Today was Stuart’s last day for diving. Their flight is early Saturday morning so diving on Friday is out. After much discussion, we decided to try and dive the wreck of the Um El Faroud.
The Um El Faroud was a single screw motor tanker, 110m long and 15.5m in the beam. She was in harbour in Malta in 1995 when an explosion occurred, tragically killing 9 crew. After some time, the decision was made to scupper the remaining hull as a diving site and she was towed to the current location off the village of Wied iz-Zurrieq in the south of Malta in 1998. Thousands of people lined the cliffs to watch as the sea cocks were opened and four hours later, she sank beneath the waves. Today, the wreck sits upright in about 32m of water, around 200m off the cliffs. The bow section has broken off from the rest but is still there.
The shipwreck is a magnet for fish and there are thousands and thousands of tiny silver fish all over her, streaming down the sides. She is becoming covered in growths. You can swim out to her from the little harbour but we wanted to conserve our air for the dive, so we paid a local boatman 5 euro each to ferry us out there in his little boat. It was money so well spent. You could have a lot of dives on the Um el Faroud and still have more to see.
We descended through the blue and you could see the wreck almost immediately. It seemed huge and we were alone on her. Very lucky. We swam along the outside of the hull towards the bow, at depth and then gazed upwards at the lovely shape of the bow above us curving up from the sand. Then we came up to deck level and swam towards the stern, peering into the many open hatches and sub decks and examining the equipment and machinery left on deck, hausers swinging with the movement of the water. It was a really amazing and enjoyable dive. One of the best wrecks I’ve dived on. Bob says there are better, but I really liked this one.
Here is a short video clip too here
Eventually we reached the stern and looked at the propeller still underneath. We were sorry to leave the ship and will definitely come back and dive her again, but at this point we had 6 minutes of decompression stops showing so it was time to head for the shore. We came up to about 20m and started to swim across the blue on the bearing we had. About half way across, we came across a diving helmet memorial on the sand and stopped and admired that, then on. After about 10 minutes total swim we came to the cliff edge and the opening into the little harbour. There were comfortable ledges in the cliff where we sat and did our stops. We still had about 4 minutes at this point. There is a good ladder to climb out on, and then a steep climb up the slope to where we had parked. Puff Puff.
Well…. that deserved a drink and a snack. I’d taken my own food with me – hard boiled eggs and ham – but we went and sat in a little café and I had a coffee and the chaps had burger and chips!!!! An excellent morning.
This part of the south coast is very starkly beautiful in my opinion: golden rock cliffs, so sheer, falling into the blue sea. Such a beautiful contrast.
For our second dive we debated diving the wreck again, and it was tempting, but we thought that we wouldn’t get much bottom time having already dived so soon before. So we headed to Ghar Lapsi, a small hamlet not far away where there were some nice scenic dives with caves. Bob and I had dived there before.
We kitted up again and walked down to the water. There were about 80 steps down a sloping road. Then a ladder, into a tiny, tiny cove almost surrounded by rock where people were swimming. On the sea side of the cove there is a tiny pool within the wall, and you swim under and up into it from the main cove, and then there is another tunnel from the seawall side out and into the sea. All the rocks and surfaces are covered in life and the pools are full of small fish.
We headed out through the tunnel looking for the caves which were marked as being in about 20m of water. Not sure what we did wrong, but we never found the caves but we did find lots of big rocky outcrops, eel grass, small rocks, a rocky drop off in about 18m….. anyway, we explored for about 45 minutes and then found our way back to the cave/tunnel into the little pool and came back that way. It wasn’t an exciting dive but it was very enjoyable and pleasant. I just enjoyed being in the water.
Returning up all the steps in our kit was another puffing experience but we made it….. Packed everything up and drove back to Maltaqua where we settled up for our first week. 80euro each for 8 dives, a very good price. Bob and I will dive more next week but we’re having the weekend off!
Came back to the hotel, rinsed the kit and put it on the balcony to dry and then relaxed around the pool for an hour, enjoying the last of the sun. Fiona had been there all day and had a very chilled time.
Tonight we went up to M’dina and Rabat for the evening. They are joined towns but very different. M’dina is an extraordinary medieval walled city, built of the usual golden stone, filled with lovely mansions, churches and tiny tiny streets and alleys lit with golden lamps. It was one of the places used to portray Kings Landing in GOT and has been used in many other films. To walk around it, particularly at night, is to get a feel of what it would have been like hundreds of years ago to live in such a place, although, I think very much less crowded and definitely a lot cleaner. Rabat is more modern but still very charming with many historic buildings of its own including a Roman Villa, churches and the prison of St Paul with churches built in it and over it. Well worth a visit. The local museum is also excellent. You can have a good day exploring up here.
We had a good wander around drinking in the atmosphere and then went for dinner in our chosen restaurant in adjoining, more modern, Rabat (literally a street separates them).
Tonight we ate at a romantically stylish restaurant called Fork and Cork. I know… it doesn’t sound very romantic, but it was. An old house, very well designed and laid out and the owner-chef in the kitchen. The menu was very imaginative and he cooked so well. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this place en route to a Michelin Star.
We started with an amuse of a highly flavoured carrot and coriander soup that had pine nuts in the bottom. Delicious. Could have eaten a bucket. Then my starter which was a very small local fish (white but a bit like mild mackerel) fried crisp on the outside but soft on the middle, with a sauce of tiny tomatoes and olives. Bob had steamed dumplings with pork in the middle and Fi had goats cheese salad. Both the latter had more to it than that, but I can’t remember what. For main, I had ribeye steak on a bed of celeriac puree with a parsnip and carrots with a jus. It was really good. Couldn’t eat any more. Fiona had a sirloin steak which was huge, like a great big fillet. Bob had roast belly pork and Stuart had sea bass. All were wonderful. That was it for everyone except Fi, who heroically took on an apple tart tatin with a vanilla ice cream scoop and a caramel nut sauce!!!!!!! I really recommend Fork and Cork. It’s the best meal we’ve had in Malta and extremely memorable. Their website is here
We walked back to the car, tired but happy. What a great day.