Escape the urban sprawl and enjoy open space at this wetland wildlife haven.
Għadira nature reserve is located in the north of Malta, on the outskirts of Mellieħa. The 7 hectare reserve comprises of brackish lake and saltmarsh habitat. Due to our dry climate in Malta, permanent areas of inland water are rare, making the Għadira wetlands are an extremely important habitat for birds and other wildlife. Around 140 species of migrating birds are seen annually. Most of the birds seen are migrants, stopping to rest and refuel before continuing their long migration journeys. Għadira Nature Reserve is a fully protected bird sanctuary, a Ramsar site, and a Special Area of Conservation within the EU Natura 2000 network.
For centuries the site was used a saltpan by the residents of neighbouring Mellieħa. Use dwindled in the 1500’s when the new saltpans at Salinas were constructed, and so the site fell into disuse. The area became silted up, and the construction of a road separated the area from the beach, leading to seasonal pools forming which attracted waterfowl. Proposals for a new inland road almost destroyed the site in the 1960’s but the plans were stopped after BirdLife protested. But the dry lake bed was still used a summer car park for beach goers. Għadira was declared a bird sanctuary in 1978 and in 1980 the government adopted BirdLife’s plans to restore the lake and saltmarsh habitat, and turn the site into a proper wardened nature reserve.
What To Spot
The open waters of Għadira Nature Reserve attract migrant wading birds such as redshank, sandpipers and egrets.
Along the trails look out for the sea daffodil, golden samphire and sea-lavender, as well as Mediterranean chameleons and rabbits hiding amongst the shrubs and trees.
The call of the Zitting Cisticola can often be heard overhead, and resident moorhens are easy to spot across the pools.
In the spring stop by to see Black-winged Stilts and Little Ringed Plover, both of which breed at the reserve. If you’re lucky you might even catch a migrating Eurasian Spoonbill or Greater Flamingo stopping by to feed and rest!
Opening Hours and Getting There
The reserve is open from November to May, Mon-Fri between 1pm and 5pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm. Entrance to the reserve is free of charge.
If you are new to birdwatching, volunteers are on hand to provide assistance and help you spot some of Ghadira’s special wildlife. Please note, the reserve is a no smoking area and no pets are allowed inside the reserve.
Għadira Nature Reserve
Contact No: 7955 4347
The reserve is located on Triq Il-Marfa, past the Mellieħa Holiday Centre and over the roundabout. Parking is available.
Accessible from bus stop ‘Għadira’ on the routes 37, 41, 42, 221, 222, X1.