|Turtle Watching in Cyprus
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) nest only in a handful of select locations around the world. Cyprus just happens to be one of those locations. The pollution-free sands of the Akamas Peninsula (particularly Lara Bay) and the beaches near Polis provide an annual refuge for turtles to lay their eggs. These are special places that should be treated with care and respect.
The action always begins in June. Turtles from all across the Mediterranean descend on the beaches of Western Cyprus and Turkey. They arrive in their hundreds under cover of darkness, choosing sand high up on the beaches in which to lay their clutch of eggs. Typically a hundred eggs will be laid in one clutch, the turtles returning three, four or even five times through the summer to lay new clutches on the beach. Despite these apparently large numbers, only 20% of eggs laid are hatched. The remainder fall foul of foxes and other wildlife on the island.
Eggs hatch in around seven weeks. A mad dash to the sea by the hatchlings then ensues. Again, not all of them will make it, the wildlife picking them off before they can reach the relative safety of the water.
Lara Bay in Akamas is now a protected area during the turtle breeding season. Conservationists work to protect the eggs and to escort hatchlings to the sea. Even so estimates put the yearly survival rate of turtles at only 6,000 - 7,000. It is a very low number for two species that find themselves on the verge of extinction.
Turtle watching is best performed from afar so as not to disturb these beautiful aquatic reptiles. Evening twilight or dawn break are the best times to see the turtles waddle across the sands. Some people have even spotted turtles swimming in the crystal clear waters close to the beaches in daylight hours.