The Maltese Islands are small group of islands, the largest three of which are inhabited, located about 100 km south of Sicily.
Being at the cross-roads of the Mediterranean, the islands have a rich history and some of the oldest remaining buildings in the world, dating back to before the Pyramids of Egypt. With a population of about 516,000 living on an area of about 316 km2, population density is high, ranking as the 4th most dense sovereign country in the world.
The islands together have a coastline of about 260km, with only about 2% being sandy beaches. The west coast of the Islands is primarily formed of cliffs which taper off to the North, east and south into numerous inlets and bays, Travelling from the one extremity to the other of the islands (northwest to south east) by car takes you less than 2 hours, including the short ferry crossing between the Ports of Mgarr in Gozo and Cirkewwa in Malta.
Underwater Malta – an introduction
The underwater landscape around the Maltese Islands is normally punctuated by reefs which are thriving with Posidonia oceanica (Neptune seagrass) meadows, and sandy bottoms with boulders in some areas. Caverns and other underwater topography features also provide a varied range of dives. Shipwrecks and artificial reefs are also popular with divers for exploration. Deeper down, the Maltese Islands have an Underwater Museum open to technical divers, where they may visit a range of WW1 and WW2 ship and airplane wrecks.
Depths around the Maltese Islands are mostly a reflection of nearby coastline, with shallow reefs between 0-40 m being the main feature in the north, east and south of the main island of Malta, but sheer drop-offs on the West side of Malta under the cliffs where the reef shelf is only a few metres wide before plunging down to 50m and beyond. Diving around the Maltese islands provides a range of dives from 0 – 120m+, so it’s ideal for both the greenest diver or freediver, as well as the seasoned technical diver.
The Island of Gozo is generally regarded as having more pristine diving spots, but also deeper waters, with certain locations starting off with shallow reefs but quickly giving you the ability to reach depths beyond 60m from shore with relative ease.
Fish and marine life is plentiful where it concerns small fish which thrive on small organisms, but the islands have few species of “resident” pelagic fish, partly due to over-fishing and partly due to the nature of the Mediterranean sea. Migrating barracudas, tuna and dolphins are frequently sighted close to land, and sharks, whales and other large pelagic fish are occasionally spotted well away from the main islands in deeper waters.