If you’ve taken even just a bit of time to explore the rugged western corner of the island and the Akamas Peninsula, you’ll no doubt have come to appreciate why it’s so often hailed as the crown jewel of the island. But while sweeping bays and panoramic views abound, it’s far more than just a place of outstanding beauty for humans to enjoy, as endangered creatures of the animal world claim their very own private spot in this remote little haven.
While mass tourism in the Mediterranean and the use of beaches for recreational purposes deprives turtles of their nesting grounds, the west coast of the island provides these little creatures with bit of desperately needed solace away from the hustle and bustle of more built up areas.
Visit the beaches of Akamas and the Chrysochous Bay in midsummer and you’ll spot ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs rising out of the sand beside protective cages, as hundreds of Loggerhead turtles and a few dozen Green turtles arrive to lay their eggs in peace. Only a few, however, will survive to adulthood.
Listed as a ‘priority species’ on the European Union’s Habitats Directive, which requires strict conservation measures, turtles come to the west coast of the island in search of their natal beaches – and absolute quiet- as they dig out their nests. The remote protected beaches of the area stand as one of the few remaining retreats in the Mediterranean, far from tourist strips and beach resorts.
A project for the conservation of the marine turtles in Cyprus was launched some thirty eight years ago, by the then Director of the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Andreas Demetropoulos, and marine biologist Myroula Hadjichristophorou. It stood as the very first such initiative in the Mediterranean and the duo has headed this government-run project ever since.Now, conservation efforts are finally paying off, with the turtle population far greater than when the project started.
If you do stop at a turtle nest, be sure not to touch it, while torches should never be used at night as this can disorientate them. Hatchlings should never be handled or guided and should always be allowed to go out to sea on their own accord as they emerge from the sand.
While the general public is deterred from nesting beaches at night, those who do want to get up close and personal with the little creatures can head to a small Turtle Information Centre at North Lara Bay which gives visitors the chance to enjoy a glimpse of a few newly hatched turtles, of both species, in a specially set up tank.