The Simpson's first family holiday abroad.

Malta

The build up

As is the case for most people I guess, the holiday starts as soon as you book it. In my case however it was a little different. With this being our first proper holiday I didn't really know what I was doing despite Pat doing everything bar apply sun cream for me. I read baggage allowance = 20kg plus 10kg hand luggage. That'll never be enough to get 4 peoples clothing etc, plus my scuba gear over there, so I added sports equipment to my allowance for £92 giving me an extra 35kg. So with my finger poised over the checkout button and the thought of what if I need this money for something else going round my head I reluctantly pressed the submit and began to weep while reading a Yorkshire man's worst phrase "none refundable" the second being "voluntary excess" of course. I later discovered this was in fact 20kg and 10kg per person. All I had to do now was decide how to use my vast weight allowance, drug running or human trafficking!

Knowing we needed passports for the girls I set myself a reminder in my calendar to apply for them the day Faith turned 8 (14 February) giving myself plenty of time to avoid those passport horror stories you hear about when people go on holiday.

For the next few months instead of getting excited about the upcoming holiday I was thinking, "what if I need that money for something else".

Faith's birthday came and went and I kept snoozing the app on my phone that was bugging me to sort out the passports. Eventually mid March I decided I had better get this sorted. I went online, filled in the forms and all was good. They post the forms to you for signing and counter signing. You then get your photos taken and send it all off. All sorted nothing to worry about. Except for... the little Yorkshire voice in my head said "Eh up lad, you ain't gunna waste a tenner on 2 blinking photiz r thee?" So I announced to Kim I would be taking the photo's myself saving us £10. Now despite having a white projection blind to pull down behind the girls, try as I might I just couldn't I get these pictures with a light background. After trying multiple times the fear of having the photos rejected made me u-turn my earlier decision to do them myself. So with 8 weeks to go Kim took over and got them sent off.

With a couple of weeks to go, Graces passport arrived. This was a renewal hence the earlier delivery, but with passport panic approaching DEFCON 5 for Faith's, Kim decided to call the passport office. We eventually received Faith's just one week before flying. The relief I didn't have to send "Kim" traipsing over to the passport office in Liverpool was immeasurable.

By this point we now had holiday insurance, with no voluntary excess I might add. So I dared to let myself look forward to the holiday a little and we started preparing to pack. Daily P G Tips (Pat and Gordon) were arriving in our email mail boxes for getting the most out of the holiday and excitement was starting to build.

Time to go

Saturday arrived and it was time to head off to the airport. Not wanting to risk being late we arrived about an hour before everyone else and camped in the airport with a view of the door. Pat and Gordon were next to arrive as far as we knew. We soon discovered Stu, Dave and Dave the snorkel had all snuck in evading my rather slack surveillance stakeout. We boarded the plane and headed off and arrived in Malta very late. 21 tired souls dragged themselves to their respective rooms for some shut eye.

The holiday

The following morning we were up quite early to head over to the dive centre to receive our brief for Monday's diving, shortly after people dispersed in all directions to check out the little village that is Malta. Later that day Pat managed to gather the group together for a meal and celebration of Ant Nevens's birthday. The kids had a great time on the retro arcade machines that were last seen in the UK circa 1995. They also managed to rejuvenate the adults with a few rounds of Chinese whispers.

Dive Day 1 and the first dive was all about ensuring everyone's estimated weights were correct and ease the newer divers into the water. The entry point was very slippery and I managed to find and stand in a underwater hole on a couple of occasions. The water was very clear and there was plenty to look at.

After the dive it was time to try out snorkelling with my girls. Dave the snorkel gave us the skinny on the local snorkelling scene, so we headed down to the same entry point that proved so troublesome on my earlier dive. I managed to entice Faith into the water and snork about for a little. Grace didn't seem awfully keen to join us. That's when "Mr Bulmer Sir" used his teacher super powers to encourage Grace and reassure her that everything was going to be fine and slowly he got her to join us in the water and have a go herself. Just as things we going swimmingly our new arch nemesis "Jelly The Fish" struck fear into the children's hearts and they promptly evacuated the water screaming to get out.

Dive 2 went fine with us swimming up through some kind of underwater tunnel.

Dive Day 2 was very much the highlight of the diving. We had a rather nice boat, The Pegasus, it was booked to take us to Comino Island, the Blue Lagoon and Santa Maria Caves. We dived the caves first and somehow I (one of the newbie's) managed to be the only one on a 12L cylinder when everyone else was on a 15. The start of the dive was beautiful, like plunging straight into a fish tank. Our little group headed off towards the caves for a mooch about to see what life awaited us. As the dive was drawing to a close we headed towards a pitch black cave, I checked my air and indicated to our guide I had 40bar remaining and thought to myself do I really want to be going through a cave of unknown length with only 40bar. At this point our guide swapped buddies over so I was with him in case things got tight with my air. So we pushed into the tunnel of death a little further and I checked my air once again, 30bar. We dropped into a bowl a couple of meters below us and then a beautiful shaft of turquoise light penetrated the darkness and felt like a 100bar boost had been added to my cylinder, in reality I was down to 20bar. Once we exited the cave I decided to hover some meters above the group to give myself a small chance of seeing The Pegasus and my family once more.

From here we went on to the Blue Lagoon to await our 2nd dive and give us a chance to swim. It was at this point Gordon regressed to that of a wee laddie, bombing, leaping and belly flopping his way from the top deck of The Pegasus into Jelly Fish Lagoon. Faith was keen to dive in from the top deck too but needed the extra encouragement that could only come from a combination of a 2 euro reward from "Mr Bulmer Sir", an Ice cream from Ant and a loving father only too keen to chuck her in from the top deck. She splashed down to a rapturous applause from her shipmates and promptly collected her 2 euros.

Day 3 seemed like a long day, a number of the ladies / girls went off to find a beach and a craft village to launder some of their local currency, while the rest of the gang headed off to the Blue Grotto to feed skinny cats tuna fish and carrots. We did squeeze in some diving too. On exiting the upper decks of the wreck of the Um el Faroud we saw a Barracuda opposing hundreds of pray fish. The 2 gangs playing out an underwater scene from west side story, unsure of which side to join the Jets had the numbers but the Sharks were armed to the teeth, we backed away cautiously.

Day 4 was quite an exciting day heading over to Gozo, zipping around in convoys, heroic tales of old ladies being rescued from closing doors, teasing all the ladies while whizzing past inviting looking market places selling lovely wares.
I only did the one dive this day as I wanted to do some snorkelling. Dave the snorkel found a nice snorkelling area for us. The sign post was missing but I am sure it's known locally as Jelly Fish Bay. Despite the Jelly's, the snorkelling was very good with something to see in just inches of water and for the more extreme among us the locals had installed a rather high concrete diving platform from which Ant and I made use of, Gordon would have loved it!

Day 5 was equally exciting, trying to find dive locations for the last day. We were treated to a tour of the island to soak up some of the breathtaking architecture surrounding the countries harbours. We settled at Kalkara Creek to dive the SS Margit and started getting ready for the dive. One of our guides Chris was due to do his 100th dive and as is tradition in BSAC so I hear, the dive is meant to be performed naked. Now for what was supposed to be a relaxing break for the none diving ladies of the group they sure made a great attempt to beat the Maltese 60 yard dash record while attempting to wake up sleeping cameras and shoving aside all in their path to support Chris on his momentous dive. Women really can multi task. The vis on this dive was very odd due to a crane dragging crud up from the sea bed, one point it was crystal clear the next you were at touching distance. At one point it was so poor I was inches off the sea bed while heading to the wreck. This allowed me to pay close attention to the crud on the bottom which is when I noticed an unusual jewel like object. It turned out to be part of a shell which had been polished by years of buffing against the sand. I clasped this gem of the ocean in my hand much like a child would saving a sweet for an absent parent awaiting their return from work, knowing I intended to fashion a piece of jewellery for my lovely wife. Ask her to have a look if you haven't seen it yet!

The second and last dive of the holiday was a rather special dive for Matthew Roberts who was also on his 100 dive. He however did it in true Brit style, he manage a bare arsed stride entry. Every now and then during the dive I would catch sight of his Manatee-esk form, where's the bad vis when you need it?

Drawing to a close

For the last supper we all gathered together once again for one final evening meal. Some of us got rather giddy on wine and the giddiest amongst us kicked off a cheeky round of Chinese whispers with the topic being Matthew's 100 dive. The children did their utmost to ensure this particular whisper didn't deviate from its starting point. Their scrutiny not being tight enough Matthew didn't come off too well "flapping in the current" managed to get itself changed to "the size of a current". What on earth are they teaching kids these days?

Malta

This holiday isn't what I would have expected our first family holiday abroad to be. It is however how I expect our next family holiday to be. If I had to sum up in one sentence our holiday experience it would be this; "Great fun, great adventure with a great group of people" and if I had to choose just a few from the many pictures taken to show this it would be these.

Kim's Malta experience.

My husband, Andy, has been diving for nearly 2 years now. I love going along to some of the dive sites and watching him enjoy his hobby, hearing all about the things he's seen under water, but never at any point have I been remotely interested in giving it a go myself. I'm more of a "feet firmly on dry land" kinda girl!

We decided this year to go along with a group of the other divers from Excalibur and found ourselves booking our very first family holiday abroad in sunny Malta. Our 2 girls were overjoyed to be going, and promptly began snorkel training with Pete Roddam. For me it was all about chilling out with the children, enjoying some family time and being able to relax. When it comes to relaxing Andy and I have very different ideas, for me the sun loungers and a good book, for him keeping busy and active, so this holiday would be perfect, keeping us both happy and our girls were just excited to find a pool on the roof of the hotel!

On the second diving day we found ourselves on a beautiful boat heading for the famous Blue Lagoon, which certainly lived up to its name. As I watched the group getting ready for their dive I started to feel a bit left out, which was odd as there was no way I was even remotely interested in squeezing myself into all that gear and going under water where I'd have to breathe through a tube!! No. Thank. You.

A little later on I was chatting with Tracy, one of the club's recently qualified divers and explaining how I was feeling a little left out, when all of a sudden it hit me. I did want to be down there, I wanted to experience this underwater world that all the divers sat around and discussed. Talk about a sudden realisation!

By the end of the day I'd spoken to a few more people and before I knew it I had agreed to do a try dive on our last full day of the holiday. I was sorted out with a full set of kit, I even got a kit box with my name on it, just like all the other divers. I'm easily pleased!

I had butterflies, but not from nerves, from pure excitement. I had struggled in the past when trying to snorkel so I needed to see if there was any way I could breathe the proper diving gear. My dive buddy was Stuart, he was such a calming influence and watching him check all my kit was so reassuring and I knew I was in safe hands.

kim

In I went, floundered on the surface for a while, the term beached whale came to mind a few times, but once Stuart had got my weights and buoyancy sorted off we went, down into depths of the Marsamxett Harbour. Well I say depths, 6.9 metres to be precise, but for a surface dweller like myself that felt deep enough for a first attempt. For 20 minutes I was submerged into another world, seeing beautiful fish and experience the peace and tranquillity of diving. I also took part in a surreal underwater photo shoot. Hilarious.

When the time came to surface and join the real world again my gorgeous girls were there cheering for me, rather short lived though, they were more eager to tell me about the ice-cream they'd just eaten! Kids! For the rest of the day I was on an unbelievable high, so pleased with myself for giving it a go and even more pleased that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What in incredible place for a try dive, now bring on the training.

 

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