Some more aerial photographs

It has been said that the best in-flight entertainment system is the window seat. I can never understand the person who selects the aisle seat when there is the option of observing the world passing by.
Below is a selection of some aerial photographs of potentially interesting sea kayaking destinations seen out of the aircraft window over the last couple of years.  Whenever I get in an aircraft it always stimulates ideas of where else to go paddling.  The to do list, regarding kayaking destinations, continues to grow.

Aerial photographs
Final approach in Barcelona. Didn’t manage to get any sea kayaking in although some of the coast looked pretty interesting from a paddling perspective.  Particularly to the north, which is the venue for the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium.
Aerial photographs
Climbing out from Malta. Gozo on the left and Comino in the middle are clearly visible. There is some great kayaking to be had in the Maltese archipelago.
Aerial photographs
Newhaven, Sussex. A few minutes after take off from Gatwick. It has been a few years since I paddled this stretch of the English coast.
Aerial photographs
Superb meanders on the River Seine.
Aerial photographs
Flying into clouds like these, over Dijon in France means that you are in for a bumpy ride. We were at 32,000 feet and some of the clouds were towering above us.
Aerial photographs
Final approach into Malta, with views of the Grand Harbour. A great sunset and you know that the kayaking is likely to be superb in the morning.
Aerial photographs
Poole Harbour in Dorset. Heading home after a weekend paddling in Swanage, which is just off the picture to the left. Always good to see where you have been.
Aerial photographs
Approaching Jersey on a blustery September day. The Ecrehous below, a great paddle.
Aerial photographs
Heading home from kayaking on the west coast of Greenland we had superb views of the east coast.

Gozo’s South Coast

I have paddled along Gozo’s south coast numerous times over the last five years but the beginning of November was the first time that I had the opportunity to walk along a significant portion of the cliffs and it is interesting to compare the experiences.
We took the bus to the harbour at Mġarr with the intention of walking to Xlendi.  We had a number of guide books , which all recommended a slightly different route. Route finding turned out to be easier than anticipated as it was largely a matter of flowing the red dots and occasional arrows.
The scenery was superb, as we expected, with great views across to Comino and Malta.  In one place we were able to look north across the Island and in the distance could see the coast of Sicily.  I think that this is my 9th visit to Gozo but today was the first time that I had seen their Italian neighbour, to the north.  As walked towards the west the small island of Filfla came into view away to the south.  We also had clear views of the section of the north west coast of Malta we had paddled last week.
What did shock us though, was the sheer scale of the hunting which was being practiced in the area.  As we walked along we realised that most of the background bird noise was coming from caged birds, which we were being used to attract wild birds so they could be shot.  Goldfinches, Greenfinch, Linnets, Chaffinches and a number of other species were caged in their hundreds.
We didn’t want to get too close, or attract attention, as there were quite a few men sitting in the small hunting hides, complete with rifles.  Along one section of the coast there were numerous nets, which were clearly used for hunting as well.  I think that for most people the scale and impact of the hunting would have a serious impact on their enjoyment of the day.
Kayaking along this section of coast you have no idea what is going on above but walking does allow access to some of the more interesting historical features.  The walk from the harbour to Xlendi was nearly 9 miles and took significantly longer to walk than it does to paddle.
For navigation we used the ViewRanger App, which is amazingly accurate and well worth getting if you have an appropriate phone.

Gozo South Coast
To the west of the harbour is the small bay of Ix-Xatt I-Ahmar. On the westren side of the bay there is superb diving with a deliberately sunk ferry boat. Above is Fort Chambray
Gozo South Coast
Paddling into Ix-Xatt I-Ahmar on a warm calm day. Time for a swim.  Fort Chambray is clearly visible above.
Gozo South Coast
A beautifully sheltered bay. It was used by Turkish raiders to load captured Gozitans onto their galleys. Today it is a much more peaceful location and is where the film “By the Sea” starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was shot.
Gozo South Coast
We had a brief stop here on our paddle around Gozo at the beginning of November this year.
Gozo South Coast
Walking along the spectacular south coast cliffs. The views are truly spectacular but the number of hunters operating in the area did give some cause for concern.
Gozo South Coast
This is a serious section of coast with nowhere to land until you arrive at Xlendi. As regards the body you are likely to end up with a stiff neck from continually looking upwards to take in the scale of the physical landscape.
Gozo South Coast
Looking into the sheltered bay at Xlendi and the end of our walk and time for a relaxing pint. Behind the village is the abandoned flour mill which was excavated into the hillside during the Cold War, so that flour could be produced if there was a nuclear conflict.
Gozo South Coast
Paddling back into the bay of Xlendi after a delightful paddle round to the west coast of Gozo.

 

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.

Grand Harbour Valletta

There are some truly memorable urban sea kayaking destinations such as the Hudson River in New York and the Thames in London.  Today we experienced a third, the Grand Harbour Valletta.  A paddle steeped in history and geography.
Once again we were the guests of the Malta Sea Kayak Club.  They have really convenient premises close to the Sliema – Valletta ferry, with a good selection of sea kayaks.  Once we were kitted out what followed was 3 hours of memorable sea kayaking, explore the various areas of the Grand Harbour.  Clearly paddling in such a busy commercial environment requires care and knowledge.  Our local guides were, yet again, Ian and Andrea and it was a pleasure to be on the water with them again.
The history of the various locations around the harbour is well documented, ranging from the Great Siege of Malta in 1565 when the Ottoman’s tried to evict the Knights of St John, and the blockade of 1800 as a result of which, the French surrendered, enabling the British to establish rule over the islands.  Possibly the most memorable military event was the relentless bombing of the island by the Italians and Germans during the Second World War.
It is possible to read about the history and to visit some of the excellent museums, but what we had today was a totally unique perspective on one of the great natural harbours in the world.

Grand Harbour Valletta
Getting ready to leave from in front the Malta Sea Kayak Club in Marsamxett Harbour.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Passing the bow of a ship moored the the Grand Harbour.  It makes you realize just how vulnerable you are in a sea kayak,when you are so close to such a vessel.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Passing in front of some oil rigs which were in French Creek.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Passing the stern of a huge cruise ship alongside the quay in the Grand Harbour.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Nicky inside Laguna Marina, with the colourful Valletta waterfront behind.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Ian passing in front of Fort St Angelo.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Nicky paddling underneath Ricasoli Fort, just to the south of Grand Harbour.
Grand Harbour Valletta
Returning to Marsamxett Harbour from the south of Grand Harbour at the last light of day.

North West Malta

The coast of north west Malta was to provide an entertaining introduction to kayaking on the largest island of the archipelago.  We launched out through the surf at Ghajn Bay before turning north with the intention of reaching Popeye’s Village.
As we paddled along the coast we passed Golden Bay, its beach dominated by the large hotel above.  It is easy to imagine just how busy this area could be on a hot August day but on the last day of October it appeared relatively quiet.  There were numerous opportunities for rock hopping along this section of coast but the ever present swell was creating some entertaining conditions.
Although the modern developments associated with the tourist industry are clearly visible on the cliffs above fortifications are an indication of the more turbulent past.  Ta Ghajn Tuffieha Tower was the first tower that we passed, built in 1637.  It was the second of a series of small coastal towers known as Lascaris Towers constructed when Giovanni Paolo Lascaris was elected Grand Master of the Order of St John.

North west Malta
Ta Ghajn Tuffieha Tower, one of several fortifications along the coast.
North West Malta
Some of the cliffs on the way to Popeye Village.

The most northerly point of our paddle was Popeye Village, it started life in 1980 as a film set for the musical “Popeye” starring Robin Williams.  A popular tourist attraction, it was fairly quiet and today and we were allowed to land on the slip briefly.  A member of the staff from the cafe came down and took our coffee order, which was promptly delivered.  Such excellent service.

North West Malta
Nicky just off Popeye Village. We had just had our much appreciated coffee.

From there we turned south, enjoying the lively water conditions, aiming for the large headland of Ras ir Raheb.  The steep limestone cliffs were reflecting the waves straight back out to sea and the resulting clapotis provided some enjoyable paddling.  Just to the south of the headland there was a large cave, which we managed to paddled into despite the sea conditions, although the noise was quite something.
We returned north to Ghajn Bay, enjoying the last of the 11 nautical miles that we had paddled along the coast of north west Malta.  A great introduction to paddling in Malta with the Malta Sea Kayak Club.

North West Malta
The large cave, which marked to southern point of our paddle. The noise inside was pretty awesome due to the breaking waves.
North West Malta
Andrea getting a bit of air on one of the steeper waves close to the cliffs
North West Malta
Paddling close to the cliffs gave us some interesting conditions as the waves bounced back from the vertical limestone.
North West Malta
Every known and again what seemed like fairly simple passages became more challenging with the arrival of a big set as Ian found out.

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.