Tourists visiting Comino recently for what they thought would be a blissful day in the sun were shocked when they arrived at the Blue Lagoon to find a sea of umbrellas and incessant noise from nearby kiosks.

Upon arrival, tourists were this year not only met with scores of deckchairs by the water’s edge but loud music was already blasting before the first boats had even started to arrive.

To make matters worse, a pungent smell of fried food wafted out from the large kiosks selling burgers, hotdogs and other fast foods.

Times of Malta spoke to 18 tourists, with 14 of them saying they had a problem with the state of the island often portrayed as a haven for bathers.

One French tourist said she was heading back to Malta after spending just one hour on Comino because the beach was “overcrowded and filthy”.

At one point, the woman felt irked to the point that she complained about the situation to a police officer stationed on the island. 

Times of Malta visited Comino after Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo last week vowed action will be taken if people are not free to lay down a towel wherever they wish when visiting Blue Lagoon. 

Last year, a Times of Malta video exposing the problem of too many umbrellas and sunbeds hogging the popular bay went viral and has been viewed more than 9.7 million times to date.

Despite arriving on the island before 10am on a weekday, Times of Malta found that operators had once again already taken up the prime spots, setting up their deckchairs and sunbeds by the water’s edge.

But, unlike recent years, when another journalist refused to hire a deckchair and instead opted to sit on a towel, the operators agreed to remove a deckchair.

Renting an umbrella and a sunbed on Comino costs €20.

Video: Karl Andrew Micallef/ Jennifer Sgubin

Dried-up pineapples used for cocktails and sold by one of the kiosks could be seen discarded all over the Blue Lagoon shore while used take-away boxes, beer cans and plastic bottles were also noticed in various spots along the shore.

And, apart from the loud music from the various kiosks, large boats ferrying tourists also blasted their own music, often resulting in a cacophony of noise made worse by the occasional blowing of horns by the various ferries docked at Blue Lagoon.

The only way to enjoy the island in a more tranquil way is to walk for around 40 minutes to the Santa Marija Bay located on the other side of Comino.

There, visitors are free to lay down their towel wherever they please since beach operators have stayed away from the bay. The area is also notably cleaner and less crowded.

What do tourists make of the situation?

The majority of tourists complained about the overcrowding and that too many sunbeds and umbrellas line the shore.

“I prefer Comino without sunbeds. I prefer not renting a sunbed, so we sat back here. If there were no sunbeds, I would rather be sitting by the shore. You cannot enjoy Comino’s nature,” one Portuguese tourist said.

Two German tourists agreed. Visibly disappointed and shaking their heads in disapproval as they tried to make their way past the sunbeds, the pair said the beach furniture “ruins the experience”.

“We want to enjoy the water not the umbrellas. We will not be getting an umbrella. It’s sad that you have to pay to sit down there… it’s an island and it should be free,” he said.

“Everyone is crammed like sardines,” another tourist said.

Meanwhile, for one Italian visitor, it was the large boats docked at Blue Lagoon that was the biggest issue.

“There’s a lot of people. I prefer not to get an umbrella and a sunbed because it’s too crowded. But the sunbeds were not a problem, the boats are a problem for me,” he said.

A French holidaymaker said: “I don’t like it [the sunbeds and umbrellas]

because it is more touristic and less beautiful and natural. I was going to take a picture but I didn’t like it because of the fact that there are so many umbrellas.

“The view is ruined.”

Two Italian visitors said they tried to locate a spot by the shore where they could lay down their towel without having to rent a sunbed but could not find a free space to do so.

“It was the first thing we noticed as soon as we got off the boat. We tried to see if there was another spot we can stay in but there isn’t,” one said.

“I prefer it in its more natural state. You put a towel on the ground and that’s your place. But, obviously, I know some people don’t like this, it can get hot with the sun and so I think there needs to be a fair compromise,” his friend suggested.

Another said: “I don’t like it but I knew it was going to be like this. You have to pay €20 for an umbrella and sunbed so I won’t be renting one. I don’t think it’s worth it.

“I was kind of expecting it since it’s a tourist island and Malta gets the majority of its income from tourism.”

 Additional reporting: Jennifer Sgubin.



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