Circumnavigation of Gozo

It had always been an ambition of mine to paddle around Gozo in a day but on every previous visit to the Island the weather had been too unsettled or I had been with paddlers who might have found it a bit too much of a challenge.
It was a surprise therefore after the winds of the last 5 or 6 days a narrow window of opportunity seemed to open up and so at 07.30 Thursday morning we found ourselves at Dahlet Qorrot, unloading kayaks and sorting kit for an 08.00 departure.
We were heading around Gozo in a clock wise direction so just after 08.00 we were heading for the easterly point before turning onto the south coast.  As we paddled along we disturbed a short eared owl, which hopefully didn’t hang around on the Islands much longer as it would be at high risk of being shot!   Just past the harbour at Mgarr, we came across a couple of hunters, who had decoys floating offshore, as they sat with guns at the ready.  That probably goes someway to explaining why we saw virtually no sea birds all day.

Gozo
Approaching the harbour at Mgarr, always busy with ferry traffic care is needed when crossing the entrance.
Gozo
We paddled into the deep inlet, partly in the hope of a coffee, sadly the cafe didn’t open for another 90 minutes.
Gozo
The cliffs in between Mgarr Ix-Xini and Xleni are the most spectacular in the area, rising vertically up to 130 metres. They are important nesting sites for some of the Shearwaters, which breed in the area.
Gozo
We rafted up just off the north coast to grab a quick bite to eat. We didn’t really have enough time to paddle inshore and land.
Gozo
Not quite as dramatic as the Azure Window was, Wied Il-Mielah is still a pretty spectacular arch.
Gozo
Just to east of the north coast salt pans there are some rather unusual rock formations. We felt we were on the home stretch paddling along here.

We pulled back into Dahlet Qorrot at about 15.15, we hadn’t raced around but we certainly hadn’t just dawdled along.  Apart from the extra time to go into Mgarr Ix-Xini we didn’t really stop and we certainly didn’t get out of the kayaks.  Chris did have an appointment at 15.30 though so we were on a bit of a schedule.
I have heard lots of distances given for the circumnavigation of Gozo and most of the them also include the phrase “It is about”.  It was good to be able to measure the distance on the GPS and confirm that our route was exactly 20 nautical miles.  Spectacular scenery and good company combined to produce a memorable day out.  I just hope that I don’t have to wait another 5 years before I repeat it.

Gozo Sea Kayaking

This is an article I  wrote over 4 years ago after a visit to Gozo.  Although I had been several times before conditions had never been good enough to paddle around to the Azure  Window from the south coast.  It was memorable day, which I repeated a number of times in the following years but one, which will never be the same again.

After a couple of kayaking visits to Gozo I still hadn’t managed to paddle the south west corner of the island, from Xlendi around to the Azure Window.  It just seemed that whenever we were on the island the wind was just a bit to strong from the wrong direction so we were pretty pleased when a window in the weather appeared on one of the final days that we were there. We weren’t disappointed.

Dramatic vertical cliffs, with virtually no places to get off the water.  The nearest land to out left is Algeria whilst straight ahead is Tunisia.  It is easy forget just how far south Malta and Gozo are.
 The Inland Sea, access to the open water is through the obvious cave.  We popped in for a an ice cream and a quick swim.
 Paddling under the Azure Window, not a totally relaxing experience because since a previous visit a fairly substantial area of rock had fallen into the sea and we hoping that there wasn’t a repeat performance.
 Lunch was on the rocks close to Fungus Rock.  Malta Fungus was discovered growing on the rock and believed that it had medicinal properties.  The rock was decreed out of bounds in 1746, with a guard posted there to protect the plant.
At the back of the bay close to Fungus Rock there is cave with two entrances.  The tunnel joining the two is particularly tight but there are some superb deposits on the rocks.

Heading back to Xlendi, it was only a short paddle but was full of contrasts.

Azure Window
After many visits to Gozo over the years and plenty of opportunity to view the changes online it was still a shock to see what impact the events of the 8th March 2017 have had on the coastal scenery of the island.

Sea Kayaking around Comino

Comino is the third largest island in the Maltese archipelago and a particularly special one to paddle around.  Leaving from Hondoq, on Gozo, it is not a particularly long trip, just under 6 nautical miles, but it never fails to entertain.  For today’s paddle we were fortunate enough to be able to use kayaks from Kayak Gozo and were really pleased that Chris, from the company was able to join us.  It has been just over 2 years since I last paddled with him, on a particularly memorable visit to Herm.
Thousands of tourists visit the Blue Lagoon every day during the height of the tourist season and even on a Friday in November it was pretty busy.  During the summer months it isn’t possible to paddle through the Blue Lagoon as it is roped off for swimmers, but the ropes were taken away a few days previously and so for the first time in over 5 years I passed through the Blue Lagoon.
There was some reasonably choppy water as we made our way around the south west corner of the island, past the small lighthouse.  It wasn’t long though before we were surfing parallel to the south coast.

Comino
Nicky off the south west point of Comino. Marked on some of the maps as Lantern Point. Not the most spectacular lighthouse.
Comino
I always like this arch on the south coast of Comino although I think that it always looks better on sunny summer days.

After stopping for a quick stretch of the legs we carried on until we reached the east coast.  The kayaking is truly memorable with some challenging rock hopping at times plus some superb caves just waiting to be explored.

Comino
One of the many caves on Comino. Due to the fairly strong westerly wind only those on the east coast could really be explored.
Comino
Looking through the arch on the north west corner of Comino. The buildings behind are on Gozo.
Comino
Laurie and Simone performing a head stand in their double. Unfortunately their previous attempt had been virtually perfect but I was too slow with the camera.

The weather wasn’t quite as good as on some previous visits but the circumnavigation of Comino is always something special.  It didn’t disappoint today.

Malta Sea Kayaking

Malta and its smaller neighbour, Gozo, have been a rich hunting ground for my sea kayaking journeys in recent years although I first visited Malta in 1971, when on a school cruise. We disembarked at Valletta, had a coach tour of the Island, of which I have virtually no memory, re-embarked on the ship and headed for Lisbon.
It wasn’t until 41 years later that I returned to the archipelago, drawn by the prospect of potential sea kayaking. I had been taking groups of young people kayaking in the Greek islands on an annual basis for a number of years but I needed somewhere a bit more accessible and that didn’t require an extra nights stop in London, both the way out and the way back. One of the disadvantages of living in Jersey are flight connections.
A quick search of potential sites produced a company called Gozo Adventures. They were able to offer the complete package and the flight timings were pretty much ideal. A booking was made for June 2012.
I strongly believe that if you are working with groups you should really have paddled in the area beforehand otherwise how can you acquire the knowledge, which is necessary for the group to gain maximum benefit from the experience. It is simple things such as, where do I park the car, which café serves the best ice cream and where are we going to stop for lunch? Getting these little things right can have a significant impact on the quality of the experience of the group members.
The plan was for Nicky and myself to visit Gozo over the Easter period so that I could familiarize myself with the Island before arriving in June. Unfortunately 10 days before the visit was due to start I broke my elbow, whilst tying some Stand Up Paddleboards on the roof of the car. Fortunately I have a wife who is a strong paddler so the visit went ahead and I was paddled around in the front seat of a double. It did enable me to get some great photographs of the coastline and enabled me to prepare for the later visit.

Gozo
Paddling through a cave system at the back of Dwerja Bay on Gozo.  A challenging location with a broken arm.
Malta
Paddling towards the south west corner of Gozo from Xlendi. There was a bit of swell running that day, the arm was still broken this day.

In the 4 years that followed I made a further 7 visits, with groups of a young people, with members of the Jersey Canoe Club and to offer training to some of the paddlers who were living on Gozo.
In the intervening years I have welcomed Maltese kayakers to Jersey waters and even had one of the people who I trained move in with me, as he moved to Jersey for a short while to work as a kayaking instructor. Sadly I didn’t manage to visit the islands in 2016 and I wasn’t going to allow a repeat performance in 2017 so this morning we flew from London to Malta. We are really looking forward to the opportunity to explore more of this archipelago by kayak, hopefully starting tomorrow when we head out with some of the members of Sea Kayak Malta.

Malta
There are some really dramatic cliffs on the north west corner of Gozo and there are not that many landing places. It feels quite committing.
Malta
Paddling through an arch on the south coast of Comino.
Malta
Memorable paddling conditions close to the Blue Lagoon on Comino.

North West Gozo

Having paddled quite regularly in Gozo over the last few years there was still one section of coast which had eluded me, the north west corner of the island.  A visit in June provided the opportunity to explore this section of coast and we weren’t disappointed.

 We left from Obajjar Bay on the north coast with the aim of paddling to Xlendi on the south coast.  For me this was closing the circle.  This was the only section of the Gozo coastline that I hadn’t paddled before.  To the right of the paddlers the low lying rocks are the salt pans.  The are about 350 years old.
 Entering Wied il-Ghasri, a narrow inlet on the north coast.  It is the last place with easy access to the cliff top until you reach the Inland Sea on the west coast.
 Turning west from Wied il-Ghasri, the vertical and uninterrupted cliffs stretch to the west.  The start of some really memorable kayaking.
 Wied Il-Mielah is a stunning arch, part of the way along the northcoast.  We returned the following day, abseiled down the side of the arch before climbing back out.  a pleasant addition to a kayaking trip.
 There were numerous caves to be explored, some of them going some considerable way into the cliffs.
 Approaching the north coast cliffs, the top of the lighthouse is just visible.
 Looking down from the cliff top later in the day.
 Approaching San Dimitri Point, the north west corner of Gozo.  Amazingly from this point there is no land before Barcelona.  You don’t always imagine areas in the Mediterranean having such a large fetch.
 One of the great thing about paddling in Gozo there is always something to do over lunch.  Laurie swimming off the slip.
If people can hold their breath long enough it is always good fun to build a human tower.  4 people standing on each others shoulders was our best result that day.