I can’t believe that it’s been a week since our last blog, kindly supplied by Yvonne on her last day in Malta. We spent the Saturday evening in Valletta with Yvonne and Caron seeing some of the sights before going to one of our favourite restaurants in Valletta. Rampilla is set in the ramparts of the old city gates. We had yet another fabulous meal there and it was a lovely way to say goodbye to our friends.
Liz and I then had a decision to make regarding our second week. Did we go to Lampedusa, famous for the best beaches in the Med but close to Syria; go to Sicily; stay around Malta and maybe visit the northern part of Gozo or stay in the marina and do something completely different? We opted to stay in the marina as the weather forecast was for very light winds so we would be mainly motoring and the swell dictated that we would have to go back to the bays we had already visited.
We decided on taking our PADI Open Water Diving Course and certification as Malta is famous for its diving. The course takes three to four days and we would then be able to dive off Nimmie in the future using the Mini B compact diving equipment we bought 18 months ago as well as go on proper dives. We had both completed a one day basic scuba diving course in Ibiza last summer so we were keen to continue our training. Liz had done her PADI training in Australia some 30 years ago so she felt that a refresher may be due! We found a local diving school who had space the following day (Monday) and would even pick us up from the boat. The Diveshack diving school was a wonderful mix of professional, caring and fun. All the staff were very welcoming and really understood customer service. Our instructor, Leo, was amazing. So patient and yet always fun. It didn’t feel like we were learning but rather that we were ‘experiencing’ diving. After the first day we were exhausted with a mix of classroom and practical lessons. The shop is on the seafront in Sliema so we literally stepped outside onto the rocky beach and headed for the water. This meant no long boat rides and also we gradually got used to the deeper depths. This was important to me as I was worried that my ears wouldn’t equalise properly as we got deeper. I hadn’t appreciated that the pressure you get between 3-8m is double the surface water pressure but that it gets easier as you go deeper. We did a mixture of confined and open water diving with homework every night and then a test each morning. The week whizzed by and we were in bed by 10pm every night but slept so well! On the Wednesday afternoon for our final open water dive we were driven to Valletta so that we could dive down to the wreck of HMS Maori, a WWII ship that had been sunk in Valletta Harbour in 1942 but then moved to Marsaxsett Harbour after the war. Although the wreck is at 8-10m, we dived down to just under 18m which is the maximum depth allowed for this certification. It felt wonderful to be floating in the water at such depths.
Our final exam was set for the following morning and then, if we passed, we had booked to go on a tuna dive in the afternoon. We both passed and then the school quickly processed our accreditation so we could go on the dive. Just outside St. Paul’s Bay on the NW coast of Malta is a tuna farm. They catch the blue fin tuna in June and then feed them until October when they sell them to the Japanese for sushi. The pen we were going to dive in was 50m deep and held 2,000 tuna. We took a traditional Maltese boat out to the farm and then dived down to 5m to go through a hole in the net. We were then surrounded by tuna much bigger than us and most of them swimming clockwise, apart from one or two, creating a vortex that dragged you down without realising it. We had been dragged down to over 22m in seconds. Extraordinary. It was the most amazing feeling to be part of and an experience that will stay with both of us for a long time.
Friday was a rest day, although we ended up doing various chores on the boat. Liz had booked a fishing trip for Saturday morning so had to be up and ready for 6am! She had a fabulous time catching local fish and even brought some back for supper. The rest of Saturday consisted of washing, clothes and boat, and getting Nimmie ready for winter. A brilliant two weeks and I can’t wait to be back to do my Advanced Diving Course in the spring!