Is Gozo good for sidemount diving?

Gozo is a diver playground with 30+ stunning sites accessible from shore. The dive sites come in all shapes and sizes so there’s no way you’ll get bored exploring them all. 

But what about Sidemount? Are the dive sites on Gozo good for sidemount?

Is it worth diving sidemount on Gozo? 

The answer is – Yes! 

All the dive sites on Gozo are sidemount friendly and having extra gas means you can plan better dives with fewer time constraints. The only real question is – how much effort do you want to put in?

While diving from shore is great when it comes to scheduling, freedom and costs, there’s no doubt that entries and exits can be a bit more complex. Gozo is a dramatic and rocky little island and some of the entries and exits are not for the faint-hearted no matter which configuration you choose to dive in. 

For some divers, certain sites may require too much effort to be worth it but sidemount divers always have the advantage of being able to carry cylinders to the entry point one at a time before kitting up in bulky exposure suits and weights. 

So let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular sites, ranked by the ease of getting your sidemount in the water. 

Gozo’s most popular sites

Xwejni Bay – Double Arch – Triple Arch 

First up, Xwejni Bay. A shallow bay on the north coast, popular for training, check dives and as the access point for the deep and dramatic Double & Triple Arch dives sites. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the lack of depth at Xwejni means it’s not worth a dive. The reef has sprawling seagrass meadows and fascinating geological features. This site is full of marine life. In sidemount, you’ll also have plenty of gas to explore the deeper offshore arches or Anchor Reef to the west. 

Is Gozo good for sidemount diving?, sidemount diving

Entry at Xwejni Bay could not be simpler. Park up as close as you can to the jetty, carry your cylinders to the entrance and, once you’re ready, simply put them on standing in waist-deep water. Do your checks and off you go.

Inland Sea Tunnel

The Inland Sea is famous for its 80m tunnel leading to the open ocean. Diving here is a moody and atmospheric experience. Take your time travelling through the darkness towards the light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel itself is full of boulders and descends to 30m at the exit. Once in the open ocean, you have two options. Turn right to explore the many cracks and crevices along the wall, or turn left and make your way to the Blue Hole. Both options end up diving back through the tunnel to the Inland Sea. These are beautiful dives with plenty to see and plenty of gas so there’s no need to rush. Choose your depth and take your time to explore. 

Is Gozo good for sidemount diving?, sidemount diving

The entry to the Inland Sea is similar to Xwejni Bay. Park up close to the entrance, leave your cylinders on the jetty and once you’re ready just put them on in waist-deep water. The Inland Sea is too shallow to dive so a short surface swim to the tunnel is required – watch out for pleasure boats and hidden boulders! 

Ras il-Hobz

Ras il-Hobz on the south coast is famous for its ‘Middle Finger’ pinnacle, a short swim from the entrance points. The Middle Finger is a series of pinnacles rising from over 100m to just below the surface. Full of marine life, great for photography and often the site of some interesting currents – this site is a firm favourite. 

From your vehicle, you’ll need to carry your cylinders a short distance to a shallow reef plateau. There are plenty of grooves where you can stow them in the water until you’re ready to put them on. From there, it’s usually easier to surface swim to deeper water before descending. A second entrance dubbed the ‘swimming pool’ requires a walk over rocks and salt pans and is longer and more difficult. However, if you manage to park close enough to this entrance it is a nicer start to the dive and a shorter swim to the pinnacle. 

Red Bay – MV Hephaestus

Red Bay is a shallow bay on the south coast and a great entry point for the newly scuttled MV Hephaestus wreck. Hephaestus is an oil tanker built in 1965. She ran aground off the coast of Malta in 2018 and has found a final resting place on Gozo. Sitting between 35-45m it is a good site for Tec Sidemount.

Red Bay has an extremely easy entry and exit. There’s no jetty but cylinders can be propped on the edge of the rocky shelf and entrance to the water is by a small ladder. Hephaestus can also be reached from the Xhatt L’Ahmar entrance but it is easier for sidemount divers (and quicker!) from Red Bay. 

Xhatt L’Ahmar (Gozo Diving Wrecks) MV Karwela, MV Cominoland & MV Xlendi  

Three wrecks can be dived from Xhatt L’Ahmar (four including Hephaestus). MV Karwela, MV Cominoland & MV Xlendi. Karwela is the most well-known of Gozo’s wrecks thanks to her famous photographic staircase and epic engine room. Xlendi was the first to be scuttled in 1999 but ended up in a hull-up position. Penetration is prohibited. The propellers look great in photos and it’s interesting to see a wreck from this unusual perspective! All three wrecks are deep, sitting around 35-45m, so dives within NDLs will be very short. 

Is Gozo good for sidemount diving?, sidemount diving

Entry is either via two small ladders or a shelf on the right-hand side which in calm conditions is perfect for sidemount. Cylinders can be laid out as if on a jetty until ready to put them on. Don’t try this in rough conditions though as you might lose your cylinders! 

The ladders at Xhatt L’Ahmar are small and easily manageable but the walk down from the car park is quite strenuous due to the incline.  All the wrecks are deep and, likely, you’ll either be deco diving or close to NDLs. Since exercising after diving is not recommended, the best option is to ditch your cylinders at the exit and return for them after you’ve changed, relaxed and regained your breath. It makes no sense to walk fully kitted up at this dive site. 

Reqqa Point

Reqqa Point is a popular north coast dive site famous for its vertical chimney and pinnacle full of marine life. 

In sidemount, you have plenty of options for entry at Reqqa via a small shelf close to the water.  Once kitted up you can either; clip off your left cylinder and stride in holding the right, get a buddy to pass one or both cylinders down to you or clip both cylinders off and giant stride in. There is a ladder but it’s not recommended to use it for entry as there is only a rail on one side at the top. Always choose the safest method for entry!

On exiting the dive you will need to use the ladder. It’s a good idea to have a way to clip off your cylinders at the bottom of the ladder such as a prusik loop. As long as conditions are calm you can leave one or both cylinders while you climb up, and remove the rest of your kit before coming back for them. In Buddy teams, one diver can pass cylinders up to the person at the top to save lots of trips up and down ladders. 

An alternative, if you don’t have any back issues, is to remove the right cylinder but leave the left fully attached. You can climb up using the right cylinder as a prop. This takes some strength and practice but is a quicker way to exit if it’s choppy. Once at the top of the ladder remove both cylinders, stow them out of the way and come back for them later. It’s never a good idea to walk around with your sidemount cylinders attached! 

Billinghurst Cave

Billinghurst Cave on the north coast is Gozo’s largest cave at over 100m long. The bottom is just over 25m. Depending on your certification, it’s possible to dive beyond the light zone here and at the very back of the cave you can ascend through layers of heated water and surface – a treat in cooler months. It’s a beautiful space. On the way out of the cave, you’ll be treated to an azure light show and there are plenty of places to hover over a shelf and admire the view. The entrance to Billinghurst usually has amazing light beams to entertain you on the safety stop. 

Is Gozo good for sidemount diving?, sidemount diving

But how to get in and out? Now it gets a little bit trickier. First, you’ll need to walk your cylinders to the entrance via a narrow path and railing with rudimentary ‘steps’ carved into the limestone. The ladder is quite high so you have 2 options. Either use a looped rope to pass the cylinders down to a buddy, or walk them down one by one and clip them off to the ladder. We do not recommend climbing down the ladder with both cylinders attached. Billinghurst can also be dived from Reqqa Point and you should have plenty of gas – just watch your depth on the dive across unless you are planning on racking up some deco in the cave. This is an excellent DPV dive. 

On the exit, you can use the same technique as at Reqqa Point – passing cylinders up to a buddy, clipping them off and taking them up one by one yourself. A looped rope can also be used to lift the cylinders. 

Cathedral Cave 

Cathedral Cave may be the most impressive of Gozo’s shallower caves. After a 10-minute dive from the entry point, you’ll reach the cave entrance. Stay at around 10m since the highlight is surfacing in the cave where you’ll find yourself immersed in a bright blue shimmering pool with the roof high above you. Spend as much time as you like here – fresh air and light enter through a slit in the rock. When you’re ready you can descend back down and admire the view on the exit. This is another great site for silhouette photography. On the way back there are lots of nooks to explore and back at the entrance, you can spend time looking for swim-throughs in the rocks – perfect for practising sidemount cylinder manoeuvring!  

Is Gozo good for sidemount diving?, sidemount diving

While the cave is impressive and worth the effort, the entry and exit need a strategy. This is the tallest ladder on Gozo so care and preparation are required. The path to the ladder is down ‘steps’ carved into the rock followed by a walk across jagged rocks at the top of a cliff. Sidemount divers can use their cylinders as props to walk across the rocks and keep them balanced. 

The most efficient way into and out of the water is to work as a team passing cylinders one at a time. If this isn’t an option then clipping off cylinders one at a time yourself is preferable. Walking and climbing the ladder fully kitted up is risky, a strain on your body and removes many of the benefits of sidemount! On the exit, stow cylinders out of the way and come back for them later so that you’re not exercising too much after diving. 

The Blue Hole & Azure Alps

The Blue Hole is by far one of Gozo’s most iconic sites and for good reason. It is even more interesting with the collapse of the Azure Window which now forms the Azure Alps – an area of huge sloping rocks and swim-throughs. Unlike other sinkholes around the world, Gozo’s Blue Hole is quite small and shallow. On calm clear days, the light beams are incredible and it is a fun and fascinating dive as there is so much to explore including small caves, arches and swim-throughs. You can spend a lot of time in this area. 

Is Gozo good for sidemount diving?, sidemount diving

But … the entrance is brutal. The car park is a 5-10 minute walk from the Blue Hole itself and includes walking across fossil beds, down 2 sets of steps, across shingle and over rocks before making your way slowly across a slippery shallow plateau. It is not for divers with poor balance or strength. Try not to think about the return journey on the way down! 

Sidemount divers, although needing to make the trip twice, at least have the advantage of being able to carry each cylinder down to the entrance before kitting up. Backmount divers must make the trip fully kitted up and in bulky exposure suits. It is a lot less hot and heavy for sidemount divers but there’s no way around it – this entry is hard work.

A better option for sidemount divers is to start and finish at the inland sea, a 20 – 30 minute drive from the Blue Hole. You can also enter at the Blue Hole and exit at the inland sea saving a lot of effort on the exit. Once you’ve ditched your kit and relaxed a bit you can take a short walk up to the Blue Hole car park and bring your vehicle down. 

Final thoughts 

So there you have it! As you can see Gozo has dive sites for everyone and with a little effort, you’ll make the most of your sidemount here! Many sidemount divers prefer to do one long dive taking in several sites at once rather than 2 shorter dives. This means quality dives plus plenty of time for an afternoon Cisk or 2! 

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