The World Nomads Podcast: Malta

Beautiful beaches, rolling fields, white cliffs and desert landscapes – this Mediterranean archipelago punches above its weight.


Photo © Getty/Wojciech-P

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The World Nomads Podcast: Malta

This archipelago of three islands in the Mediterranean Sea punches above its weight with stunning scenery, great culture, history and super-friendly locals. It's the perfect destination to try your skills as a World Nomad, diving deep into a unique and very special place.

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What’s in the Episode

01:38 Meet David

05:58 There's so much to do. You can do, easily, two weeks, and not explore the whole thing.” 

08:47 Guess what? Phil’s clever.

13:46 Stacey McKenna

21:39 To be honest, Malta completely blew my expectations out of the water. I had spent so much time building it up that I was almost nervous.”

21:52 Travel News

25:30 The photographer scared of water.

28:38 Phil says he can’t drown.

36:00 Guide Me Malta.

Who is in the Episode

David Hoffman, a travel host and producer. Check out his blog David’s Been There.

Stacey McKenna is a Colorado-based freelance writer covering travel, nature, adventure, and science.

Rachelle Mackintosh is a wildlife photographer. Alongside her site Faunographic she also has her own podcast, Wild Lives.

Sarah Micallef is the editor of Guide Me Malta. More a portal than a blog as it operates in real time, with suggestions on places to stay, things to do, even traffic reports.

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Listen to Phil talk travel insurance on the Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast.

Listen to our episode on Australia. Outback pubs in Mad Max territory, souvenirs supporting Indigenous communities, the Australian sport going viral and the city where nudity is legal in public once a year

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Next Episode: TV host Scott Wilson.

About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by world nomads. The travel lifestyle, and insurance brand is not your usual travel podcast, it's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.

Kim: Thanks for hitting play on this episode of the podcast where we discover Malta. Now, it maybe small field, but it punches well above its weight.

Phil: Yeah, sure it does. It's home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and of course, the entire country was awarded the George Cross, the heroism and the devotion of its people during the Second World War. It's made up of three islands; Malta, the main island, Gozo, and Comino. And for a nomad, it's a popular destination. It's got beautiful beaches, and a mix of rolling fields, White Cliffs, and desert locations landscapes as well. There are also endless vineyards, and the food is pretty great too.

Kim: Well, you've sold me. I think we'll stop there.

Phil: Joining us next week ...

Kim: Now, well, we'll explore some of those things that you've mentioned in more detail with our guests. We'll also speak to a woman who photographs whales and dolphins, et cetera, but she's super scared of the water, super scared. That's slightly wrong, but let's get into it with David Hoffman, a travel host and producer. Now, he will tell us about Davidsbeenhere, in which he hands out plenty of traveling inspiration advice, but I think he's our first ever guest to kick off his own interview.

David Hoffman: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

Kim: Oi, oi, oi.

Phil: Oi, oi, oi.

Kim: Welcome to the podcast.

Phil: Welcome.

David Hoffman: Awesome.

Kim: Now, listen, you're called David. Here in Australia, anyone with the name David is known as Dave. Now, everyone-

David Hoffman: Dave.

Kim: Yep, everyone wants a mate who's a Dave. Dave's the one that you can call to come and help you put a new fridge in, nail a couple of nails into a fence post. There's always Dave. Are you a Dave? He's good for a beer, and a shoulder to cry on. Dave, is this you?

Phil: Right. He's gotta be it.

Kim: He has gotta be it, is he?

Phil: That's awesome.

David Hoffman: I have kids. I'm taking the edge off right now.

Kim: In fact, I'll tell you a very, very, very quick story. I used to work with a guy named David, and he was known as Dave on a breakfast radio show. And he came across a stat in Australia that parents weren't naming their kids David anymore. So there was gonna be a whole generation where there were no Davids, and we couldn't-

David Hoffman: Oh my God.

Kim: We couldn't imagine a world without Daves. You gotta have one.

Phil: You gotta have a Dave.

Kim: We gotta have a Dave. So, we gave away a kitchen. This was a [inaudible 00:02:37] request. We basically put a call out, and then a woman rang from the hospital maternity unit and said, "Look, I've had a baby. I don't know what to call it. Happy to call it David, what will you give me?" We said, "What do you want?" And she said, "New kitchen, consider it done."

David Hoffman: [crosstalk 00:02:54] That's a very good.

Kim: I know. I know. The the next generation dinner of Davids is in safe hands here in Australia at least. Thanks for joining us.

Phil: That's a goodie try.

Kim: It is, isn't it?

Phil: I reckon that's the best ever.

Kim: That is the best. Tell us about Davidsbeenthere.

David Hoffman: Okay. I'm David Hoffman from Davidsbeenhere. I started the company 11 years ago in college. Basically, it was the beginning of YouTube, and travel blogging, and becoming nomadic, and basically, independent, and being able to travel and make money online. That was 2008, and, I started back then, went through a lot o' hurdles, and now I'm back doing what I started doing, which was making videos on YouTube. And that's what I do full time. Videos on YouTube is what I do for a living. I also do Instagram, I have a website, but my main purpose is to inspire independent travel. Show people that you can go anywhere now, globally, with technology we have nowadays with an iPhone, and do anything, and travel anywhere.

Kim: You're not just a videographer, you were named by USA Today as one of the top 10 best travel videographers. So, you know your staff, and what sort of work are you capturing?

David Hoffman: Yeah. I mean, my thing is to capture culture, language, history, and food. I mean, the main things I think, shape you as a person when you travel. I just don't wanna go around and see [inaudible 00:04:33] beautiful places, I wanna really interact with people. What I think when you travel is that, you should really interact with locals. Go somewhere, explore, be with people, try their foods, drink their drinks, see their history, but really understand what this culture is about, and what they've gone through to get there. And that's where I think the history part is amazing.

David Hoffman: I love history. My family, my mom's family comes from a small Roman town in Umbria, Italy. Their house is actually next door to the Roman amphitheater. So, I'm a big history buff. I really enjoy learning about it, seeing what happened back then to make everything what it is today. And I think it's all about just globally becoming a global citizen, in a way.

Kim: Well, this episode is about Malta, and Malta has a very rich history. Would that be one of the things, or one of the reasons why you would visit that country?

David Hoffman: I love Malta, by the way. It's funny, 'cause when you reached out to me, I was like, "Damn, I haven't been there in seven years." And, it's such a small nation. It's one of the top 10 smallest nations in the world, but there's so much history, so much ... There's so much to do. You can do, easily, two weeks, and not explore the whole thing. There's three islands, is Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Malta's the mothership, in a way, then you have Gozo, which is next door, which is more Arab culture, but at the same time, there's a lot of history there. They used to have the Azure Window, which unfortunately fell apart two years ago, and then there's Comino, which is a beach island in the middle of both, but, a lot o' history.

David Hoffman: The British were there for, I think, 200 years, before that there the Knights o' St. John. So, a lot of history, and it's right there in between Europe, and Africa, so big mix of cuisine as well, between Arabic and Italian Sicilian food. I mean, the food will blow your mind.

Phil: You said you love connecting with people, and talking to people. I have been to Malta, but a long, long, long time ago, a lot more than seven days ago. But, if you wanna have a chat with somebody, Malta's good place to go. They don't mind the chat, do they? They love a chat. It's really easy to strike up a conversation with somebody in Malta

Kim: And even though they've got this cross language that's Italian, Arabic, there's a lot of English?

Phil: Yeah.

Kim: Yeah?

David Hoffman: Yeah. 'Cause the British were there, so I mean, they're all fluent, and I think, it's a second language for them.

Kim: Well, that's nice. So, when you're having a feed, do you say a feed, or something to eat? Sounds a little more polite, doesn't it? Or something to drink. If you're traveling on your own, it's not hard to strike up friendships. What are you laughing at?

David Hoffman: I'm laughing because, your accents, it's the same in Malta. In Malta, because it's Ex-Commonwealth, it was British, it does have ... They speak British, but with a little bit of a dialect in a way. It's really nice.

Kim: Do you find the Australian accent ... 'Cause Phil and I struggle sometimes with the podcast, with pronunciations, not because we...

Phil: Are uneducated.

Kim: ...uneducated, but it's just as Australians, we just can't seem-

Phil: It's all those hard vowels in Australian language. And very-

Kim: We just sound like something from another country, literally.

David Hoffman: Well, I'm from Miami, and this is a whole different ballpark.

Kim: I guess it is. There is an example, in an earlier podcast, I said, "The champ de lise." But that's all the kind of, "How much champ in your [inaudible 00:08:21] do you need?" Do you know what I mean? Champ de lise. It just doesn't come natural to us.

Phil: Well, there's some o' those words, which are like a shibboleth. See, I'm showing off my education. There's a road in my suburb, which is called Beauchamp road, but of course, it's spelled Beauchamp.

Kim: You're right.

Phil: But it's pronounced Beauchamp. So, one o' those sort of things. I'm not a total ignoramus.

Kim: He's had to impress you David. All right. Tell me more about Malta, and this idea that, what you capture supports the independent and vigorous traveler, which is what World Nomads is all about.

David Hoffman: Okay. Yeah, I mean, and look, as a individually, or independent traveler, it's just something that you have to think, like, "What can I do? How do I get around?" , especially doing it on your own without tours, and Malta's very easy. I mean, everything is a 30 minute drive, nothing's farther than that. You can stay in Valletta, which is the main capital of the country, and, from there you can go either to Marsaxlokk, which is a beautiful ... But it's a beautiful fishing village. From there, you can also go to the Blue Grotto, which is right next door. Then take a boat ride into there. It's a huge cave in the water. There's a there's the Hypogeum which is 5600 years old, which is one of the oldest necropolises in the world. That's another marvel on its own.

David Hoffman: And then, in terms of food, like I said before, it's huge mix. I'm half Italian, so I love Italian food, but the mix of the Arabic spices, it's so different. It's just, it's so unique in terms of how they mix rabbit and seafood as well with risotto. And then, again, getting around is something that I always look at, "How far is everything? Do I really wanna drive three hours on a day trip? No." This is a place where you can go to a beach half an hour away, be there two hours, and then go somewhere else, and be in a historical city, like Medina, which is the historical capital, which was, I think, it's 4000 years old in itself, and that place, I mean, it's ... I stayed in a boutique hotel there, but it's so beautiful, and it's very old streets, lots of little cafes, there's bars as well, so if you're a, I guess, a millennial, I don't know, 20 to 40 year old, and you wanna go and party at night, it's another place you can go and step out of the main tourist attractions, which is, I guess, more tourist central. This is more locals.

Phil: Which of the three islands was your favorite?

David Hoffman: My mother is from this place called Gubbio, and it's more like a ... It's not a town. I'm a city guy, 'cause I'm from Miami. I love the high paced stuff, but I like Gozo, because it's more chill. Gozo, the second main island is very relaxed. It's half the size of Malta. So, I mean, like I said, everything was 30 minutes over there, everything's 15 minutes over here. You have, I mean, tiny ... Everything's a village, but you can go to a farm, stay in a farming in one of these Bed and Breakfasts's. They have plum wine. They have these Grappa wines. They have salt on the water, some old Roman, like a salt mines gear. You have Victoria, which is the capital, which is now named Rabat, which also is a mix of Borok, and also like ... What's it called? St John's, when these guys conquered the island back in the 16th century.

David Hoffman: I mean, I like it there. It's more calm. Malta's more like ... Everybody's in Malta. Everybody will go to Malta, and go for three days. This is [inaudible 00:12:08] if you have some more time that I come here with kids.

Kim: Well, you've created a great picture, and I'm glad that we've been able to take you on a trip down memory lane, and given that you found our accents so funny, is there anything that you'd like to ask Phil and I about Australia?

David Hoffman: I've been to Australia only once, and when I landed, I landed in Darwin. [crosstalk 00:12:29]

Phil: That's a hot entry into Australia, isn't it?

Kim: Yeah, that is a hot entry.

David Hoffman: I love Sydney, by the way. The ferry system there's amazing.

Kim: You're gonna have to come back.

David Hoffman: I know. I know. It's so far. It takes me 30 hours to get there.

Phil: I think Kim's offering a bed there as well mate.

David Hoffman: You guys are so Aussie.

Kim: Here for you anytime, Dave. Always a beer in my fridge. Thank you so much for chatting to us.

David Hoffman: Awesome.

Kim: I really enjoyed that chat. Loved it. Still to come, find out though why Phil here believes he can never drown?

Phil: Yeah, no, not me. I'm not scared of the water. When I was born, I was born, what they say, was a veil on my face. My face was in a bag. Some people say it should still be in a bag,...

Kim: Face is in a bag.

Phil: ...but it was in a bag of skin, so it looks as though I was born with no facial features.

Kim: Curious how that relates to Phil believing he can never drown. He's seemed to like to chat with Rachelle about facing your fears. But right now, Stacy McKenna, she's written an article for us on, How To Go beyond Malta's Capital of Culture.

Stacy Mckenna: I had been obsessed with Malta for, I'd say, a decade before I went. That obsession really came from the language, from these really, really ancient sites that are scattered all throughout the Archipelago. And so, while I was interested in seeing Valletta, that wasn't what brought me there to begin with.

Kim: Well, your first stop was a state in the Silent city. Is that an official name, Stacy, or is this something that you've coined?

Stacy Mckenna: No, this is an official, unofficial name, that it's earned itself. Really, because the minute dusk hits, and most of the day trippers who do go to see the architecture, and some of the sites in that area, have left, the city just falls silent. It's so quiet. And, you can walk through these old walled alleyways. And it's just, it's stunning. And you get views of the island, probably, I believe it was of Valletta itself, actually, but the city is quiet, and the only people that are really around are a handful of tourists in the evening, and then people who live in the city itself in Midina itself, or in nearby Rabat.

Kim: After the Silent city, where did you go to?

Stacy Mckenna: After that, I headed ... Well, I headed to Rabat, which is really just a kilometer, two and a half kilometers away, depending on what part of the city's you're walking to. It was the slightly newer section to the Walled city. And, you still have a lot o' sites, and I went over there, I really didn't know what I was gonna see over there. I just started walking. And, I wandered over, and I saw a sign for St. Paul's Cathedral, and the catacombs that wind underneath it. And so, I headed in that direction. And that's where I ended up. It was these amazing series of catacombs that were carved into the limestone of the island. And, that part was ...

Stacy Mckenna: It was interesting, but I'd seen catacombs before. What ended up really striking me there, was that these had been originally built in the Roman era, because bodies couldn't be buried within the city walls. But, they had actually fallen ... They fell out o' use for a while, they became used again, and what really struck me was that, most recently, they had served as air raid shelters during World War Two. And, it just struck me as this amazing example of the way old structures just over and over again have taken on new meaning, and new use for people, really, I mean, with structures all over the world, but it's apparent, it's really apparent in Malta.

Kim: Walking ... No, I can't. As Australians, we are hopeless at pronunciations, because of our horrible flat vowels. Is it the Dingle heritage trail?

Stacy Mckenna: it's actually Dingli.

Kim: Right. I knew I would not get it right.

Stacy Mckenna: That's about a 40 minute bus ride out of Valletta. The whole trail winds roughly 12 kilometers, along the tops of the Dingli cliffs. And they're these just stunning towering limestone cliffs over the sea. And, the whole time, you pretty much have some degree of a view of the sea, and then you get the chance to come across a variety of sites along the way. The place where I got off the bus, basically dropped me off at this 17th century chapel. And, it was closed, I couldn't go in. And it was small. It was just a small village chapel. In and of itself, it wasn't super exciting to someone like me, who wasn't ... I wasn't really sure ...

Stacy Mckenna: That's not what I was there for, and I started wandering around, and walked behind the chapel, and I found this trail that cut down and switched back down the edge of this really steep hillside. And, as I did that, I found caves. I still don't know for sure what the caves were exactly, but as I started looking into it more, I found out that there are clay caves on that cliff band, that people think were inhabited starting in the middle ages, and all the way into the 1800s.

Kim: Did you stumble across these caves yourself?

Stacy Mckenna: Yeah, Yeah, I did. I mean, there was just a trail, and I just started walking down the trail, and that's where I happened upon the caves. And, like I said, they weren't marked, so I wasn't sure what I was looking at, until I got back later, and started researching.

Kim: Very cool. Very cool. Now, you mentioned the city, you also did a Blue Grotto tour.

Stacy Mckenna: I was really hesitant to do it, because it is one of the more touristy things people do on the island, and I was so glad that I did, because it's one of the touristy things that there is to do that there's a reason people wanna go do it. I had ended up, I had walked there from some of the older sites, and I went down, and it's this fisherman's dock, this old fishing dock, and you get onto one of these wooden boats that are just ... I mean, they're painted turquoise with bright yellow, and just beautiful bright colors. And then, there were about six of us, I think, on the boat, and we just took off along the coast toward the Blue Grotto.

Stacy Mckenna: And, basically, it's this cavern in the limestone, where ... I mean, the depths of the cavern, they go about 85 feet into the rock. And, as you go in, we would take turns, and a couple o' boats at a time only, could go into the caverns, and, as you did, the light would slant in from this very low angle. There was hardly any light, and what there was seemed to turn the water different colors. It seemed like it was glowing. And it was bright cobalt, in places it was purple or green. Reading other people's accounts, people talk about it being pink sometimes, depending on the weather, and the time o' day. And, I guess it's minerals in the rock that are causing that, and then I assume combined with the way that the light filters in at such a low angle.

Kim: Well, you say it's a touristy thing to do, but even if you're traveling as an adventurous, an independent traveler in France, you get to Paris, you wanna see the Eiffel Tower.

Stacy Mckenna: Exactly. Exactly. And like I said, some things draw people because they're really special. And, I mean, I live in landlocked Colorado, so I don't get a lot of opportunities to see really beautiful coastlines, and this was one that it surpassed any expectations I could have had.

Kim: That was going to be my final question. Did Malta live up to your expectations?

Stacy Mckenna: To be honest, Malta completely blew my expectations out of the water. I had spent so much time building it up that I was almost nervous. And, I can't wait for my next opportunity to go back.

Phil: Thanks Stacey. Traveling news now. Another popular tourist destination has been closed by the authorities, or it will be from January next. The Indonesian government is closing access to Komodo Island, because of what it says is rampant smuggling of the islands famous lizards. You know those giant lizards [crosstalk 00:22:10] dragons.

Kim: Good luck.

Phil: Well, they reckon more than 40 of them have been smuggled off the island, and they sell on the black market for over 30,000 US dollars each.

Kim: What for, his pants?

Phil: I've no idea, but I imagine that ... I mean, it's like that crazy stuff we found out with penguins, and what have you. People with ridiculous amounts of money decide, they've got everything they need except a Komodo dragon.

Kim: Or a penguin in the swimming pool.

Phil: Or a penguin in their swimming pool. All that, get the what ... Anyway, only that island will be closed, the rest of the National Park is still open. I think, I don't know the details, but I think you can still go see the Komodo dragons, but not on the island.

Kim: Shame.

Phil: This is why we can't have nice things. The UK post office has done a study of the most affordable European beach destinations for summer. They priced a basket of items including a bottle of beer, or a coffee, and a three course evening meal for two with a bottle of wine, and they tested that in 20 European beach holiday resorts.

Kim: I'll do that job. How would that be?

Phil: Not bad. The bill came to 45 euros at Bulgaria's Sunny Beach, which was the cheapest, while over in Sorrento on my beloved Amalfi Coast of Italy, the same item totaled 166 euros.

Kim: Oh.

Phil: Bulgaria, we should have a look at that destinations. I haven't come across it.

Kim: Well, for all of that for 45 euros, it sounds like great value.

Phil: Look, if there's anybody out there that knows about Bulgaria, wants to word us up on it, drop us a line at Bit of a safety warning for everyone here after a New Zealand family holiday in an Airbnb in Ireland, found a hidden camera in the living room. The father connecting to the WiFi found a device called IP camera connected to the same network, and he was able to hack into it, and see himself and his family standing there. Look, that's not a bad tip, when you check into rented accommodation, check the devices connected to the WiFi network, and if there's something [inaudible 00:24:14].

Kim: That is a massively good tip. Thank you.

Phil: All right. But they moved out straightaway, and they've in a argument with the bloke about it, but they've got the evidence, "There we are on your camera, mate."

Kim: That's not on.

Phil: How old were you when you got the old wanderlust, Kim?

Kim: Oh, I do remember this distinctly. It was when my grandmother went to New Zealand, and she brought me back a tiki and also music, merry music, and, from that moment on, I wanted to visit New Zealand. I've been three times since, so can't remember, but around 12.

Phil: And when did you start traveling on your own, what age?

Kim: Twenties.

Phil: How about this, eight years old?

Kim: On your own?

Phil: To [inaudible 00:24:58] Russia. Police have helped a family recover their eight year old son who ran away from home leaving a note behind saying he wanted to travel the world.

Kim: Good on him

Phil: Good on him. By the time they caught up with him, it was only a few hours later, but he had taken three bus trips, and he was running through the local city there, and he was carrying his piggy bank, and encyclopedia, and a banana.

Kim: I love this boy.

Phil: He's gonna go far, isn't he?

Kim: That is such a great story, but scary for the parents though, obviously.

Phil: Oh, totally. He's got his wanderlust already.

Kim: Rachelle Mackintosh is a wildlife photographer, so she definitely has wanderlust. She takes photos also of wilds and sea life, but the thing is, Phil, she's afraid of water, so she faces her fears every time she gets on a boat in the line of duty.

Phil: We reached out to Rachelle after our podcast featuring Susan Spann who's living in Japan attempting to climb 100 mountains in a single year, and writing a nonfiction book about, Facing Your Fears of Pursuing Dreams.

Rachelle M.: I love shooting marine mammals, and getting in the water with them when I can. The reality is, I'm absolutely petrified of the water. And, no matter-

Phil: Really want that job.

Rachelle M.: No matter I do, I just can't get over it. The thing is, I do try actively to face it, and different things to try to fix it. I am actually, next week, starting another snorkeling course, where I'll have personal instruction to try to troubleshoot anything that I might be doing wrong. But interestingly, it was probably a few days ago, I discovered this thing, and it's called the the mammalian dive reflex. And apparently ... I'm not a scientist, I'm a creative person, so I may make this up entirely, don't hold it against me.

Kim: That's okay.

Phil: Sure.

Rachelle M.: But, one of the things is that, when a human or any mammal puts their face in the water, there's a chemical reaction that happens, where your body automatically will start to slow down it's breathing, and the heart rate stops. And this is what free divers harness to get better at plunging deeper depths. And a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy, for anxiety, will advocate that kind of process as well to alleviate the anxiety. And in a very small percentage of people like me, I'm in a special group, that mammalian dive reflex can spark an anxious reaction as well, as soon as that happens.

Rachelle M.: So, as soon as you put your face in, there's this underlying thing that makes it extra anxious. And knowing that this is a chemical and biological thing, it's made me feel a lot more free, because it's not me trying to work out, "Oh my God, there's something crazy psychologically wrong with me." This is a physical reaction. And now, I feel empowered that I can probably try something to outsmart it. Does that make any sense?

Kim: Oh, it totally makes sense.

Phil: Yeah, yeah. It's not really your fault.

Rachelle M.: No, it's just-

Phil: It's, you're a mammal.

Kim: Everyone's scared of jumping in to deep water, and sharks, and all those things in water that can sting you, and bite. That doesn't worry you.

Rachelle M.: Oh, no.

Kim: What worries you?

Rachelle M.: The water. the actual water. Water is the most powerful force on the planet. Have you seen the Grand Canyon? That was created by water. Basically, once you get in that water, you have to surrender your entire control, and just know that it's just mysteries, man. There's just things in there, there's currents, and it's a very powerful thing, and ...

Phil: No, not me. I'm not scared of the water. And, that's a psychological thing as well, because when I was born, I was born, what they say was a veil on my face. My face was in a bag. Some people say it should still be in a bag.

Rachelle M.: Face is in a bag.

Phil: But it was in a bag of skin, so it looks as though I was born with no facial features. And, according to old wives tales, that means you'll never drown. If you keep that skin and put it in a jar, sailors will buy it from you as a good luck charm, and things like that.

Rachelle M.: I've never heard of this. [crosstalk 00:29:02]

Kim: It's amazing.

Phil: I know. I've always been told the story as a child.

Kim: Have you got the skin?

Phil: No, no, no, no, no. The midwife through it in the fire.

Rachelle M.: In the fire? Are we born ... Tell us how you were born?

Phil: My parents are English. I was born in England. I was born in the front room of our house. As was the practice then, that you had your first child in hospital, and then, because you knew how to do it, you'd have your second one at home.

Kim: You're a home birth.

Phil: My brother was born in hospital, and I was born in a front room by our midwife with no face.

Kim: Sorry for laughing. Front room with no face. And the fire was on, and the skin was thrown in it.

Phil: Yeah, I was born in the British winter in February.

Kim: [inaudible 00:29:41] Mine's a lot.

Phil: Having heard this story many, many, many times growing up, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Kim: Of course.

Phil: "I can't drown, because I was born with a veil on my face." I'm a friend of the water.

Kim: Let's try that after we finish later.

Phil: I'll see if I can drown in this glass of water.

Kim: You love photographing all sorts of animals,...

Rachelle M.: Yeah.

Kim: ...but whales, dolphins, the things are in the water. How do you do it then if you're so afraid?

Rachelle M.: Well, if I'm on a boat, it's totally fine, and that's how I do most of it, but it's once or twice a year that I'll do a trip to go and swim with them. And that ... Look, it's not pretty. I'm not gonna lie, I find it really hard, and confronting, and all shake like an idiot, really. Especially when I'm with my friends who are all very confident in the water, and everybody who I go with, the close friends of mine, and they know that this is a thing for me, and so they're forgiving, and nurturing and stuff. But it's just something that never ever gets easier. It just ...

Phil: And does it take away from the experience?

Rachelle M.: We'll keep going back, so I can't too much.

Phil: Probably not. [crosstalk 00:30:55]

Rachelle M.: It's pretty phenomenal. It's ...

Kim: Do you think that you could get, as you said, different experience, and maybe better shots? I'm not saying ... I've looked at your site, faunogrophic, it's fantastic. If you were to conquer this fear...

Rachelle M.: That's why I'm doing it.

Kim: ...and jump into the water, and ... That's why you're insisting.

Rachelle M.: That's why I keep going.

Kim: Right.

Rachelle M.: One o' the things that happened last year when I got in the water was, the guide who we were with, was phenomenal. He was a calmest ... His name was Ben. He was the calmest most ... He was Jedi, man. He was just saying all the right things, and would pull me by the hand to swim with me and stuff. And, one of the things that actually made it bearable for me was, I had my camera, and as soon as I was able to put my face in the water with the camera, and I was concentrating on the photos, and looking at the whales through the camera, I felt much better.

Rachelle M.: But, it was getting in the water, and putting the face in, and all the panic like, "What's going on here?", and over-analyzing, that sucked, man. But, once sort of focused on the camera, it got easier. That's what I feel like, if I continue to keep practicing, I'm gonna be able to get better and better at it. I'll never ever be comfortable in the water, because I have this unhealthy respect for her, but practice will make it easier, I think.

Kim: It doesn't stop you in any way.

Rachelle M.: No.

Kim: You just-

Rachelle M.: Honestly, I've been so fortunate. I've done the most incredible things, I've swam with sea lions in the Galapagos, Dwarf Minke whales, Great Barrier Reef. All these incredible things, Tonga, which I'm going back to later this year. It just doesn't get any easier.

Kim: Then it must be exhausting, that on top of the adrenaline of [crosstalk 00:32:41] amazing mammals.

Rachelle M.: Yeah. Once you put your ... You're in and you relax, and the mammals, the animals themselves ... I can't actually explain. I just bowled. There are no words to describe how magical it is. When I got in last year in Tonga, this huge ... These are humpback whales the size of a bus, and this humpback whale brought over her calf, which is the size of a hatch back, to have a closer look at us. And she came, you can't really say this, within the arm's length of me, she came that close to me, and her pectoral fin is huge. That could just kill you with one little absent minded flick of it. And she basically just raised it really gently in the water over my head, so she didn't touch me, and just having that interaction, it blows my mind. That's what makes me get on a boat.

Phil: Any ethical concerns there about interacting with the animals, even though they're the ones initiating it?

Rachelle M.: I always think about that, because, Like, "What's in it for them, really?" But, one of the things in Australia, and in Tonga, and all over the world, is there are very strict rules in place about how close you can get to the wildlife, and all while interactions are led by the animal. So, you get in the water, these animals are huge, and they're fast, and they're in their own element, if they don't wanna know you, they're gonna take off. As long as you're respectful, and you follow the rules, and take your cues from them, I don't have a problem with it. And don't ever touch them, that sort of thing. Just have a healthy respect.

Kim: You face your fears for your passion, and it doesn't stop you from traveling and experiencing.

Rachelle M.: No way.

Kim: And we finally clear it up why you think you can't drown?

Phil: Yeah, there you go.

Kim: Still came to put it to the test.

Phil: Or just to have me permanently wear a bag on my face.

Kim: I guess that too.

Phil: One or the other.

Kim: Rachelle has her own wildlife themed podcast, Wild Lives of which she recommends Episode 15 with legendary shark expert Valerie Taylor. We'll share a link in show notes plus her photography site faunographic. Now, speaking of podcasts, you've been a guest on another travel podcast, Extra Pack of Peanuts.

Phil: Yeah, a very popular podcasts, and it was great to talk to Trav on that one. We chatted about travel insurance, what it covers, what it doesn't do, and what to look for in a policy that fits your needs, and that is out today, same day as ours goes out. So, if you listen to us now, jump on over to Extra Pack of Peanuts, if you haven't got enough of me already.

Kim: We want more Phil. All right. Now, Sarah, she's the editor of [got-mi 00:35:16] It's less of a blog. This is a really interesting one. It's more of a portal, and it operates in real time, 'cause Sarah and her team are Maltese. And it has suggestions for places just to stay, things to do, even traffic reports.

Sara: Though it's a hybrid platform, so it's not a travel site as such, because we don't only targets people who are traveling to Maltese islands, we also ... Our readers are also local, and experts, so people who live on the island, have visited the island, looking to come back, anyone that's interested really, so it's differs in that way.

Kim: Small islands, how much is there to discover?

Sara: Even though it is really small, I think it's something like 316 square kilometers, and there's a lot packed in. The islands have been actually inhabited for many, many, many years, and have had lots of different rulers, each of which left their mark on the place. So there's lots to see from a historical point of view. There are prehistoric ruins and remains, and dating back to different time periods. You'd find several reminders from each period here, and that tends to be very interesting to [inaudible 00:36:46] up and down stories really. It's an island in the Mediterranean, so there's the natural beauty of it's is one really wide variety of things, even though it is, as you say, really small.

Kim: Being a local then, this statistic blew me away. There are over 329,000 vehicles registered in Malta, which is a huge number considering 425,000 people. Why the fascination then with cars?

Sara: It's embarrassing, but I think there are several reasons for it really It's not just bound to any one thing. The first thing I'd say is probably the less than perfect public transport system. There's been talk of introducing different systems over the years like trains or trams, but non have really gotten off the ground as yet. Apart from that, the Maltese are known to be a little lazy, or shall we say, laid back, as people. So anything too strenuous such as walking for a long distance, or cycling under the hot summer sun isn't the most attractive prospect, and to be fair to us, with a lack of bicycle lanes, and proper infrastructure for cyclists, which is another thing that is being worked on, it sadly, isn't really incentivized either, so alternatives to cars by government, and the authorities, so cars just become the most convenient option for most, I suppose, for their daily commute.

Kim: And, I work with a guy who's family is from Malta. He was born there, but he lives in Sydney, and he said there's also a fascination with, well, not a fascination but, an enjoyment of eating rabbits.

Sara: Oh, yes. It's one of our traditional meal. It's more of an event, really. We call it [foreign language 00:38:35], which is a rabbit meat, where the family traditionally gathers, and goes together to one of these places, usually, in the north of Malta. Back in my parent's generation, a lot of Maltese families used to actually breed rabbits at home. My dad did as well, being an animal lover, but he could never bring himself to obviously, kill them for food, but I think every Maltese person has a family story of a pet bunny called snowy going missing, and then having a lovely rabbit's meal, and not making the connection until sometime later.

Kim: So, in closing, small island but packs a punch.

Sara: I would think so. I mean, as I said, I've lived here, well, my entire life, and there are still areas, there are still places that I enjoy going with my boyfriend, so hobby we have, where we act as tourists in their own home, obviously with the site as well, it makes it all the more interesting to discover new places, and tell people about them. But there is still barriers, and bendings in histories, so, so many things that I'm still discovering now. It really does. It really does pack a bunch.

Kim: Okay, well that almost brings us to the end of the podcast, but given David earlier on in the episode, found our Australian accent so funny, you might like to listen to our podcast episode on Australia.

Speaker 8: White Cliffs in general is one of those uniquely Australian places in that just like keep repeating Outback South Australia, most of the local residents leave underground because of the incredible temperatures that happen all year round, but particularly in summer. You rock up to White Cliffs, and driving, and you don't really stay many people around, but people do leave, they're just all underground

Kim: I love White cliffs, and it's [crosstalk 00:40:38] landscape.

Phil: I've never been.

Kim: Oh, you've gotta go. Absolutely. A link to the episode in show notes. Now, you can get the World Nomads podcast on iTunes. You can download the Google podcast app. Please subscribe right, and share, and tell your friends about us.

Phil: Next week, Scott Wilson host of the TV shows, Departures, and Descending.

Kim: See yeah.

Phil: Bye.

Speaker 1: The World Nomads podcast, explore your boundaries.

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1 Comment

  • Diane Hope said

    Couple of comments about your audio podcast:
    1. Chit chat is nice but it takes a lot of listening to get not a lot of info. How about some quick summaries of key points .. and then maybe a more creative presentation featuring more of your interviewees talking & less of the presenters?
    2. You’re working in the medium of audio - but where are the SOUNDS of the places you mention.
    Would love to help you with some audio design. Talk a listen to ‘Here Be Dragons’ first broadcast on Australian Radio National’s Soundproof
    aka @audioninjachick

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