Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Amore Mio outside Valletta, Malta

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Amore Mio outside Valletta, Malta

Journeys

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

It might be a diversion from the typical Mediterranean milk run, but that’s all part of Malta’s low-key charm.

By Julia Zaltzman | 14 June 2019

I hold my breath and step off. The chill of the Mediterranean Sea hits my body as I plunge deep into the big blue. Quickly resurfacing, sunlight kissing my face, I drink in my calm surroundings. Limestone cliffs to the left of me, yacht Amore Mio to my right, and nothing but clear, azure blue water all around.

We’re anchored off St Paul’s Island, near the north-east of the main island of Malta. Uninhabited since World War II it looms overhead, laden with history and yet beautifully desolate. One solitary coastal watchtower sits above us on the cliff’s edge, the last bastion of a fortified bygone era. The entire coastline of Malta is peppered with these lookout posts built by the Knights of Malta during the 17th century. Manned nightly, they were used to watch the seaward approaches, and to raise the alarm with a fire signal in the event of an imminent threat.

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Amore Mio in Blue Lagoon, Malta

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Amore Mio in Blue Lagoon, Malta

The Maltese archipelago consists of three main islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino. The dramatic coastline makes for spectacular cruising, particularly when aboard a high-performance yacht such as Amore Mio. Designed for outdoor living, the boat features a vast sundeck, along with rapid top speeds. Since taking delivery, her owner has spent most of his time on board using the yacht as his Maltese summer home at sea, as was intended. Amore Mio is based year-round at Manoel Island Marina, which is centrally located in Gzira, and where we first step aboard.

It’s an early morning in June, and the sun is rising over the historic city of Valletta. The majestic dome of St John’s Co-Cathedral pierces the dramatic skyline. Baroque in character, but defined by elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and modern architecture, Valletta is a brilliant feat of engineering, and a lasting legacy of the Knights of St John. Sitting up top at Amore Mio’s open helm, views of myriad churches, spires, and imposing buildings stretch as far as the eye can see, as Captain Tripp Hock eases us out of the marina, and we glide serenely by.

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Captain Tripp Hock

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Captain Tripp Hock

A listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, Valletta has appeared in multiple feature films, from Assassin’s Creed to Gladiator. Indeed, ‘The Pub’ on Archbishop Street is where actor Oliver Reed took his last breath. But it is the wide, stone-paved streets that capture the imagination, rigid in accuracy, and startling in beauty. Designed by Francesco Laparelli the buildings rise 47m high, and together form the world’s first city grid system. Conceived to allow for a clear line of sight with no hidden corners, it also enables a welcome sea breeze to flow through the city day and night, keeping its residents cool in the midday heat.

The Maltese have a strong maritime heritage, but Malta itself doesn’t form part of the Mediterranean yachting milk run. Offering something vastly different from the likes of St Tropez, Capri or Croatia, the rocky islands provide hidden bays, secluded anchorages and alternative diving. Dwejra Bay is Captain Tripp’s preferred spot, and it’s clear to see why. Located off Gozo just behind Fungus Rock (so-called for a rare type of medicinal plant that naturally grows there) this dramatic coastal formation provides a protected bay for bathers and yachts alike (even up to 80m), with an impressive backdrop of waves spilling over rocks.

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Amore Mio in Dwejra Bay, Malta

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Amore Mio in Dwejra Bay, Malta

“It’s a tiny narrow entrance that is deep enough for us to cruise into, but as soon as you enter you have a feeling that you’re in an inland lagoon because there are high walls and cliffs surrounding you in the anchorage,” explains Captain Tripp. “It’s very unusual, and very otherworldly. And it’s definitely one of the best spots in Malta to experience by yacht.”

Near to Dwejra Bay is one of Gozo’s top dive sites, the Blue Hole. Naturally carved over time by the attrition of water and wind, spectacular limestone rock formations allow divers to swim through arches, explore sea caves, and delve into the island’s wartime history via an array of military shipwrecks. On the day that we arrive, however, choppy waters make the anchorage untenable, and we cruise to the somewhat calmer seas off St Paul’s Island where a vigorous display of aquatic athleticism ensues, thanks to a veritable bounty of onboard water toys, including flyboards, jetskis, paddle boards and seabobs.

Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta
Heritage, history and hidden bays in Malta

Fishermen have always used the inland sea as a mooring point for their boats and fishing huts, so to access the private sandy beaches found on the north side of Gozo, it’s best to run a tender to shore. In the summer months, when the sea temperature averages around 25 degrees Celsius, combining a Maltese charter with three days on the Sicilian coastline (just 60Nm away) makes for an unsurpassed experience.

“The British empire leaving Malta in 1964 was the end to an incredibly long and chequered history of the island,” says Captain Tripp, “but it’s the limestone coastline being worn away by the sea for millennia and highly dramatic cliff faces that make for really spectacular cruising. When paired with two or three days in Sicily or the Aeolian Islands, which are also within shooting reach, it makes for an even richer and hugely alternative charter.”

Get a taste of the superyachting good life at the Monaco Yacht Show from 25 to 28 September 2019. Get your tickets here.

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