Ghadira Nature Reserve
Winter is the best time to appreciate nature in Malta. Due to its dry climate Malta’s greenery doesn’t last half way though spring. As you probably know by now, I like hiking, trekking and wondering around the wild Maltese countryside. However, I’ve realised that for some unknown reason I never really visited any of the local nature reserves!
So this year I’m going to do it right and show you some of these well hidden places, starting with Ghadira Nature Reserve.
I’m sure you are very familiar with Ghadira Bay, Malta’s longest sandy beach. Probably for its popularity I never really thought that there was something else worth my attention and I couldn’t have been more wrong! There are a lot of bushes alongside the main road, but I’ve only recently realised that there is a nature reserve hiding behind them.
Għadira Nature Reserve is open from September to May on Mondays & Thursdays 2pm-6pm and on Saturdays & Sundays 10am-4pm. Entrance is free and there is no need to book. However due to the pandemic there some limitations, I believe that only 15 people can be at the nature reserve at the same time.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised what I’ve found. A nice wide pathway surrounded by greenery , bushes and trees. Very refreshing and highly recharging! Much needed re-connection with nature after a whole week ‘in the city’.
Ghadira Nature Reserve is also the perfect place for bird watching. Although Malta is small, it is a very important ‘stopover’ for millions of tired migrating birds. Around 140 species are logged every year. Some of them just need to rest for few days before resuming their journey, others spend the winter here. Some spices arrive in spring and nest at the reserve. There are also many ‘permanent residents’ in Ghadira.
Due to its very dry climate Malta doesn’t have many wetlands. The occasional winter rains creates temporary pools and ponds in some valleys, but they all dry up in summer. Permanent inland bodies of water are rare on the Maltese Islands. Therefore the brackish lake in Ghadira is very precious.
‘Brackish’ means that the water has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. This is usually a result of mixing seawater with freshwater. Ghadira’s basin is actually below the sea level, so that’s how the freshwater gets ‘contaminated’ with seawater.
Ghadira Nature Reserve is also a great place for families and children. Having a toddler myself I sometimes struggle to find places where my son can run freely without me fearing for his life. Here I felt at ease, I knew he was safe as well as spending some needed time in nature and breathing fresh air.
There are also many informative and educational boards, but my favourite is the ‘bug hotel’. We all need shelter and animals are no exception. Even bugs like a cosy dark place which can protect them form predators. There are some huge ‘bug hotels’ at the reserve, but you can also make your own and stick it up on a tree or in a sheltered corner near you.
Ghadira Nature Reserve wasn’t always there. It was most likely a coastal lagoon. It was used for centuries as a saltpan by residents until new saltworks were built in Salina in the 16th century. Which resulted in the site being abandoned and gradually silted up with sand blown from the beach and soil washed down from the higher grounds.
In the 1960s the site was nearly destroyed with a new road proposal, but luckily the plans weren’t fulfilled after BirdLife protested! In 1978 Ghadira was declared a bird sanctuary and in 1980 the government restored the lake and turn the site into a proper guarded nature reserve thanks to BirdLife’s persistence.
Ghadira covers the area of seven hectares and it is an ideal place for those who seek few quiet hours of bird watching, nature photography or simply to enjoy the nature.
Here is a map, that you can spot at the entrance to Ghadira Nature Reserve. As you will notice one cannot actually walk all the way around the reserve. You can get approximately half way and there you can enter the hide for some bird watching.
As I’ve already mentioned the entrance is free, but I would highly encourage you to leave a small donation to ensure that such places will remain open and functioning.
Here is a GoogleMap with the exact location, so you cannot miss it.