2 - 7 January, a herpetological trip to Karpathos, (Greece)
© All CONTENT & PHOTOGRAPHS G.J. VERSPUI 2013 ©
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Karpathos, why go there?? Karpathos, Kassos & Saria are the only islands where the Helversen’s Salamander - Lyciasalamandra helverseni occurs and because in summer they are deep into the ground, winter is the right time to look for them.
I went there with 3 others, Bobby from The Netherlands, Laura from Germany and Thomas from Switserland.
We all left home on the 2nd of january, Bobby and I were the first to arrive at Athens, we checked in at the sofitel-hotel on the airport because the flight to Karpathos was on the 3rd of january.
After smiling to every woman, who looked like a stripper in the sofitel, Bobby and I went back to the airport and waited for Laura, we had made a big welcome-message and when she saw that she tried to pretend that she was someone else, but we had seen a photo of her, so.....
Thomas arrived later that night, we saw him in the morning.
Our flight to Karpathos was very nice, we had very nice people on board from Olympic airlines!
During the flight we had great view over the sea and many Greek islands, after a small hour we landed on Karpathos, it was a bit hard to say goodbye to our new airline related friend, who by the way liked drop (dutch black candy) very much.
With our suzuki swift we drove towards our Hotel in Pigadia.
The weather was calm, 12'C, clouded and not a lot of wind.
After throwing our stuff into our rooms we went to look for the first Lyciasalamandra's, around Mertonas Bobby found the first one, an adult female which had to look into camera lenses way too long, a few km's further North we found a lot more, 1 adult female and around 9 juveniles.
By the time we were finished with photographing, the last light was already gone, so we went to Pigadia for food and a small beer or coca cola light....
In the morning we went out to look for the Karpathos Water Frog, the habitat was a beautifull valley, what we also found were lots of fresh water crabs, in total we found 16 frogs.
Close to that area was a place where the Lyciasalamandra's did not have any spots, in this place we found around 25-30 salamanders, 3 snake-eyed skinks, 1 Turkish Gecko and lots of Kotschy's Gecko's.
After this day with a lots of sun, 14-16'C and no rain, we drove back to Pigadia and took the western road, on this beautifull road strange things happened with parts of a dead animal.....(The horn incident).After diner we played some airhockey and somebody was good at drawing naked women..
Around 0600 we were woken up by a garbage truck with a very loud horn, our car was the reason he could not get trough the street, so I went down stairs and parked the car closer to the wall.
The sunny weather had totally disappeared, only 11'C and we had rain the whole day, which is just an other way of good weather...
Our destination was the town Olympos, when we arrived locals came from about everywhere and they were all experts on the salamanders, Bobby and Thomas almost bought a house and a boat from that
people, but me and Laura kept more to the thought: "Avoid local nonsense".
Inside the village on a small construction site the first Lyciasalamandra was found, and soon lots more followed, after becoming tired of photographing them, we walked through the village and Bobby had a coffee from a one-eyed guy, this turned out to be a great idea, he didn't feel sick at all..
From Olympos we drove more to the North and arrived at Avlona, this area looked totally different from the others, but it turned out to be a good home for lots of salamanders, we found 55 within a short period of time, the weather was better then earlier in the day.
In the evening we did the same again: eating, drinking, airhockey.
This day was our last day on Karpathos, we looked around close to Pigadia and visited some beaches for hardcore beach-photography, this day was rainy again and there was a very strong wind, the temp was around 14'C.
After saying goodbye at the airport Bobby and I went outside to hide our tears and to look for an Occelated skink, we didnt find one, we did find the remains of a Caspian Whipsnake, back at the
airport we made a new friend and left to Athens after almost 3 hours of delay.
When we arrived at the Athens airport we rented a car straight away and went to a eating-barn, after the much appreciated food we went to a place where I thought would be a pond, when we stepped out of the car we saw a March Frog straight away, but the hard wind chased it away before the camara was operational.
Walking around there for a while we finally found 2 Green toads.
Now the time had come to look for the tigers and other wild animals of Athens, we checked out the Acropolis from a distance and looked inside several bars and came to the conclusion that Athens is a nice place..
After sleeping in the car for 3 hours we went home!
Bobby went straight to dreamland inside the plane, but I didn't sleep at all, our friend from Olympic was on the plane and the pilot was a greek George Clooney...
A short trip, but long enough te see all we wanted to see, most herps we saw were the salamanders, but we saw a lot of variety.
The Karpathos Water Frog is having very different behavior then other Green frog species, we found them only on the bottem of the water holes in that river, so not even one was found outside of the water.
The team was one of the reasons that this trip was great, I had great fun with everybody, especially when people photograph crappy information signes, or really lose them selfes in a game of airhockey, or call the pilot of an airplane George Clooney...
Thanks Laura, Thomas & Bobby, hope to see you later!!
I also like to say thanks to Jeroen Speybroeck and Benny Trapp.
1. Helversen’s Salamander - Lyciasalamandra helverseni
2. Green Toad - Bufo viridis
3. Karpathos Water Frog - Pelophylax bedriagae (cerigensis)
4. March Frog - Pelophylax ridibundus
5. Turkish Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus
6. Kotschy’s Gecko - Mediodactylus kotschyi
7. Snake-eyed Skink - Ablepharus kitaibelii
8. Caspian Whip Snake - Dolichophis caspius (dead)