Diving Malta


Diving Malta

The Mediterranean is not exactly renowned for having spectacular marine life. Overfishing has given it the unfortunate nickname, the “dead Med”. Luckily, there is another reason to dive there- Shipwrecks. Lots of shipwrecks. When it comes to wrecks, diving Malta is the main attraction. Malta has easy access to depth for deco and trimix training, often from the shore. Many wrecks are suitable for recreational divers, but some are strictly limited to technical divers. Notable wrecks include HMS Stubborn, HMS Southwold, the Um El Faroud, Imperial Eagle, and the SS Polynesian. Malta boasts a range of dive centres and training facilities, many of which offer technical diver training and can supply oxygen, trimix, and accommodate CCR divers. In addition to wreck diving, The neighbouring Island of Gozo has caves and caverns, including the Blue Hole and the Inland Sea.


In addition to the established wrecks in Malta, new ones are slowly becoming available to dive. Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen had an obsession with finding shipwrecks, and he had the time and resources to search for them. He located many previously unknown wrecks in Malta and gave their coordinates to the Maltese Government, which is gradually releasing them for diving. So, even if you’ve dived in Malta in the past, there will be some wrecks you won’t have dived.

Getting to Malta

There are lots of routes from European cities to the airport (MLA). The airport is located in the southern central part of the Island, so access to Valetta is fairly quick, though traffic is horrendous. There are many options for accommodation. All the usual options- air BnB, hotels, and self-catering apartments all over the Island.


Dive operators

There are over 50 dive centres in Malta and many of them cater to technical divers. My recommendation is Techwise Malta, run by Alan and Viv Whitehead. Alan has been teaching numerous brands of rebreathers since the 90s and was one of the first people to get involved with sidemount via Steve Bogaerts. He primarily teaches on the JJ-CCR and the dive centre is set up with CCR diving in mind. They can provide 3L cylinders, bailout cylinders, sofnolime, and trimix. They even have a washtub with steramine in it. Visit their website here.

P29 Wreck


The P29 wreck, located off the coast of Cirkewwa in Malta, is a prominent dive site that attracts both recreational and technical divers. The P29, formerly known as the Boltenhagen, was a Kondor-class minesweeper used by the German Navy during World War II. After the war, it was transferred to Malta and served in the Maltese Navy until it was intentionally scuttled in 2007 to create an artificial reef and diving attraction.


It lies upright on the seabed, approximately 36 meters deep, with the bow pointing towards the surface. It measures approximately 62 meters (203 feet) in length and is intact, making it an ideal site for exploration by divers. The wreck is known for its relatively intact structure, with entry points accessible to divers with appropriate training and experience.


Weather conditions at the wreck site can vary, with currents being a significant factor affecting diving conditions. Strong currents are common in the area, particularly during certain times of the year, requiring divers to plan their dives accordingly and exercise caution. Additionally, visibility at the wreck site can vary depending on factors such as weather, tides, and seasonal changes.


MV Rozi


The MV Rozi wreck is another renowned dive site located off the coast of Cirkewwa in Malta, offering divers a fascinating glimpse into maritime history and a unique underwater experience. The MV Rozi, formerly a British Royal Navy tugboat, was built in 1958 and served primarily as a salvage tug before being decommissioned and sold to private owners in Malta.


It was intentionally scuttled in 1992 to create an artificial reef and diving attraction. It now rests upright on the seabed at a depth of approximately 34 meters, with the bow facing northwest. The wreck spans approximately 40 meters (131 feet) in length and is largely intact, making it accessible to divers of various skill levels.


The wreck lies approximately 300 meters offshore from Cirkewwa, Malta. This relatively short distance from the coast makes it easily accessible to divers, typically reached by boat from nearby dive centers or directly from the shore for those with DPVs.


Similar to the P29 wreck site, weather conditions and currents can significantly impact diving conditions at the MV Rozi wreck. Strong currents are common in the area, particularly during certain times of the year, necessitating careful dive planning and navigation. Visibility at the wreck site can vary depending on factors such as weather, tides, and seasonal changes.

Um El Faroud


The Um El Faroud wreck is one of the most iconic and popular dive sites in Malta, offering divers a captivating exploration of a large shipwreck with a rich history. The Um El Faroud, originally a Libyan-flagged oil tanker, was built in 1969 and operated in the Mediterranean region for several years.


In 1995, while undergoing maintenance at the Malta Drydocks, a catastrophic explosion occurred on board, resulting in extensive damage and loss of life. The vessel was deemed beyond repair and was subsequently scuttled off the coast of Malta in 1998 to create an artificial reef and diving attraction.


Today, the Um El Faroud lies upright on the seabed approximately 35 meters deep, with the bow facing north. The wreck measures approximately 110 meters (361 feet) in length, making it one of the largest shipwrecks accessible to divers, and one of the main reasons for diving Malta. Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding its sinking, the Um El Faroud now serves as a thriving marine habitat and a captivating dive site.


Weather conditions and currents can significantly affect diving conditions at the wreck. Strong currents are not uncommon in the area, particularly during certain times of the year, necessitating careful dive planning and navigation. Visibility at the wreck site can vary depending on factors such as weather, tides, and seasonal changes.

HMS Maori


The HMS Maori, a Tribal-class destroyer commissioned by the Royal Navy in the 1930s, played a vital role during World War II. However, tragedy struck in 1942 when the vessel was bombed during an air raid while docked in Malta’s Grand Harbour, leading to its eventual sinking.


Today, the HMS Maori rests on the seabed off the coast of Valletta, lying at a depth of approximately 15 meters. Despite the passage of time, the wreck remains largely intact, offering divers a chance to explore its intriguing features, from the remnants of the hull to scattered artifacts. The wreck has also become a thriving marine ecosystem, attracting various fish species and marine creatures.


Weather and Conditions: While Malta typically enjoys favorable diving conditions with excellent visibility and calm seas, it’s essential to consider factors such as weather and currents before diving  there. Although currents may occasionally influence diving conditions, proper planning and caution ensure a safe and rewarding dive experience.

HMS Southwold

HMS Southwold was a Type II Hunt-class destroyer, constructed by J. Samuel White at Cowes, Isle of Wight. Launched on 29th March 1941, the ship was commissioned into the Royal Navy later that year. The Hunt-class destroyers were designed primarily for escort duties, protecting convoys in the Atlantic and Mediterranean from enemy submarines and aircraft. HMS Southwold, with a length of 85 metres and a beam of 9.5 metres, was equipped with powerful armaments including guns and depth charges, making it well-suited for anti-submarine warfare and escort missions.


Circumstances of the Sinking

The sinking of HMS Southwold occurred on 24th March 1942 during the Second World War. The vessel was part of a naval operation aimed at assisting the damaged tanker SS Breconshire, which was critical to the Allied forces’ supply lines in the besieged island of Malta. While attempting to tow the tanker to safety amidst the Axis air and sea blockade, HMS Southwold struck a mine off the coast of Malta. The explosion caused severe damage to the ship, leading to its eventual breakup and sinking. The crew was evacuated, with several casualties reported due to the initial blast and subsequent abandonment of the ship.


Current Status of the Wreck

Today, HMS Southwold is divided into two main sections lying approximately 300 metres apart on the sandy seabed near Marsascala, on the eastern side of Malta. The bow section is found at a depth of around 70 metres, while the stern section lies slightly shallower, at about 65 metres.


Both sections of the wreck are relatively intact, offering divers the opportunity to observe various features such as the ship’s gun placements, depth charge racks, and the intricate structure of the destroyer itself. The wreck is colonised by diverse marine life, including large groupers, moray eels, and various species of coral, which have transformed the sunken destroyer into a thriving artificial reef.

SS Polynesian

The SS Polynesian was built in 1872 by James Laing in Sunderland, England. The ship, measuring 99 metres in length with a beam of 10 metres, was initially constructed as an iron screw steamer. It was powered by a two-cylinder compound steam engine, enabling it to serve efficiently as a passenger and cargo vessel. The ship initially operated under the ownership of the La Veloce Navigazione Italiana a Vapore and was involved in transporting immigrants from Europe to America, reflecting the broader patterns of migration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Throughout its service life, the vessel underwent several changes in ownership and names, finally being acquired by La Compagnie Française de Navigation à Vapeur Cyprien Fabre & Co. It was during this period that the ship was renamed SS Polynesian.


Circumstances of the Sinking

The SS Polynesian met its demise on 28th August 1918 during the tumultuous period of World War I. The ship was on a voyage from Marseille to Salonika carrying general cargo when it was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-49. The attack led to the sinking of the SS Polynesian off the northeastern coast of Malta. This event forms part of the broader maritime warfare that characterised the First World War, wherein merchant shipping was frequently targeted to disrupt supply lines.


Current Status of the Wreck

Today, the wreck of the SS Polynesian lies in a remarkable state of preservation, making it a significant site for underwater exploration. The wreck is located approximately 6 miles off Qawra Point in Malta. It rests at a depth of around 65 metres, positioning it within the reach of technical divers.


The SS Polynesian lies upright on the sandy seabed, largely intact despite the passage of over a century. The structure of the wreck is relatively preserved, with several key features still recognisable. Divers can explore the expansive cargo holds, the intricate machinery, and the deck structures. However, while the ship remains largely intact, it has inevitably suffered some deterioration due to natural decay and the impacts of underwater currents and marine life.


Overall, the SS Polynesian is not only a poignant reminder of the maritime history associated with World War I but also serves as an artificial reef, supporting a diverse array of marine life. This combination of historical intrigue and ecological significance makes it an important site for both heritage conservation and marine biology. The wreck is thus managed under specific guidelines to ensure its preservation for both historical research and recreational exploration.


MV Karwela

The MV Karwela wreck is a well-known dive site in Malta, attracting enthusiasts due to its accessible location and intriguing history. Originally named MV Frisia II, the vessel’s journey from a German passenger ferry to a submerged attraction off the coast of Gozo is marked by transformation and final repurposing.


Constructed in 1957 in Germany, the MV Karwela served primarily as a passenger ferry, facilitating the transport of people and their vehicles between various German ports. The ship measured approximately 50 metres in length and was equipped to handle a substantial number of passengers and vehicles, making it a vital part of regional maritime transit. After decades of service in Germany, the vessel was sold and relocated to Malta in the 1980s, where it continued to operate under a new name, MV Karwela, conducting tours around the Maltese Islands.


Circumstances of the Sinking

The sinking of the MV Karwela was an intentional act, conducted to create an artificial reef and diving site, a common practice with vessels that are no longer viable for commercial or operational use. In August 2006, after being thoroughly cleaned and prepared to ensure environmental safety, the MV Karwela was scuttled off the coast of Gozo. The preparation involved removing all hazardous materials and potential pollutants, as well as making the structure safer for divers by creating openings and cutting away dangerous obstructions.


Current Status of the Wreck

Currently, the wreck of the MV Karwela rests off the southern coast of Gozo, near Xatt l-Aħmar. It lies at a depth of approximately 40 metres, making it accessible to a wide range of divers, from those with advanced open water skills to those trained in technical diving. The ship rests upright on the sandy seabed, providing a surreal and picturesque underwater scene.


The structure of the MV Karwela remains largely intact, with the superstructure and passenger decks still accessible. Divers can explore the staircases, corridors, and various compartments, which now serve as habitats for marine life. The deliberate openings created during the preparation for sinking allow for safe penetration diving, offering a glimpse into the internal layout of the ferry. The staircase has become quite a famous place for divers to be photographed as they descend past it. It’s one of those bucket list photos that makes people want to go diving in Malta.


The wreck has become a thriving artificial reef, supporting a diverse marine ecosystem. It is colonized by various species of fish, algae, and invertebrates, contributing positively to the local biodiversity and offering divers a vibrant underwater experience. The MV Karwela not only serves as a recreational spot but also aids in marine research and conservation efforts, exemplifying how decommissioned vessels can be repurposed to benefit the environment.


Overall, the MV Karwela wreck epitomizes the transformation of a functional vessel into a valuable ecological and recreational resource, enhancing the underwater landscape and providing a unique site for exploration and study.


Imperial Eagle


The Imperial Eagle, initially named New Royal Lady, was constructed by the Lobnitz & Company of Renfrew in 1938. Measuring 45 metres in length with a beam of 8 metres, the vessel was originally designed as a passenger ferry, plying routes along the British coast. In 1958, the ship was bought by a Maltese company, refitted, and renamed Imperial Eagle. It then served as a ferry between Malta and Gozo, contributing significantly to the domestic transport infrastructure and facilitating the movement of passengers and goods between the islands.


Circumstances of the Sinking

Similar to other vessels around Malta, the decision to scuttle the Imperial Eagle was driven by the intention to enhance the local diving industry and create a new habitat for marine life. After decades of service, the ferry was decommissioned and prepared for scuttling. This preparation included environmental clean-up measures to remove all hazardous substances and ensure the ship would not pose any ecological risks. On 19 July 1999, the Imperial Eagle was intentionally sunk near Qawra Point, an area already popular for recreational diving.


Current Status of the Wreck

Today, the Imperial Eagle lies at a depth of approximately 42 metres, positioned upright on a sandy seabed. This location makes the wreck accessible to tech divers. Deco dives allow plenty of time to explore the whole wreck. Visibility can be variable, and choppy seas make it very weather dependent.


The ship’s structure remains remarkably intact, with its expansive decks and internal compartments open for exploration. Divers can navigate through the pilothouse and engine rooms, which are now inhabited by various species of marine life. Artificial openings have been created to allow safe access and exit to open water.


HMS Olympus

Launched in 1928 and built by Vickers-Armstrongs in Barrow-in-Furness, England, this British submarine played a critical role during the conflict before meeting its tragic end in 1942. It was an Odin-class submarine, characterised by its large size and capability for long-range patrol operations. The vessel measured 86 metres in length with a displacement of 1,781 tons submerged. It was equipped with eight torpedo tubes and one 4-inch deck gun, designed primarily for operations in the Far East. After its initial deployment, Olympus was relocated to the Mediterranean to support Allied naval operations during the early stages of World War II.


Circumstances of the Sinking

The sinking of HMS Olympus occurred under dire circumstances on 8 May 1942. After departing from the naval base in Malta, Olympus struck an Italian mine just outside the Grand Harbour. The mine was part of the dense minefields laid by Axis forces around Malta to cripple Allied naval capabilities and isolate the island. The explosion was catastrophic, causing the submarine to sink rapidly. Tragically, out of the 98 people on board—which included crew members and other naval personnel escaping from Malta—only 9 survived. This event marked one of the many severe losses suffered by the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean theatre during the war.


Current Status of the Wreck

The wreck of HMS Olympus lies at a depth of approximately 115 metres, about 7 miles off the coast of Malta. Due to its depth, the site is accessible exclusively to highly skilled technical divers with specialized equipment and training in deep-water diving. The submarine’s structure is largely intact, resting upright on the sandy seabed, which has helped to preserve many of its features.


Despite the challenges posed by the depth, those who have explored the wreck report it as a solemn and stark reminder of the wartime sacrifices. Divers must approach it with the utmost respect and consideration for the lives lost during its final voyage. As one of the newer wrecks available, it’s a huge draw for diving Malta.

ORP Kujawiak

ORP Kujawiak was constructed at Vickers-Armstrongs in Barrow-in-Furness, England, as part of the Lend-Lease agreement during World War II. Measuring 85 meters in length and displacing 1,050 tons, it was armed with guns and depth charges, designed primarily for anti-submarine warfare and convoy escort duties. After its transfer to the Polish Navy in 1941, Kujawiak served alongside Allied naval forces in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, engaging in several critical wartime operations.


Circumstances of the Sinking

The sinking of ORP Kujawiak occurred on the night of 16 June 1942 during Operation Harpoon, a convoy mission aimed at delivering supplies to the besieged island of Malta. As the ship approached Malta, it struck a mine laid by Axis forces off the Grand Harbour. The explosion severely damaged the vessel, causing it to sink within minutes. This tragic event resulted in the loss of 13 of her crew members and highlighted the perilous nature of naval operations in mine-infested waters during the war.



Current Status of the Wreck

Today, the wreck of ORP Kujawiak rests at a depth of approximately 100 meters off the coast of Valletta, Malta. The wreck lies almost upright on the sandy seabed, and despite the passage of time, it remains relatively intact.


Divers exploring the ORP Kujawiak can observe its well-preserved structure, including its gun placements and the visible damage at the bow caused by the mine impact. The wreck has become a habitat for various marine life forms, adding ecological value to its historical significance. It serves as a poignant underwater memorial for the crew who lost their lives.


HMS Stubborn

HMS Stubborn was built by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead, England, and launched on 11 November 1942. As an S-class submarine, it was known for its agility and effectiveness in combat, designed primarily for patrolling and attacking enemy warships and merchant vessels. The vessel was 66 metres in length with a displacement of 842 tons when surfaced. It was armed with six torpedo tubes and a 3-inch gun, making it a formidable threat to surface ships and other submarines.


Circumstances of the Sinking

Despite its name, HMS Stubborn’s service came to an unconventional end. After surviving numerous wartime patrols and engagements, including surviving depth charge attacks and participating in critical operations, the submarine was eventually deemed unfit for further combat duty due to extensive damage sustained during its service. In 1946, HMS Stubborn was assigned a new role as a target for anti-submarine training exercises.


On 30 April 1946, HMS Stubborn was intentionally scuttled off the coast of Malta to serve as a sonar target for training exercises. This deliberate sinking was part of post-war training activities, allowing naval forces to hone their skills in anti-submarine warfare using a real, albeit decommissioned, submarine as a target.

Current Status of the Wreck

Today, HMS Stubborn lies at a depth of approximately 56 metres, located off the northern coast of Malta. The site is accessible to advanced recreational divers, particularly those with experience in deeper dives. The submarine’s structure remains largely intact, providing an intriguing exploration opportunity for divers.


The exterior of HMS Stubborn is encrusted with marine life, while the interior offers a glimpse into the confined and challenging conditions faced by submariners during the war. Key features such as the torpedo tubes and the conning tower are still discernible, offering a poignant reminder of the submarine’s operational history.


HMS Stubborn not only serves as a popular dive site but also as a memorial to the crew. Its status as a protected war grave commands respect and careful preservation efforts to maintain its historical integrity and honor those who served aboard. Another great reason for diving Malta.

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