Fringed by azure waters and blessed with balmy temperatures year-round, Malta is among Europe’s most coveted beach destinations. From snorkelling in the Blue Lagoon to sunset cruises around Grand Harbour, there are plenty of traditional waterborne highlights to discover. However, for a more adventurous experience, pick up a paddle and glide out in a kayak. There’s no better way to explore the archipelago’s many secret caves and coves. Pointing out the best tour operators and ticking off what to take on a trip, here’s how to kayak in Malta.
The difference between canoeing and kayaking is in the oar and the sitting position. Canoeists kneel or sit on a raised seat and have a blade at only one end of the paddle, while kayakers sit in a low seat, legs stretched out in front beneath a covered deck, and row with a double-bladed paddle. Kayakers sit much lower in the water, and consequently there’s a propensity for the occasional capsize, which is all part of the fun. A quick kayak roll will soon flip you upright, and it’s an easy technique that you’ll learn from Malta’s kayak tour operators.
An off-shore excursion means plenty of sun exposure, so apply a generous SPF to the face, torso and arms before heading out. There may be one or two kayak rolls along the way—although thanks to Malta’s tranquil tides, these are usually self-inflicted—so avoid wearing cotton, which retains water and can be cumbersome. Instead opt for quick-drying, breathable fabrics—long-sleeved rash vests are ideal to protect from the UV. Ensure caps or sun visors are clipped on tightly. Sealable bags are provided by all kayak tour operators to keep phones and valuables safe and dry below deck.
One of the prettiest beginner-friendly routes for a paddle is a trip from Gozo to Comino. Gozo is an easy ferry hop from Malta, and Gozo Adventures collects arrivals directly from the ferry terminal. You’ll be delivered—kayaks, tour guide and all—to the turquoise sweep of Hondoq Bay. Take a watery glide above flickering shoals of fish to Comino, whose diminutive circumference leads past the crystal-clear waters of the Blue Lagoon. Stop for a lazy picnic lunch, provided, before dipping beneath the waves for some snorkelling.
Ambitious kayakers will enjoy the varied coastline of Mellieha along Malta’s north-western tip. Here, imposing cliffs are carved out with quiet coves and hidden caves, with plenty of opportunity to cool off on a snorkel around the boulders. Further around the tip is Popeye Village, a pretty huddle of colour that’s stunning when admired from off-shore. Seek out Sea Kayak Malta, which arranges excellent tours around the island.
For those yearning to go solo (without a guide), rent a kayak from Bugibba Kayak Hire and paddle out across the cerulean sweep of St Paul’s Bay. This provider also offers sit-on kayaks, which are much easier to slip off for a cool dip in the sea between paddling sessions.