Malta Diary Blue seas, blue skies – but will we enjoy them with tranquillity once more? Here comes summer!
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I was then a youngster and the world was my oyster. Cares and worries were little except what was next for lunch or whether for Christmas dad would buy me a football as a present.
As both my parents had relatives in sister island Gozo our crossings were frequent. In those days there were one or two vessel sailings a day as opposed to the continual shuttle-service of recent years. My delight was to do the journey propped up against a side rail and watch myriads of flying fish fly out of the path of the approaching vessel while dolphins gambolled at the stern, relishing the wake and doing their leaping antics.
Sadly, all these disappeared in long-term recent years with hordes of seacraft ranging from small boats, yachts, cruisers, ships and massive liners completely surrounded our islands day and night, fouling up our seas – added to all the rubbish carelessly dumped into the blue sea.
How wonderful therefore to read and view in recent days the return of the dolphins – and some venturing into inner port and harbour areas to enjoy what is theirs and not our habitat!
The Covid-19 pandemic has had some upsides after all.
Summer is well on the way and what is better than a day of swimming and seaside picnicking – the delight of many, many thousands inhabitants and tourists all mingled together.
Sadly, not this summer. With social distancing and tourism down to a mere trickle as airports gradually reopen routes and operations on a very restricted basis, blue skies and our blue seas continue to beckon.
Would be tourists can only view pictures and videos with envy and muse “how I wish I was there right now”. Fortunately, for us inhabitants, all is still possible, although with great precautions.
Additionally, further resounding good news was the announcement last week that despite this was BEFORE the pandemic outburst, according to a report by the European Environmental Agency, almost 98% of the swimming zones in the Maltese Islands have an excellent quality of sea water as compared to the European average of other countries at 85%. The report still places Malta as the third best quality sea water in Europe following Cyprus and Austria.
The report states that 85 of the Islands’ 87 bays, when water samples were taken last year and analysed for drainage pollution had excellent results. Only two bays were not certified as excellent but the two Balluta bays were still classified to have good quality water for swimming.
The Maltese Islands placed third following Cyprus (99.1%) and Austria (98.5%) with the European average being just under 85%.
The country’s Water Services Corporation said the excellent certificate was achieved because of the modernisation of the drainage infrastructure and the fact that the four drainage plants filtered over 24 billion litres of draining.
In normal circumstances, a number of sandy bays absorb the throngs from early dawn to dusk and beyond. The beaches are small and quickly overflow with people, but there are also expanses of rock beaches and the more discerning get-away-from-the-crowds bracket seek the lonelier and more secluded areas to enjoy the peace and quiet. You might even find areas where nature lovers prefer to be in their birth suit.
In recent years diving holidays have become a rage and attract thousands of tourists to many diving schools offering instructions with qualified divers and deep sea diving. The relatively free-from-pollution sea enables excellent underwater vision and a number of wrecks have been submerged to make it more interesting.
Malta too now has now had for some time a National Aquarium in Qawra which is a daily magnet for thousands of visitors year round.
However, above all, the blue sea is the lure.
The most popular and sought-after beaches include Mellieha Bay (“Ghadira” in Maltese), Ghajn Tuffieha (which translates as the “Well of Apples”) adjacent to Golden Bay, Comino’s Blue Lagoon, Gozo’s Ramla l-Hamra (Red Sand Beach) where the red volcanic sands contrast sharply with the blue sea, Armier Bay, Paradise Bay, Qawra Point, St George’s Bay, Bugibba, Fond Ghadir (meaning “a deep pool”) in Sliema.
The seas around Malta are normally shark-free but in recent years have seen a proliferation of jelly fish because of changing climatic conditions and international over-fishing of fish species that normally crunch up the hated jelly fish. The sun has its perils too with daily very high uv figures averaging 9 and 10 points. Climate change has also seen the arrival of many marine species that have entered the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.
“Who is in, is in – who out, is out”
Used in the children’s game Hide ‘n Seek. Those having managed to hide are hidden, if not, they are out.