A Day Out, Rent a Boat, Home School Outing!
Schools are closed and won’t reopen until September, so keeping the kids busy whilst giving them a learning experience in a safe way is difficult. We decided to rent a boat and spend a day at sea, spotting as much wildlife as possible. That way we could have a great, relaxing day out and at the same time combine it with a science lesson.
We decided that Wednesday would be perfect, the weather was sunny and with a light breeze from the north east the sea would be calm. There were no online lessons that day and as it was mid-week it would be a day when it would be less busy on the water.
Birdlife in Malta
Before the trip even began, my 12 yr old and I sat down and came up with a ‘wish list’ of some of Malta’s inhabitants that we wanted to see, and where the best places were to view them would be with the minimum of disturbance. We put together an itinerary for our day out on our rental boat. As we would be departing from the little bay of Ramla tal-Bir in the north of Malta, we wanted to explore the Gozo channel, Comino and the South of Gozo. This whole area is a Marine Important Bird Area and is home to 2 species of Yelkouan Shearwater, the Puffinus Shearwater and the Scopoli’s Shearwater which is the larger of the two, so these would definitely be on the list.
Rent a Boat
As we had decided to rent a boat for the day, we prepared a coolbox with snacks, fruit, plenty of water, fruit juice and soft drinks. We always prepare enough food to feed an army, and on this occasion it would prove to be just the right amount.
Arriving at Bluewaves watersports centre was easy. We set off early, arriving there at 9am and after quickly filling out the paperwork we discussed our itinerary with Kevin, one of Bluewaves’ captains who advised us of the best places to see each item on our wish-list and of the day’s weather conditions. We were then taken to our boat, given a quick familiarisation of handling the boat and the safety features on board and we were on our way. The boat was a perfect size for us, and had a GPS, stereo, plenty of cubbyholes to store our things and most importantly a full sun canopy to keep us out of the hot Mediterranean sun.
Comino, The Blue Lagoon
As our itinerary included Comino, the Blue Lagoon and the south of Gozo, we decided to first head across the Gozo Channel towards the Blue Lagoon. In just a few minutes we were there and the stunning crystal clear waters were so inviting that we decided to drop anchor and have a quick swim! Back on board our self-drive boat, we headed out of the Blue Lagoon, across to Lantern point and along the South Coast of Comino. Passing the majestic cliff top tower and knight’s era gun battery both dedicated to Santa Marija, I made a note to plan another trip to explore these historical features.
Heading up the east side of Comino, we managed to tick off a bonus creature! An elephant! Well, a curiously shaped rock formation in the cliff face that resembles the head and trunk of an elephant when viewed from the side and the rear when seen head-on!
A little further up the coast we got to tick off an item on our list. The smaller of the Shearwaters, the Puffinus Yelkouan. High on the cliffs, in small burrows, these sea birds make their nests. Venturing out to catch fish during the day and returning in large numbers in the early evening. Listed by IUCN as vulnerable, this is one of the places to have a healthy breeding population. We put the boat in neutral 50m or so off the shore, and rested whilst watching the activity of these sea birds in the cliffs above. Happy that we had brought our binoculars and cameras along.
Fresh Maltese Bread
Heading slowly past the bay of St Maria Caves, we were amazed at how clear the water was. Just below the surface we saw hundreds of Sea Bream milling around (another list item). As a diver, I have encountered these hungry fish before so I popped the engine into neutral, and reaching into our snack box, we took out a few slices of fresh Maltese bread (remember that food to feed an army?) and threw small chunks over the side. We were immediately surrounded by the hungry fish, eager for a meal!
Comino, Gozo, Dolphins and Sparrows
As we were in danger of giving away all our lunch supplies I thought it best not to linger here too long so we headed across the northern side of Comino to Malta’s sister Island, Gozo. It was crossing this part of the Gozo channel that we encountered the highlight of our day. At a distance of a few hundred metres – too far for a decent picture unfortunately, we saw a small pod of dolphins. Checking it was safe, we cut the engine and enjoyed at least 5 minutes of these playful mammals on the surface before they swam from view up the coast.
Heading back across to Comino, we decided to stop for lunch and a swim at the peaceful San Niklaw Bay. Picking a spot just outside the swimming zone, we were grateful for the sun canopy that was included with our self drive speedboat. Munching our sandwiches, we were delighted to have a visitor on board. A bold Spanish Sparrow, this permanent resident on the Maltese islands was fearless and kept flying back and forth from shore to boat for a few scraps of bread. Thoroughly refreshed, we waved goodbye to our little friend and weighed anchor and continued our journey to Gozo. Eager to see the other Shearwater, we also kept an eye out for the elusive leatherback turtles that can be seen in this area. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Oh well, we’ll just have to plan another day!
South Coast of Gozo
The scenery along Gozo’s south western shore is stunning, after the main harbour of Mgarr, there is the tiny inlet of Mgarr ix-Xini, made famous by the Angelina Jolie film By The Sea. Further along, passing under the impressive cliffs of Gozo’s Ta Cenc, we could see the larger Scopoli’s Yelkouan wheeling overhead. Another tick on the list!
Turtles in Malta
Turning around, we headed out to sea and again kept a lookout for the elusive leatherback! It wasn’t our day, but we did manage to see the incredible flying fish jumping out of the water alongside our boat and spreading their fins to glide effortlessly! Yay! Another one the list!
With this under our belts, and with time passing by, we decided to head back to the boat rental centre. Opening up the throttle, the boat cut across the waves easily and we enjoyed the thrill of the wind in our hair. Easing back as we approached the bay, the boat slid easily to the mooring, where we were met by Shammy, one of the friendly crew of Bluewaves watersports who transferred us back to the jetty.
Perfect Day Out, Malta, Gozo, Comino and The Blue Lagoon
All in all our day out was very successful and relaxing. It enabled us to chill out on the water, explore the pristine coastline and experience some of the amazing wildlife the Maltese islands have to offer as well as completing that all important homeschooling!
We will definitely be back to rent a boat for a second day to explore the historical sites of the Blue Lagoon area of Comino, and search for that elusive turtle!
Article was created by: Danny Jones
Something about Danny
Danny Jones is a Yorkshire born freelance diving instructor and has been living in Malta for 16 years. He is passionate about the marine environment and has travelled to Africa, the Americas and extensively around Europe in his diving career. Now happily settled in Malta, he loves the outdoor lifestyle and Maltese culture.