Around Easter Laura and I both had holidays which we decided to spend on Malta. Our main purpose was to have a good time and enjoy the sun with the possibility of finding a new species. In the latter we didn't succeed sadly but in the first goal we succeeded generously.
17th of April 2014
After work I first flew to Munich where I picked up Laura just after the security check. Our plane to Malta made a short stop in Sicily but at 23:30 we landed finally at our destination. Herping friend Leonard Zammit was already awaiting us and after collecting the rental car we drove on to the Zamco House. Leonard kindly invited us to stay in his family owned property and we had a beautiful mansion all to ourselves. Well after 01:00am we fell asleep.
18th of April 2014
After an early breakfast we first tried to find the maingoal of the trip and met Leonard at the capitol of the island, Valletta. With a few showers and some sun we thought weather conditions would be optimal for reptiles and so they were. Many Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauitanica) and Ocellated Skinks (Chalcides ocellatus) were seen basking. We could also find a first Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), a single Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) and Laura caught the only snake of the trip, a Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus). Despite the optimal conditions not a trace of the Algerian Whip Snake (Hemorrhois algirus), a species introcuced to Malta in the 1920's which can only be found around the harbour area of the capitol. In the afternoon we drove northwards, visiting Roman ruins near Xemxija, searching for frogs in the Kalkara ravine and around Mellieha and enjoying the view on Gozo from the Red Tower at the Marfa Ridge. A busy and succesful first day and in the evening we explored the capitol a bit more - even running into a Good Friday procession. In one of the many picturesque alleys we dined with a traditional Maltese dish called quesadillas.
19th of April 2014
First another failed attempt of finding Algerian Whip Snake at the known hotspot for this species. Another city park however did deliver the first Maltese Wall Lizards (Podarcis filfolensis) next to many Moorish Geckos and Ocellated Skinks. A nearby cemetery I spotted via Google Earth looked like perfect habitat for snakes but only the previously mentioned species were found. With a lot of sunshine and temperatures on the rise, we decided to give up for today and headed for the Golden Bay area. Here we had a picknick at the beautiful Ghajn Tuffieha beach, fed the local crabs, hiked towards Gnejna Bay enjoying splendid views and had a little dip in the sea at a deserted beach nearby. On the way back to our car we found a small puddle in the otherwise dry area and here we could find our first Painted Frogs (Discoglossus pictus). After a well earned ice cream we drove north of Mellieha to search for chameleons at dusk finding seven individuals. We had dinner in Mellieha and enjoyed some fabulous pasta beforing driving back to our accommodation.
20th of April 2014
In the morning we first searched the chameleon site again finding several individuals. Laura got into a fight with one chameleon and found out that getting bitten by a chameleon isn't as fun as it might sound. With beautiful pictures on our SD-cards and a few sore fingers we decided to spend this hot day at another nice beach we saw via Google Earth. The drive towards Imgiebah beach lead us over narrow roads over the Maltese country side and ended with a breathtaking view over a small and almost deserted sandy beach, a rare commodity around Easter. We walked a bit further along the cliffs finding many Ocellated Skinks and a few Painted Frogs in a small puddle and after a short hike we were rewarded with a small but completely deserted pebble beach were we spend the hot afternoon. When temperatures were receding we drove once more to Valletta to once more find only Skinks and Geckos. No Algerian Whip Snake for us sadly... We decided to give up before dusk and explored the beautiful capitol once more. At a beautiful square with a great view we ate some lovely hamburgers, appearantly another Maltese specialty.
21st of April 2014
Time to say goodbye to Malta and time to say goodbye to each other with me flying back to Amsterdam and Laura flying back to Munich. Spending Easter at Malta was a great idea and having some quality time together under the Mediterranean sun, finding deserted beaches and beautiful critters is definitely worth repeating! The absence of finding Algerian Whip Snake is puzzling however. We searched with three people for three days under three different weather circumstances in different suitable habitats and didn't find a single individual.
Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus)
Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)
Morish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus)
Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis)
Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)
Many thanks to: Jeroen Speybroeck but especially Leonard Zammit for his hospitality.