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Turtles, Tourists & Summer Mating on the Greek Island of Zante

(Last Updated On: 02/03/2021)

Way before the party-goers caused chaos on Laganas Bay and descended on the best beaches in Zakynthos (better known as Zante to us Brits), it was the Caretta Loggerhead Sea Turtles that chose this place as their mating ground every summer. 

Loggerhead turtle coming up for air in Laganas bay Zante Zakynthos Greek Island.JPG

Whilst there are some lesser known Greek islands, which are not as busy the turtles could call home. In fact, Zante is the most important nesting ground for the turtles in Europe, with 80% of the Mediterranean population returning every summer.

The stories of prehistoric animals still walking this earth is not just mythos, I mean myths. The turtles are contemporaries of the earliest dinosaurs and have been on the earth around 250 million years! But, unlike the partygoers who may also choose to travel to Greece to mate in Zante every summer, these turtles are endangered. And, the sad fact is tourism isn’t helping…

Tourism in Zante is critical (I mean, who doesn’t love a family holiday to Greece), but the mass of tourists each year are harmful for the resident turtles who have lost over half of their beach nesting ground as the island’s popularity as a holiday destination has grown.

Tourism in Zante Akynthos Greek Island

| Intrigued to visit the Greek Islands? Read about things to do in Mykonos. |

Mating in Zante

The usual rituals of courtship, males competing for the same female (at loggerheads literally) follows on to nuzzling, biting, head movements with the successful male succeeding by mounting the chosen female. Loggerhead Turtles are the largest hard-shelled turtles in the world, they have very horny beaks (known to be thicker than other sea turtles) and, as you can imagine, the mating season can be a somewhat drawn-out process; lasting from late March to early June.

swimming Loggerhead turtle Zakynthos Zante Greek Island

Nightlife in Zante

After a successful mating period, producing two-three nests, the baby turtles are guided by the moonlight reflected in the ocean as they crawl disoriented along the beach to the sea for the first time. Similarly, to the partygoers staggering back to their hotel rooms in the early hours after consuming vast amounts of Greek ouzo, the turtles making their way to the small stretch of land to the ocean often find this can be a dangerous process. Artificial lighting from this busy tourist area can cause the turtles to go in the wrong direction, which can ultimately result in their death.

For this reason, bright lights should not be used near nesting beaches and partygoers should not access the beaches along the Gulf of Laganas from sunset until sunrise. That means any night-time beach shenanigans are left to the turtles.

One thing we all crave after a night out in Zante is gyros, but imagine if after one bite we realised it wasn’t gyros we were eating after all…

Greek gyros in Zante

This is a common occurrence for the loggerhead turtles, who don’t eat gyros but do feast on jellyfish. Only to find when they do, it may not be a jellyfish at all, it could be a plastic bag. Pollution in the ocean causes many problems for the turtles; ingesting one plastic bag will kill a turtle as plastic twists in the gut, causing the turtles to grow weak. This weakness and lack of eating causes the turtles to starve to death.

WWF Turtle Awareness Ingesting Plastic Bags

Any waste left on the beach can have a direct impact on the turtles that nest nearby as it can be disruptive to the turtles crawling across the sand. Think about the plastic you use, including all the straws that get thrown away after every drink you consume…

cocktails in zante

How to help the Caretta Loggerhead Turtles

Whilst more can be done to stop building in nesting areas, restrict boats in the bay and fishing in critical areas; being a better tourist will also help save these turtles.

Go Fish II in Zante Greece

Sunloungers and umbrellas placed on nesting areas can cause a female turtle to abandon her nest and return to the sea aborting her eggs.

Speedboats hitting turtles cause the most damage and cuts to the shell and internal organs make for a slow and painful death. The only option for emergency treatment is in Mainland Greece, which is a busy 6-hour ferry to the Rescue Hospital in Athens. Be mindful of your speed if you hire a boat, a speed of 5mph in critical areas is advised, as well as turning off any propellers if turtles are seen to prevent the common occurrence of turtle fins being damaged.

Summer turtles in Zante Zakynthos Greek Island

Zante may be a Greek Island favourite for tourists but it is for the turtles too, and unlike us, they have no other options. Loggerhead turtles only return to the beach where they hatched, making these turtles indigenous to the island. If their habitat continues to be destroyed or if they die out, the island of Zakynthos will not be repopulated by turtles from other areas in the Mediterranean. As only 1 or 2 in 1,000 turtles survive to reach adulthood, adjustments in tourist behaviour can make all the difference, along with government intervention to preserve their natural habitat. So let’s all do our bit and be responsible travellers!

The National Marine Park actively works to protect the turtles. A scheme was in place to create an urgent care centre for the turtles right here in Zante, but a lack of support locally meant these plans never got off the ground. Instead, the turtles are transported on a long ferry ride to Athens to receive medical treatment.

Despite being up against it without government-backed support, Archelon Sea Turtle Protection Society uses volunteers as support to care for injured turtles.

Turtle swimming among the boats in Laganas Zante Zakynthos

If you love seeing the turtles and want to help protect them for future generations head to Archelon Sea Turtle Protection Society to donate.

Don’t be a lager-head in Laganas, it’s all about the loggerheads!

Special thanks to Michael Papanikitas of Peter Tours who arranged our trip with BigBlue Keri Beach to see the turtles before they head off on the ocean road. It was a dream come true to see them swimming happily in their natural habitat. One day I may even face my fears and go deep-sea diving with the turtles, watch this space!



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  1. 13/09/2018 / 5:11 pm

    Wow what a beautiful island! And seeing the turtles must be so cute! Thank you also for taking your time to share how these turtles are affected by pollution in the ocean, it’s really sad and I think with a little bit of effort from all of us we can at least mitigate the issue. The food and drinks look yummy, by the way!

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      06/10/2018 / 9:03 pm

      It’s so sad to their natural habitat is being threatened but it was incredible seeing them swim – a huge highlight for me. I can 100% verify the food was divine! Thanks for reading and commenting xo

  2. Gabrielle
    13/09/2018 / 6:35 pm

    What a lovely cause to bring awareness to via your blog! This is something I think many of us are unaware of and so it’s great you’ve brought attention to it Jasmine 🙂 Have a fabulous weekend! x

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      06/10/2018 / 9:07 pm

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment Gabrielle 🙂 Apologies for the delay in replying – back to back trips. I agree, it’s definitely something that goes unders the radars as tourists but something we should all be aware of and try to help x

  3. 14/09/2018 / 12:16 am

    We protect turtles in Malaysia too so this issue resonates with me. When I was a child, turtle eggs were served as delicacy but thankfully now it’s illegal. Thank you for spreading awareness, Jasmine.

    Shireen⎜Reflection of Sanity

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      06/10/2018 / 9:10 pm

      Aww, that is so good to hear Shireen. It makes me so sad to think of species being wiped out and we all need to do more to protect the world’s wildlife. Thanks for reading 🙂 x

  4. 14/09/2018 / 4:05 pm

    Wow, I really enjoyed this post. I love turtles and grew up adoring them. I had no ideas about the effects of artificial lighting.Thanks for sharing dear about this. There is so much going on with the world and the effect of the issues, regarding animals. /Madison

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      06/10/2018 / 9:12 pm

      Thanks Madison. It’s so cute that the turtles are guided by the moonlight but awful the artifical lighting is impacting on this. It’s things like this, we all need to be mindful of. Thanks for reading x

  5. Emily
    14/09/2018 / 10:31 pm

    Ahh this was such an interesting post! And SO important too! Turtle are such incredible creatures and it’s vital we keep them safe. Just a few easy steps can make such a difference! Some really interesting facts although how horrible to hear about the speedboats! That makes me so sad. 🙁 Fantastic post Jaz, really eye-opening!

    Musings & More

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      06/10/2018 / 9:16 pm

      Thanks so much Emily 🙂 Hopefully, the post will help in raising awareness as like you say, a few easy steps can make all the difference in helping preserve their habitat and avoid taking boats in prime swimming areas for the turtles. Thanks for reading and commenting x

  6. 20/09/2018 / 11:32 pm

    The turtles are so beautiful, it’s a shame that the tourism can be so damaging to them, but good that there are simple steps to take to help protect them. Thank you for sharing!

    Hope you’ve been having a nice week and have a great weekend ahead of you 🙂

    Away From The Blue Blog

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      06/10/2018 / 9:42 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Mica. Tourism can be so damaging at times and we can all do more to be better tourists. x

  7. 21/09/2018 / 6:30 pm

    I love this post! Thanks for bringing awareness! I am trying to cut down on my plastic/straw consumption. Its crazy and scary to think of how much plastic we might ingest.

    S | Je M’appelle Chanel

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      06/10/2018 / 9:46 pm

      It really is! The reality is we don’t really need straws so why are we just letting them by another plastic waste is beyond me! Thanks for reading and commenting x

  8. 18/10/2018 / 9:49 pm

    What a great post! Thank you for educating us on how to help these magnificent creatures. Your pictures are amazing and make me want to go to Greece! Thank you for stopping by my page as well. Have a lovely day <3

    -PerlaGiselle |

    Say hello and let’s follow each other <3

    • thelifeofasocialbutterfly
      27/10/2018 / 11:16 pm

      Thanks so much Perla. I really wanted to highlight the threats to the turtles and the impact tourism has on their habitat. Glad you enjoyed the post. X

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