We stumbled upon an unusual set of photographs by Leslie Vella that captures the beauty and wonder of Malta’s sand dunes. We’ve covered beaches from the tourist facility point of view, but not looked hard and long at the habitats they provide for all manner of plants and wildlife. What better time of year to draw attention to our need to preserve Malta and Gozo’s few sandy beaches than in peak summer when we’re packed on them and trampling around them. With more beaches seeking Blue Flag status, so far given to urban, part man-made beaches of St George’s Bay and Bugibba, it’s time to wise up on Malta’s natural beaches.
Sand dunes are one of the rarest and most vulnerable habitats in the Maltese Islands. Since sandy beaches make up only around 2.4 per cent of Malta and Gozo’s coastline, it’s hardly surprising. Originally scarce to start with they have come under increased pressure from tourism and leisure activities over the past sixty years or so. In spite of such threats, a few sand dunes continue to thrive and marvel us with their diversity and adaptation.
Chief among these are the dunes at Ramla il-Hamra Bay in Gozo. The depth and the deep ochre of the sand there, make the beach impressive even before you factor in the dunes at the back. Here, you’ll find a small, but almost perfectly preserved dune area which apparently plays home to an abundance of fauna and flora. Other dunes, perhaps more a slope of sand though, are at Golden Bay, and if you take the back steps to the beach you’ll often pass white sea daffodils (Pankrazju in Maltese) in flower, even more surprisingly even in the middle of a summer. Their determination to grow against all odds should prompt us to protect the dunes at all costs.
If you’re exploring the dunes while sunbathing this summer, please tread carefully and live and let live this rarest of Maltese habitats. Thanks Leslie for the photos, text input and drawing our attention to dunes.
Malta: a sandy beach guide – a full list of all sandy beaches with tourist info and map.
More dune life photos from Leslie Vella here. His portfolio is a flora guide to Ramla.
Photo: Left: Ramla il-Hamra Bay, Gozo; top right: Sea Medick; centre: Sea Daffodil; bottom: Prickly Parsnip.