five outdoor activities in gozo

photo credit: james bianchi

Malta’s traditional water taxis, known as the dgħajsa tal-pass offer a unique and entertaining journey to get across the water around the island. Their original purpose during the 17th century was to ferry passengers in the Grand Harbour, as both the Three Cities and Valletta were increasing in their development. When Malta was under British rule, using the water taxi to get across the harbour was a necessity. The Grand Harbour was considered one of the safest places for people to be; especially on the boats. When Malta was under attack, they would do so by air raids and you can still see one bomb shelter to this day tucked away inside the stone. The water taxis were necessary in order to carry the men across the water and into their work at the newly established dockyard facilities. 

Today, they are used for entertainment more than a necessity to carry tourists across the waters. There are many ways one can get across or around the harbour to their intended destinations, but this one might still be the most fun! One can argue that as an entertainment tour to cross the water, the views you get from inside the dgħajsa cannot be matched from any other vantage point. It is both stunning and spectacular to witness the harbour and the surrounding cities this way. There are things you never would be able to notice from above that are easily spotted from inside the taxi; especially with a knowledgeable and hospitable host driving you across.  

Today, we went across the Grand Harbour from the capital city of Valletta into the Three Cities. Among the few taxis remaining (approximately a dozen or so), each one has a different theme, adorned with various beautiful colours and paintings on the boats. We climbed aboard a beautiful red water taxi that had the St John Cross of Malta painted all along the boat. This is the signature dgħajsa tal-pass of Ivan Agius. As we stepped onto his boat, he opened his arms wide and said “Welcome to my office!” This is exactly how you know you are embarking on what will be a very fun and enjoyable tour across the water. Ivan certainly did not disappoint! He explained to us the safety of this particular type of boat that even in strong storms, the water taxis, the way they are built can sustain even the strongest storms without tipping. He explained that “the whole boat is a life jacket” and that he has been driving his boat for more than a decade and that the boat itself is older than he is! 

He took us all around the harbour sharing stories from Malta’s unique and intense history and showing us areas and hidden treasures that I never could have spotted from any other location walking around the area above. He told us what it is like to have such a passion to continue a tradition that  has become so sparse on the island now and  how proud he is to continue to carry the history with him with every pass he takes across.

To me, Ivan is one of the true gems of Malta sharing a lot of information packed into a short amount of time. I would highly recommend taking one of these water taxis with your family or with guests who are visiting the island to experience something so unique and enjoyable. As we got off the boat and said our goodbyes to Ivan, a pair of tourists were standing in line deciding whether to take the taxi. They asked me “Is it worth it?” My answer that day is still the same: a resounding YES! It is totally worth it!