Gozo: Dahlet Qorrot
Sheltered site in north-east of island is ideal for a warm-up
At the foot of a bumpy dirt track lies the tiny fisherman’s cove of Dahlet Qorrot.
Malta has a long history intertwined with Britain, due largely to its strategic position in the southern Mediterranean as a naval outpost. Today the island welcomes thousands of tourists from the UK, drawn to the year-round warmth of this easily accessible destination: the flight time is approximately three hours.
On Gozo, there’s a dive for all sea and weather conditions
Divers have good reason to visit too thanks to a multitude of excellent underwater caves, walls, swim-throughs and wrecks to explore. The deal is sweetened thanks to a BSAC tie-in with Air Malta offering a discount to members and extra weight allowance for diving equipment. Let’s face it, you’d rather take your own gear than hire it, wouldn’t you…
The country of Malta is actually the main island of three. Gozo has around 40,000 inhabitants to Malta’s 400,000, with uninhabited Comino situated between the two. A regular car ferry service from Malta to Gozo takes just 30 minutes. All three are volcanic in origin and buildings are made from locally quarried stone of pastel orange colour. The people are Catholic and their churches rise prominently above hilltops.
There are buses on Gozo but car hire is essential for diving. Ours came in the form of a battered Maruti jeep (it’s an India-built Suzuki – I checked.) This isn’t a road test review but suffice to say, it wasn’t immediately obvious if this death trap would leave us alive at week’s end.
Rising up out of nowhere from the Mediterranean depths, the Maltese archipelago is increasingly popular with technical divers, and some of our group were booked to undergo Jack Ingle’s expert Trimix tuition during the week. But there are also plenty of shallower shore diving locations dotted around the coastline. On Gozo, which can be driven across lengthways in around 30 minutes, there’s a dive for all sea and weather conditions.
When conditions allow, Dahlet Qorrot is suitable for all levels. Warm-ups are rarely classic dives and this proved to be no exception, but it offered an opportunity to get comfy for the days ahead. As our jeep bounced down the winding road into the remote bay, brakes like sponges and steering wheel ready to come loose in the hand, there was also a first taste of danger.
Fishermen use the cove here and their waterfront refuges are built into the small hillside. There are benches to gear up on and an easy beach entry, or steps to a giant stride, if preferred. Faffing done as quickly as possible, I headed into the water with Simon and Nick and we turned right to follow the coast along eastwards.
Beneath the waves the terrain was sandy patches and long wispy seagrasses. In places boulders and rock formations poked through with the occasional sea urchin or school of small wrasse. Another group saw a school of barracuda and thoughtfully scared them all off before our arrival. Sadly, big fish are not endemic to the Med these days so divers need to pay attention to the small stuff: for example, we spotted well camouflaged Plaice-like fish skit away as we drifted over.
It was October and the visibility was around 15 metres, with water temperature a very comfortable 26 degrees. My two dive buddies opted for 3mm shorty wetsuits, although I sported my Fourth Element Thermocline. This is the same suit worn in Egypt over the summer and despite dropping a couple of degrees here, it still felt appropriate. As it’s so thin the Thermocline can easily be layered-up too, so when it got a bit nippy topside, on went the rash vest underneath. Paired with boots and a hood the suit is great for a week in blue water.
Everything checked out ok and after exiting the water and de-kitting, the trip back to the dive centre in Qala was up the same dodgy track in the jeep. Chucking your gear in a knackered car and driving from site to site may be unromantic but it feels wholesome, somehow. So far Gozo appeared rather a basic, wild and untamed place. Hopefully it would stay that way for the rest of the trip.
Visit the wreck of the Lara, wrecks of the Gulf Fleet and Thomas Canyon
Dave and Lisa want to take you on a 21-day trip of a lifetime