JackSkellington

Family-run dive centre established in 1986. We share the love of the ocean with everyone who crosses our path. Our doors are open all year round welcoming divers willing to experience the beauty beneath our seas.

Fish Identification Wall
Post-dive hype usually involves over-enthusiastic divers, relating their underwater adventures and marine life encounters. Sometimes words fail, and we cannot remember the name of the colourful fish or its local translation. During the winter months, we have been busy creating a very colourful Fish Identification Wall in our Centre, done by our in-house instructor Artist Scuba Cassie. This wall features local Mediterranean species that live and flourish in our waters. Read through for more information about the species you can encounter while diving in Malta. These fun facts will make you love them a bit more.

 

Octopus – ‘Qarnita’
Let’s start with one of the favourites, the eight-limbed smarty pants – The Octopus!
Belonging to the family of
cephalopods, this eight-legged beauty, has a darkly coloured soft body that can lengthen, contract and change its shape to fit and squeeze into tight spots. Lacking skeletal support, the muscular tentacles support the movement, hunting, feeding and reproduction.
Octopi have three hearts, and blue blood. The blood gets its colour from the presence of copper – which is more efficient in transporting oxygen when the temperature is low. Octopi are quite adapted to hiding and protecting themselves from predators, their primary armour is black ink that is secreted when they feel threatened. Octopi are also masters of disguise, they can collect an assortment of shells and rocks, to create an illusion of a treat or an amazing hiding spot. Parenthood is a brief affair for these aquatic beings, shortly after sperm is secreted the male octopus dies, while the female tends to her eggs, to the point of starvation. Once the eggs hatch, the female body undertakes a cascade of cellular suicide.

 

 

 

Parrot Fish
As suggested by their name, the parrotfish have a beak-like mouth that is used to munch away on algae and small crustaceans. The males are grey in colour, while females have bright red colouration. Parrotfish are usually found in medium-sized schools, mostly around reefs and wrecks.

 

 

 

Bull Ray – Għasfur The string ray family is quite extensive, in the Mediterranean. If one keeps a close look at the sandy bottom or else in the open ocean, a variety of sea ray species can be spotted! This fish feeds on invertebrates on the seafloor and water column. The Bully Ray’s name is derived from the shape of its head, as its profile is long, flat with a round snout. Other encounters from the ray family might include eagle ray, sand ray, torpedo ray, common ray and the devil ray.

 

 

Cow Bread – Xilpa
Highly recognizable due to their streaks of gold stripes, cow breams are usually found in large schools of fish, in search of moss or phytoplankton to eat. They go by many names: cow fish – due to their grazing tendencies, goldline – due to their appearance, salema – their biological name or else dream fish. In 2006, there were several media reports that claim that cow breams are unsafe to eat as they can cause hallucinations that may last to 36 hours. Interesting.

 

 

Cuttle Fish – Siċċa.  Known as the ‘chameleons of the sea’, these amazing little creatures are masters of disguise, with a set of reflectors and coloured cells, that allow them to blend in. They can also match their surroundings, as they can mimic texture using little nodules called ‘Papillae’ that extend and retract. Similar to their close relatives the octopus, the cuttlefish has 8 arms, 2 tentacles, and 3 hearts- call that abundant! There are over 100 species of cuttlefish worldwide, despite being one of the most intelligent invertebrates; their life expectancy is 1-2 years max. Just like our BCD jackets, the cuttlefish is able to control its buoyancy using its cuttlebone, the hard and brittle inner shell. The bone is a hollow structure, divided into chambers known as lamellae, containing liquid and gas. Buoyancy is achieved by varying the quantity of the liquid and gas in the bone structure.

 

 

Mediterrean Moray – Morina
Some get the freaks, others are impressed with the muscular and robust shape of the moray. The eels’ body is long and forceful, with lines and spots from its mouths opening down to its tail. The colouration varies within species – there are more than 200 species of moraenidae worldwide. The ideal habitat for the eel is in a good, strategic hiding spot, within the reef. Although it has poor vision, the eel is still a very good hunter as it has a great sense of smell.

But don’t let that wide mouth fool you …
The cleaner shrimp is more than willing to enter the moray eels mouth, for a free meal of parasitic load from the eels teeth, eyes and gills. This is known as a symbiotic relationship, by working together both species mutually benefit, the shrimp has the protection and food, while to eel tends to its pearly whites.

 

Painted Comber – Burqax
Found as a solitary fish roaming for food in posidonia meadows, or else on rocky sea beds, the painted comber fish is always on the lookout for small fish or crustaceans to eat. Fun Fact: the comber fish are capable of self-fertilization as they have both male and female reproductive organs.

 

Mediterranean Cardinal Fish – Sultan in Ċawl
Sheltered in small cavities around rocky reefs, shoals of bright orange cardinalfish, seek protection during the day from predators and light. These little fish are nocturnal, which means that their feed starts when the sunsets. Cardinalfish are conceived by internal fertilization, after which the male safeguards the balls of eggs in his mouth – this is known as a Mouth brooder fish. Curious Name Fact: in 1700, when binomial nomenclature first started (the modern system of naming organisms) there were very few tangible objects that were red. The only thing Linnaeus could think of was the bright red robes worn by the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Faith.

 

 

Ornate Wrasse – Għarus
This cute little multi-coloured fish, finds its home in the reefs of the Mediterranean sea, eating away at small crustaceans, worms and snails. Although quite small in size, 20-25cm, it has a wide range of colours mainly blues and reds. The female wrasses mainly have five blue vertical lines. The females and the juvenile normally live in small groups while the adult males are solitary.

 

 

Grouper – Ċerna.  Symbolic with the Mediterranean Sea, the dusky grouper is one of our most spotted, yet favourite species. Also known as rock cod, this fish can grow quite large in size, oval-bodied with a large mouth and a protruding lower jaw. The grouper is generally a solitary, yet territorial fish. They roam in search of food, that is mostly, crustaceans, molluscs and Octopi, swallowing their prey by sucking them whole. These ambush feeders can live from 30 to 50 years (in a protected environment)! Fun Fact: Groupers are born as females, it takes 5 years of development to reach sexual maturity, and after 10 years they transform into males- this is known as sequential hermaphroditism.

 

Amberjack – Aċċjola
What a sight, looking at the silhouette of a shipwreck from a distance, all is still but sleek jacks roaming in search of prey. These voracious predators feed on squid, fish and crustaceans. Several species of jacks are found in the Mediterranean such as the yellowtail amberjack distinguished by the yellow tips on their tails and the greater amberjack- with a horizontal line from nose to their dorsal fin. These fish tend to migrate in the late spring in order to reproduce.

Mankind has always been keen to explore further; human ingenuity has driven us to overcome environmental adversity and physiological barriers. The intrigue, for venturing the depths has been motivated by our curiosity to explore the vast, deep, blue sea, and all that lies within. Retrieving items from sunken shipwrecks, salvaging remains and oyster diving has been one of the primary reasons mankind needed and wanted, to dive further, for longer.

Our lungs have outgrown our desire to discover more. Mankind’s necessity to dive deeper has pushed us to develop technologies that enabled us more bottom time (time underwater). An air reservoir bag depicted in Phoenician drawings was one of the first underwater breathing apparatus known to men. In the notebook of famous Renaissance polymath Leonardo Da Vinci, a depiction of one of the first air supplied, buoyancy suit with an integrated facemask was sketched. Although never built, this 16th-century idea was envisioned as a military technology to resist the Ottoman Empire. It is known that necessity is the mother of invention; the need to have longer underwater access drove us to invent the technology, yet the drive for exploration made diving more accessible to humans. Mankind’s bewildering curiosity is manifested in the minds of the great inventors and engineers, who pushed the boundaries of human limitation, by inventing better equipment and breathing apparatus.

The diving bell, the hard helmet and the closed dress were the first technological concepts that allowed humans to venture underwater.

During these years, diving was accessible for the privileged few. August Siebe engineered ‘deep-sea diving helmets’ based on the improved design of the Dean Brothers, through his company ‘Siebe & Gorman’ the helmet design evolved to include the 12 bolt design and oval windows. This made the suit water-tight, so some might credit Siebe for coming up with the first drysuit. The porthole to the ‘Silent World’ was opened to the public eye, by the world-renowned French, explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. As an inventor, he developed the first regulator with on-demand air, at ambient pressure. Together with Gagnam, a friend & engineer, they designed and manufactured the ‘Aqualung’, a design that has changed very little throughout the years. Cousteau’s name is synonymous with diving not as an inventor but due to the simple fact that he kept on dreaming, he kept on exploring further and deeper in the undersea world. An ever-increasing public interest in recreational diving was generated with Cousteau’s films & documentaries that depicted never-seen footage of marine life, shipwrecks and tropical destinations.

He travelled the world with his underwater camera & his crew aboard the Calypso (a vessel he bought from Malta). They conducted oceanographic research and filmed several movies that even won them an Oscar. Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s capacity for curiosity explains the most bewildering aspects of the drive to exploration, a drive-in which he manifested in others.

Self, Contained, Underwater, Breathing, Apparatus, has provided us with the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of the ocean…throughout the years, diving has become safer and more accessible worldwide. The equipment used has changed and has changed the way we dive. Looking back at the roots of the sport, one can appreciate the advances made that facilitated the way dive. The future looks bright and promising with more equipment & technologies coming our way.

NOTE:
Visit our mini-dive museum available at Divemed. We have collected(/owned) several vintage equipments throughout the years, mainly a WWII rebreather, a Siebe Gorman Helmet, Decabrain(first dive computer) and several models of antique regulators and masks.

Diving during that time of the month?! … As an avid female diver, this is a frequently asked question. Some ladies get concerned & wonder whether diving with their period is recommended. As females, life imposes several limitations; don’t let your period get in the way of anything else.

Women surf the crimson tide in different ways. Diving with your period is possible – please don’t let it stop you. As when swimming with your period, it is necessary to make use of tampons or else a menstrual cup.  The moon cup/ diva cup /organic cup, as it is often referred to, is safe, easy to use, sustainable method. Once getting the hang of how it works, the moon cup is so liberating. As a by-product each month, females produce tones of sanitary waste that go in our landfills, this can be eliminated with the use of a silicone cup. Moreover, if you’re a travelling scuba girl, the moon cup avoids stocking up on tampons or other sanitary products in your luggage.

Keeping Hydrated. When diving during your monthly cycle, be extra cautious to avoid dehydration. Compensate by keeping hydrated and try to stay in the shade to minimize fatigue. It’s important to keep your body healthy and safe under and above the water.

PMS. Most scuba girls find that water pressure decreases the menstrual flow, this also results in reduced cramping, bloating & stomach pain when scuba diving. However, if moderate exercise increases your menstrual symptoms, consider seeking medical advice from your doctor. There is no standard rule, on how you should feel & behave during your cycle, it is really up to you, to decide whether you’re up for a little adventure or not, but remember that a dose of seawater always heals the period blues.

Menstruation & Decompression Sickness Risks.  According to a DAN publication (an international diving research body of knowledge), women who take oral contraceptives better known as the pill and are diving during their period should dive more conservatively, due to fluid retention. While in theory, women are less likely to dissolve nitrogen as efficiently during their period, evidence suggests that increased decompression sickness risks are present when taking oral contraceptives.

Monthly Cycle & Shark Diving. There is no data to support the hypothesis that women are at an increased risk of shark attacks during their monthly cycle. During heavy bleeding a female loses around 80 ml of blood per month, this is considered as a small amount. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that blood flow is reduced or halted by water pressure, therefore the odds that blood is released in the water is furthermore reduced.

 

Committed to our seas. As a dive school out mission is not simply to teach PADI courses and show our guests beautiful dive spot. Our responsibility is to instil in those who dive with us, awakening and appreciation towards the sea.  As we learn to love, we automatically learn to respect.

How it came about. Local fishing enthusiasts often repurpose everyday items to be used as sinkers. Spark plugs commonly found in most machinery, end up as an alternative to fishing weights. As a result, several of these weights end up stuck around the coastal reefs.

Recycled art is not a new concept… but what is it? Discarded materials and trash that once had another purpose, are brought together in a way to make up something new, fresh and inviting.
As they say, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. This project took some time to materialize, our bucket of metals found in the sea kept on growing in size and weight.

With some time, creativity and a lot of silicone, we came up with Sparky the seahorse – made solely from reused, recycled materials found underwater. What was once a pile of items that belong in a scrap yard or landfill, have now become a presentation and a conversation starter. We hope that with this piece of regenerated art, we spark a trail of thought to its viewers that….

The sea is our home, and we are duty-bound to love and protect its wellbeing. As people of the sea, we should be the ambassadors of change, the leaders by example and the voice of the creatures that dwell in it. We guarantee that we will be protagonists of this shift in mentality during our dives and while talking with our guests. May Sparky help us in this green evolution.

Wreck Diving – lust for rust… historical museum underneath the waves.

Wreck diving is synonymous with diving in Malta. Due to the island’s strategic, geographic position, throughout history, the island was a stepping stone for other nations, a naval base and an asset. Relics from several rulers, sieges and wars can be found all around the islands, and on its seabed. Shipwrecks, aircraft and cargo are mementos of the past, memories of tragic stories and ancient, discoveries. Historic shipwrecks, such as the famous WWI SS Polynesien and World War II wreck HMS Southwold, are windows to the past for technical divers. Wrecks can be enjoyed at several depths making wreck diving available to all levels of divers, several of which are easily accessible from shore. Decommissioned vessels turned into divers’ attraction can be found all around the islands at different depths. These scuttled shipwrecks have become artificial reefs since they provide nursing grounds and shelter to marine life. Most shipwrecks can be easily accessed from shore, such as the 120-meter oil tanker, the Um el Faroud, one of the most popular wrecks in Malta, with good reason.

 

 

Shipwrecks for all levels of Scuba Divers.

PADI Open Water or equivalent: Malta offers wreck diving to all levels of divers, even first-level courses such as the Open Water certified to dive up to 18-m.

HMS Maori: Located in the Capital City of Malta, Valletta, the HMS Maori is one of the few remaining shipwrecks from WWII. Situated below the city walls, the wreckage dates back to the forties. The Tribal-Class British Destroyer became wreckage when a parachute flare was dropped by the enemy. The shipwreck rests on a sloppy sandy bottom, at a maximum depth of 15-m. Set in shallow waters in the harbour, Her best days are far behind her. This wreck endured several storms that resulted in her deterioration throughout the years. Nevertheless, the area is still a nurturing grounds for a variety of fish mainly groupers and the occasional seahorse.

PADI Advanced Open Water or equivalent. Wreck diving for divers certified to dive up to 30 meters. This dive is for certified Advanced Divers, it involves a mid-water swim, please be wary of sea currents at this location.  The wreck sits at a bottom of 36meters. One of the most famous wrecks is the prestigious Um El Faroud. The 120 meters Libyan Oil Tanker, was involved in an explosion, that took the lives of nine dockyard workmen. This ill-fated accident shock Malta and its people, several recounts the trembling walls & shaking windows as the explosion in the dockyard took place. In 1998 the vessel was made safe for divers and scuttled in Wied Iz-Zurrieq, also referred to as Blue Grotto. The shipwreck sits majestically on a sandy bottom at circa 36meters. A torrential storm broke the ship separating the bow from the stern. Those who have

Wreck Diving Speciality certification.  Can explore the guts of this shipwreck. The engine room, bridge and accommodation are at the stern of the vessel, the cargo section is divided into four centre tanks and four wing tanks on each side. The deck of the mighty Um el Faroud is home to various species of fish, amberjacks are ironically found looking for prey around the chimney of the tanker.

PADI Deep Speciality or equivalent:  For those with a calling for the deep, & have invested in the Deep Diver Speciality or equivalent, qualified to dive up to 40meters, there are some special places for you.

The Bristol Blenheim Bomber.  Planes beneath the waves, The Bristol Blenheim Bomber Mk 1V was attacked during a flight leaving from Malta to the Middle East. The plane was hit by the enemy causing the propeller to spin off. The Blenheim Bomber now lies on the sandy bottom at 42 meters. It has endured her fair share of storms while remaining mostly intact with the wings and engines mostly intact.

Technical Diving: This one is for the big boys & girls, this wreck is beyond recreational diving limits. Please only consider diving this if you are qualified to do so.  Le Polynesien, locally known as ‘tal-Platti’, which means the ‘Plate ship’, is a 152-meter French-built freighter. Embarked with 252 passengers the ship used to shuttle from France to Australia. During a convoy to Malta in 1918, she was torpedoed by a submarine, causing the vessel to sink on the spot(in front of our dive centre). The vessel is lying on its port side, with depths ranging from 53m-65m…
Its nickname is derived from the fact that numerous artefacts can be found on this wreck- mainly porcelain plates, glass bottles and other china. The plates are embossed with the vessel’s emblem – a blue anchor. There are two cannons intact and covered in coral crustaceans, on the deck & bow of the Polynesien. Other artefacts include bathtubs, light fixtures and bed frames.

Local avid divers, ex-pats & more…  Like all personal relationships in a small island, the diving community is a close-knit and super friendly bunch. Upon joining the ever-increasing community of divers, you will get to meet with like-minded individuals, who share the same passions as yourself. Stay in the circle & keep diving.

Once you get to know the local diving community, you will find a super supportive group of buddies. Whether you’re still deciding if you’re up for the first scuba diving experience or else already, a certified, experienced diver, this community is full of tips & advice on all topics.

Whether chatting in between dives, or while waiting for your tank to be refilled, it is quite easy to make diver friends around. You will find buddies, and familiar faces or local dives sites or on the jetty, or during boat expeditions.

Get Social: there are several groups, pages and hash-tags online for you to discover. Get to know the diving community in your area, share stories, underwater photographs, marine life, advice, and inspiration on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & More. Check our Instagram page; @DIVEMED and make sure to tag us #divemed & #sameplanetdifferentworld. Other Facebook groups you may want to join include: Malta Underwater Diving, Divemed, Girls that Scuba.

Mutual passion – we share the same love & pastime for the silent world of bubbles. It’s so easy to strike a conversation with someone who shares the same awe for the creatures of the sea. Explorers and wonders, adventurers all keen for new adventures…or just love to float, carefree, in the blue.

Nature Protectors – we are the ambassadors of the sea, we see what others lack the opportunity to discover. We understand the problem, & are part of the solution; people protect what they love while inspiring others to do the same. There are several clean-up initiatives held in Malta weekly, either from local dive centres or from NGOs such as Zibel and No Plastic Malta & Raniero Adventures.

Finding buddies – the buddy system is like rule-number-two of diving(after never hold your breath, of course), always stay close to your dive buddy. Apart from the safety aspect, having a keen scuba side-kick is always fun! If you find yourself looking for a dive buddy while in Malta, the most common and recommended practice is to get in touch with a local dive centre, most offer affordable dive packages. Us for one, offer the local diver package, tailor-made for locals or ex-pats living on the island, this package includes 10 dives & is the cheapest one around.

Guided diving gives you the peace-of-mind of a guaranteed safe and fun diving experience. (on your friend list) (start this adventure with a friend). Another option, if you’re living on the island, is to join a dive club who organize regular dives and social activities for certified divers; such as Calypso, Atlam & Amphibians. Likewise, you can find fellow dive buddies on Facebook groups such as Malta Diving, Malta Underwater Society and Divers Around the World. May I advise you to act cautiously when meeting someone on the internet for the first time. Please make sure to adhere to the local laws, and always dive with a buddy who is familiar diving in the area.

Scuba Diving around the Maltese Islands. The Maltese islands are blessed with mild winters and hot summers. Typical to the Mediterranean, the Maltese Archipelago is showered with long and hot summer days and mild rainy winters.

This forgiving climate makes the Maltese islands dive-able all year round. Due to the size & shape of the islands, diving is possible on most days of the year. Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the Maltese Islands are definitely windy. Worry not; there is a sheltered dive site for any, wind direction. The most common wind in all seasons is the North Westerly Wind, locally referred to as il-Majjistral. Our favourite wrecks, Tug 10 & Tug St.Michael, are sheltered from these winds.

Recommend dive locations. To all the local divers who can make their way to the shore dives around the islands, here are some recommendations for you. If you haven’t gotten the hang of the wind rose yet, here are some local tips to finding the right dive site… Always be cautious & asses the entry and exit points carefully before you make your way to the water.

NW(Majjistral)- Marsascala, Zurrieq, Delimara,Ghar Lapsi, Slugs Bay. Ta-Cenc, Wied–Ghasri,
N(Tramnuntana)-Zurrieq, Ghar Lapsi, Anchor Lapsi, Cirkewwa; Xatt l-Ahmar, Xlendi-Gozo
NE(Grigal)- Delimara & Zurrieq, Xlendi-Gozo
East(Lvant)- Anchor Bay, Ghar Lapsi, Zurrieq, Dwejra, Xlendi-Gozo
SE(Xlokk)-Anchor Bay, Cirkewwa, ;Dwejra
S(Nofsinhar)-SSW(Norsinhar- Libic) -Cirkewwa,Sliema,Marsascala
SW(Libic)-Sliema, Valleta, Sliema,Qawra, Valletta;
W(Punent )- Sliema, Marsascala, Sliema,Qawra, Valletta;Reqqa;Qbajjar

 

I cannot stress the point enough, when in doubt ask an experienced local, for recommendations and advice on currents & sea conditions. Better safe than sorry. Please feel free to contact the dive centre for advice on where to dive on +356 21639981.

Sea Temperature and Exposure Suit – If you’re still deciding what exposure suit to bring along for your next diving holiday to Malta, below you can find a table with average sea temperature for each month & recommended suit to bring along. As always, each and every diver has a different, cold-tolerance threshold; but this is my local girl recommendation. However, if you’re coming to Malta for the deep dives, think warm, the thermoclines can be mean.

 

Month Air Temperature Avg. water Temperature Exposure Suit
January 10-15°C   16°C   Dry Suit /
7mm wetsuit
February 10-15°C   16°C   Dry Suit /
7mm wetsuit
March 11-17°C   16°C   Dry Suit /
7mm wetsuit
April 13-20°C   16°C   Dry Suit /
7mm wetsuit
May 16-24°C   18°C   7mm wetsuit/
5mm wetsuit
June 19-28°C   21°C   5mm wetsuit/
3mm wetsuit
July 21-31-°C   24°C   3mm wetsuit/
Shorty
August 22-31°C   26°C   3mm wetsuit/
Shorty
September 20-28°C   25°C   3mm wetsuit/
5mm wetsuit
October 18-25°C   23°C   5mm wetsuit/
vest, gloves, hood
November 14-20°C   21°C   5mm wetsuit/
vest, gloves, hood
December 11-17°C   18°C   Dry Suit/
7mm wetsuit

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