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Malta's Blue Grotto Blasts

Mother Nature's Caves Are a Mediterranean Must-See
By Larry Larsen

Entering Malta portFor outdoor lovers, few destinations in the Mediterranean satisfy more than the beautiful Blue Grotto coastline along the southern shore of Malta. The scenic natural coral rock formations along the Wied iz Zurrieq cliffs and large craggy hills include several impressive caves and tunnels that the small guided boats can motor in and out of. The Celebrity cruise ship Solstice calls these boat excursions "Wilderness and Wildlife"  type activities and nature lovers cannot go wrong by signing up for this port escape.

V Blue Grottoalletta, the capital of the nation of Malta, is located in the middle of the Mediterranean, just 52 miles south of Sicily. The Maltese archipelago consists of the 3 inhabited islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino and a population of 370,000 people that are a mixture of Mediterranean cultures.  Check out the horse-drawn carriage transportation just across from the cruise terminal!

Our tour bus departed the Valletta port and traveled through typical Maltese villages to the southern side of the island. The islands' architecture is European with an Arabic influence and all buildings are constructed of sand-colored stone that blends well with the limestone landscape.

Boat tour at Blue GrottoWe first stopped on a hillside several hundred feet above a couple of caves to view the turquoise waters and waves pounding the cliffs straight below. Great scenery and ambiance to prepare us for our boat trip! Another mile or two by road and we stopped at a large hill with a 45-degree hike down to our departure point. Boats milled about in the small harbor dropping off passengers and picking up new ones, 8 at a time. We climbed aboard, donned our life vests and headed out to view the caverns and outcroppings up close and personal.

The experienced boat handlers take their guests on what seem precarious routes near the shore and into several large caves and tunnels along the bluffs never leaving sight of daylight. The caves, made of limestone, have been carved by rain and the motion of the sea for thousands of years, leaving behind some very beautiful natural rock formations that can best be seen from the water.  The entire trip on the small wooden tour boats is about one mile.

Afterwards, the typical day-tour visits the quaint fishing village of Marsaxlokk where visitors have a chance to stroll the streets, take photos and check out the seaside market place. Interesting and colorful Maltese fishing boats are moored throughout the tiny harbor. Then, it's back to the fortress city of Valletta where, if you have time, you can visit 320 monuments.

M Fishing boatsdina, a historic old town called the "Silent City", lies at the geographical center of the island of Malta perched atop a rocky outcropping. The walled city still existing after more than 3,000 years has narrow cobblestone streets and shops known for their collections of paintings and woodcarvings. Our time in Malta was short, barely six hours.  Since we didn't get to visit Mdina while on our shore excursion there, it is one of many reasons for us to return to the interesting island.


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