Monday, June 18, 2012

School Sports Tours to Malta

Malta has long been a favourite destination for schools sports teams looking for a safe, sunny European destination for their school sports tour.  Tours 4 Sport have some excellent sports tour packages to Malta already but when sports tours director Daniel Smith was invited on an inspection trip by the Malta Tourist Board, he found a destination that can offer school teams everything they could want from a sports tour, and so much more. Read what he had to say below.

The beach on the North of the Island (Golden Beach)
“Organising school sports tours is a tough job sometimes, especially when I have to leave the UK in the wettest May since records began and fly to Malta as a guest of the Malta Tourist Board. My inspection visit started at London  Gatwick but you can fly to Malta from most UK airports with Air Malta, Easyjet and Ryanair. After the 3 hour flight I stepped out onto the runway at Malta to 30 degree heat and a warm welcome from my driver who was waiting in the arrivals hall with a Tours 4 Sport sign. Over the course of the next 4 days my time spent in Malta took the form of a typical sports tour to the Island so that I could really understand what our sports groups get from a tour and why it’s still one of the most popular sports tour destinations on offer. Throughout my trip I visited the sports facilities, hotels, activities and excursions on offer as well as each of the towns where school teams might be based.


View of the Grand harbour from Valetta
The Maltese Islands in the middle of the Mediterranean are made up of the main island of Malta served by its own airport as well as the smaller islands of Gozo and Comino linked to the mainland by a 20 minute ferry trip. Malta has a rich and varied history which heavily influences the mix of culture, cuisine and people you’ll see on the island. It’s a fascinating Island with good weather most of the year and the people are very welcoming, proud of their heritage and thankfully speak excellent English.

One of the Marinas in the capital Valetta
On Malta our school groups stay in a number of towns including Bugibba, St Pauls and Qawra (prounounced Aura). Each of these towns is lively enough to keep most age groups entertained without being too loud or overbearing for school groups. St Julian’s is the party resort on the island where the main street has dozens of bars and clubs leading down to the sandy beach. It’s a great place for University or adult groups but as far as school groups go it’s far better to stay in the quieter resorts further up the coast to allow your pupils more freedom during any free time. Bugibba, Sliema, St Pauls and Qawra are situated on the East coast of the island. Each of these towns has a nice promenade, shops, bars and restaurants throughout the town and along the seafront but they are far more relaxed than the bustle of the 24 hour nightlife in St Julians.


The Topaz Hotel in Bugibba
Tourism is the main industry in Malta and the hotels reflect this. There are a number of excellent hotels that are suitable for school sports groups that cater for a range of budgets and requirements. Throughout my time in Malta I visited over 12 hotels to make sure that Tours 4 Sport can offer the best accommodation on the island and also complete some of the risk assessments required by the School Travel Forum. Most hotels have outdoor pools although during winter months these are occasionally not available so please check before you travel. In both 3* and 4* hotels the rooms are comfortable, air-conditioned and en-suite. They range from single rooms up to 4 bed rooms and all rooms are cleaned daily. Most groups tend to stay on a full board basis with breakfast, lunch and dinner included but we can also arrange to swap a dinner in the hotel for a night at a Pizzeria or typical Maltese restaurant (small supplements may apply).


One of the many 3G football pitches we use
Whether you want a tour for one team or a multi-sports tour Malta can offer a great range of sports including: Football, rugby, hockey, netball, swimming, water polo and tennis. We can tailor the fixtures to your requirements to ensure they are as fairly matched as possible. Football is the most popular sport on the island and is played to most levels at most age groups and our teams play on 3G astroturf pitches. Rugby is played at the Marsa sports club on one of the 3 grass pitches there, the standard of youth rugby is 
One of the local rugby teams
social to good with a good coaching programme in place to support rugby development. Netball is played widely across the island by schools and clubs. Most facilities are indoors but outdoor courts are available if you want to experience some netball in the sun. Hockey is played by several clubs on the main hockey facility on the island which is a sand-based astro in the middle of Malta. For any swimming groups the national swimming centre is a fantastic base with a 50m, 8 lane outdoor pool and diving centre with 10m platform.


One of the many large excursion boats. 
View of the Blue Lagoon on the Gozo boat trip
There are plenty of activities to entertain all school groups but there are certain excursions that I’ve tried and would highly recommend. Whilst in Malta this time I was invited to try the Gozo and Comino boat tour. Leaving from Sliema I boarded the boat and we set off for our first stop of Comino the small island in between Gozo and Malta. Travelling along the East coast of Malta the views of the country are superb and when you reach Comino you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Maldives.The boat moored and everyone disembarked to head for the ‘Blue Lagoon’, an area of crystal clear water and a small white sandy beach. From here you can also
head off on a speedboat tour of the caves of Comino which is well worth a trip for thrill-seekers and geography students alike. There is time for snorkelling and swimming but please note that no lifeguard is present at the beach or on the boat. After lunch on board the boat we set off to Gozo for a tour of the main harbour, moored just off the coast for more snorkelling and then we set sail for Sliema harbour after a brief detour to Valetta harbour. All in all it was a fantastic excursion and would be ideal to break up a school fixture schedule.

Valetta - one of the many fortified walls. 
One of the many caves of Comino
As well as the day trip boat tour to Gozo and Comino there are several other great options back on land. Marineland animal centre and the nearby waterpark are open from April to early October but please do ask us first so we can check opening times. For a cultural excursion we can offer a full day tour of the island or half day tours to the capital Valetta. The Valetta experience is well worth a visit, it’s a 45 minute film on the history of Malta and will really help you to understand the melting pot of cultures and history that makes Malta what it is today. As evening entertainment we can offer karaoke and disco nights either in your hotel or we can exclusively hire a local bar. Bowling and Karting are also popular excursions. Why not finish your tour at a Pizzeria or local restaurant for a very small supplement where you can hold a tour awards session and summarise the tour for your pupils. Please ask for a full list of the activities we can offer on Malta and we’ll be happy to offer suggestions.

This visit reaffirmed for me why Malta is such a good destination for our school sports tours: It’s as safe a destination as you’ll find in Europe, the hotels are ideal for school groups in some great locations, the sports facilities are good, so is the weather and there are plenty of activities to keep all ages entertained. I highly recommend it.

If you would like more information on a school sports tour to Malta please contact Daniel for more information on or you can call 0800 0433887.
Thank you to the Malta Tourist Board

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