Every year, thousands of tourists descend on the beautiful tiny island of Comino to make the most of Malta’s hot summers and crystal blue sea. And while the iconic Blue Lagoon bears the brunt of tourists, the idyllic Santa Marija Bay further north is a great place to get away from the crowds.
Recently, however a number of sunbeds and umbrellas have showed up in the already tiny beach, and many people are worried for what this summer might hold. In response, a petition has been launched to safeguard Santa Marija Bay from the same fate so many Maltese beaches have already met.
Santa Marija Bay is actually a Natura 2000 site, meaning it forms part of a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union. According to the people who started this petition, this is only the latest in a list of developments which stand to ruin the area, following a food and drink kiosk which was recently introduced to the bay.
“If it becomes a tourist hotspot, more kiosks will probably invade the bay,” the petition states. “Then, we’ll have more canoes, paddle boats, touristic boats, yachts… soon enough, the bay would be invaded and in a blink of an eye the whole bay would be totally spoiled.”
The petition is currently addressed to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA), along with the Natura 2000 network. In a mere couple of hours, it has already gathered more than 300 of the target 500.
UPDATE: The permit holder of Santa Marija Bay has reached out to us with a statement on the matter:
“Three years ago, the Malta Tourism Authority took the initiative to try and disperse the ever-growing number of visitors at the Blue Lagoon and opened up a new lot in the tender document; Santa Marija Bay. My partner and I are fully aware that the entirety of Comino is actually a Natura 2000 site, and we have been dealing with all the authorities concerned to try and safeguard the natural habitat around us, and yet so far nothing has happened.
The tender actually stipulated 80 sunbeds, but seeing as we’re both in favour of eco-sustainable tourism and we respect and safeguard the environment around us, we didn’t even set up 40 sunbeds. We also have a very sensitive sand dune habitat behind us which we want to safeguard.
We try our best to inform the visitors that they are in a Natura 2000 site and that certain areas are highly sensitive, but there’s not much one can do without proper signage, cordoning off, and other measures.
Unlike some other bays around Comino and Malta, we do not force anyone to rent our beach amenities, but merely offer a luxury to anyone who wants it. We let people set up their own beach tables and umbrellas, and respect anyone who visits. Our main priority is that anyone visiting has a fantastic day and hopefully returns, but the moment Santa Marija Bay turns into the Blue Lagoon (God forbid), it defies the whole point of our little project.
I totally understand these people who are signing the petition, as they unfortunately haven’t seen anything better from previous and existing beach operations. But believe us; we really are striving to be different.”