Where is Gozo?
Gozo meaning ‘joy’ and in Maltese called ‘Għawdex’ (pronounced: Awdesh), is the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago, in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Italy and north of North Africa
As well as Gozo’s absolute joyfullness, it is also known as The Island of Calypso, according to the Greek mythological location of Ogygia in Homer’s Odyssey. The nymph, Calypso controlled the island and said that she lived in a cave near Ramla Bay. There she detained Odysseus for seven years as a prisoner of love. He could not leave because his love was so deep for Calypso.
I think I, too, have come under the same spell.
Gozo is very different from its big sister, Malta. Malta has the highest density of population per square Kilometre in Europe, and is full of cars. Whereas Gozo is half the size and has a population of just 37,000 people.
Perfect for me. Just perfect.
Gozo is also much more of a green idyll, has friendly people, very little crime and a community spirit that makes you feel at once at home.
The 8 point Maltese cross.
Meaning: To have within yourself the ability to be in service of others and that according to the knights involves: Spiritual Joy; to live without malice; to be sorry; to humble yourself to those who injure you; to love justice; to be merciful; to be sincere and pure of heart; and to suffer persecution.
Being something of a utilitarian it holds appeal for me. And I think the people live it. Or try to. Somewhere, when I was on Gozo, I saw an inscription saying, ‘we cannot make it, we have to be it.’ It was about a church not being the building, but the people.
In love with Gozo
That aside, the World Heritage sites, the delicious food, the many other things to do such as: entertainment venues – there are three theatres on Gozo; fortifications, towers, gardens, religious sites, natural sites, walks and so much more that it would take me at least a year to thoroughly investigate the place in detail.
But I was there a week and I have to say I was completely smitten.
I fell in love with it.
Things to Do – at Sea
When Louis from Xlendi cruises told me that Gozo is best viewed from the sea, he wasn’t wrong.
Gozo truly IS a delightful place and a boat trip around the island is an excellent way to spend the day. The people I travelled with – had even done it twice in the same week!
Included in most of the boat trips is a trip to Comino where you can walk around the island in an hour and a half – an option for the walkers amongst us.
There are so many other opportunities off shore at Gozo. For example : swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, water skiing, paddle boarding, pedallo boating, jet ski, private boat charters, and fishing trips so that you are not stuck for choice. So if you love the sea, why not visit Gozo and take your pick of the best? With the sea always being only 10 minutes away from any point on the island who wouldn’t make use of it? And Gozo has word class diving sites that have to be seen to be believed!
Taking George and Louis’s advice I opted for the full day boat trip around the island that stops off at the small island of Comino, just a ten boat ride away from Mgarr harbour.
Once aboard the comfortable boat it wasn’t long before we reached the too-blue-to-be-true water of the blue lagoon of Comino. It is incredible. And I am glad I was there early, because we stayed there an hour and a half and by 11:30am it was becoming crowded. At night there are boat parties too with blaring music. So it’s essential to choose your time to visit.
On arrival at the blue lagoon the colour of which has to be seen to be believed, I just wanted to gaze at it for longer, but I was summoned to snorkel. I’m so glad I did!
The water is crystal clear due to a number of factors I’m told by the skipper, Sergio. Firstly the lagoon is situated in open water, and secondly the limestone orientated sand is white, so the reflection in the water with that kind of sand renders the water a deep, yet light aquamarine colour.
Bit like the Maldives really.
There are many fish and underground fauna to see whilst snorkelling . I saw a large number of sea bass, other colourful fish and a lot of limpets clinging to the side of the rocks when I swam over to Cominotte, another tiny, uninhabitated island.
Feeling refreshed I climbed back aboard thinking how that crystal-like-gem-stone, green sea has offered me the best swim I’ve experienced to date.
All pictures taken with a Sony camera. No special effects applied.
Yours Truly, re-embarking.
Unusual Rock Formations
Gozo is a myriad of landscapes, with interesting rock formations chiefly of limestone. But the striped effect, I notice is because of the different sorts of limestone. There are layers causing this striation of coralline (upper and lower variety) and globigerina. It’s a beautiful sight, and the formations are very interesting.
This rock is called – you can probably guess? (Answer after the photo)
Did you guess right?! – The Elephant’s Head
No – it’s not a pub in Camden Town . Well, yes, actually. It is!
At Crystal lagoon, you can forgett about drying off. I’m in again, for a beautiful swim. Again a snorkeler’s paradise – many fish here. Sergio throws in bread, scores of shoals come to feed!
Donning a snorkel and mask, I see smaller fish and limpets clinging to the side of large flanks of limestone far below the lagoon. As the morning passes and we finish our swimming the colour intensifies. It is marvellous to see. I was talking to the skipper again and he tells me that the thin pen-like fish are called swordfish, but the Gozitan people call them ‘imsella’. Imsella is the special thin needle that is used to repair fishing nets. So really these fish are ‘fishing needle’ fish. I like it.
Above crystal lagoon, Comino, is a watch tower which if the flag is flying you can go inside. It wasn’t when I was there.
Besides which there are plenty of opportunities for watchtowers. There are four in Gozo : Mgarr ix-Xini Tower in Xewkija, the Xlendi Tower, the Dwejra Tower and San Blas Tower in Nadur. But this tower is special because it is where the new Count of Monte Christo film starring Angelina Jolie was made. They threw a dummy off here in the scene where the Count jumps. The cliff is very high and nobody would have been able to pull it off without injury so the dummy was used.
The whole island was filmed in the part where the treasure is hidden.
The boat provides a decent lunch, if you’re stuck and water, wine, beer, teas, coffees, cokes and so on.
After lunch we head around to the famous Azure Window which actually reminds me a little of Dorset, though of course the rock is different. It is here that the Game of Thrones was filmed.
Recognise this?! It is the Azure window at Dwerja.
But . . .the Azure Window is disintegrating
The arch is in a dangerous condition because large pieces of rock keep falling from the arch of the Azure window. Estimates predict that the arch will disappear in a few years. A very large piece came down recently on the right side making the gap wider and dangerous. There are notices warning the public to refrain from walking over the top of the arch.
No more filming there then!
The afternoon was spent exploring the wonderful south and west of the island which has amazing places, such as Fungus Rock, where a medicinal herb grows.
Inland sea – a very special place. Here dives are undertaken, I didn’t dive this time, but it is an activity I plan for the future.
On we go, the salty sea spray flicking back in our faces. Refreshing and invigorating. At Marsalform Bay we arrive with its symmetrical yet organic shaped salt pans.
Salt is harvested here by the lovely Cini family who go back generations on the island and whose fore fathers and mothers feature dyers and spinners of cloth, weavers, historians and salt harvesters.
There is a sign displaying the salt harvesting process. It takes time for the sea to dry out in the salt flats, once done the salt remains – thanks to the Romans! But there is more to these people than this.
A tradition passed down the years. A local lady continues with making necklaces, bookmarks and bracelets. She could turn her hand to anything.
It’s fascinating to hear their stories, and I spent some time looking at Louis Sabila’s photographs, depicting the massive change that the community has undergone since Malta’s independence. Thank you, Louis.
Back round on the boat heading north we stop at Ramla bay for a final swim. Here there are red sand beaches, this one, as well as San Blas bay.
I had a beautiful and very salty swim in Ramla bay and the sea was as clear as a bell. No fish!
Ramla Bay, Picture by William Schering.
Heading to the point from which we started – we have journeyed full circle round Gozo, I note there are some very interesting walks from Xlendi bay and more, interesting land formations.
I’ve had a fantastic day. If I had more time, for sure I would do it all again
* * *
I took the full day tour which lasts for 8 hours and visits all the main beaches of Gozo as well as Comino.
Further details of the Boat trip I took can be found here:
With grateful thanks to Louis, George and Sergio of Xlendi Cruises for sponsorship and for making the trip great thus giving me the opportunity to write about it.
See my next blog for more details on Inland Gozo:
- Museums and Galleries
- Parks and Gardens
- Ggantija Temples
- The Citadel, Victoria