Attractions
Get closer to nature: 5 places to spot Malta's wildlife (& what to expect)
These nature reserves offer a great opportunity

Melanie Drury

Beautiful birds, wonderful wildflowers, robust reptiles and interesting insects are just some of the Maltese wildlife you can get up close and personal with in these nature reserves.

Foresta 2000

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Foresta 2000 consists of a mosaic of Malta’s various natural habitats: steppe (grassland), garigue (scrubland), maquis (shrubland) and woodland. Furthermore, coastal habitats and cliffs lie on either side of it, since it stretches almost from coast to coast across the narrowest part of the island. Perched alongside a hill near Mellieha Bay in the north of Malta, Foresta 2000 also offers fantastic views of the valley below, which includes the brackish water and saline marshlands that make up Ghadira Nature Reserve.

What to see

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Over 20,000 trees were planted to restore the Mediterranean woodland. These offer shelter for many species of birds, insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, creating a beautifully rich ecosystem exemplifying typical Mediterranean nature. Find Pine Bolete mushrooms, fennel and wild thyme growing in the shade of Aleppo Pines, Holm Oaks and Carobs and enjoy the colourful spring flowers. Among the several birds and butterflies, see if you can spot a cat snake, Mediterranean chameleon, ocellated skink or painted frog.

Għadira Nature Reserve

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Għadira Nature Reserve, nestled in the valley just behind Mellieha Bay, consists of seven hectares of brackish lake and saltmarsh habitat. Permanent water habitats like this one are quite rare on the island due to the long, hot summers. Approximately 140 species of migrating birds stop here to rest before continuing their journeys.

What to see

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If you enjoy birdwatching, you’ll love this place. Among several migrating birds, such as redshanks, sandpipers and egrets, you may even spot an eurasian spoonbill or greater flamingo. Black-winged stilts and little ringed plover breed at the reserve in spring and moorhens reside by the pools. Along the trails, you may spot Mediterranean chameleons and rabbits among the sea daffodil, golden samphire and sea lavender.

Simar Nature Reserve

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More wetlands can be found nearby at Simar Nature Reserve in Xemxija, St Paul’s Bay. An oasis boasting a rich agricultural landscape, its name derives from the sharp rush experienced throughout the reserve. This, too, provides a safe haven for several kinds of resident and migrating birds as well as many kinds of wildlife which are attracted by the open pools, reedbed and trees.

What to see

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Bird lovers can enjoy the sight of various resident and migrating birds. You can spot barn swallows, kingfishers, water rails, herons, egrets and warbler species and this is also breeding ground for coots and little grebes. But the pools are are also home to the rare and protected Mediterranean killifish and various crustaceans. See if you can spot a camouflaged Mediterranean chameleon and geckos in tree branches and see the rare tassel-weed.

Salina Nature Reserve

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Set in the mouth of Burmarrad valley in the limits of St Paul’s Bay, which was originally a harbour, the Salina Nature Reserve consists of 154,000 square metres of saline marshland and salt pans which were built on a reclaimed island of clay between Qawra and Salini in the northeast of the island of Malta.

What to see

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Flamingos are commonly associated with salt pans in the Mediterranean and these frequently stop to rest at Salina during migration. The salt pans also attract up to 2,000 gulls of various species per day! Sandwich terns are also common. Other species such as common sandpipers, herons, egrets sometimes frequent the area and you might spot a greater flamingo if you’re very lucky!

Buskett

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Buskett, situated in the heart of Malta between Dingli and Siggiewi, is Malta's greenest woodland and prized with both natural and historic interest. The valley of Wied Il-Luq is the only semi-natural woodland on the island and home to many interesting and diverse species of flora and fauna. It is a haven for birds, including birds of prey. Verdala Palace, perched on the hill, and a scattering of farmhouses built by the Knights of Malta, offer additional historic interest.

What to see

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In this centuries old woodland, you can admire mature holm oak, aleppo pine, olive, white poplar, and great reed as well as a variety of citrus trees. Several bird species abound, such as honey buzzards, marsh harriers, common kestrels, turtle doves, common cuckoos, bee-eaters, Spanish sparrows, zitting cisticolas, spotted flycatchers and warblers; you might spot a montagu’s harrier, red-footed falcon and short-toed eagle, if you’re lucky. See if you can spot the delicate flowers of brown orchids and large blue alkanets.

All of these reserves are managed and maintained by the NGO BirdLife Malta. When you visit, ask a volunteer to show you the best spots to see Malta’s wildlife and help you identify the various plants, animals and birds. 

10th June 2019


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

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