ON THE THEME of everything in Gozo being massive, a few hundred metres from the Azure Window (will they have to call it something else now?) is the Inland Sea, more of an inland lake actually, and a small one at that. But what sets this site apart is the giant entrance to a cave that leads out to the sea.
What’s left of the Azure Window under water.
As one of the lead divers in my group, I was well placed to get ahead and marvel at seeing divers framed against the light entering the cave through its enormous entrance.
Once in the cave, you might think there would be little to see until you spill out into the open ocean. However, the lack of natural light means that there is space on the cavern walls for sponges and growth that would otherwise be strangled by the green and brown weed and algae that covers rocks exposed to the light.
On closer inspection of the brightly coloured sponges I found some that appeared to move. These were in fact rock crabs, their camouflage being sponges cut and placed on their backs using a claw adapted for this purpose.
To the touch they felt like sponges, which left the several octopuses we saw on this dive confused enough to leave them alone and feed on easier prey such as whelks and hermit crabs.
Cave-diving isn’t for everyone, but in Gozo they’re as safe as you can get before you have to start getting all technical.
On the nearby island of Comino, the system known as the Mark of Zorro is a classic example. Shafts of light shear through holes in the ceiling of this labyrinth, inviting photographers to play with its creative dance.
However, beyond this light-show are Comino’s main attraction – spirals of nudibranch eggs hanging from the walls, as well as the tiny creatures that laid them in stunning purple and white.
In the cracks of the cave-walls we also found moray eels waiting for their next meal, while next to one of them a hermit crab balanced on a ledge catching flotsam.
This cave system can be disorientating, as one of my fellow-divers commented: “I had no idea where I was – I just followed the guide.” This would make an excellent introduction to a no-clear-surface dive but it wasn’t for everyone, as a few in our group found it difficult to achieve the necessary buoyancy control.
As the Mark of Zorro had put some of our party off caves we voted to dive something easier, and the P31, the old patrol-boat sunk as an artificial reef off Comino Island, is just that.
It’s just a big toy to play in, a safe place to explore with its cabins and holds accessible to divers and, of course, a superb place to take part in clichéd Titanic bow shots.
It’s a fun dive, but not one I would put on my list of Gozo “must-do” dives.