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The aquarist at work / Image: Tim E White

The warm Mediterranean waters off the coast of miniscule Malta are home to a dizzying array of sea creatures that have fascinated Kiri Orme since she was young. As a grown up, the native Maltese has dedicated her life to protecting these vital underwater ecosystems by becoming an aquarist at the Malta National Aquarium. Now she spends her days studying, feeding, and looking after her nation’s most vulnerable underwater residents. No one knows Malta’s land and seas better than Kiri, so we asked her to share her favourite things about this tiny floating republic.

"Malta's aquarium represents the Maltese islands,

that's what's so special about it. You'll see all the different native species that live around here, like undulate rays and scorpionfish. The whole thing is massive – over 20,000 square metres in size. If you want to see them up close, there are loads of wrecks around, which are great for divers and snorkellers – like the P31 petrol boat wreck."

Image: Getty Images

"The water off the north coast is crystal clear.

You'll find the best diving on Comino and Gozo, two small islands you can reach by ferry. If you haven't dived before, there are many schools here for different ages and abilities. I recommend doing it with my favourite place, Malta Aqua, who offer both beginner's courses and PADI cretification."

"Carry a map with you at all times.

Malta may be small (only 14.5 km across), but it's not easy to navigate. It's really easy to lose your way on the island. But once you get the hang of it, Malta's historic streets are amazing places to explore."

"Boat parties are a big thing here.

A lot of families own boats, so our social lives revolve around them. If you're friendly and get to know your neighbours, you'll probably be invited onto their boat. That's what's great about Malta – the fact that it's so small means there's a real sense of community here."

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Images: Tim E White

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