Sunshine and Loggerhead turtles
Day two and the ‘Solos Welcome meeting’ is very useful indeed. We are given tips such as “Don’t drink the tap water as it has a high mineral content”. Bottled water is inexpensive in the hotel shop and in Tsilivi. Mosquitoes had not yet got busy for the season but the hotel shop and supermarkets have a good selection of ‘fight ‘em off ‘ sprays and creams.
With the help of a map we got our bearings and heard about the excursions available to us. As May is the beginning of the season, trips are reliant on numbers. Sadly we were not able to go to Kefalonia (made famous by Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) but I did take an island tour and later in the week Gary arranged a small coach to take 8 of us to Zante (Italian name for Zakynthos and the name of the main town) and Turtle Beach.
Solo Holidays offer exclusive trips for their guests and the Tour Leader can tailor make it to suit the group. Excursions are offered in town too where you share a large coach with Thomsons guests and stop at other pick-up points. I found this quite interesting and we chatted to different people at the various stops. These excursions are cheaper because of larger numbers. The choice is yours.
The island tour took us inland and up to the North Western coast. It gave us a good impression of the lay of the land with olive and lemon groves, donkeys and goats grazing in meadows of wild flowers and chickens busily clucking around small houses. The attraction of the Northern coast is the turquoise waters and blue caves. There is a smugglers boat wrecked on a beach which tourists can swim to, and a very good mural of this adorned the wall of the beach bar at our hotel.
We visited a Greek orthodox church which had survived two severe earthquakes in 1953 only to be nearly lost to a fire in the 1990s. It was slowly being rebuilt and they had managed to save many of the religious artefacts. Due to the earthquakes there are very few original Venetian buildings left standing only one or two in Zante with a Venetian fort above the town. Excellent ice cream and frozen yoghurt with almonds and honey served at this viewpoint.
Zante itself is a very pleasant town with a promenade around the harbour. Garden cafes line the harbour front and the waiters are really friendly. Fresh orange juice is a must.
A stroll towards the main square takes you past fishing boats selling fresh fish. One of our group was very keen on fresh fish and gave us a lesson on those on display which included sardines, bass and barracuda.
We were told that a visit to the church of St. Dennis was a must, and so we dutifully went to see this Saint entombed in his silver casket with his feet sticking out sporting pretty slippers. Apparently the locals kiss the slippers, and each year the church replaces the slippers with new ones and cuts up the old ones into tiny pieces to sell. This piece of slipper is then worn about your person as a good luck charm.
The local bus was very easy to use. No longer the smokey, overstuffed coaches of old, now there are very nice air-conditioned buses and for 1.60 Euro you could travel into Zante from Tsilivi easily and from the central bus station take local buses to other areas of the island independently.
Tsilivi itself is a family orientated resort. There is a long road called ‘the strip’ which has tavernas and late night bars complete with one specialising in Elvis impersonators. These are interspersed with supermarkets, ATM machines and beach shops with tourist gifts. The beach is clean and offers water sports and beach side tavernas.
We noticed that all the beach shops had fluffy dangly turtles, towels with turtle designs, bathmats with turtles and turtle shaped key rings, so, we were not surprised to learn that Zakynthos and particularly Kalamaki beach is a famous breeding ground for … you guessed it … loggerhead turtles.
Mass tourism threatens these shy, gentle creatures as children have in the past dug up eggs or deck chairs have smashed nests. Luckily visitors have not been able to destroy this natural phenomenon completely and as soon as you arrive you are handed an instruction leaflet by volunteers telling you of the dos and don’ts for using the beach. You are instructed to flatten any sand castles you may have made during the day so as not to create barriers for hatching turtles trying to make their way to the sea at night.
I sat in a taverna sipping a cold beer watching the beach scene and occasionally I am sure that I saw a turtle head pop up for air. We wished the mating turtles well and hoped mankind would not disrupt this age-old cycle of life.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Solos Holidays