This September a group of UBUCers left coldening UK for a week of diving in Sunny Gozo. See what they got up to below….
Sunday – Georgia
We all got an early start today, suitcases bulging and stomachs full with breakfast we all made an excited exodus to Gatwick, ready to begin our adventures! After meeting up at check-in we discovered Chris had arrived at the airport five hours early and had managed to get an earlier flight to Costa-Del Malta. One major flaw in his plan was that he’d forgotten to buy hold luggage…
To overcome his packing dilemma, Chris had worn his BCD like a gilet through security and on the entire 3-hour flight. With Chris’ struggle in mind, we collected our tickets and made a vital pit stop at Spoons for a £7 pint and then jetted across the skies to scuba paradise.
The flight was smooth going and passengers got to learn a bit of scuba along the way as some members of the party had to finish their SD theory. Resident DO Harry Bloomfield gave the lessons whilst neighboring passengers all contemplated why they had never pursued the glamorous sport that is scuba. After landing safe and sound, with the odd person applauding our arrival, we made our way to the ferry terminal to collect the cars and get to the villa.
Reaching land, we picked up the jeeps which are full of character but NOT comfort – think Jurassic Park jeeps and then add on about ten years of abuse. Hot wheels acquired, we made our way to the villa, whilst one car made a stop at Lidl for the all-important beveraginos. One of the best things of the day was cracking open a cold can of lemon Cisk by the pool *chef’s kiss*. After running around choosing rooms and unpacking we got our heads down and started partying on the rooftop pool – all super excited for the 8 a.m. start tomorrow.
Monday – Luke
As the sun rose on a beautiful day In Gozo the UBUCineers woke up for the first day of diving. After running around the Villa we hoped in the Jeeps to drive to ScubaKings.
A brief introduction and safety talk from ScubaKings along with the collection of our weights and tanks set us off for our first dive of the day. We headed to Xwejni Bay and parked up. As we were kitting up Harry noticed something wrong with Chris’s DSMB, it was more of a balloon attached to a piece of string then a DSMB. Chris had in fact been scammed by some Dive shop in Malaysia. Before anyone had a chance to have a laugh about the DSMB, it appeared that out on-site OWI had put his wetsuit on backwards. Shouts pleadings his ignorance to its confusing zips were drops in the ocean compared to the roaring laughter all around.
Much like this trip report, it took a long time to get to the diving part :). We finally headed into the water for our first dive. Meant for testing our weights and gear, we circled around the bay at around 10-12 meters. With fantastic conditions and amazing visibility, a dive that was meant to just test our equipment and buoyancy was still incredibly beautiful. Those who were in wave 2 decided to go for a swim and snorkel around the bay. Discovering the abundance of jelly fish in the waters. We quickly learnt that fried egg looking fish were friendly and didn’t sting but the small purple ones were evil. After both waves had been in and out we headed for the first ”proper” dive.
Reqqa point, the site of our first proper dive. A rocky entry led to beautiful underwater structures. Including a tunnel with a swim through. A dodgy ladder led us back up to the cars as we left the water. An incredible introduction to diving on Gozo.
Tuesday – Ashley
Tuesday started with a later start with a tank pick up time of 9.30. The dive site plan for that day was Blue Hole and Inland Sea. After a dive briefing by Harry, some explored out to see where the fallen Azure Window had stood. Some tried to place where Azure window once was, trying to find recognisable scenes such as the Dothraki Marriage from season 1 of Game of Thrones and The Count of Monte Cristo.
The first dive of the day was planned to enter from the iconic Blue Hole. Descending then either exploring the cave behind the Blue Hole and then moving along the coast to see the fallen remains of Azure window before turning and attempting to find a chimney to the coral gardens. Theoretically, a simple dive.
The divers were met with a rocky then mossy entrance resulting in some very cautious footing and awkward walks as people nearly slipped. Our shore marshal, Georgia, sat with a large white fan avoiding the sun while ensuring the diver’s safety. Her skills were promptly put to the test as the trip baby, Chris, realised that the inflator in his BCD was faulty right before he descended. Matt Stone came to the rescue with his BCD salvaging Chris’ dive. Thankfully, other than Becca and I giving Georgia a shock when our air lasted longer than expected, everyone was able to follow their dive plan to a T. Notably, some managed to find an octopus at the bottom of the Blue Hole and some falling fireworms in the cave gave some divers a momentary scare.
The second dive of the day was a dive from Inland Sea along a tunnel to a little nook with a small chimney then if gas was managed properly we were to surface in the Blue Hole. A warning was given that due to high boat traffic we were to try and stay below 5m in the tunnel as to be safe.
The tunnel was dark and loud, something many divers commented on. But it did allow people an opportunity to test their dive lights before the next day’s highly anticipated night dive. However, once we had exited it, we were delighted to meet schools of fish swimming along the cliff wall. Some even saw the schools being hunted by Jacks. A few divers explored the nook trying to find the described statue but unknown to us, it had been removed. Everyone (except for Harry and Eden) managed to surface at the Blue Hole. Some waiting divers came out with snorkelling equipment to say hi to those waiting at their safety stop (Hi Tom).
On the surface, some divers took to the tall rock to practice diving into the water to cool off. While some tried it once or twice, some (Simon) decided to make it more of a challenge to see how many dives it would take before the second group surfaced. Other divers decided to treat themselves to an illusive raspberry Cisk while they dried off.
Dinner that night was a chicken and mushroom risotto for the meat eaters. The vegans and vegetarians were treated to a delicious aubergine and potato curry made by Rami and Lewis. Entertainment that night was extended to the ‘Horserace’ card game as introduced by Max with some Trumpet Fanfare music (supplied by Luke and Alex) and commentary supplied by either Max or Lewis. There was also some stories traded amongst the group resulting in a wine glass which the group decided not to use for the rest of the week. In all, a very eventful day.
Wednesday – Chris
Double arches are almost exactly what it says on the tin; It’s two arches. After a hellish surface swim of over 20 minutes to the dive site from xwenji bay left me absolutely exhausted, we dove down to see the arches. The first arch was at 20m, with the second arch right below it at 35m at the bottom. Further forward towards the bottom part of that reef went down to 45m, or as I now like to call it, the Lewis narced zone, where he began to do backflips underwater. My partner Duncan and I were swimming through the arches like it was tubed slides in a playground, where he promptly could not find me as I had buggered off to take a close up shot of an agitated fire worm (unsuccessfully).
We then swam towards the top of the reef trying to make it back to shore to avoid the surface swim back. Unfortunately, we only managed to get about halfway before we surfaced and I had to switch to my snorkel so I wouldn’t exit the water with 2 bar of air.
Middle finger – A far more relaxing dive contrasted with the unrelaxing experience in simon’s car as we arrived (barely alive) in the middle finger dive site, suspiciously close to a water treatment plant. Duncan and I were partnered up again and we had an easier time lazing along the wall of the large middle finger rock before we ascended to the pinnacle of the wall where we Duncan posed for a little photoshoot before his gopro decided to ascend earlier than expected. Without Duncan.
So, we swam along with Duncan praying his gopro wasn’t lost to the ether and tried to enjoy the many schools of fish swimming along the wall. After we surfaced, Duncan found his gopro way off in the distance and swam full speed to get it, with less than consistent direction pointers from Sam, the shore marshall.
Night dive – Before we even had the opportunity to do the night dive, Max and I had to borrow a torch from the dive center since we didn’t have any. After a long wait, we finally arrived at xwenjy bay (again) at sunset for our night dive. After a group photo that took most of the sunset to take as our photographer Tom insisted using a timed feature on his fancy camera that he eventually gave up on, we took our UBUC picture, looking like the world’s most depressing school trip.
We then kitted up, and prepared for our night dive, all in one wave. The night dive was a little spooky as night dives can be but we did see some interesting sights, such as a cuttlefish and an octopus that the entire UBUC crowded around like we were a PADI group and the octopus was our dive master. We then surfaced and got changed into our dinner clothes while we waited for matt stone and Georgia to come back from their little expedition of surfacing miles away from everyone else. Once they arrived, we all swiftly went to our big group dinner, where everyone was so knackered from the 3 dives and good food that Becca and Sam decided to take a nap on the table, before we headed home for a good slumber, eager to see the dives that awaited the next day.
Thursday – Jethro
Thursday was another early start, much like the rest of the holiday. The group headed over to Xatt l-Ahmar cove, or in the case of my car, to a nearby sewage treatment farm. Eventually arriving at the correct location, the group looked out onto a seemingly empty sea, which actually contained four sunken wrecks laying in about 40m parallel to the shore. Today we would be diving the MC Karwela, an ex ferry ship scuttled in 2006 as a diving attraction.
The first wave of divers nervously headed out towards the marker bouys, where they had to put their distance estimation skills to the test and attempt to descend in the correct place between two bouys to come down onto the wreck. Fortunately for me and my diving group, we aced our positioning and came down directly ontop of the mast of the Karwela. Myself and Luke headed straight down to the deck and found the Karwela’s notorious staircase, where we spent the majority of our dive doing a photoshoot while considerably narced. We then headed over the bow to the front of the wreck, then back down to its stern at a shallower depth. Other divers spent considerably longer down on the wreck, exploring the large rooms once stacked with cars during ferry crossings, and the propellers down at the stern. Wanting not to risk entering deco, we headed back towards the shore onto a reef where we had our safety stop. Others did the same, but some had some longer safety stops…. (Tom).
The next dive was the incredible Cathedral cave, located on the opposite north side of the island. I arrived first in Kia family carrier, much to the surprise of the other vehicles, who had struggled to get their jeeps our parking spot due tot he bumpy terrain. This was a particularly exciting for us all, but none less than Harry, who was about to do his 100th dive. Harry and Eden headed off for their dive before the rest of the group, who filled their time by jumping off the 10m overhang near the entrance to the dive site. However, due to an unfortunate combination of ear problems and performance anxiety, Harry and Eden returned shortly after.
The rest of the group then headed into the the jellyfish filled water and swam round to the cathedral cave – a massive underwater cave that opened up into a massive, completely sealed chamber. Here they surfaced and consumed some definitely non-alcoholic non-fizzy hydration packs (remember – we follow BSAC’s safe diving practices) which they had brought with them for the surface interval in the cave. Some lucky divers also got views of mermaids Rami and Sam clambered over some of the ledges in the cave, while others explored some of the narrow caves that radiated from the cabve. After a reasonable surface interval, the group tipsily descended and headed back to the cars, packed up and headed home.
The repeated long dives had started to get to the group, who had an early bedtime ready for the last day of diving tomorrow.
Friday – Becca
Friday was bittersweet as it was sadly our last day of diving, but we had our boat dives day to look forward to, which was gong to be fun.
We set off (very early) to get on our slightly smaller than anticipated dive boat! Of course, a stop at Lidl first, to get snacks for the day was mandatory.
Our first dive was the P31 wreck. This was a 52m boat given to the armed forces of Malta in 1992 and then sunk as a tourist attraction for divers in 2009. So, essentially we got dropped off by one boat to get on another! This wreck was really interesting as there were loads of things to be seen and loads of holes to poke your head in to and some small air pockets. We managed to see an octopus, a conga eel and loads of other divers! The visibility was amazing and we all dived as a big group which was really fun!
The second dive of the day was the Comino Caves. Initially, Slightly daunting as they are supposed to be confusing to navigate. However, once we got down, the sights were extraordinary and no one got lost. We could even surface in one of the caves. The group had a long and relaxing last dive. It was warm, great visibility and there was loads to see…the complete opposite of UK diving! Sadly, after we had done our safety stop we ascended for the last time in Gozo and went back to the villa to do our PRM for our dive leaders.
Saturday – Duncan
Sunday – Simon
Under the scourge of a 3:30AM alarm call did we stagger out the villa, bemused and (some of us) hung over, we all raced to the docks to catch the 5AM ferry back across into Malta. The delirium of less than 5 hours sleep led to bizarre conversations about feet while fraying the humors (and sanity) of others. I personally need at least 8 hours of beauty sleep and was feeling very fucking ugly. Alas our time on this gorgeous island had to come to an end, a near week of continuous diving in 28c water had been a treat and has likely all made us snobs over the sea temperature around the British Isles.
One taxi to Malta International later and we were all sitting around, slurping expensive airport food waiting for our sky chariot to send us hurtling back towards his majesty’s kingdom. Having arrived back at Gatwick airport with noticeable tans and half shut eyes we all hugged and said our goodbyes, perhaps because nothing bonds people together quite like 30m+ visibility. One coffee later our 2hr drive back to Bristol in classic British rain storm weather and my passengers were filled with nothing but utter confidence in my commitment to safe and considered driving. Having made it all back to the best city in the country alive our holiday had officially come its conclusion. I’d like to thank the organizers and committee members involved particularly for all the hard work and dedication to making the trip run as smoothly as it did 😀
A massive thanks to the committee – particularly Harry and Tom – for organizing the trip. Also thanks to our drivers and the rest of the gang for making Gozo such an enjoyable time!