A turtle spotting boat trip on Zante – in Greece – Video

June 22, 2010 by  

On our recent trip to the Greek island of Zakynthos or Zante we took a boat trip through Laganas bay, famed as a nesting area for the Loggerhead or Caretta Caretta turtles. Sadly we didn’t spot any turtles on this trip but we did have a great day out sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling around the little coves and sea caves along the coast.

Porto Roma on Zakynthos

Porto Roma on Zakynthos

We started at Porto Roma where there is a hotel and terrace overlooking the small harbour and beach. The catamaran was waiting for us moored off-shore and we were ferried from the jetty by a tiny rubber boat that you could just squeeze four people into. “Don’t worry – it’s very safe” quipped the skipper as I clung on to my rucksack with all my camera equipment inside – “we call it the Titanic!”. It didn’t bode well when the rung of the ladder on the side of the boat collapsed as my husband climbed aboard. With 20 people I wondered how we would all fit on to the catamaran, but soon everyone had arranged themselves around the front of the boat, on benches along the side and under cover at the back. I liked the fact that the boat had a cabin and a shady area where you could get out of the sun, unlike some of the completely open boats we saw going out into the bay with no room to move around or any shade.

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On the way out Yannis  Vardakastanis, whose company Nature World Travel had organised the trip, talked to everyone about his work with the sea turtles and the Earth Sea and Sky volunteer and information programme he runs to conserve their habitat. Unfortunately the numbers are dropping every year due increasing tourism and development on the turtle nesting sites. Laganas bay has a wide sandy beach that was perfect for turtle nesting with warm, shallow water for turtles to soak up the sun and develop their eggs. Now the large beach is less used by the nesting turtles as half of it is built up with apartments and hotels and the other half has a busy airport runway behind it. The turtles have been forced to move their nesting sites to other smaller beaches like Dafni and Gerkas, but even these beaches are under threat from development due to tourism.

We powered along past the cliffs and rounded the Gerakas headland with the protected turtle nesting beach, where no development is allowed and into the wide sweep of Laganas bay. We crossed the mouth of the bay, past two islands that even looked like turtles – the second one called Pelouzo has a small beach that is a protected nesting site for the loggerhead turtles. We passed around the furthest end of the bay and round Keri point where there’s a lighthouse. I’d been here before to see the view from the cliff over the sea, but this time we were looking up at the tall limestone cliffs and into a semicircle of cave with a small beach inside. The water is intensely turquoise and we jumped off the boat and snorkelled around to see the small shoals of fish darting through the water. As we swam into the cave over large round white stones, another small boat, rented from Laganas or the harbour at Keri bobbed up and down, keeping us company.

Heather with Yannis from Nature world travel

Heather with Yannis from Nature world travel

Catamaran trip around Laganas bay

Catamaran trip around Laganas bay

After everyone had swum around the catamaran and jumped in as many times as they like, we moved back the way we had come past sea arches and small caves that are perfect for a small boat to explore. We stopped again by the sea caves on the Pelouzo island, but Yannis explained that we would not stop on the beach there as it was protected for turtle nests, even though we saw other boats ignoring the ban and landing. It seems that the Government funded National Marine Park is overstretched and does not have the resources to stop local businessmen pushing the boundaries to make a living.

Last year Yannis and his volunteers counted 800 turtle nests, a decline from the 1000 they counted the previous year and the 1300 of a few years before. As each female turtle may make 2 or 3 nests in different locations, Yannis estimates that there may only be 250-300 female turtles coming to nest in the area now. The statistics didn’t bode well for the turtles – only one in 1000 hatchlings will survive and then will take 25 years to reach maturity before returning to lay eggs on Zante. With estimated numbers dropping so low, it’s no wonder that Yannis feels that every turtles is precious and is angry when he finds turtles that have been injured or even killed in fishermen’s nets or by boat propellers.

Catamaran trip from  Porto Roma

Catamaran trip from Porto Roma

Fishing boats at Porto Roma

Fishing boats at Porto Roma

I jumped off the boat with my family and enjoyed swimming into the sea caves, although the caves on Pelouzo island were wild and less inviting. Then once again we returned to the boat and the catamaran turned into the bay, moving slowly through the waters, hoping to spot some turtles. There were several other boats around and as on other safaris and whale watching trips I’ve been on, they are in radio contact with each other if they spot any turtles. Although we kept a sharp look-out, we didn’t see any, although on most trips they do spot one or two. Yannis doesn’t guarantee a turtle spotting on his trips, preferring to make the whole day an enjoyable experience with the emphasis on the scenery and the swimming. However, many boats offering shorter trips from Laganas do offer a money back guarantee to see a turtle, which encourages the boats to harass the turtles and pen them in so that people can get a good view.

I would have loved to see some turtles, but was a great day out regardless and I prefer to support the sustainable approach to tourism that Yannis advocates. We returned back to Porto Roma by 4pm feeling relaxed and sun soaked but thankfully not burned. Although these trips are an expensive treat for a family at €50 per adult and €25 for children, I think it’s worth doing something like this once on your holiday, especially if you can be sure that the organisers are taking a responsible approach to conservation. You can book the catamaran tour we took through Nature World Travel in advance – contact details on their website, but be prepared to be flexible on the day, as sometimes trips are postponed when the weather is windy and the seas rough. Shorter trips also run from Laganas, but you should try to book with a responsible operator that respects the rules of the National Marine Park, and doesn’t harass the turtles or venture into prohibited areas of the bay.

Disclosure: Yannis kindly gave me a free place on the boat trip although I paid for my family.

More articles from Zakynthos

Video – Saving the Caretta Caretta turtle on Zakynthos – Greece
Saving the Caretta Caretta turtles on Zakynthos – in GreeceSaving the Caretta Caretta turtles on Zakynthos – in Greece
My top three beaches on Zakynthos

 

 

 

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heatheronhertravels' Zakynthos - around the island photoset heatheronhertravels’ Zakynthos – around the island photoset

 

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Comments

24 Comments on "A turtle spotting boat trip on Zante – in Greece – Video"

  1. Donna Hull on Tue, 22nd Jun 2010 1:19 pm 

    An interesting excursion in Greece. I especially enjoyed the video. Even though you didn’t see any turtles, the experience of enjoying a day on the water must have been worth it. The same thing happened to me on a great white shark watching tour in South Africa. Nature is capricious so it’s important for those going on tours like this to take your approach – enjoy the day and hope you see something.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Saturday’s scene: Going to Church =-.

  2. Arlene on Wed, 23rd Jun 2010 10:50 pm 

    Wonderful video. Looked like a perfect day. Must have felt like a little taste of paradise.
    .-= Arlene´s last blog ..Uncle Donald’s Farm =-.

  3. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Thu, 24th Jun 2010 2:10 am 

    As you say, the cove and water were beautiful, even though you didn’t see any turtles, but how sad that the nest count continues to decline each year.
    .-= Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog ..Palenque Ruins of Chiapas are a Mystical, Magical Wonder =-.

  4. Mark H on Thu, 24th Jun 2010 10:52 pm 

    I’d love to see a turtle in the wild one day though as Barbara suggests, I think there decline makes that increasingly less likely. I love the deep blue of the water – a quite magical looking location. Fine video as always.
    .-= Mark H´s last blog ..Jean Sibelius Monument (Helsinki, Finland) =-.

  5. Globe Nomads on Fri, 25th Jun 2010 11:40 am 

    I can imagine that the waters really do look warm and inviting. It is sad that some operators are harassing the wildlife in order to have more business but with the recession I guess tourism is badly hit.
    .-= Globe Nomads´s last blog ..Review of Hotel Holiday Inn Express Bradford =-.

  6. JulieteTravels on Wed, 30th Jun 2010 12:06 pm 

    I remember releasing turtles into the wild in Zante with my son few years ago. It was magical.
    I also remember the boat captain hitting on me like I was the last woman left on the island. Not so magical.
    To make it worse, there was a thunderstorm on the way back, the boat broken down and we were stuck on it for hours on end with him saying to me “Please let me teach you about Greek man. Greek man will drive you wild!”
    Still would go back though. The olive gardens were breathtaking.
    .-= JulieteTravels´s last blog ..Fuerteventura Sunshine all year around and the glorious sand dunes =-.

  7. Heather Cowper on Sat, 3rd Jul 2010 8:14 am 

    @ Juliete. What a story – luckily nothing like that happened on my boat trip but you were luckily to see the turtles, they’re becoming increasingly rare.

  8. Darren Cronian on Tue, 6th Jul 2010 6:13 am 

    I love the Greek islands, but haven’t, yet, been to Zante. Nice photos.
    .-= Darren Cronian´s last blog ..Minoan Palace of Knossos =-.

  9. Nathan from marinews on Mon, 16th Aug 2010 10:58 am 

    Greece is the most amazing place to visit around the world specially for boating and fishing purpose. Thanks for your amazing pictures Heather

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