Malta's Top 10 Shore Dives
Caves, swim-throughs, wrecks and the freedom of easy shore diving. Our pick of Malta's shore dives
Location: North coast, Malta
There are a number of ways to dive this area with lots to explore including the wreck of the Imperial Eagle. Just around the head is a small bay which leads to a cave and a small inland sea. The area can be quite busy with boat traffic so make sure you bring your SMB. The entry/exit point is best in calm conditions.
Location: South coast, Malta
The rest of the dive takes in shallow reefs, areas of seagrass and sand, and a second swim-through cave with a maximum depth of about 20m. There are a lot of steps from the car park down to the sea at this site. They’re shallow, though, and it’s an easy entry to the water.
Blue Hole and Azure Window
Location: Dwejra, Gozo
This is one of the most popular dives in Gozo, and is a topside tourist attraction as well. Above the water, the Azure Window is natural arch in the cliff, around 20m high. You begin the dive in the Blue Hole, on the opposite side of a bay to the window. It’s a long walk to the water from the car park but there are steps. The Blue Hole is completely surrounded by rock and is linked to the sea by an underwater arch. It’s only 15m deep here, and protected from swells.
Leaving the Blue Hole, you can swam across the boulder-strewn bay to the Azure Window, which extends 15m below the water. The change in light as you go from sunlight to shade under the arch is especially dramatic. Once through the arch, you can turn left along the back of a reef wall, which drops down to 60m, and you can then back across the bay to another reef. A fissure in the reef forms a chimney at about 15m. Swimming up, it brings you onto the top of the reef at about 6m. You finish the dive back in the Blue Hole, which has a cave in the back from where you can really appreciate the colour of the water.
Billinghust Cave and Reqqa Point
Location: North coast, Gozo
It’s a fairly difficult entry and exit for this dive, which starts at Billinghurst Cave. A steep slope of solid rock with no steps or handrails leads to a narrow ledge a couple of metres above the sea. There’s no space in which to put on your fins, so you have to keep hold of them and leap into the water. There’s no exit point here either – only jump in on a calm day. You descend right in front of the cavern, which is large and easy to explore. It’s possible to go through a tunnel to a second, smaller cave, and a permanent rope leads into it.
Leaving Billinghurst Cave, you turn east along a reef wall, which bottoms out at 60–70m, and come to Reqqa Point. This reef runs northwards and out to sea, and is a 15-minute swim from the cave. It’s bursting with life: a lattice of corals with tubeworms, scorpionfish, and anemones hiding in the gaps. Clouds of damselfish hug the reef, and parrotfish and wrasse are plentiful too. Go round Reqqa Point, swim to the bay and exit the water by pulling yourselves up a rope. This isn’t the easiest dive for entries and exits, but it’s well worth the effort.
Santa maria Caves
Location: North coast, Comino
Once used as the backdrop for scenes in The Count Of Monte Cristo, the Comino caves are located in a sheltered area on the eastern side of the island. They are very open and it is possible to swim through one cave and exit through another. The sunlight creates beautiful patterns as it glimmers through the crevices, and much of the inside of the caves is bright red when illuminated with a torch. Outside, you can find schools of sea bream and the occasional octopus.
Location: North west coast, Malta
The small inlet on the north west coast of Malta with the picturesque village of Sweethaven overlooking the secluded bay was made famous by the 1980 film Popeye, starring Robin Williams. Nowadays, only fishermen and divers use the jetty. Entering the water, leave the cliffs to your left and swim for about 150m. A giant boulder marks the entrance to a cave, the largest one on the islands. After about 15m you can surface into an air pocket and have a look at the impressive dome-shaped cavern above. Spend the rest of your dive exploring the shallow waters of the bay (maximum depth is 10m) are teeming with marine life - look out for cuttlefish, squid, morays and octopus hiding between the large boulders scattered across the seabed, starfish and seahorses clinging to the seaweed.
Location: South coast, Gozo
One word: seahorses. The narrow inlet is easily accessible via stairs from a car park overlooking the bay and is popular with swimmers and snorkellers, but never crowded. Divers can find flounders and stargazers on the sandy bottom and lots of critters in the crevices along the wall. Dedicated macro-spotters may find a few long-nosed seahorses in the seagrass patches.
Fort St Elmo
Location: Valletta, Malta
The bay off Fort St Elmo is home to the famous HMS Maori, one of Malta's premier wreck dives. However, the reef just off shore is often overlooked even though it offers plenty of reef life to explore. Moray eels, octopus, groupers and plenty of silver bream can be found here. Only a three-minute sirface swim away, the reef drops to about 12m and then 32m. It's worth noting that this site should only be dived when the sea is calm, as the exit via any of the three staircases is fairly difficult and poses a challenge even to experiences divers.
Location: St Julian's, Malta
Confident swimmers can access this shallow site from shore, though several dive centres offer boat trips to Mercanti Reef as well. The shallow depth, the colourful reefscape and the large array of marine life make this site an excellent photo spot. Don't rush it, there are plenty of overhangs and valleys to be explored.