It was a quick trip to Malta with family, but as you might have already guessed, it wasn’t your typical tourist trip… This was a chance to experience the state of the plastic pollution crisis right here in Europe… And it sure was eye opening, whilst also being quite the adventure!
Comino Island Boat Trip // The Blue Lagoon
After arriving at Malta International Airport, taking a taxi to our hotel (Ramla Bay Resort) and dumping our bags down in our rooms, we headed straight out on a boat trip to Comino, a sister island of Malta and Gozo that sits directly in between the two. Tours frequently travel to Comino throughout the day, taking hundreds of tourists to the stunning hotspot that is The Blue Lagoon.
We were tempted at first to hire our very own speedboat from a company on site at the resort, who also offered a range of other water sports and activities, but in the end we opted to be toured around for a cost of only €16 per person! Driving the speedboat for us was a sort of James Bond kind of character, who showed us lots of impressive sights all around the island, from incredible hidden coves, to caves eroded in the sandstone cliffs and even unreal archways that he would drive directly under! But most impressive of all was the crystal clear water that ranged from a breathtaking turquoise colour to a deep sapphire blue! Sounds idyllic right?
The truth is that, with our eyes wide open to the issue of plastic pollution, in a way we were kind of on the look out for it when out on the water, and did sadly spot some plastic bottles swimming around the coves and countless broken up bits of polystyrene culminating inside the caves, but it honestly wasn’t the worst that we’ve ever seen.
Once we arrived at The Blue Lagoon, our driver instructed us that we had two hours to do as we pleased, but as beautiful as it was, it was also very busy, and especially so around a stall selling fresh fruit, soft drinks and cocktails. Thankfully, there were plenty of bins around, and even some people with paper straws. But, at the same time, we were quite disheartened to see so many plastic cups and also a massive problem with discarded cigarette butts. Even that paled in comparison to what we found just around the corner though - a mortifying amount of littered plastic bottles, and a clear lack of care away from The Blue Lagoon.
After clearing up what we could, we continued with our search for a nice, quiet spot elsewhere on the island and ended up at a place that we had all to ourselves - a gully of sorts that we’d already spotted from the boat, where we could jump into the sea from and snorkel!
Beach Clean // Malta Clean Up
The plan for the following day was to head to a sheltered cove called Fomm Ir Rih on the west side of Malta, which is one of many beaches frequently cleaned by Cami Appelgren, the founder of Malta Clean Up and a number of other clean up organisations. The journey there took us on bumpy narrow tracks, but with unbelievable views across rolling farmland that was surprisingly green, but not for much longer thanks to the hot summer sun. Where the sheer rust coloured cliffs met the water and crashing waves below, the sea looked all the more blue and beautiful!
Cami was meeting us at the beach and, after getting acquainted with her, we had quite a sketchy climb down from the car park following a pathway that just about managed to cling onto the cliff… And even from 100+ metres up, we could already see what was waiting for us down on the beach…
Overwhelmed and lost for words, we scrambled across the rocks, picking out pieces of plastic ranging from shotgun cartridges to plastic straws and cotton bud sticks. A rainbow of large plastic containers spread across the strand-line and tiny pieces of polystyrene sat scattered amongst it all. Then there was the unimaginable amount of plastic bottles too! It was a truly exhausting day and a great effort from everyone cleaning it up!
Dive Against Debris // Orange Shark Dive Centre
Early the following morning, after a massive breakfast buffet and plenty of coffee, we made our way to the resort’s on site dive centre, Orange Shark. Here, we met our guide and instructor, Alessio, who gave us a quick briefing and also encouraged us to be on the look out for any rubbish and remove it from the water! Better yet, he would help us record and submit whatever we found to a crowd sourced underwater survey created by Project Aware, a non-profit organisation committed to the protection of the ocean and all of it’s inhabitants!
After getting all of our equipment sorted and loaded onto the van, we headed about ten minutes up the road to a local dive site. With our wetsuits on and tanks of air feeding our regulators, we stepped out onto a shallow rocky platform and, one by one, started swimming in the direction of the “Left Reef”. Within a few quick minutes, we were fully immersed in the underwater world with some fish swimming right up to us and others darting past us quickly. The cherry on top was the unreal rock formations, caves and archways that we could swim right through!
At one point, all of a sudden, we found ourselves at a bed of seagrass, which we guess is where things got interesting. Alessio spots a paintbrush and, with it, a large piece of plastic having sunken down to the bottom of the sea. Soon after, we had plastic bottles, food packaging and the remains of disposable coffee cups starting to fill up our mesh bags.
By the end of our two dives that morning, we had collected a total of 22 pieces of plastic, as well as a few aluminium cans, which all added to the 1,000,000+ pieces of debris recorded with Project Aware across 180+ countries!
To Cami, Alessio and the scuba diving community in general,
Thank you for your passion and commitment to the world’s oceans.
You have our endless praise and admiration.
Some of the images in this blog post are courtesy of Beach Guardian.