave your hotel grounds and wander around as you please and above all, no more than 3 and a half hours from UK airports.
What’s stopping you? Come and experience the thrill of DIVING in Malta.
Marcus Grant says
I completely agree with Tonio. I have lived and worked for six years now, logging more than 2,000 dives, and the diving still excites me. I have also worked in the Indian Ocean plus dived all over the world, I have seen some incredible things, but the diving around Malta has kept me here all this time.
My divers also come out of the dives and say ”WOW”, “how blue and clear the water is”, “I did not know you had so many things to see”. This happens all of the time and is becoming the norm.
This is why Malta has been voted third best diving destination by British divers, and this ranks up there with the Red Sea and Maldives.
Malta is also becoming very popular with underwater photographers because of the clear untainted waters.
Mike Barrett says
Tonio, I first dove with you around 12 years or more ago doing my advanced course, the diving and humour is what made that trip. I have been back in recent years on many occasions and you and the Maltaqua team always treat me as one of your own.
I have had some great wreck dives, but the huge shoal of Barracuda last year and bottle cave especially take some beating. Bottle cave in the afternoon with the sun beaming through the entrance is a great spectacle. The wrecks of HMS Stubborn, Le polynesian and South wold rank among my favourite dives. Malta has great history above the water too and the people are great.
I will always look forward to returning to Malta for great diving but above all to maintain great friendships.
Its always a pleasure diving and joking with you….see you in November (fingers crossed)
Max Heidbüchel says
Thank you for sharing your passion on diving!
It was always a pleasure to dive with you! The clear water around Malta has become one of my favourite dive spots!
I´ll be back on Malta some day! See you!
Antonio Anastasi says
48,000 dives?? I WISH 🙂
As you implied that would have left me, very tired, hungry,and very much without a life. Probably very ‘bend’ too.
I do not think that I’d be able to do that many dives EVEN if my ambition, to still be doing my job as a diving instructor till I’m 70, comes through.
Alex, man dives is the definition of the number of people I have led on dives.
Thanks Claude for bring up this discrepancy.
Alex Grech says
I just checked Tonio’s words, used in his biog under our writers’ page and he said: “12000 logged dives later (some 48000 man dives…)”. So I guess he’s done the 12,000 and the man dives is the total number of people he’s had with him under water. I am not into diver jargon, but that may answer the query? I put the full line in the post now, so thanks Claude for commenting, and keeping us on our toes!
Claude Azzopardi says
Ok let me see… 48,000 man dives in 30 years; let’s say never missed a day, well… >4.3 dives a day! rest my case…