When we started planning this Greek roadtrip, we knew right away we need to include Ionian islands. Deciding which of the seven island to visit was a different story. At the end we picked Zakynthos (for it’s turtles), Kefalonia (recommended by our Greek friend) and Lefkada (newlyweds tip). There’s a good connection between and there’s a bridge from Lefkada to mainland, meaning one ferry less.
The Kefalonian lines ferry anchored later in the evening and after a dinner in taverna we started thinking about where to sleep that night. This is the moment where Google maps shone brightly and made us realise how great tool it really is. Especially the satellite version – we quickly discovered a small road leading towards the beach with a small place to park the car. Once there, we put up the tent and dozed off into dreamland.
The alarm woke us up at 7am. Not like we’re early birds, but as we didn’t know how busy the beach might get during the day, we wanted to get away before we got discovered. Wild camping in Greece is technically illegal (although mostly tolerated if one behaves), but as experienced wild campers we know how to hide well. Though we had to look for this accommodation in complete darkness.
Finally after 15 minutes, with lots of groaning and self-pity, we’re getting out of the tent. Just in time for amazing sun theatre. We camped on the east coast of the island, which unexpectedly, at that very moment, made us “instant owners” of the first row seats for an amazing sunrise.
We’re heading to Gerakas beach, to meet the turtles. Laganas bay is one of the nesting areas for the loggerhead turtles and we’d love to swim with one. The beach is closed to public from sunset to sunrise to allow the turtles to lay the eggs undisturbed. Each nest is then protected by a wooden tripod placed atop of it. Furthermore tourists are only allowed to use 5m wide strip of the beach by the sea. Rest is separated by a thin rope.
Despite all of this efforts, there are still many sunbeds with shades, which make it more difficult for the tiny hatchlings to reach the safety of the sea. Unfortunately tourism reigns over Greece and “other” things come often as secondary. Archelon is a volunteer organisation operating in the bay and we were lucky to see them work. Every tripod covering a nest has a tag with two dates on it – one when the nest was laid, another when it first hatched. 10 days after first hatchlings crawl out of the nest, they go and excavate the nest. It’s known that after these 10 days there’s minimal chance for any remaining baby turtles to make it to the surface by themselves. This way, if they find any survivors in the nest, they just bring them on the surface and make their way to the sea easier (level the sand and removing other obstacles). Nothing more. That’s exactly what the excited voice meant – Survivor! Tiny dark colored turtle was struggling, slowly crawling towards the shore. Stroke after stroke following it’s instincts and sound of breaking waves. The moment of truth came after it was flushed into the water. If it manages to swim, it has a chance. This little one was not very lucky… barely floating close to the surface and as one of the volunteers explained, it’s front flippers malformed into a weird shape as it was trying to swim. Chances of survival? Can’t be closer to nothing. But “you gotta give it a chance” as the volunteers said, “at least someone will have a good lunch”. Nature…
That was the only turtle we’ve seen on Zakynthos. But we got drenched,
bought amazing watermelon very cheap, we snorkeled, bought local honey and olive oil and by the end of the day, before boarding the ferry, we climbed to the view point over Navagio Beach.
One of Zakynthos’ icons. Balancing over the cliff edge for “the” picture. Sun is slowly moving to set, but we have to press on, to get the last ferry to Kefalonia just before 8pm…