Comino Caves (Santa Marija Caves)

Ghemieri Caves in Maltese.  Almost the perfect dive? This dive site is situated on the rugged northeast coast of Comino.

Its interconnecting caves/caverns and the fantastic feeling of close contact with the saddled bream in a feeding frenzy makes this a very popular dive with most divers. Your dive boat will anchor in the little bay, which provides shelter from the northwest winds. From here you will be able to see some of the caves from the surface, below the boat the gentle undulating seabed is made up of sand, Posidonia (sea grass) and some small boulders. Normally planned as a second dive and with an average depth of 10m, even moving away from the reef wall will only give you a maximum depth of 16m. Once in the water and descending, the saddle bream will be there to greet you expecting to be fed; this is quite unique to this dive site.

Your dive will normally start at the entrance to the north cave, although a large group might split in two and half feed the fish first and then explore a long reef with a large archway to the south of the anchorage. The cave to the north extends all the way through the headland, and there are at least two routes through it. Starting at 5m deep, hug the right-hand wall and you will see a small tunnel giving way to a wide open area with a brilliant azure blue exit beyond. Explore the right hand wall and on your exit from the cave look to your left; you will see a wonderful swim-through in the shape of a Z, almost as if Zorro carved it with his sword. This is a fantastic photo opportunity, as well as being possible to swim through. On the other side you will be faced with the offshore pinnacle which lies at the south end of Santa Marija Reef (see above). If you follow the coast round to your right at a depth of 6m however, you will be rewarded with a very impressive sight. The whole headland above you seems to be resting on three pillars of rock, with a large horizontal crevice filled with corals, sponges and tube worms. Here you can quite often see many nudibranchs as well.

On returning to the north cave, hug the right wall again, noticing a beautiful hole in the roof creating dancing sunbeams. You will slowly ascend to 3m where you will find a huge air pocket above you. Surface here and you may even surprise some tourists who have climbed down into the cave from the large hole in its roof.

Exiting the cave underwater, turn to your right and you will find a short tunnel giving access to the west cave. This cave is sandy and becomes very shallow – beware boats that take tourists into this cave as, unlike the previous one, there is plenty of headroom on top. When you return to the area under the boat you will be able to feed the fish or, if you have a camera, take some exceptional photographs of the fish feeding and being almost unable to see your buddy due to the number of fish surrounding him. I have been diving this site for almost twenty-five years and each time it still gives me a buzz. I do not normally feed the fish myself, but this practise has been carried out here for as long as I can remember. The photographic opportunity with the light blue of the sea, the hundreds of silver fish on a sandy seabed is too good to miss. Whether you feed the fish, take photographs or just watch this spectacular show I cannot see how you will not be impressed.

Blue Lagoon / Alex’s Cave

 The famous Blue Lagoon on Comino is wonderful to snorkel, but with a depth of 3m is not the best dive.

However, within the large islet to the south of the lagoon is a remarkable underwater cave, including a chamber with fresh air, and suitable for all levels of diver. The surrounding area includes a pinnacle and a tunnel.

Your boat may anchor at the south end of the Blue Lagoon, or just outside near a small pinnacle that is known as Mushroom Rock. Either way you are very close to a beautiful underwater tunnel linking the lagoon to the sea, just at the easternmost point of the large islet containing the cave where the coast drops underwater to form a shallow reef. The tunnel is 4m deep on the lagoon end and has very interesting ledges on either side where you can usually find nudibranchs and often a large, patient scorpion fish or two. There is a large hole in the roof, which gives the tunnel a bright, airy feel and brings out the colours of the sponges, corals and bryozoa.

On leaving the tunnel at 8m you are directly in front of the Mushroom Rock. Swim over to this pinnacle where there is an interesting reef at its base, just above a an area of gravel at 12m. Both areas have lots of hiding places for octopus. Turn right and head towards the sandy seabed at 16m: on your right will be large underwater headland with a perfectly square notch cut out of it. The headland can hide morays while on the sand you should see pearly razor fish loitering around their holes. Although you cannot usually see the holes in the sand, approach too close and the razor fish will dart down into the sand and disappear.

Follow the boundary between sand and reef for a few minutes heading west and you will come to the cave entrance, just behind a large boulder. The entrance is very wide, and also very light seeing as the cave is open above the water for part of its length. You might hear and see small boats taking tourists a little way into the entrance 14m above you. The first leg of the cave is well lit due to a crack in the rock above, until you reach the left-hand bend where it becomes completely dark. Turn on the torches and explore the side walls and ceiling of this wonderful underwater chamber. It is 20m long and about 4m high and wide, and there is no way to get lost, plus you can always see the light of the entrance if you turn around. This makes Alex’s Cave a great first cave dive for those without experience, but bear in mind that the floor of the cave is fine sand, and so good bouyancy control is a must. The walls and ceiling contain plenty of shrimp, both with and without claws, and there is also a resident conger eel called Alex.

When you have reached a dead end, about 10m deep, slowly ascend to your right and you will find a chamber above sea-level with room enough for half a dozen divers at least. The air here is fresh, since there is a small crack through which you will see some sunlight. It is possible to squeeze through to the outside world, but definitely not while wearing scuba. If you have not thought to bring a picnic then you will have to descend again to 10m, taking it slowly to make sure there are no problems equalizing. Once your group is at the bottom I would suggest that everyone turns off their torches and enjoys the intense blue arch that is the exit.