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Zakynthos Tour Caretta Caretta:

One of the highlights of a visit to Zakynthos is sighting the beautiful loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). The turtle is an endangered species and can be found both on Zakynthos and Kefallonia.

They lay their eggs on beaches and sandy coves late at night, but can be frightened by human intervention such as bright lights and noise. The mothers lay dozens of eggs under the warm sand at night to incubate. Over recent years, numbers have dwindled to less than eight hundred and in the bay of Laganas (one of the key nesting grounds) access to the beach is prohibited after sunset to allow the turtles to lay their eggs undisturbed.

Caretta Caretta - submergedSix separate beaches, approximately four kilometres in length, in the bay of Laganas host 800 to 1800 nests. The mothers come ashore between June and August at night and drag their 100kg bodies up to the dry part of the sand where they leave over one hundred eggs in a chamber 40 to 60 cm deep. The surviving hatchlings emerge about two months later and return to the sea. Twenty to thirty years later, the female adults will return to their natal beach to reproduce.

In order to protect this endangered creature, boating activity and watersports are severely restricted in the Bay of Laganas. However, it is worth taking a boat trip to Marathonisi Island in the bay. Known as 'turtle island' after its shape, one side of the island is another breeding ground for the Caretta caretta. Many boat trips around the island will stop in the waters outside the Bay of Laganas to catch a glimpse of the turtles. If you really want to get close to one, I recommend you swim out from Gerakas beach for a couple of hundred metres and keep your eyes peeled. You need to be a confident swimmer and the best time of the day is late morning when the water may not be too warm. However, the effort is worth it!  

 Blue Grotto:

Blue Caves - view from a boatThere are a number of caves on the northern coast of the island. The blue caves are a series of geological formations in the cliffs below Cape Skinari. Its name derives from the incredible blue colour of the water, which is due to the refraction of the light in the water. The best time of day to see the caves is around midday with calm seas which allow the tiny sand particles to tint the sea and its contents. The caves are only accessible by sea, either from Zakynthos Town or by boat from the nearby Skinari lighthouse.

Sarakina Mansion:

Sarakina Mansion - side viewThe site of Sarakina (10 kms northeast of Laganas) known from the Middle Ages, took its name from the Saracen pirates, who used the area as a hideout. The old Mansion Sarakina, which belongs to the Loutzis' family, dominates the region and adjacent to the old mansion is the 'Agios Ioannis Prodromos Chapel' where the family vault is located.

The mansion was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1953 but remains one of the finest examples of Venetian architecture in this part of the island.  

Porto Roma:

Porto Roma - view of the bay to the southPorto Roma is an idyllic part of Zakynthos. Located at the southeastern tip of the island, this small fishing port is unspoilt and is perfect for getting away from it all. There is the best of both worlds here; an unspoilt bay within a peaceful locale and yet it is very close to the livelier areas of Laganas and Argasi.

Porto Roma has five tavernas (of which the Delfinia is one of the finest on the island) and a couple of small shops. There are no hotels here. Accommodation is restricted to villas and very high quality apartments. If you want a beach to yourself, Porto Roma in the morning is for you! A short walk through the olive groves takes you to Gerakas beach and Zakynthos Town is a twenty minute drive away. Porto Roma is a useful starting point for one of the many island cruises and you can also take a glass-bottomed boat to Gerakas in the hope of sighting Caretta Caretta. 

Island Cruises:

Porto Roma - view of the bayA decent island cruise will take up a full day of your visit to Zakynthos. For the first time visitor it is really worthwhile to get an overall impression of the island's beauty. If you take a tour early on in your visit, it will tempt you to venture further afield from your resort.

Most of the main cruises depart from Zakynthos Town and can take about seven hours. It is best to take an early cruise because you'll have undisturbed access to the quieter parts of the island. Because the cruisers generally end up at the secluded sea-access beaches at the north of the island, you don't want to arrive there when there are a couple of hundred other visitors! Many of the cruises have stop-offs where you can jump off and have a swim, for example to the shipwreck or at Marathonisi island. If you're not a strong swimmer, some of the better cruises have small motor boats to take you ashore.

Secluded beach - northwest ZakynthosIt's worth finding out whether the cruise hugs the shoreline. Many don't (in order to save fuel) but if the weather conditions are fine then getting close to the shoreline is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy Zakynthos's natural beauty.

One of the best aspects of an island cruise is that you will have the opportunity to spend some time at the island's secluded beaches which can only be accessed by sea. If you arrive early enough, you'll have time to have a peaceful few minutes on the beach before the other ships arrive. It can be a bit of a race but if you're early off the mark, you should arrive at most of them with a bit of time to spare. Be careful though, with so much exposure to the sun out at sea, burn times can increase by 400% so use high factor cream and keep hydrated!

The Shipwreck:

Here's the story... Twenty years ago, a freighter was pursued by the Greek Navy. The crew were suspected of smuggling contraband and the navy chased the ship through the Ionian sea. Allegedly there was 'wine, tabacco and women' on board and the chase came to an abrupt end when the ship ran aground in stormy weather on the coast to the north of the island at Porto Vromi.

Many of the aerial shots of the shipwreck give the impression that it is the remains of a beautiful galleon but in reality it is a modern freighter. On my first visit to the island I headed for the 'Navagio' by boat one morning. The shoreline is stunning with clear emerald sea and steep cliffs. Our group moored close to the wreck and we swam ashore. This is when my suspicions began...

Shipwreck???* The wreck is equidistant between the cliffs (perfectly centred on the beach)

* There is no major damage to the bow or the stern (was it a sideways impact?)

* The centre of the wreck shows evidence of scuttling (an explosion deliberately placed in the centre of the ship)

* The chances of grounding on a beach in this part of the island are less than a thousand to one

* One local told me it was a Mafia ship, another that it was a Scottish ship!

Notwithstanding this, it's still a spectacular sight, whether you take a boat trip and swim ashore, or take the serpentine road to a new viewing platform above the cliffs.

A word of warning though, if you decide to explore the wreck's interior, be careful not to enter the old engine room as this may contain dangerous asbestos.

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