Rules to regulate campsites will be published in the coming days after Comino’s Tal-Ful area made the headlines because of a free-for-all situation, where semi-permanent tents take over year-round, elbowing other campers out.
The Environment and Resources Authority said the new rules will empower it to take action after the environment on the Natura 2000 island was exposed and accusations made that the site was being “stolen”.
The ERA said it has been monitoring the issue closely and has coordinated its efforts with other entities “to ensure the best possible strategy to address the situation”.
The issue lies in the fact that large semi-permanent tents – even with CCTV cameras – mostly empty during the week, have occupied the limited area, hogging the ideal, comfortable and shady spots with top views.
This means other tents have to be sandwiched between “entire houses” in the scorching sun, campers have complained.
The problem already existed in the previous camping grounds by Santa Marija Bay – a “shanty town” the authority had cleared out in 2019 because it was damaging Comino’s natural heritage and was not covered by the required permits.
The Outdoor Recreation and Camping Association has pointed out that tents had to be temporary and anything semi-permanent was illegal.
Disgruntled campers have also called for an urgent and better management plan for Tal-Ful, suggesting the introduction of payment, which would prevent people from setting up their tents for such long periods.
They said camping should be booked and controlled to avoid what was effectively squatting in public spaces and turning them into a private site in the summer months.
What’s happening at Tal-Ful is illegal but no one bats an eyelid. Camping there in summer is a non-starter
They also called for Ambjent Malta, the environmental agency responsible for the management of the Comino site, to empower its rangers to be able to enforce the law and impose heavy fines.
Camping nightmare recounted
Expressing his rekindled anger at the situation in Comino, one camper, who preferred to speak anonymously, recounted how his yearly camping trip left a bitter taste in his mouth last March.
Over the years, he has witnessed the campsites’ deterioration, with people setting up tents, caravans and whole structures in Easter and removing them in late October – if at all.
By March, the best spots in Tal-Ful were already taken up by what looked like abandoned tents, complete with speakers, a wood-burning oven and loud generators.
The campers were also faced with the disturbance of young revellers – “and that is when the nightmare started”.
Blaring music till late at night, bright lights and shouting put an end to the idea of a relaxing couple of days in nature.
The next day, all the campers could hear was the sound of grinders and more loud music.
The unhappy camper wrote to the ERA on his return to question whether semi-permanent structures were now allowed in the campsite.
He also asked if cars and quadbikes were allowed and whether there were any regulations on loud music.
He was informed “the campsite should be utilised for recreational activities and semi-permanent structures that could not be dismantled by end of October do not comply with the objective of having a recreational campsite.
“Cars, quadbikes or any other mechanical transportation means are not allowed in the campsite or anywhere that is not an established road on Comino.
“Loud music above 70db is not allowed after sunset and any lights should be full cut-off and with low lumens in this protected area.”
Six months later, nothing had changed.
“What’s happening at Tal-Ful is illegal but no one bats an eyelid. Camping there in summer is a non-starter,” the camper said, hoping the ERA would save one of the few places on the Maltese Islands where you can truly disconnect.
“Maybe they will finally decide to regulate the campsite just like it is regulated in foreign countries, without awarding it to private individuals.”