A swimming spot appreciated by the Gozitans and less noticed by visitors to the island is Xwejni Bay on the northern coast. It’s just to the west of the resort of Marsalforn and can easily be reached on foot from the centre of the town. It’s best approached, however, from further west, via the coastal road from Wied il Ghasri along which the ancient salt pans glisten like crystals above the deep blue sea below which divers are discovering an underwater landscape with deep caves and an infamous double arch rock formation.
Above the water line, this stretch is extraordinary too and if you are walking or cycling you can drop down below the road onto the soft vanilla yellow of curved rock formations that could easily be from a galaxy far far away, traversed by Luke Skywalker in a trusty Landspeeder. Here in a place where the coastal rock widens, you’ll find a giant spiral of small piles of pebbles that look like the unexplained remnant of an ancient culture but appeared as if by magic only last spring, an alien ‘crop circle’ on the island’s fringe. And then as the chequered salt pans become increasingly regimented along the roadside and you see small doors hewn into the side of the cliffs from which salt has been stored and sold for generations, the cliffs descend to sea level and the coast curves into a small bay in front of you: this is Xwejni.
There’s a small pebble beach and giant boulders to clamber on; the water is clear, swimmers chat in coloured caps, and there’s excellent snorkelling. There’s also the chance, often, to watch trailers reversing down the slipway to deposit bobbing boats into the bay, a sight that always thrills The Significant Other. There are a couple of down-to-earth options for coffee and ice-cream and spanking new toilets too but it isn’t the beach, the water or the facilities here that make this spot particularly memorable. This bay is special because of the striking ‘space cave’ on the far side of the water, across the bay, a unique rock formation in an organic soft-edged pyramid shape that Gaudi would have loved, a ovular opening set afront this peculiar inverted funnel.
You can walk around the edge of the bay to step inside the cave which is only a shallow opening: however the rock is so soft, it is surprisingly slippy to walk upon. I speak from bruised experience: add foolishly wet feet into the mix and I discovered there’s every chance you’ll end up on your bottom in a rock pool spread-eagled like an over-sized starfish, a rock-pool invader from another planet.