Koufonisia, small Cyclades
It’s been a good number of years since I have travelled in October. Previous experience has taught me that this can either be a great time or just the same as in summer when visiting Mediterranean countries. It all depends on how much it has rained and livened things up in my opinion since the hot summer.
Myself and my girlfriend really enjoyed touring the Cyclades islands the past two summers and decided to go back at a quieter time of year. In fact, the tiny island of Epano Koufonissi was our favourite, being remote, small and very beautiful. So we decided to go back there for 5 days and it turned out we were the only foreigners on the island at that time which was nice and we hired mountain bikes to help us get around. In fact, you could easily walk around the entire island in less than 3 hours.
In terms of reptiles, being so small Koufonissi doesn’t have many species. Like previous visits to these islands I was particularly interested in the dwarf form of the Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) which occurs here. The other species occurring on the island are Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), Kotschyi’s gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi), Erhard’s wall lizard (Podarcis erhardii), Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelli) and the Sand boa (Eryx jaculus). The latter is very common in the Cyclades islands but to my knowledge it is very rarely seen on Koufonissi and was the only species I didn’t find. To get to Koufonissi involves travelling via a few islands, in this case flying to Santorini and then taking a boat to and from Naxos. I did some herping on Santorini while waiting for our return flight and found an additional species, Cretan cat snake (Telescopus fallax pallidus). I found one small specimen under a stone and a total of about a dozen skin sloughs in nearby fields. These normally secretive snakes are very common on Santorini.
This wasn’t a herping trip but rather hiking, cycling and relaxing but of course I always had my eyes open for lizards and nice rocks to flip. Many thanks to David Buttle and Stephen Roussos who inspired us to visit this tiny island last year and subsequently again this time.