If your clients are looking for an active holiday that won't break the bank, Malta ticks a lot of boxes, says Karl Cushing
As I span out of control for a third time while attempting to step off my Segway, it dawned on me that I might not be cut out for this outdoors pursuits malarkey.
This was unfortunate as I was on a seven-night break in Malta that offered everything from parasailing to abseiling, with views of the three islands offered variously from a horse, a mountain bike and that fateful-but-fun Segway. maltasegwaytours.com
Malta is a great place to try your hand at a number of activities as it’s affordable, has a pleasant Med climate and is small and easy to get around. While divers and watersports fans will appreciate the warmer waters in the summer months, its mild winters are ideal for pursuits such as cycling and walking.
Explore product manager James Adkin says he gets consistently good customer feedback about the destination, adding: “Whether customers are looking for non-stop adventure or want to take a slower pace while absorbing some gentle culture, Malta has it all.”
GET GOING ON GOZO
A major focus of our trip was Gozo, Malta’s sleepier little sister. Ramblers have been drawn to the island, just nine miles by five miles, for years, attracted by its clifftop walks peppered with cracking scenery, as at Djerwa, home to the Inland Sea, Azure Window and Fungus Rock.
There’s a lot more to do besides walking, though. Malta will never be a road cycling hotspot but it’s a great place for a leisurely pedal or two, and mountain biking on Gozo was a good introduction. The tourism board is currently working on a network of cycling routes, including one that combines Malta and nearby Sicily. And with more operators springing up it’s getting easier to hire decent equipment. visitmalta.com/cycling
Climbing and abseiling are also being promoted on Gozo. Locations such as the secluded valley of Mgarr ix-Xini are great for beginners, as we discovered, while the rugged coastline is ideal for ‘deep water soloing’ (essentially climbing over water). Our itinerary included a taster abseil followed by a short climb, courtesy of Gozo Adventures.
Later, back on Malta, the excellent staff from Malta Outdoors – which, like Gozo Adventures, offers everything from biking to kayaking and climbing – would have the group abseiling down a 45-metre drop by the sea. gozoadventures.com maltaoutdoors.com
A popular option is to explore Gozo on a jeep safari, which we sampled on a trip to Ta’ Mena Estate, a lovely agro-tourism initiative where guests can stay in farmhouses, dine on homegrown wine and foodstuffs and even get married. Forgoing the latter, we tried our hand at a spot of archery through the vines before resuming our jeep tour. tamena-gozo.com
With its craggy coastline, Malta isn’t known for its beaches. One of the best is Golden Bay, near Mellieha, home to hotels like the Radisson Blu and a watersports centre.
It was here that Brad Pitt chose to land his troops in the movie Troy, but I opted for a different if no-less-conspicuous approach – being launched off a speedboat-towed inflatable banana at high speed.
My group also tried out the parasailing and jetskis – great fun. Other options available include sea kayaking and paddle boarding.
We also took in the tiny island of Comino, which nicely broke up the return journey from Gozo to Malta. There’s little on Comino itself, bar a small hotel with a few secluded bungalows, but many tours make a beeline for the Santa Marija caves for snorkelling or diving and Comino’s famed Blue Lagoon – which can resemble a boat parking lot on a busy day.
If your clients want to try sailing themselves, autumn and winter are quieter and see better winds than summer. To charter vessels try operators such as Nautica and Malta Yacht Charters. nautica.com.mt maltayachtcharters.com
BEST OF THE REST
We also tried our hand at rowing in Valletta’s Grand Harbour and took in a spot of horse riding at Bidnija stables. While we just had a pleasant trot along the local lanes, all abilities are catered for and you can even hire horses out, complete with carriages, for clients’ weddings. bidnijahorseriding.com
There are lots of other active options too, including the Royal Malta Golf Club, the Badger go-karting track in Ta’ Qali, and Marsa Sports Club, which boasts 19 tennis courts. There’s even powerboat racing and the 2013 Malta Marathon and Half Marathon on February 23 to consider. But personally, I think I’d better try to master that Segway first.
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