Gozo: MV Karwela and Middle Finger

Final dives to artificial reef and remote headland wrap up Malta trip

Author: Pat
9th December 2012

On the TV screen, the unmistakable image of a ship’s bridge appears out of the gloom.

We’re watching footage from our dive to the Motor Vessel (MV) Karwela off Gozo’s south coast. “It’s a shipwreck!” proclaims the youngest member of the family. Just for a quiet life, I agree with her.

Lying with her bow facing the island, the Karwela is intact

But in fact the Karwela is not a wreck, in so much as she was sent deliberately to the bottom in 2006 to join a growing list of diver-friendly artificial reefs. The nearby Xlendi ferry wreck had diminished to such a poor state that a new attraction was required, and this vessel fitted the bill. A former Maltese passenger ferry of 50 metres in length, the Karwela settled onto the seabed in around 40 metres of water fully upright, and just a short swim from the rocky shore at Xatt L-Ahmar.

For our morning dive to her we first had to swim out to sea on the correct bearing. In less than five minutes a faint ship’s outline began to materialise. Lying with her bow facing the island, the Karwela is intact if bare, with her decking unmarked by marine growth of any kind.

The highest point of the vessel’s superstructure is about 25 metres in depth, with the main deck at about 32. However the Karwela lies on a slight incline, so moving towards the stern will see the numbers on your computer tick upwards and deco obligations begin to threaten. There are hatchways and holes to enter into the superstructure, if you fancy it and as training permits. Water visibility off Malta on the day of our visit must have been 20 metres or more and warm enough to spend plenty of time exploring.

Second dive of the day was a mile or so to the south-west at a site known as ‘Middle Finger’, a giant sub-sea protrusion that comes to within ten metres of the surface. Outfit owner Franco at Deep Blue Dive had suggested this one to us, and even drawn a back-of-fag packet map to accompany his directions. “Drive down a dirt track, follow a stone wall, left at the field…” – all features synonymous with Gozo, yet miraculously his directions were so good that we now found ourselves in a remote bay with terrain that matched his description.

Any nagging doubts about being in the wrong spot evaporated before we’d even entered the water, since three truckfuls of divers came bouncing down the track and began kitting up. Clearly this was somewhere worth diving.

And it was. Swimming away from the shore, beneath the surface the bay hides a shallow rock shelf suddenly dropping away to 50 or more metres. At the southernmost tip of the promontory we found Middle Finger, a huge column of rock rising up from the gloom with several undulations around the top.

The lure of diving in Gozo is natural geography such as this, since marine life is sadly absent, at least by the standards of somewhere like the Red Sea. At Middle Finger a school of Barracuda patrolled nearby, and a few Wrasse had the gumption to come and check us out. Overall though, fish and sea creatures have been notably absent at all sites.

My advice would be thus: before heading to Gozo, make sure you’re happy exploring caves, caverns and rock formations in clear blue water. If you are, Malta’s little cousin won’t disappoint.

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