Kefalonia's southern west beaches are probably the most important on the island; with Mounda being the most significant as it is the main nesting habitat for the endangered and protected Loggerhead Sea Turtle 'Caretta caretta'.

Opposite Mounda the nearby island of Zante can be seen, on its beaches loggerhead nesting sites also still exist. The nesting season lasts from June to beginning of August. During the night they come ashore on quiet beaches to lay their eggs.

Camping is illegal on these beaches and in the cars parked nearby. Lights and noise can scare away nervous female nesting turtles and severely disorientates a young hatchling. Vehicles are banned from driving on the beach as they compress the loose sand on top of the nests. This suffocates the nest and makes it difficult for a live hatchling to crawl out. Do not venture onto the beach at night; it is illegal during the nesting season.

Mounda really is a lovely place to spend the day, the gently shelving beach leading into warm shallow waters are probably the best I have ever swum in. However, please follow the local guidelines, so that no harm should befall the wonderful creatures to which these beaches belong.

Loggerhead turtles only nest in the dry sand between the high tide line and the top part of the sand dunes. This stops the nests becoming flooded and drowning the eggs. It also allows the eggs to breathe during gestation. Placing umbrellas, tent pegs, stakes and anchors in the dry sand is very dangerous for the turtles as it could pierce a nest. Umbrellas, if they must be used, should only be placed below the high tide line in the wetter sand. Nests are not marked (nor clearly visible) on Mounda beach; this is to prevent human interference with the nests. If the stake hits a nest and pierces one egg, the bacteria will destroy the whole nest.

Litter and sand castles are significant hazards for both female nesting turtles and the emerging hatchlings. Hatchlings emerge from the nest in the cool of the night and use the light of the moon and stars reflected on the sea to find their way to water. In their rush they don't recognise obstacles such as litter, and embankments of sand castles or trenches. These obstacles will trap or disorientate the young hatchlings, which will be prevented from reaching the sea. Less than one in 1000 is thought to survive to adulthood.

When the female loggerheads crawl up the beach to lay their eggs, they become very exposed and are, therefore, very wary of interference. Crawling into an obstruction such as litter or a sand castle will disturb a female from her nesting. She will return to the water without laying her eggs. If she doesn't have sufficient time to make another journey onto the beach on a following night she will dump the eggs in the sea and all the potential hatchlings will be lost.

Sadly these ancient creatures, having nested peacefully for tens of millions of years in these waters, now face extinction.

I felt privileged in sharing this beautiful beach with 'Caretta caretta' but remember that these beaches do not belong to man, they belong to these ancient turtles who have been on this earth for millions of years, so if you are one of the very few left here at the end of the day, knock down any sand obstacles that may have been left, and when you leave make sure that you take away any litter, even if it is not your own!

Give the tiny little hatchlings an extra chance to survive into these amazing adult living dinosaurs . . . 'Caretta caretta'.


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