Visiting the Island of Gozo

 

Today we drove up to the ferry port and caught the 845 ferry to Gozo, the second largest island of the Maltese group.  The car ferry only takes about 25 minutes and it’s quite a scenic trip, passing the third island of Comino on the way.  The sea was flat calm today and a lovely day forecast.

After docking we drove the 20 minute or so trip to the site of the Azure Window, or at least where it used to be.  The Azure Window was a massive arch of sandstone, adjoining sheer sea cliffs and was one of the top attractions on the island.  It has been in numerous films, including being the location for the wedding of Daenarys and Kal Drogo in Game of Thrones.  However, just over a year ago, after a very bad storm, the whole thing collapsed into the sea.  Quite a catastrophe.

The area is still a major tourist spot however, because the cliffs themselves are spectacular and down at the base is the Blue Hole, a natural deep sea pool which only opens to the sea by a window under the water.  It’s a very popular dive site.  We had a quick look and then drove down to the Inland Sea area, about 100 yards inland.

The Inland Sea is a totally unique site.  Surrounded by humungous cliffs on three sides and with a sea lagoon at the base, it would be completely landlocked were it not for a long tunnel that runs through the rear cliff to seaward.  The tunnel is about 80m long and around 25m deep below the water, perhaps the same distance above the water.  Local boatmen take tourists through on little boats.  We were going to dive it.

The Tunnel is one of my favourite dives anywhere.  You descend from the very shallow (3-4m) lagoon into the tunnel ahead where the bottom drops away a bit as it opens up.  Just after you enter the tunnel bends around and then in front of you like a massive bright blue window is the exit to the sea, 80m ahead.  It appears quite narrow at this point but as you get closer, you realise it is huge too.  I find it an amazing experience to swim though the dark tunnel towards the light.  If I analysed this, I might liken it to a rebirth experience!!!!!!

When you emerge into the sea proper, there are some huge boulders and then the cliff walls open up on both sides, towering above you some 30m and falling away below you to untold depths.  The walls are absolutely sheer, covered in living growth of many colours, red, green, pink, purple, yellow and orange and there are clouds of tiny fish swarming out from them, keeping close in case there are larger fish out in the blue.

We turned left and swam along in about 30-25m for around 20 minutes and then turned back and retraced our steps.  We had 3 minutes of decompression stop when we re-entered the tunnel, but mine had cleared by the time I emerged into the lagoon and Bob and Stuart just had one minute.  We swam back, happy divers, having had about 45 minutes in the water.

I had a bad headache – it had been coming on all morning sadly, so I took some paracetamol and decided not to do the second dive.  We sat in the little café on the edge of the Inland sea and had some food and drink and I drank lots of water.  It’s a serene spot despite the steady stream of tourists coming down to take the boat trips.  If you’re a diver and you come to Malta, I strongly advise you to come and dive Gozo.  There are some cracking dives here.

We then relocated the car up to the carpark near the Azure Window because our second dive was to be through the Blue Hole and then to explore the huge rocks and swimthroughs caused by the collapse of the arch.  I was feeling better but decided not to risk it so Bob and Stuart went in together.  Fiona and I watched from the top of the cliffs.  Its a bit of a leg-breaking hike in to the entry point to be honest and I wasn’t totally sorry to have missed it.  You have to scramble over a lot of rocks in full kit and there are opportunities to break an ankle at every step.

Anyway, the boys came back after 45 minutes and said they’d had a fantastic dive.  Stuart liked it even more than the Tunnel/Walls.  Apparently the stack has created some great areas to explore, enormous boulders and swimthroughs.  The walk and out was not a favourite though.

After packing all our stuff, we headed back towards the ferry, stopping at LIDL for a few supplies.

Gozo is very pretty, stunning really.  Nowhere near as developed as Malta, and it seems a golden island of antique houses and villages, hilltop citadels and sheer, sheer cliffs.  A very ancient landscape.  I really like it, it’s much, much the prettiest island.  They have temples here going back to Neolithic and possible Paleolithic times, incredibly well preserved and showing levels of mathematical and astronomical sophistication that boggle the mind.  To read more about them, click here

We got the 345 ferry back to Malta and drove to Maltaqua to swap the cylinders.  They had just closed but we managed to offload the empty cylinders and will just call in for a couple tomorrow.  We are only going to dive once tomorrow as we are going to look around Valletta.

It has been a beautiful day today.  The weather was really hot and the sky a bright blue.  I am enjoying diving in my shortie and am utterly amazed that most people we see are in drysuits!!!!!  They must be Brits who only own a drysuit, not a wetsuit.   I love to be in the water with hardly any lead weights on my weight belt, it’s a wonderful feeling.

Tonight we ate in.  I made chicken breasts in a garlic and onion jus and served them with mashed potato and sweetcorn.  We played about with our various devices swapping photos.  A nice end to a busy day.

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