On the Cominotto Road to
the Blue Lagoon
We leave our hotel base in order to visit the island’s most popular site, the Blue Lagoon. Vehicles come loose and sparse on Comino since these are either the hotel’s four-wheelers or the aged green land rover belonging to the island’s only resident driver, Salvu Vella. Hotel guests can opt to hire a bicycle, but we go for a slower mode, on foot.
Just before leaving the hotel grounds one is tempted to wonder in the aptly named Comino Garden, the minute hotel nursery where the gardener propagates cuttings of hibiscus, bougainvillea, date palms and other exotic trees and shrubs, later to be transplanted within the hotel’s public areas.
We are back on the track, the Cominotto Road that winds past purple, white and fuchsia oleanders, planted in the seventies, now matured into shrubs. A track it is, considering that the island is not macadamized, or in simpler terms, without laid tarmac or asphalt. A turpentine tree is growing aside.
Three minutes on and we walk onto one of the most scenic sites in the whole country - the Blue Lagoon.
We are dreading the thought of seeing an over-crowded lagoon, with the ubiquitous banana boats, parakiters and pleasure boaters. Instead we are presented with a pleasant surprise. This is regal. The water is crystal clear, the lagoon’s sandy bottom clearly visible from our vintage viewing point. Other than a single pleasure boat, this natural gem is practically deserted, the daytripper’s season gladly over.
Have no fear of their presence for these are usually confined to this place, dreading to plod on the baking tracks as the basking summer sun mercilessly bears down on those deranged enough to wander aloof, without the sure comfort of the shade by the Comino hotel’s pool deck.
The Maltese refer to the Blue Lagoon as Bejn il-Kmiemen, literally ‘betwixt the Cominos’, Comino and its uninhabited smaller sister Cominotto, an islet measuring a mere 400metres. You can literally gaze for hours at the opposing 52-metre Cominotto slope, or the lagoon itself, and that would be time wisely spent. A favourite location for many a designer calendar, the lagoon was in olden times, frequented by Muslim corsairs. These were not lured by its optimal bathing areas, but rather to use it as their lair, so ideal for their marauding exploits in Maltese waters.
The Comino Channel also bore witness to the activities of Christian corsairs, such as Francesco di Natale, a Corsican, who between 1739 and 1746 plied the Mediterranean from Minorca to the southern Anatolian coast in search of Muslim slaves or booty. The crew of the 'Blessed Virgin of the Rosary' included Maltese, Greek islanders, Sicilians, Corsicans and Italians. They were given a patent by the Grand Master of the Order of St. John to fight against the Muslims. The ‘fight’ included the abduction of Turkish or Cypriot women, as in the case of Larnaca in 1740, and the capture of a sizable laden Ottoman cargo ship in Djerba.
Other operations in the Comino waters were of a clandestine nature. These activities persisted well into the late Victorian period, so much so that in 1852 a Marine Police Station was erected on the lagoon’s vantage point. It cost £38 to build. In 1897 the policing of our coastline cost the Malta Government Suffice £12,039 out of £33,382, well over one third of their yearly emoluments.
The Comino Marine Police had, like such other stations, to be on the lookout for smuggling and contraband activities, fishing with dynamite and the arrival of foreign vessels without having the clearance from the sanitary officers of the quarantine island of Manuel Island. This at a time when outbreaks of epidemics such as cholera, plague and typhoid were not uncommon.
Today the Victorian marine police station houses the public showers and convenience. On its facade one can notice agave succulents, tamarisk trees and the sea orache. Unfortunately, no interpretation sign indicates the former use of this station.
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