Filfa Rock

Filfla Rock  – Stork reef

8th August 2010

The weather was perfect – well almost – after a week of a steady strong NW wind, on the day, the wind went down to an acceptable force 3 with a low swell from the same direction. Actually it was this swell which made the Barbarossa pitch and roll – nothing dramatic however, and as the sun rose higher, conditions improved.

The Barbarossa is not a small vessel, and this time it was full, but not just divers, since there was also a good turnout of family members and friends. The Filfla outing is always popular, since one does not get too many opportunities to visit this remote and lonely southernmost outpost of the Maltese Islands. Most divers opted for two dives. The first dive took place at the so called Stork Rock reef.

The anchor was dropped on the reef, which is actually a submerged pinnacle which rises to about 8m beneath the surface. I have tried, but up to now have not figured out how this reef got its name! This dive site being about 1km south of Filfla is quite at the mercy of weather conditions, but today it was ok. Also the site is sometimes subject to strong currents, and this a question which can only be answered after the dive has begun. This time there was only a slight current going north, which it seemed to me, became weaker at depth.

We decided to repeat the dive which we did last year, mostly because we remembered a nice cave with two exits and we wanted to re-visit. Our group consisted of six divers, with Tano Role as dive leader.. and so over the drop off, and then a descent up to a maximum of 43 metres, and then we went on a SW heading, that is, keeping the reef on our right hand. As seen from below, it becomes obvious that we were anchored on a pinnacle which rises out of the seabed. The reef sides slope down onto the sand which I would estimate to be in the region of 60m. At the base of the reef there are a lot of large boulders, of the type one finds underneath cliff faces, which struck me as being a bit strange since the reef top is submerged, and the boulders could not have fallen due to erosion. Perhaps this was the result of wave action during storms on the relatively shallow reef top?

Filfla reef dive site next to Blue Grotto Malta
photo Edward Vella

It was nice exploring at the bases of these boulder, and soon we came to a small cave entrance, which soon expanded to a high roofed chamber with a large opening at about 26m- we had entered throught the exit! There is a very nice play of light in the cave, and the roof is covered with sponges and shade loving orange hydroids, whose colours come to life when illuminated by torch light.

Approximately upon leaving the cave which is at about 28 metres , we entered deco, so it was time to ascend. We practically re-traced our steps but this time ascending. After a while we came to the small valley from which we started the dive, and right on top of the rocks which form this valley was the Barbarossa’s anchor chain. The reef top at about 8m makes an excellent decompression platform. There was however a noticeable current going North so we had to fin to maintain station, however nothing dramatic.Filfla cave near Blue Grotto Malta Malta

Sea life – it is a bit surprising that in Malta’s remotest location, fewer sighting than one would anticipate were made. In our case, we saw a medium sized amberjack darting in on the very numerous damsel fish which live on the reef, a same sized dusky grouper of about 40cm and the damsel fish themselves, which apart from their numbers, I saw some larger than usual examples, but then there were other creatures like the bright orange hydroids which have formed large sized colonies as well as multi-coloured sponges, and long spined sea-urchins.

Filfla is always makes for a nice and exciting dive.