Tag Archives: Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banus

My Holidays in Malta, Mellieha and St Paul’s Island

Mellieha Malta

As I have said I have been to Malta several times and always to the town of Mellieha on the north coast close to the ferry port with a crossing to neighbouring Gozo.

I think I recollect correctly that on each of these visits I have visited the town but have always been drawn to the top of a steep hill where the Church stands close by to the main square and a ribbon of traditional shops and restaurants.

This is what Mellieha looked like when I first visited in 1997 but it is a lot more built up now.  The Mellieha Bay Hotel can be made out on the far side of the bay…

Mellieha 1991

I thought it was time for a change so this time after I had walked around the waterfront and the and the sandy beach and as I reached the fork in the road that led up to the town I turned left instead of carrying on and walked along the rocky southern shoreline of Mellieha Bay.

I followed signposts to a small museum housed in an old watch tower right on the edge of the harbour.  Apparently it is a museum about tuna fishing and I am certain that I would have found that interesting but it was closed for renovation.  Apparently the three hundred year old tower is collapsing under the weight of tons of concrete poured onto the roof during the Second World War when it was part of the Island’s defense network.

So I carried on walking.

Mellieha Weekend Homes

The further away that I wandered from the beach and the harbour area there was not much to see, no shops, no bars then a private road with a gate and some holiday flats beyond so I had to turn back and then some interesting weekend homes.

Interesting because rather like railway arches in big UK cities they were built under an elevated section of the road,.  Many were boarded up and barricaded with hefty padlocks but in some the shutters were open, children were playing, there was a smell of Mediterranean cooking and damp laundry was dying in the gentle breeze.  It seems that these are weekend retreats for people from Valletta who drive down here on a Saturday, open the doors, give their washing a good blow in the breeze and enjoy a few hours out of the busy city.

I had walked about four miles or so by now and I was coming to the end of the urban development, the asphalt road became unpaved track and thereafter a dusty footpath that kept going to the end of the peninsular and I carried on because at the end of the mainland there was something I wanted to see – St Paul’s Island.

St_Paul's_Island_As_seen_from_Mellieha

Saint Paul is the Patron Saint of Malta because in 60 AD he was shipwrecked on the island, an incident which is recorded in some detail in the Acts of the Apostles.  Paul was on his way back to Rome to stand trial but a great storm sank the ship close to Malta and Paul and everyone else on board took refuge on a crop of rock and all were saved.  Today there is a statue of him there to commemorate the event.

Malta is the most religious country in Europe…

…it has more religious public holidays than any other in Europe and 10th February is especially important because this is the The Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck which was bad luck for Paul but good fortune for Malta because it brought Paul to the island in the year 60AD and whilst there he went promptly about converting the island to Christianity.

But my story of St Paul’s Island does not end here and I give you my word that I am honestly not making this up but in 1997 I too suffered the same fate.  Taking a speed boat ride with Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banis the boat broke down and we were stranded on the very same rock in a storm for twenty minutes or so until thankfully rescued and transferred safely to Bugibba.

saint-paul-shipwreckMalta waves

My nostalgic curiosity satisfied I turned around now and headed back the way that I come, back towards Mellieha.

For the record there are three more St Paul’s Islands that I can find, one in the Bering Sea (Alaska) another in Nova Scotia and a third in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and I am fairly certain that Paul wasn’t shipwrecked on any of these.

feast-of-st-pauls-shipwreckSt Paul's Grotto

Other Saint Stories…

Saint James and Santiago de Compostella

Saint Patrick and Ireland

Saint Spiridon and Corfu

Malta, Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banis

The weather had been gloriously hot ever since our arrival so we had agreed that a boat ride to Comino would be a nice way of avoiding the heat for one day and we booked up for a sea journey with Captain Morgan’s cruises which operated out of Sliema on the opposite side of the bay to the capital Valletta.

On the day of the cruise we took one of the island’s iconic yellow, orange and white buses that once operated across the island and drove the twenty kilometres or so to the embarkation point and joined the other passengers on the red and white cruise boat and selected a chair on the open top deck and looked out at the boats going backwards and forwards into Valletta harbour with its tiers of honey coloured churches and houses while we waited for departure time.

Valletta Malta Grand Harbour

Eventually the boat cast off and sailed out of Sliema and began the two and half hour journey along the coast towards our destination.  It has to be said that after only a short while this became a bit tedious because to be honest the coastline of Malta is not the most picturesque in the Mediterranean.

There are no dramatic mountains, no green forests, not really very many beaches, just kilometre after kilometre of monotonous pepper grey sandstone shoreline, the occasional township and the odd fishing boat.  After we had passed by the unremarkable resorts of St Julian’s and St Andrew’s  and then St Paul’s Bay we began to realise that this was just about all there was to see and this was going to be a long trip.

Jonathan was so bored that he feigned sea sickness just for something to do.

After about an hour and a half however there was a bit of activity when a white speedboat caught up with Captain Morgan and began to put on a show of slalom turns and nautical acrobatics all the while churning the sea into dramatic white foam and spray.  The driver was a middle aged man with a deep suntan, inappropriately tight Speedo swimming trunks and a tousled mop of unruly curly hair, he had a microphone and was shouting and waving to the passengers on our boat.

This it turned out was Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banus, a living legend in Malta who runs an independent and entertaining speed boat service for tourists.

After a while he sped off and we settled down again to the rhythmic chug of Captain Morgan’s more sedate engine, more boring coastline including a lump or rock where St Paul was supposed to have landed in 60 AD and then a quite unremarkable buffet lunch before we arrived and dropped anchor in the Blue Lagoon at Comino.

Comino is a chunk of barren rock half way between Malta and Gozo and with nothing to do especially except wander along the dusty paths we sat on the rocks like seagulls and took an occasional dip in the clear waters of the lagoon and watched the Malta to Gozo ferry pass regularly by and fretted about the two and half hour return journey.

As the time to leave began to approach there was a sudden roar of an engine, the tranquillity of the bay was shattered and Crazy Tony returned in his speedboat.  As we were queuing to get back on the boat he came alongside and reminded us just how boring the journey was and for a reasonable price offered us a faster return journey and a bit of fun.  We didn’t have to think about this for very long and we handed over the money and clambered into the boat and were thankful that the Captain Morgan experience was over.

Banana Boat Malta

When he had filled the boat he uttered his catch phrase ‘Hoki Koki’ opened the throttle and we were away.  We didn’t leave the Blue Lagoon straight away however as first he took us into some caves that surround the bay and played a well rehearsed trick of supposedly catching a bat and releasing it amongst the squealing passengers.

Once Captain Morgan was under way and making its sedate return journey he caught it up and over the microphone taunted the passengers who had rejected his exciting return alternative.  Jonathan’s sea sickness had completely disappeared by now and he forgot all about it when Crazy invited him to the front of the boat and into the driver’s seat and he took us out to sea at full speed.  Crazy was in his element and he cracked jokes and performed tricks and we were soaked with the spray and thoroughly entertained.

And then things began to go wrong!  About half way back the sea became much rougher and the waves much higher and then the roar of the engine began to fade to a whimper and there were alarming spluttering and coughing noises as it was clearly struggling to keep going.  We knew there was trouble because Crazy went quiet for the first time and I think his suntan faded a couple of shades as well.

Finally the engine stopped altogether and we were stranded about half a kilometre out to sea without power.  Crazy made radio contact with someone on shore but was unable to restart the engine and eventually we had to row to the chunk of rock where St Paul had landed two thousand years before and wait to be rescued.

We left the boat while Crazy continued to work on the uncooperative engine and clambered over the black rocks that were now being pounded by an increasingly rough sea.  Things didn’t look good and we worried about how long we might be stranded.

After fifteen minutes or so and before assistance arrived Crazy was finally successful in coaxing the engine back into life and we were invited back on board.  It still didn’t sound completely healthy however and when Crazy offered the option of being dropped off in St George’s rather than go all the way back to Sliema we didn’t need to be asked twice.  The boat spluttered and limped back to the nearby town and were glad to reach dry land where we left the boat and wished good luck to those who had chosen to complete the ride.

It was a bit scary at the time but now that we were safe we had to agree that it had been a lot of fun and there was still no sight of Captain Morgan so we went for a drink and then caught the bus back to Mellieha Bay.

I have Googled ‘Crazy’ and I am pleased to report that he is still working and there is a Facebook fans site which describes him as:

‘If anyone in the past 35 years has been blessed with the Oki Koki experience then I am sure you will be humbled by this dedication to the charismatic legend known around the island as Mr Crazy the ultimate tour guide of the Blue Lagoon. After 35 years the founder of tours in the area has not lost his charm with the tourists and if anyone should be given an award for being the face of Malta it has to be HIM.’

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Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Corfu-1984 Georges Boat

Motorboat Ride from Kalami to Corfu Town

Motorboat Ride from Kalami to Corfu Town

The Bay of Bodrum in Turkey

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

Gondola Ride in Venice

Captain Ben’s Boat in Anti Paros

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Istria 2011, A Boat Ride With Dolphins

Funghi Dingle Bay Dolphin

The next morning the church bells woke me again at six o’clock and after a good night’s sleep I found it impossible to snooze away another hour or so, so knowing that Micky is an early riser and would probably be wandering about the village I decided to dress and go and see if I could find him.  There was no sign of him in the streets or the coffee bars and it turned out that just like me the day before he was on early morning shopping mission to buy a new travel kettle to replace the one that Sue and Christine had somehow managed to blow up!

Read the full story…

Malta, Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banis

Writing about the day out on George’s boat on Corfu in 1984 reminded me of another memorable boat ride, this time on the island of Malta in 1997.

We were staying at the Mellieha Bay Hotel in the north-west of the island and the weather had been gloriously hot ever since our arrival so we had agreed that a boat ride to Comino would be a nice way of avoiding the heat for one day and we booked up for a sea journey with Captain Morgan’s cruises which operated out of Sliema on the opposite side of the bay to the capital Valletta.

On the day of the cruise we took one of the island’s iconic yellow, orange and white buses that once operated across the island and drove the twenty kilometres or so to the embarkation point and joined the other passengers on the red and white cruise boat and selected a chair on the open top deck and looked out at the boats going backwards and forwards into Valletta harbour while we waited for departure.

Eventually the boat cast off and sailed out of Sliema and began the two and half hour journey along the coast towards our destination.  It has to be said that after only a short while this became a bit tedious because to be honest the coastline of Malta is not the most picturesque in the Mediterranean.  There are no dramatic mountains, no green forests, not really very many beaches, just kilometre after kilometre of monotonous pepper grey sandstone shoreline, the occasional township and the odd fishing boat.  After we had passed by the unremarkable resorts of St Julian’s and St Andrew’s  and then St Paul’s Bay we began to realise that this was just about all there was to see and this was going to be a long trip.  Jonathan was so bored that he feigned sea sickness just for something to do.

After about an hour and a half however there was a bit of activity when a white speedboat caught up with Captain Morgan and began to put on a show of slalom turns and nautical acrobatics all the while churning the sea into dramatic white foam and spray.  The driver was a middle aged man with a deep suntan, inappropriately tight Speedo swimming trunks and a tousled mop of unruly curly hair, he had a microphone and was shouting and waving to the passengers on our boat.  This it turned out was Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banus, a living legend in Malta who runs an independent and entertaining speed boat service for tourists.

After a while he sped off and we settled down again to the rhythmic chug of Captain Morgan’s more sedate engine, more boring coastline including a lump or rock where St Paul was supposed to have landed in 60 AD and then a quite unremarkable buffet lunch before we arrived and dropped anchor in the Blue Lagoon at Comino.

Comino is a chunk of barren rock half way between Malta and Gozo and with nothing to do especially except wander along the dusty paths we sat on the rocks and took an occasional dip in the clear waters of the lagoon and watched the Malta/Gozo ferry pass regularly by and fretted about the two and half hour return journey.

As the time to leave began to approach there was a sudden roar of an engine, the tranquillity of the bay was shattered and Crazy Tony returned in his speedboat.  As we were queuing to get back on the boat he came alongside and reminded us just how boring the journey was and for a reasonable price offered us a faster return journey and a bit of fun.  We didn’t have to think about this for very long and we handed over the money and clambered into the boat and were thankful that the Captain Morgan experience was over.

When he had filled the boat he uttered his catch phrase ‘Hoki Koki’ opened the throttle and we were away.  We didn’t leave the Blue Lagoon straight away however as first he took us into some caves that surround the bay and played a well rehearsed trick of supposedly catching a bat and releasing it amongst the squealing passengers.

Once Captain Morgan was under way and making its sedate return journey he caught it up and over the microphone taunted the passengers who had rejected his exciting return alternative.  Jonathan’s sea sickness had completely disappeared by now and he forgot all about it when Crazy invited him to the front of the boat and into the driver’s seat and he took us out to sea at full speed.  Crazy was in his element and he cracked jokes and performed tricks and we were soaked with the spray and thoroughly entertained.

And then things began to go wrong!  About half way back the sea became much rougher and the waves much higher and then the roar of the engine began to fade and there were alarming spluttering and coughing noises as it was clearly struggling to keep going.  We knew there was trouble because Crazy went quiet for the first time and I think his suntan faded a couple of shades as well.  Finally the engine stopped altogether and we were stranded about half a kilometre out to sea without power.  Crazy made radio contact with someone on shore but was unable to restart the engine and eventually we had to row to the chunk of rock where St Paul had landed and wait to be rescued.  We left the boat while Crazy continued to work on the uncooperative engine and clambered over the black rocks that were now being pounded by an increasingly rough sea.  Things didn’t look good and we worried about how long we might be stranded.

After fifteen minutes or so and before assistance arrived Crazy was finally successful in coaxing the engine back into life and we were invited back on board.  It still didn’t sound completely healthy however and when Crazy offered the option of being dropped off in St George’s rather than go all the way back to Sliema we didn’t need to be asked twice.  The boat spluttered and limped back to the nearby town and were glad to reach dry land where we left the boat and wished good luck to those who had chosen to complete the ride.

It was a bit scary at the time but now that we were safe we had to agree that it had been a lot of fun and there was still no sight of Captain Morgan so we went for a drink and then caught the bus back to Mellieha Bay.

I have Googled ‘Crazy’ and I am pleased to report that he is still working and there is a Facebook fans site which describes him as:

‘If anyone in the past 35 years has been blessed with the Oki Koki experience then I am sure you will be humbled by this dedication to the charismatic legend known around the island as Mr Crazy the ultimate tour guide of the Blue Lagoon. After 35 years the founder of tours in the area has not lost his charm with the tourists and if anyone should be given an award for being the face of Malta it has to be HIM.’

__________________________________________________

Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Corfu-1984 Georges Boat

Motorboat Ride from Kalami to Corfu Town

Motorboat Ride from Kalami to Corfu Town

The Bay of Bodrum in Turkey

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

Gondola Ride in Venice

Captain Ben’s Boat in Anti Paros

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