The Pristine Waters of Comino
JOE SCHEMBRI has been diving since 1977 and has logged over 1000 dives. A one-star instructor for the last eight years, Joe is one of Malta’s most experienced divers. Having dived in all seas and oceans, his list includes some of the most striking and impressive sites on the planet. These include Truk Lagoon in Micronesia, home of the world’s largest wreck site, that of the WWII Japanese Imperial Fleet; the exclusive Costa Rican remote island of Cocos, with its wall dive amidst hundreds of white-tipped and scalloped hammerhead sharks; cage diving in Gans Bai, near Hermanus in South Africa to observe the great white from close quarters; experiencing the strong current and low visibility of all the Galapagos Islands; the noted Ginzo dive in the Solomon Islands and Lizard Island and shark feeding at Osprey Reef outside Cairns, in Australia’s Coral Sea.
“The Maltese Islands have a lot to offer as a diving destination. The sea temperature does not go below 12 degrees Celsius, there are no dangerous creatures and visibility varies from good to exceptional, offering 30 metres+. Being a small island, Comino, and Gozo for the matter, are fit for diving in all weather conditions. I am definitely in favour of having Comino declared as a marine conservation area. I also believe that there needs to be some form of control of pleasure seacraft activity in the area and the abolishing of harpoon spearfishing.”
“Comino is a small island in the Maltese archipelago. This quasi-uninhabited island has unique flora and exceptional underwater scenery for snorkellers and scuba divers. The island can offer diving sites for the novice diver and more challenging dive sites for the experienced diver. The dive sites vary in topography. Some have a sloppy sand bottom, or are drop-offs or cave dives. Most of the dive sites have to accessed by boats, since land transportation is minimal on the island. I have specifically chosen four varying dive sites on Comino.
No. 1 Blue Lagoon Dive – Bejn il-Kmiemen
This is an ideal dive for the novice diver. Depth rarely exceeds 12 metres and the visibility is normally more than 30 metres. The bottom is sandy, and you shall encounter rock boulders as soon as you exit the lagoon. You have two options – either heading South-East towards Comino Tower or North West towards Cominotto. The predominant fauna and flora is the herbaceous marine perennial posidonia oceanica and various species of sponges. You can also encounter sea potato, sea cucumber and various species of rays, which could include the common torpedo and the common stingray. Remember that the common torpedo (Torpedo torpedo), called il-ħaddiela by the Maltese, delivers an electric shock, whereas the common stirngray (Dasyatis pastinaca), il-boll, has a venomous spine on its tail, that can cause intense pain. Stick to the cardinal rule of not touching any animal or plant life for your own benefit.
The most common species of fish are the brill, sole, wide-eyed flounder and the occasional moray eel. I have witnessed the common starfish, and the spiny and the brittle-star starfishes as well.
No. 2 Imnieri Caves – L-Għerien ta’ l-Imnieri
Imnieri Caves are situated at the North of the island. These caves are interconnected with specs of light that penetrates through the cracks of the cave ceiling. There are two entrances situated at both ends of the cave systems. Normally the dive commences from the shallow entrance at around five metres depth and exits from the other end at a depth of around 12 metres. The visibility is normally fair. The fauna and flora is mostly concentrated at the cave entrances where light can penetrate. You can see sea urchins, sponges, tube dwelling anemones and various species of coral. Other creatures you may see are squid, groupers, octopus, moray eel and conger eel. As you exit the cave the profile slopes to a sandy bottom at a depth of 20 metres. Here the predominant flora is the posidonia oceanica and if you are lucky you can see a tun shell, sorm il-baħar.
No. 3 Cominotto Reef Dive – Is-Sikka ta’ Kemmunett
Cominotto Reef is located towards the North West of Comino. The reef starts at a depth of 8 metres and than there is a drop-off that reaches a depth of 46 metres. This is a dive for experienced divers as strong currents are normally prevalent. Such a dive involves decompression stops. As it is a wall dive you need to have an underwater torch to light up the various crevices in the rockface. You can see sponges, sea anemone, golden zoanthids and sea lace bryozoan. Be prudent and always avoid touching any forms of life, that obviously includes annelids, such as the fire-worm (Hermodice carunculata), il-busuf. It has tufts of hairy bristles that would irritate human skin as a defence form, when touched.
Creatures that you can encounter include the locust lobster, ic-ckala, spiny lobster, octopus and various species of rockfish. On the outside of the drop-off on patrol, you may notice amberjack, various species of sea bream, dentex and groupers.
No. 4. Irqieqa Point Dive – Ras l-Irqieqa Dive
This dive starts close to the 2 metre light signal beneath the Comino Tower. The depth is around 3 metres and then drops to 38 metres. Here visibility is around 30 metres and currents are common at the corner of the drop-off. At 38 metres you encounter large boulders covered with rich fauna. You can see algae, golden zoanthids, orange corals and sea anemone. Other creatures include groupers, cuttlefish, amberjacks, sea bream and the occasional barracudas. At 26 metres there is a cave entrance that exits onto the plateau at around 4 metres where the dive commenced.
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