Comino, Malta

Photo: Ivan Prole via freeimages.com
Photo: Ivan Prole via freeimages.com

Spring is taking its sweet old time this year. After a fairly easy winter, everyone expected the new season to arrive early. And it did. But then winter returned with more snow and bitter wind chills. So what happened to spring?

The Mediterranean Sea seems to be hogging all of the nice spring weather this year. On Malta, citrus trees are blooming. Bees are dancing around honeysuckle. The air smells like lavender. Plus the cyan water, already dotted with a few freshly waxed yachts, looks transparent as the sun bounces off it. Eventually, the stifling heat will arrive, the dust will kick up, and the wildflowers will be overlooked for brightly colored bougainvillea. But, right now, Malta is perfect.

From Malta, the main and largest island, you keep staring at Comino off the northern coast. Its limestone cliffs and defensive tower along the southern coast seem to beckon you. It looks so stunningly beautiful that photos from afar aren’t enough. You soon board a ferry, passing the Crystal Lagoon and uninhabited Cominotto, to reach St. Nicholas Bay.

Comino, named after a cumin seed that once flourished here, is more peaceful than you even expected. The 1.4-square-mile island was first inhabited by Roman farmers. Pirates hid in the deep caves along the coast and the Knights of Malta hunted for hares and wild boars here in the Middle Ages. It was later used as a prison and, eventually, a leprosy colony.

Today, Comino is a bird sanctuary that protects nearly 80 pairs of breeding yelkouan shearwaters. The seabirds greatly outnumber people. There are only four permanent residents on the island. Both the policeman and the priest commute from Gozo. All visitors arrive by the sea. Most don’t venture beyond the Blue Lagoon’s crystal-clear water and the white-sand beach at Santa Marija Bay. You’re heading there, too. But first, you’re going to follow the Triq Congreve from Santa Marija Bay, past the whitewashed chapel, toward the southern coast. The rough track is lined with oleander trees and St. Mary’s Battery, with its old iron cannons and army barracks. St. Mary’s Tower—which once warned of invading Turks and smugglers, and, more recently, coaxed you from Malta—is in the distance. While all around you, it feels like spring.

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