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Blue Caves of Zante

The northern coast of Zante is littered with caves and sea eroded cliffs and the Blue Caves at Cape Skinari and are one of the best-known sights on the island. The largest cave is called the Blue Grotto and the colour here really is spectacular.

Best is the Kianoun Cave which bathes in a light of shimmering blue and best viewed in the early morning. Readers recommend arriving early and taking one of the smaller boats that sail inside the caves.

The area is popular for snorkelling, not only because of the intense blue hues reflecting off the white limestone but also because of the wide range of marine life.

Boat trips sail from all over the island but the nearest harbour is at Agios Nikolaos, near Volimes. Many visitors drive to Agios Nikolaos then take a short boat trip as sailing from the south can take a long time.

Daily trippers can also take in the caves at Sklavou and the hot sulphur springs at Xigia. The small beach, also called Sulphur Beach, is a narrow strip of sand beneath a stark sheer cliff.

Shipwreck Cove of Zante

Almost every visitor to Zante goes to see the notorious Shipwreck Cover or Navagio Beach, subject of more Zante postcards than you can shake a beach umbrella at. Few are disappointed at the romantic scene with a steep beach of bright white pebbles nestling beneath the vertiginous white cliffs.

The wreck itself is rather less romantic, merely a rusting old steamer that struck the beach while on a cigarette and booze smuggling expedition. It ran aground in poor weather while being chased by a Greek navy patrol boat.

But the setting is perfect with a small sandy beach and steep cliffs all around. The water around here is notoriously cold though so only the brave bother to take a dip. There are no roads to this spot and the only access is by boat.

Photos of an empty beach are difficult to get now as tour boats arrive every hour on the hour and the place is normally heaving with bodies. Views from the cliffs above are also far more dramatic than those from a boat arriving for its allowed slot of 60mins but few are willing to slog up and down the steep cliff path.

 

Zante's sea turtles

The Caretta Caretta loggerhead sea turtle is an endangered species and Zante is one of the most important breeding ground for it. Despite Zante, and Laganas Bay in particular, being such an important nest site, there has been fierce resistance from locals to the introduction of protection measures, especially on sands at Kalamaki.

Many locals see the restrictions as an unnecessary imposition on their money-making schemes. Beach nesting sites have been bulldozed to make way for sunbeds, neon lights and noise have driven turtles away and, despite the creatures being very shy, they are relentlessly pursued by gawping tourists in glass-bottomed boat trips.

Turtles return to the beach they were born on to nest after 20 to 30 years. The mating season is April to June and eggs are laid in the sand. The hatchlings are born about 60 days after the eggs have been laid - which coincides with the peak holiday season.

There are six main nesting beaches in the Bay of Laganas. There are 100-200 eggs in each nest but only one in 1,000 baby turtles that make it to the sea will live to adulthood. The beach at Sekania in Laganas Bay has the highest density of nests with more than 600 in its 55m length. Other beaches in the bay have been severely hit by tourism and, as a result, no one is now allowed on Sekania, nor are any boats allowed near it. But at neighbouring Kalamaki it is a different story with the Greek government facing European court action over illegal landfill dumps on turtle nesting sites.

Holidaymakers can help protect the remaining few turtles by following a few simple rules.
Let volunteer workers tell you where not to sit.
Don't let children play near nest sites
Don't leave litter on the beach - especially plastic water bottles.
Don't touch the baby turtles as they make their way to the sea.
Don't drive on the beach.
Don't push sun umbrellas into soft sand. If it punctures an egg the whole nest will be lost.