time to explore with esplora

A wealth of marine life between Daħlet il-Fekruna and Rdum il-Bies

Daħlet il-Fekruna

Photo: Desirée and Victor Falzon

The stretch of northeast coastline between Daħlet il-Fekruna and Rdum il-Bies holds a wealth of marine life in its variety of niches. Much of this variety may not reveal itself in a first casual snorkelling, but visit a shore regularly and you will be rewarded with a gradually unfolding tapestry of animal and plant life. Desirée Falzon gives us a brief tour of the shore leading to and away from Mistra Bay

Daħlet il-Fekruna

Cracks in a vertical rock face such as those on the jetty on the Fekruna side are perfect for small sea slugs. In early morning check the mooring side for the little purple jewels of the Felimida species having their last graze of the night. Snorkel along the same side while looking closely at the shallow-water shoreside: where not covered with algae the rock is a kaleidoscope of colour from the sponges, bryozoans and ascidians siphoning water to filter out their prey. Botrylloides is arguably the most striking of these, with its orange crochet-like network of tiny animals living together. Do not shy away from dark overhangs – the cave-like rock faces abound with a range of striking red algae and pretty orange corals.

Daħlet il-Fekruna itself is conveniently shallow, making it easy for a snorkeller to discover life between the fallen boulders where gobies indolently await prey and young fish live safely away from the mouths of large predators. The water’s edge slopes onto shingle that hides invertebrates small enough for the shallow-water blennies that live there to eat, while the boulders on the north side are rife with triplefins that multiply if you stare long enough at an algae-covered rock. The bay seabed offers refuge for small fish escaping predators in its carpets of Neptune Grass, whose rhizomes anchor the sandy bottom in place.

Daħlet il-Fekrun

Boulders, shingle and caves

Swim past mullets, shoals of Salema and the occasional young Barracuda on the Rdum Rxawn side and scour the submerged rock tops for blennies – small, colourful fish that occupy holes gouged by bivalves. Moving forward you will need to cut across Mistra Bay, once a shingle-beach snorkeller’s delight but now a thick carpet of old fish-farm residue that chokes algae and fish alike.

The rock formation at Ras il-Miġnuna creates several shallow caves where cuttlefish can be spotted skulking and changing colour in nanoseconds. Boulders gradually give way to a rock shelf – the perfect destination for shallow-water snorkelling among sea bream, mullets and wrasses, most of which prowl the rock face in search of molluscs. Here, Spotted Sea hare emerge in the evening to scrape away uninterrupted at the encrusting algae covering the shelf.

Orange-fest with Botrylloides leachi and Astroides calycularis

Photo: Desirée and Victor Falzon

Rdum il-Bies

The last lap take us to the Rdum il-Bies area, also accessible from the karst surface near the Mistra Battery. Dark, shallow caves are home to large numbers of beautiful red Cardinalfish. In early summer it is common to see males with their fry safely in their mouths. This area holds a large spectrum of life, from predatory Moray Eels that emerge in the evening to scavenging Bearded Fireworms and shoals of Damselfish with their electric-blue fry. Here you can easily see ten blenny species in three metres’ depth, some – like the Molly Miller and the Mystery Blenny – abundant on little shelves hugging the shoreline.

Two Felimida species graze the algae on the jetty’s rock faces

Photo: Desirée and Victor Falzon

For clear-water snorkelling always check wind direction and avoid a coastline that is downwind. Make sure to use sea-friendly lotion and to take a net for litter-gathering as a small thanks to the enriching experience the Fekruna-Rdum il-Bies coastline will certainly provide.

The Rock Goby quietly waits for prey to come close

Photo: Desiree Falzon

Cuttlefish have an amazing variety of colour and pattern tricks up their skirts

Photo: Victor Falzon

Visit BirdLife for more information.