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Ecotourism in Malta - land of seahorses and ancient temples

The Maltese islands is an archipelago of three islands situated in the centre of the Mediterranean; Malta the main island, Comino a tiny island nestled in between Malta and Gozo, the most northerly and second largest of the group.

Eco Tourism in the Maltese Islands really began in 2002 when it was the 'International Year of Eco tourism'. The University of Malta in conjunction with 'the Biological Conservation Research Foundation' won a NGO Eco-tourism Award for their work with marine life and nature conservation. The Ministry for Tourism in Malta have been promoting Eco Tourism ever since, taking advice from the University on how best to promote the islands without danger to the environment.

The Malta Tourism Authority established an Eco-Certification scheme to encourage hotels to strive to be more environmentally conscious, in order to attract more Eco tourists. The criteria they must meet to be allocated this award includes better waste management systems, energy reduction, less water wastage, improved air quality and hotels were encouraged to provide adequate green spaces for guests to enjoy.

The Victoria Hotel on Olivier Street in Sliema, on the east coast of the main island is a good example. It is an environmentally-friendly hotel with official certification. They have an Eco Committee, which they call the 'Green Wardens' to ensure the best eco practices.

Also on the mainland is the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa near Ghajn Tuffieha overlooking Malta's most beautiful sandy beach Golden Bay. They've taken the initiative to plant 500 trees and they collect their water by having catchment areas and five reservoirs designed into the building of the property. They have some great facilities including a Spa and a tennis court. It's well known destination to enjoy water sports and to go horse riding too.

For the convenience of visitors, the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement has compiled a list of where to buy organic goods.

It's not hard to get around Malta, it has a fairly reasonably priced public transportation system and you can easily rent a bike from Eco Bikes Malta. They also organise cycling tours with guides.

When in Malta a visit to see the loggerhead turtles in Mellieha Bay is a must and it makes a for a fascinating day out. If you fancy a go at Eco Diving, the Institute for Environmental Studies organises dives in many stunning locations, giving you the opportunity to see the ocean and all its wondrous beauty up close including the magnificent and delicate sea horses.

It is certainly worth venturing off the mainland and exploring nearby Comino. It is a tiny island that boasts a picturesque blue lagoon, no traffic and just one hotel. It maybe tiny but it has a big personality. You can get there by ferry from the mainland which takes under half an hour or you can hire a sailboat and explore it yourself. It is a paradise for snorkelers, divers, windsurfers and trekkers. The famous blue lagoon with its serene turquoise water makes it a perfect place to experience by boat.
Want to take it easy? Hire a sailboat with a skipper and let him guide around the coastlines and bays.

Gozo, the second largest island is inhabited by a feisty group of locals who have really made an effort to promote agro and eco- tourism. Founded in 2005, the Ager foundation has acted as a catalyst to promote sustainable, environmentally friendly tourism. Their mission is to educate and promote sustainable rural development by offering hands-on experiences with the locals, a vision that hopes to improve the quality of the life. You can spend a day with a local shepherd and participate in making fresh cheese or be guided around its lush coastline by a nature conservationist.

For those who are looking for a green holiday and a spiritual experience, check out Gozo Nature, Spiritual and Mystic Eco-Tourism. John guides you round the island, a place he loves so much that you can't help catch his enthusiasm. Enjoy plant tasting, meditation and Reiki.

The Kempinski Hotel in San Lawrenz on the northeast side of the island is a great place to stay and it is a proud participant of the Eco-Certification scheme, as promoted by the Malta Tourism Authority.

While in Gozo there are plenty of green activities from para-kiting to diving to sailing and mountain biking. There are many temples to see and natural landmarks such as the Ta Cene cliffs, the Azure window at Dwejvra Bay and the Mgarr ix-Xini cove.

Another place worth a visit is the Ta' Kola windmill in Xaghra and don't leave Gozo without stopping by Gozo Cottage, a great little business which offers a wide selection of tasty treats including traditional marmalades, honey, carob syrup, sun-dried tomatoes, handpicked capers, olives and natural sea salt.

Malta and its sister islands of Gozo and Comino, are places every Eco Tourist should see. The Eco tourism industry is well organised, making a trip there a viable option for the responsible tourist. The best time of year to go is May, June and October when the weather is very pleasant. July, August and September can be very humid, so if you travel then try to stick to the cooler climate of the coastline.

Photo by By Bob Jagendorf Flickr

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