Coral Lagoon: The Natural Wonder At The Edge Of Malta
by Karl Azzopardi
Situated at the literal tail end of our fish-shaped island of Malta, Coral Lagoon lives up to its name having one of the richest marine habitats on the island. It is no wonder that divers and snorkelers from far and wide seek this treasure trove of marine life in the north of Malta every summer.
However, it is also loved by many explorers and photographers who long to experience the crystal clear waters of this natural phenomenon. Characterised by a giant opening in the rock surface of the L-Ahrax Point in Mellieha, Coral Lagoon is truly a sight to behold. In this article, we will shed some light on this enchanting lagoon and its surroundings.
The Cave That Caved
Coral Lagoon was once a cave, a long, long time ago. In fact, some locals still refer to it by its old name Dragonara Cave while others call it the Ahrax Inland Sea much like the Dwejra Inland Sea in Gozo, which is also a result of a collapsed cave. It is not known when exactly the roof gave way but let's just be grateful it did; otherwise, we wouldn't have the natural wonder that we have the privilege to experience today.
One can still see the rubble of the cave's roof at the bottom of the sea which has turned into a flourishing coral reef. This is due to the shelter that the Coral Lagoon offers from the open sea and the abundance of sunlight it gets from being a roofless cave. Many divers and snorkelers have described Coral Lagoon as being one of the best coral reefs in Malta to observe the biodiversity of our island's marine life. With a depth that ranges from 7 to 18 metres, there is much to see below the azure waters of Coral Lagoon such as golden cup and false coral as well as the sea creatures that inhabit them like starfish, eels and tubeworms.
Exploring Coral Lagoon
It's quite hard to fight the urge to jump into the Coral Lagoon as soon as you get there. Especially on a hot summer day, since there is no shade in the area except inside the cave itself. Now while jumping straight into the lagoon from the top is not forbidden, it is highly discouraged firstly due to the 10-metre drop. However, if you are a skilled diver or just an adrenaline junkie you can rest your mind that the lagoon is deep enough to jump into. Just make sure that you do not attempt this when there are rough seas as the only way back onto land is to swim out into the open sea, and that is extremely dangerous on windy days. For a safer bathing experience, we recommend taking a dip in the aquamarine waters of Coral Beach just a couple of minutes to the left of Coral Lagoon.
A safer option to explore the inside of the Coral Lagoon is to canoe or kayak your way into it through the 5-metre entrance on the eastern side of L-Ahrax Point. This allows you to manoeuvre the open sea more easily and once you're inside Coral Lagoon you can still stop to swim around and explore the many wonders that await above and below you. If you go for this option it is recommended to start your journey from White Tower Bay which is about 10 minutes of paddling away from Coral Lagoon.
If you feel that you can bear the heat and explore more of the area around Coral Lagoon, we recommend that you walk to the left of the lagoon towards It-Torri l-Abjad (The White Tower). This tower is one of the 13 coastal De Redin towers — the sixth one to be constructed to be precise. It was built in 1658 and is slightly larger in size than all of the other De Redin towers. An artillery battery was built around the tower in 1715 to further strengthen its defensive and offensive capabilities with more firepower being added over the course of the century. The British then used It-Torri l-Abjad as a naval station up until the end of World War II, after which it was abandoned.
In 2021, after years of restorations and modification by the Mellieha Local Council and heritage NGO Din L-Art Helwa, It- Torri l-Abjad was reopened for public visitations and also holds a marine education centre for children! It is usually open every first Sunday of the month from 10 am to 5 pm but dates may vary — you can follow this Facebook page for updates.
If you're in need of a refreshing dip after your exploration, you can also find a quiet beach just a stone's throw away from the tower it is named after. White Tower Bay is a secluded sandy beach adored by local northerners who seek an escape from the chaos of the more popular beaches in Mellieha. Here you can wind down on the sand or at one of the kiosks in the area and enjoy gorgeous views of our sister island Gozo. It is also a dog-friendly beach just in case you're travelling with a furry companion!
Despite its somewhat remote location Coral Lagoon is quite easy to access. All you have to do is to drive or get a cab to the campsite in Triq Dahlet ix-Xmajjar and then trek towards the northeast for 5 minutes or so.
Just make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes as the rocks are quite sharp here. Water shoes would be a big plus if you plan to swim. Also, as already mentioned above, there is no shade near Coral Lagoon so it is vital that you equip yourself with sunscreen and lots of water.
Best Time to Visit
Let's start with when you definitely shouldn't visit if you plan to swim. If strong winds are forecasted avoid swimming at all costs, whichever direction it's blowing, as the currents in the open sea are extremely dangerous to manoeuvre even during favourable winds.
In order to see and experience Coral Lagoon in its full glory as in the pictures in this article, there is no better time to visit than in the afternoon during the summer when the sea is calm and clearer. Yes, that does sound a bit mad to go to a place with no shade… in the afternoon… in summer, but we promise you it will be well worth it!