Comino – Island #41

Comino (Kemmuna in Maltese) is a tiny little island and the third largest of the Maltese archipelago. It’s name means cumin and it is named after the cumin plants that used to grow here.  The island is famous for the Blue Lagoon, a bay of stunning turquoise waters very popular with yachties and boat day trippers from both Malta and Gozo.

Boats leave from Cirkewwa in Malta opposite the ferry terminal or from the harbour in Mgarr on Gozo but are much smaller than the Gozo ferry.  The large ones are excursion boats and the small ones are more like large speed boats that you jump down into and sit around the edge – the driver sits on a stool in the middle and drives the boat very fast across the narrow channel to Comino splashing everyone in the boat as he goes! Nobody seems to mind!

Popular with pirates in medieval times, the island became a game reserve during the Knights’ rule populated with hares and wild boar for recreational hunting purposes. Poachers were punished by 3 years as a galley slave!  Since then Comino has been a place of exile and imprisonment for errant Knights and served as a quarantine and hospital island for the French.  It-torri ta’ Santa Marija (St. Mary’s tower) is the most obvious building on Comino.  After repeated requests for a defensive tower, the Knights finally built a defensive tower in 1618 to protect the channel from the danger of invasion. They also built army barracks.

Squeezed between Malta and Gozo, little Comino covers an area of only  3.5 kms² and has an official year round population of only 3 souls, the fourth one having sadly died back in May of this year aged 90.  In the campsite behind Santa Marija Bay the camped population looks as though they are there for longer than just a short holiday so the real number is probably higher but unofficial! As, administratively, Comino belongs to Gozo – a priest and a policeman apparently commute from there to render their services to locals and tourists.

Anyone who works or lives in a place that is also a tourist resort knows the golden rule – never go to the beach on a Sunday – the day when the number of beachgoers is drastically increased by local people with a day off work! The weather had been so bad earlier in the week and was so good on this day that I had to break my own rule.  When the boat arrived in the Blue Lagoon, I remembered why the rule exists – SO many people! Everyone had obviously had the same idea!

Boatloads of people were being emptied onto a tiny beach with a few deckchairs squeezed onto it and a line of catering vans selling fresh fruit juices, beer, ice creams and other snacks lined the path snaking up from the beach to the island behind.  The sea is admittedly a beautiful colour but it was quite a shock to see so many people! The boat had to queue to unload us! I hate crowds! And queues!

To get away from the people, I started walking and kept walking.  The island is dusty and barren with some pine trees and lots of oleander bushes with pink and white flowers. There are hardly any buildings and those that there are are in ruins. I passed signs for the dive school and hotel in San Niklaw Bay but followed the few other people who looked like they knew where they were going! I ended up in Santa Marija Bay which is a busy place by Comino standards! A little apartment complex which was closed, a small chapel (with people sleeping on the wall), the makeshift campsite with about 20 (flooded) tents, a tiny sandy beach with about 12 deck chairs and a catering van with an awning and a few tables and chairs. There were a lot less people here than at the Blue Lagoon so I thought I’d get comfortable and enjoy the lovely weather.

A few people were sitting around eating and drinking or waiting for food.  The German girl behind the counter breast-fed her little girl, served drinks and took money all at the same time! The child never stirred! I ordered a tuna baguette and a beer and sat down to wait. I sipped my beer until lunch appeared and I took it down to the rocks by the sea and away from the people. It was a beautiful, sunny spot with a fantastic view across the blue sea to Gozo.

The last boats leave at 5 pm.  If you miss it, you get stuck on Comino all night! People started heading for the Blue Lagoon dock just after 4 pm and – like lemmings – crowded onto the jetty clamouring and falling over each other to get onto the boats.  It was mayhem! Only people with their own boats stayed behind to enjoy the blue lagoon in peace.

On the way back, the boat driver took us for a little spin around the island’s coast before whizzing us back to Malta. There were so many people trying to get on the buses that I ended up walking for literally hours while full buses whizzed by refusing to stop. Never go to the beach on a Sunday!

Comino is a sweet little island with beautiful water – only go if you have your own yacht and make sure it’s a week day!

NEXT ISLAND:  Off to the Balearics next starting with Ibiza!

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