Malta lost one of its most iconic landmarks, and a major tourist draw, in March, when the Azure Window rock arch collapsed into the sea. Now local tourism operators are hoping to revive the area’s fortunes by promoting it as a dive site.
The majestic Azure Window, located at Dwerja on the west coast of Gozo island, was one of the world’s most photographed rock formations and one of Malta’s most popular visitor attractions. It even featured as the backdrop to the Dothraki wedding between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones.
Although geologists had long suggested that the formation might be unstable, no one was expecting what happened in the early morning of Wednesday 8 March, 2017. The islanders woke after a stormy night to find that not only had the fragile roof of the arch come down, but the massive pillar supporting it had also collapsed, leaving an empty void where the beautiful arch once stood.
Malta’s people were understandably bereft at the sudden loss of a national monument, with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat describing it at ‘heartbreaking’. The loss was particularly tough for the island of Gozo, which will now have to rely on its other attractions (including prehistoric temples and sandy beaches) to draw tourists.
But all, it seems, is not lost, as Gozo’s enterprising dive centres are promoting the underwater ruins of the arch as the island’s newest dive site. Under the waves, scuba divers can swim around and between the massive chunks of rock that fell from the rock formation. There are plenty of fish, and some areas are as shallow as four or five metres deep, which is ideal for beginners.
The rocks that were once part of the stack are dazzling white limestone, whilst the ones that fell from the arch are a creamy yellow colour. Divers should visit soon if they want to see the colours of the fresh rock before they get colonised by seaweed and algae.
The new dive site is adjacent to the existing Blue Hole dive site, a vertical chimney running down into the limestone, about 10m in diameter and 25m deep, that connects with the open sea through an underwater arch about 8m down.