ITS EASY TO MISS ELYSIA TIMIDA. The green and white nudibranch is as small as a fingernail, but for some reason my eye latched onto the speck trundling across a rock near the Blue Hole, one of Gozos famous dive sites.
With a 105mm macro lens I was able to get a good close-up - and it gave me an idea.
The Maltese island of Gozo is known for big rocks and holes. Sites such as the Inland Sea, Blue Hole, Azure Window and Reqqa Point are well-known big scenery sites. The islands southern wrecks are also a big draw, as they sit upright on the seabed.
So much has been written about these delights of Gozo that its hardly worth me running through them again. However, Gozo has hidden secrets - little life that is missed by many. So drag your gaze away from the big rocks, and come down into the undergrowth in search of Gozos little things!
Elysia timida (nudibranchs are generally known by their Latin names) is one of the many species of such creatures found in Gozitan waters.
In nudibranch circles, its pretty in an average way. People dont say Wow! in its presence.
Yet several rungs up the Wow scale is Flabellina lineata - which stands out from the crowd like a supermodel at a gurning contest. You have to look for them, because most are so small they are easily passed over, especially when found on the deck of a wreck that has a Volkswagen Beetle sitting on it.
The Karwela is one of Gozos newer attractions, as it was sunk in 2006 just off the shore at Ix-Xatt L-Ahmar. Next to it is the Cominoland, which was sunk at the same time. However, I wasnt interested so much in what the wreck was, as in what was living on it. According to the guides at Moby Divers - the dive centre I was using - the Karwela had a colony of nudibranchs living around the railings on its deck.
The wreck lies in some 30m and a little swim from shore (most sites around the island are shore dives).
We came to the bow first, and I saw the gangway that had been pointed out as a good place to look. As I closed on it, I noticed a glimmer of brilliant purple and recognised the trailing fronds of Flabellina pedata. Most wreck-heads would simply not notice it!
It was feeding on tiny hydroids that were growing on the light weed covering the railings. Hydroids are miniature anemones, and as nudibranchs eat them, their toxins remain. This makes the small slugs nasty to eat, but leads to their fantastic colours.
Like flamboyant insects, theyre saying: You can look, but dont eat.

FURTHER ALONG THE WRECK, I passed the sort of items that used to spin round, and which wreckers seem to love (winches, drive shafts and the like), and also some other Flabellina pedata. A pair was feeding on yet more hydroids. To the naked eye they were little more than purple stringy blobs, but under the gaze of a macro lens, they were beautiful.
At 33m, time disappears fast, and it wasnt long before we headed back tothe shoreline. The shallows here are typically Mediterranean, with lots of rocks, quite a bit of algae and not much else to see - or so I thought.
A few wrasse, bass and salema where knocking about, but no fish worthy of note. Yet on closer inspection of the rocks, macro subjects started to appear.
Two tiny purple-skirted cowries were the first thing I found.
Under a rock was an orme, a type of abalone. It sat next to a pair of Dendrodoris grandiflora - which appear to have been named by an estate agent, as they are perhaps the dullest of nudibranchs, and not grand at all.
I like to turn over a few rocks while diving to see whats beneath. I think its the rock-pooling child in me that wants to satisfy his curiosity. But if you do the same, ensure that the rock goes back quickly, to ensure that the beasties beneath are safe from predators.
Next to that rock was a pair of young common octopus peering out of a tiny hole - perhaps the estate agent who named the nudibranchs had sold it a compact and bijou residence.
Just as I was about to finish the dive, I spotted a juvenile Mediterranean moray eel wrapped around a whip fan.
It was out in the open - not where youd expect to find a moray - and I think it realised this, as it remembered to defend itself and allowed me to obtain a good shot of its open mouth.
I got all this from just one dive with a macro lens - Gozo was proving to be a small island with some great small life.
The island itself has a landmass of just 26 square miles, which is about the same size as Southend-on-Sea in Essex, though I think there are fewer cars with neon lights on the underside in Gozo.
Dive-centre vans can be seen bouncing along the islands famously dreadful roads to the various shore dive sites. Some of these are more famous than others, and you cant do a dive
tour of Gozo without including the celebrated Blue Hole. I naturally paid it a visit, but I stuck with the macro lens to see what I could find.
The Elysia timida that kicked off this article was my first find here, but the site was dominated by more-usual benthic life, such as sunset cup corals.
These thumbnail-sized corals cling to the rockface of every overhang and cavern. The mouth of the hole in the wall of the Blue Hole is covered in them, as are the walls inside Cathedral Cave, which is close by.
There are also hundreds of small fish, some full-grown, others just juveniles, but all fun to turn a lens to. And the scenery is enjoyable to swim around.

THERE WAS ONE CREATURE I longed to see, however. Hippocampus guttulatus is a tricky fellow to find. Evolution has gifted it with superb camouflage, and it spends its time rolling around with flotsam in some of the dullest places anyone could want to dive.
Tell a diver they are going to look for Hippocampus guttulatus on a sandy seabed, and youll get a look as if youve just started to chat about advanced mathematics. But use the common name of long-nosed seahorse, and their demeanour changes.
On paper, the site of Ta Cenc is unappealing. After walking down a steep set of steps cut into the cliff, you fall into the water and swim into the intersection of a couple of bays, and then start to search over sand next to the posidonia seagrass beds. The sand is fine and golden, and cluttered with small pieces of flotsam.
It really isnt the place to be looking for a creature that looks like a bit of weed, but thats the challenge.
After a time, most divers would have given up, but my buddy came towards me screeching from her mouthpiece - she had found one.
Using her navigation training, she reversed her bearing and counted fin kicks. Within a minute I was watching a small yellow seahorse as it rolled around with the weed. It did everything to look inconspicuous, and I had to concentrate.
I thought its gentle movements were an attempt to try and hide from me, but then I saw it snapping at small shrimps and devouring them. It was feeding, and moving from one patch of weed to another in its hunt for tiny crustaceans.

THE CLIFFS AROUND THE ISLAND are littered with caverns that are rarely visited. So we headed out of the port at Marsalforn and zipped along the north coast on a RIB to dive a few.
The first dive was pleasant enough, but the second slapped me in the face, and gave me a Chinese burn just for good measure, and for just one thing - a white long-nosed seahorse.
I had no idea the seahorse would be there until the cox started talking about the small colony that lived on a ledge at the mouth of the main cavern.
Entering the void, I swam to the ledge as others went further back to investigate the darkness and see the light filtering in from outside. The ledge was covered in a merle-like coralline algae and sponges. There wasnt much to conceal a seahorse, so I started to look around the sponges, as I figured an ambush-hunter would hide there.
But then I heard the familiar muffled screech of my buddy.
The seahorse was hiding in plain view, and I realised why - theres no point in hiding if you stand out like a flashlight in the darkness. But without light, its prey couldnt see the seahorse in the dark, so it had no need of skin pigments - it was almost translucent.
It was a fine way to round off a small safari of a small island. Gozo will always attract the big-scene divers, but its also a superb macro photography destination.

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Charter and scheduled flights run year-round to Malta. Ferries leave Cirkewwa for Gozo throughout the day. A hire car is a must-have for getting around.
DIVING: Gavin Parsons dived with Moby Dives in Xlendi Bay, www.mobydivesgozo.com. It runs a fleet of dive trucks that visit various sites depending on weather and guest demand.
ACCOMMODATION: Gavin stayed at the farmhouse of Razzett Xemxi in San Lawrenz, www.gozosunshine.com. The self-catering accommodation is ideal for families and groups as it has six bedrooms, pool, barbecue area and a view over the Blue Hole and Inland Sea. Or pick an apartment or hotel.
MONEY: Euro.
WHEN TO GO: Year-round, but summer is busiest. Winter weather can be unpredictable, though usually there is somewhere to dive.
FOR NON-DIVERS: Great scenery, churches, archaeology - no thumping nightlife, but good bars and restaurants.
HEALTH: Hyperbaric chamber in the main hospital on Gozo.
PRICES: A weeks dive trip should cost around £700, including flights, accommodation, diving and living. Oonasdivers offers two-centre tours of Malta and Gozo from around £575, including flights, transfers, seven nights B&B and six days diving, www.oonasdivers.com, 01323 648924,
TOURIST INFORMATION: www.islandofgozo.org, www.gozo.com