5 ways to spot turtles in Zakynthos

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I’ve recently visited Zakynthos in Greece with my mom and brother, which happened to be our first family holiday in the last 5 years. Of course, I already knew how stunning and beautiful Greece is- crystal clear water, great food, nice people and a lot of amazing places to explore, as I’ve visited 5 of its islands already, but Zakynthos surprised me in a very good way. I might not remember the other places in Greece that much, as I was quite young at the time, but this one is my favourite so far!My vacation was simply amazing and I had the best time exploring this little island(can be traveled by car in a day). Mermaid-like spots with majestic rocks and cliffs made me want to stay in the water all day and Greek food in typical tavernas ensured I was feeling happy all the time, without gaining unnecessary kilograms. I swam in the sea all day, as a typical mermaid would do, looked for sea shells under the water and even went for a few morning runs. Amazing what the ocean air does to you right?! But I don’t want to spoil it for you, as more posts about this magical place are coming in following weeks.

One of the things Zakynthos is known for is its turtles, more precisely Loggerhead Sea turtle (Caretta Caretta). You can see that they’re the symbol of the island and a lot of businesses live from their popularity (I think they should donate some of its profit to Marine conservation, as they make so much money out of the poor animals). Beaches in Zakynthos are perfect for them because its shallow waters help them to better get out of the water, where they lay eggs in nests which they dig into the sand. I got really excited when I found this out because I remember swimming with giant carettas in Egypt and it was one of the best experiences in my life. Even though turtles in Greece tend to be timider, I couldn’t wait to see one!And was so happy when I did.

If you’re planning a trip to this stunning Greek island and you want to make the most out of your stay, I promise you that seeing and swimming with turtles will make it 100 percent better.

To make some beautiful memories during your trip to Zakynthos and to find out how to best catch a sight of turtles, I included a list of 5 points on how to spot turtles around the island.Try one or more and I ensure you, you’ll get a peek at these cute marine animals from up close!

1.Go for an early morning run

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Turtles lay their eggs at night and in early morning hours, so it’s more likely that you’ll spot one around 5-6 am when they’re active. Some of the beaches may be closed before the sunrise, so don’t get too disappointed if the guards won’t let you cross. They just want the turtles to be safe. However, with early runs come early swims and you can easily spot a turtle when you go for a morning dip in the sea as they tend to refrain in the area until it gets too crowded with people and too loud. Me and my mom spot a turtle swimming off shore around 9 AM one day, which is quite late so we were really lucky. She swam away quickly when she saw us, but the sight of her back under the ocean’s surface, with sun rays reflecting on her shell will always stay in my memory.

2.Visit turtle island- Marathonissi islet

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Turtle island (Marathonissi islet) is located on the other side of Laganas beach and there’re boat trips organised to the island every day. You can book one on the beach, in one of the tourist points or directly at your hotel/accommodation. These trips often include more than just a visit to the turtle island, but also caves or a visit to other places, as there’s not much to do on the actual island and turtles avoid it during the day because of tourists. However, there are turtle nests all over the island, which you can watch from the distance, as they’re protected with and people aren’t allowed close to them. There’s a high chance you will spot turtles on the way there and back, or if you snorkel around the cliffs.

3.Borrow a motorboat or go for a glass bottom boat trip

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Borrowing a motorboat is a way to go if you want to spot turtles and have fun. You can book one on your local beach or in tourist points and the prices are between 50-120 euro for a 3-hour trip, depending on what kind of boat and motor you want.(Faster boat with better motor is obviously more expensive) This is the more pricey option, and even though I highly recommend it, because you can go wherever you want and stop whenever you like with the boat, the second option might be the right for you if you want to save money. Going on a glass bottom boat trip ensures you of seeing turtles, as you can watch the ocean from the inside of the boat! These trips are cheaper, usually around 20 euro and last about 1 hour. You’ll also visit turtle island with this boat, and since these boats are driven by locals, they usually know which spots are best for seeing turtles.We chose to borrow a motor boat simply to have fun and to not be obliged to any other people.

4.Look for secret, hidden beaches

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Laganas beach is the longest beach on the island of Zakynthos, which means it’s one of the most popular, and therefore crowded ones. We were lucky that our hotel was located on the quiet side of the beach, away from expensive beach clubs and restaurants full of British tourists. From here we could go for a walk to the very end of the beach, where there’s a lot of turtle nests as well. The best way is to borrow a car for a day and scout the island. There are so many beautiful beaches and hidden places which you can only find if you get lost.Staying at the same beach the whole time would be a sin. The abandoned places create perfect spots for turtles as they can rest in the shallow water near beaches without being interrupted.

5.Visit areas of National Marine Park 

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Zakynthos Marine Park is also the first established marine park for the protection of turtles in the Medittearean and it is the habitat of Loggerhead turtle.The marine park consists of a few beaches and areas, such as Laganas Beach, Gerakas, Daphni, Sekania, Kalamaki and Marathonissi totaling about 5 km (3 mi) in length. As I mentioned earlier, the best way is to borrow a car and visit these beaches and areas on your own, rather than go on an organised trip with many other tourists. You can decide how much time you want to spend there and scout the area to the fullest.Some of the beaches are also accessible by a bus, but you’ll have to find out on your own as most of the websites for public transport are in Greek.The smaller beaches you go in the area of National Marine Park, the bigger your chances of seeing turtles are.Just be careful where you step and don’t cross marked areas where turtles lay eggs. It takes around 50 to 90 days for baby turtles to hatch, and since the nesting period starts in June and ends at the beginning of August, you won’t be able to see babies hatching on the beach.(Sad I know!)

If you follow one, or more of these steps, you’ll definitely spot a turtle or more and have an amazing time exploring this beautiful island! I just want to add, that please never try to touch turtles at any time.They are already so stressed from all the noise from boats and people around, they don’t need to be interrupted even more.Just observe, if you’re in the water then swim around them, maybe take pictures but don’t try to catch them.I heard from the locals that turtles in Greece, particularly in Zakynthos sometimes bite people because they get too close to them.Don’t be one of the stupid tourists and let them live peaceful lives.

And if you want to maximize your chances, most importantly, snorkel, swim a lot in the sea and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.

Also, this website is very useful if you wish to find out more about carettas and how to protect them: www.explore-zakynthos.com/zakynthos_caretta_caretta_loggerhead_turtles_zante

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With love, Domi.

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