Protected natural areas
Geology & Geomorphology
Protected natural areas
Natura 2000 is the largest network of protected areas in the EU, comprising a database of sites which contain rare species of flora and fauna, listed in the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive.
The Cliffs Estate and Interpretation Centre are found in the middle of the largest Special Areas of Conservation in the Island and almost contiguous to a Special Protected Area overlooking the South West coast, an area full of beautiful landscapes, habitats and protected species which attract many visitors. We have strived to promote the conservation of biodiversity, enhance local land user inputs and contribute to socio-economic development from the very beginning. We are the only private entity in the whole stretch of the SAC operating all year round and initialising innovative initiatives of information dissemination to all visitors.
Dingli Cliffs are adorned with garrigue and rupestral communities. Low aromatic small-leaved shrubs and herbaceous spiny plants, adapted to survive the summer drought are typical of garrigue vegetation communities which dominate the upper plateau within outcrops of bare rock. A number of indigenous plants, both annual and perennial can be encountered surrounding Dingli Cliffs, including the Mediterranean Thyme, Yellow Kidney Vetch, Olive-leaved Germander, Mediterranean Heath and a variety of orchids.
The Cliffs themselves provide important refuge for many species, including endemic ones. The unique rupestral ecological community, that of the Boulder screes (locally called Rdum) hosts many interesting plants species, which are highly adapted to the cliffs’ continuous exposure to strong winds, the scorching sun and pelting rain. A large number of endemic plants, found only in the Maltese Islands grow in the inaccessible and sheltered conditions of the boulder screes, such as Malta’s national plant, the Maltese Rock-centaury, Maltese Cliff-Orache and the Maltese Salt-Tree.
At the foot of inland cliffs in relatively inaccessible areas, shrubs and tree communities typical of the Maquis vegetation abound. Typical trees include the Olive, Carob and the Lentisk.
Just 2km away from The Cliffs lies Buskett Woodland, the main woodland in the Islands and characterised mainly by evergreen indigenous trees such as the Holm Oak and the Aleppo Pine.
Despite Malta’s small size, the insect fauna is quite considerable. Most of the fauna in the Maltese Islands consists of insects and molluscs. In fact, about 20 species of butterflies and about 500 species of moths have been recorded from the Maltese Islands.
A number of residential birds are found here at Dingli Cliffs along with a relatively high number of migrating seabird colonies. Dingli Cliffs are home to the nesting sites of Malta’s national bird species, the Blue Rock Thrush which prefers rock cavities within the cliffs. Two other residential birds are the Sardinian Warbler and the Zitting Cisticola. The little islet of Filfla is a bird reserve and sanctuary for three different types of seabird species which breed there.
Twenty mammals are found in the Maltese islands, eleven of which are Bats. Bats use different sites for roosting, with the cliffs offering a rich breeding and roosting ground due to protection from the prevailing northern winds.
One can also encounter a number of reptiles. Wall lizards, Geckoes, Chameleons and Ocellated Skinks are not a rare sight on a hot summer day. The largest and most common snake in the Maltese Islands, the Western Whip Snake, prefers dry places in open rocky ground and cliffs.
Wild rabbits can be seen down the cliffs whilst spring and autumn offer sightings of a vast number of migratory bird species, some of which stay for a short period during the winter.
Geology & Geomorphology
Dingli Cliffs are undoubtedly renowned for their spectacular plunging tiered sea cliffs, showcasing the five-layer rock sequence of the Maltese Islands, shaped by the effects of time and tectonic forces on the various rock layers through a 30 million year history.
The oldest rock layer, the Lower Coralline Limestone (Żonqor), forms the base of the Dingli Cliffs close to sea leavel. The softer Globigerina Limestone (Franka) is a fine grained limestone full of tiny microscopic fossils, which often weathers into gentle slopes in the interior of the Maltese Islands and in sea-cut cliffs.
Together with the Globigerina Limestone, the soft blue-grey marls of the Blue Clay (Tafli) slopes separate the two-tier vertical cliffs and are responsible for the formation of clayey soils and the farmed agricultural holdings at Dingli Cliffs. The impermeability of the Blue Clay is important for the underground storage of freshwater.
Overlying is the Greensands (Ġebla s-Safra), a thin exposed fossiliferous layer, less than 1 width which attains its orange colour from oxidisation and exposure to air. Strolling along “Panoramic Road”, one may appreciate the topmost plateau characterised by the youngest Upper Coralline Limestone (Qawwi ta’ Fuq), which dates to around 7-5 million years. Today, the plateau surface consists of karstic limestone infilled by garrigue vegetation communities.
The highest ridge of the Maltese Islands stand at 253m elevation from sea level at Ta’ Dmejrek, just 2km from The Cliffs Interpretation Centre!