Patrick and myself feel very grateful for many things that came our way or didnt, for that matter, during the last couple of years since we opened our Scuba Diving School at Sliema Pitch. I believe that in life nothing is completely good or bad. One thing leads to another and here we are.
We are very fortunate to be able to work from Sliema Pitch again this year for our third season. I grew up here and as a young boy I spent endless hours snorkelling investigating every nook and cranny. The coast around this area of Sliema is full of marine life and the bottom topography is unique. Here the marine environment boasts many caves and arches that make diving this site such an amazing experience. This area also supports two very important reef types. The first is a Neptune Grass (Posedonia oceanica) reef which is only a few meters offshore towards the chalet and curves all the way around both sides of this magnificent bay towards Spinola Bay and the Grand Harbour. The second type is further offshore called Fortizza Reef. This is a limestone reef of various densities and is as shallow as 4m all the way to 30m. Millions of years ago erosion ate away at the softer limestone forming amazing caves, swim throughs, canals and arches which are not too far from the surface. To date we have found over 40 of these types of arches and caves. Occasionally we go on a number of scouting dives looking for new and interesting features of our incredible marine surroundings.
Neptune Grass might not rally much sympathy due to the infamous connotation in its name, however joking apart, it is the most important plant in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the only flowering plant in our seas and should be left to flourish in our shallow coastal waters. It has also been found in areas exceeding 40meters. A huge percentage of the fresh pure air we breathe has been exhaled by this plant, so to speak. Besides being directly responsible for our well being this sea plant is also vital for the balance of the entire coastal eco system. Over 300 species of marine life depend on this plant, in many ways, for their survival. It is also instrumental in preventing sea bed erosion, just like the trees prevent slides and loss of soil.
Another reason why we enjoy coming to work everyday is because we feel part of the Sliema Aquatic Sports Club. The atmosphere here is outstanding. The patrons and guests that visit this private club are always so kind to us. Everyday I see the faces of friends I grew up with. There is a familiar feeling here and its a blessing to have my office right in the heart of where I grew up.
Patrick and I would really like to thank everyone for putting up with our endless stream of bubbles, or open sea Jacuzzi’s as they were all too often referred to this summer, and possible inconveniences, however, you know you can always count on us, whether you lost a ring, sunglasses or any other trinkets, to find them and return them to their rightful owners..
We worked hard this year. Patrick and I worked flat out, twelve hour days, for four full months and more. It’s a physically exhausting job with tons of responsibility but the rewards make it all worth it. We work with wild animals daily and by that I don’t mean disgruntled clients. As professionals we differ from zoo keepers in the fact that our animals dont live in cages nevermind how exotic they may seem to be. This is the wild. This is our forest underwater. Nothing is staged. One day you may see plenty of diverse marine life and on other days nothing at all. At the end of the day bringing somebody closer to appriciating this enironment, either by them getting rid of a fear or simply a silly habit like hunting baby octopus and grouper or throwing garbage in the streets/sea, makes it all worth it. This is why we do what we do.....
This year, besides our normal day to day diving activities, we also organised quite a few events. During the summer we held two, ‘Clean Up’ (the sea bed), activities. These activities, which are open to all, first start with some diving lessons. During these scuba diving lessons you learn how to dive reasonably well and safely to then be able to actively participate in the underwater clean up. Once underwater you truely begin to see that whatever you throw in the streets eventually does end up in the sea. We’ve removed so much rubbish from the sea bed like cigarette filters, plastic bags and bottles, fishing line and even car batteries. The clean up event also had a snorkelling team and a land based team. These teams made sure that all the rubbish that was lifted up from the seabed was carefully taken back to the shore and disposed of intelligently
This year we had the colourful participation of the Sliema Salesians Brigade Club. Mrs.Gonzi, the Sliema Local Council Mayor, whose daughter was one of the participants, spoke highly of this event and wished that many more could be organised raising the marine awareness amongst children and grown up’s alike. It was a special moment to see so many parents together with thier children enjoy such a valuable experience. The response was amazing and the after taste was even better, partly because you are really having fun but most of all because you know that you are really actively doing something fulfilling together with your family and friends.
We also hosted our yearly Marine Biology Course. This course is organised together with Nature Trust and Dr.Alan Deidun. This year’s course included a few marine biology lectures and two scuba dives, either for total beginners or certified divers. We always have a good turnout. People DO want to know more about the marine environment and its inhabitants. The more you know the more likely you are to protect it. We also had an unexpected highlight to this event. To the amazement of the students during the course dives we actually saved a 7 year old female loggerhead turtle which we named Ninja, excuse the cliche but we couldn’t help it. This poor creature was entangled in fishing line plus it had a hook down her throat. If we hadn’t taken the turtle out from the mess it was in, it would have surely drowned within a few hours. I’m very pleased to let you all know that after an operation and a couple of months of rehabilitation she was released in excellent health from Torri San Lucian back into the wild where she belongs.
This year was not without its fair share of drama. At the begining of July and also in Mid September the Watercolours Dive Centre Dive Team had to recover and also install the floating pontoon twice due to the freak storms that almost had it entirely distroyed. The immense power of the swell lifted and snapped the moorings from the sea bed like tent pegs from the soil. The 80ton breaking strength bungee moorings did little to stop the inevitable and apart it came drifting everywhich way. The actions of a few brave boys on both occasions saved most of the pontoon which woud have otherwise entirely smashed on the rocks or drifted out into oblivion.
We also hosted a Guiness World Record scuba diving event. Even though due to unfortunate circumstanses this goal wasn’t reached nonetheless a prestgious event such as that might be attempted once again in the future.
Like everything in life a healthy balance is the way to go. The marine life around our coast is crucial for our own well being. I doubt you’d be too enthusiastic to read line after line about how we are destroying the planet. We are drowned in information and advice about how WE can make that difference, however, I’m a firm believer in knowledge and only by knowledge and experience will we ever take care of what we have. Instead of reading about what’s wrong let’s actively take part in what’s right. This year we are organising our 6th Marine Biology Course. Taking on this certified, short, practical course is a great way to get involved, literally hands on, in what we do thus aquiring a greater knowledge and respect of what lives out of sight simply a stone throw away beneath the waves.....