Watch: Can we all reserve “our” place in Comino all summer?
Officially, Comino has only one campsite and no one is allowed to set up a camp elsewhere. But in practice, the advent of warmer weather results in semi-permanent camps at other prime locations within the island, and this year is no exception.
The construction of these semi-permanent camps in Comino is a long-standing phenomenon, as likely confirmed by people who have visited the island and strayed beyond the picturesque Blue Lagoon. But the practice gained renewed attention in 2019, when authorities acted to shut down the island’s only official campsite for environmental reasons.
This campsite was located just behind the bay of Santa Marija and its protected dunes; its clearing aims to allow this fragile habitat to survive and even to extend into the cleared site. A new campsite was finally set up in an area known as Tal-Ful in 2019.
But the semi-permanent tents were still pitched near Santa Marija Bay that summer, and the Times of Malta reported that they had in fact received the blessing of the Environment and Resources Authority. At the time, ERA had confirmed that while camping was allowed outside the designated site, it was only allowed under strict conditions, although that eluded many questions from journalists about it.
The practice appears to have persisted this year, judging by complaints from readers of Newsbook.com.mt, who also submitted a number of photos and videos of a sizable camping village filled with a fence of fortune to deter foreigners. The fact that the camp in question is not dismantled when its occupants leave the camp, effectively allowing them to reserve the site for months, adds insult to injury.
Newsbook.com.mt therefore asked the ERA for an explanation, but the questions sent a week ago remained unanswered.
The newsroom didn’t just look into whether this year’s campsite had the blessing of authority: it also questioned whether reserving a share of Comino all summer was a privilege reserved for a few. privileged, or if everyone could choose to jump on that particular train. – at least insofar as an island of 2 m² allows it.
How long can the camps stay in place?
The permits themselves may be just the tip of the iceberg.
It can reasonably be said that camping outside the very few designated areas present in Malta is not of much concern, as long as campers respect the environment in which they are staying. Such a practice is even an essential part of what’s known as the President Award, a long-standing youth program that requires participants to take a long trek across the country and set up a camp along the way.
But such arguments are based on the assumption that the campsite in question is indeed a temporary activity, limited to a few nights at most. A ‘camp’ that stays in place for months – as is the case with these Comino camps year after year – could perhaps best be described as makeshift vacation accommodation, heir to a tradition that has led in the Armier slum. the proliferation of caravans all along the Maltese coast.
With this in mind, therefore, Newsbook.com.mt We did not ask for detailed clarifications on the environmental conditions imposed on campers, although we did ask ERA to verify whether our images showed clear violations of these.
Instead, ERA was asked to indicate how long these campsites can stay; in the absence of an answer, the legality of the campsite remains unclear.
What about competing claims?
Newsbook.com.mt Also understands that Comino campers have no title to the land they occupy, which may raise additional questions.
Presumably, their right to claim the site is no greater than anyone’s. But what if someone else wanted to camp in the same area?
The problem is further complicated by the length of the campsite; the dismantling of the campsites as soon as they are vacated could in all likelihood allow a much more equitable sharing of these sites.
For now, it seems there isn’t much for visitors to Comino to do, but lament that other campers have beaten them up at the best campsites on the island. But assuming a fair system is in place, there is always next year.