Readers’ wildlife photos

April 11, 2020 • 8:00 am

Reader Richard Bond has some lovely photos of the Kourtaliotoko Gorge in western Crete. I’ve indented his words.

A few years ago in Crete I had booked a trip to walk down the Gorge of Samaria. It was cancelled at short notice because of a forecast 50 Celsius in the gorge, so, on the spur of the moment, I took a boat trip to Preveli, where the Kourtaliotiko Gorge debouches into the sea. This is a lovely gorge, worth visiting for its scenery alone, but its really striking feature is an extensive and thriving grove of the rare Palm of Theophrastus (Phoenix theophrasti), also known as Cretan Date Palm. This was identified as distinct from the cultivated date palm only about half a century ago, partly because of its rather odd distribution in a few isolated sites: a handful of sites in Crete, four in southern Turkey, and one(?) on the Greek mainland.

Because of my lack of prior research, my photos were mere sightseeing mementos, but I submit this selection in the hope that they show enough of these palms to interest WEIT followers.

The first photo shows a section of cliff just west of Agia Galini, where I was staying (in a hotel full of cats!). To my inexpert eye, it seems to show an interesting series of distinct phases of sedimentation. At Preveli, a westerly current has helped build the beach into a dam across the stream that flows through the gorge, causing that stream to turn abruptly west at its mouth, with a lagoon behind it. (Similar features can be seen at Seaton and at Mudeford on the south coast of England.)

The second and third photos show the lagoon, with reeds and some of the palms along the shore.

The fourth and fifth photos give a closer view of more palms.

Number six is one of the pools on the stream. There were fish (trout?) 20 cm long in it, which seems to indicate that the stream never dries up.

Seven shows how the palms can cling to tiny ledges on the cliffs.

Eight and nine show part of the profusion of flowering shrubs that line parts of the banks. (I cannot identify them.)

The hilltop in ten is part of the massif, nearly 1000 metres high, that supplies the stream.

The last photo, looking back as we left, is of the mouth of the gorge and the beach.

22 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Lovely to be reminded of the wonderful hike down Samaria Ravine again.

    When I was there I heard that the Greek royal family, or the king anyway, escaped Nazi capture via the ravine.

  2. Loved Crete, loved the Chania area. In addition to the gorge, what a beautiful little town. Generally it’s hard to go wrong with any of the greek isles down to and including Crete. They all have their own unique charm.

  3. According to Richard’s comments this was not the Gorge of Samaria but the Kourtaliotiko Gorge. Either way an interesting set of photos.

  4. The Farangi Samariá is indeed worth while, a really spectacular hike.
    The Kourliatiko gorge looks worth while too, from these photos. One just feels like going to western Crete again.
    I see that on the west of the map they mention Falasarna, a small village with beautiful and (at the time) empty beach. Also a huge amount of Greek or Minoic ruins, that had not yet been excavated at the time (a few decades ago), every time you thought ‘that is it’ another place with ruins popped up. From the pictures on the net it appears they have been excavating quite a bit though.

    1. This was supposed to be my third walk down the Gorge of Samaria. Wondeful place, and I still hope to do it again.

  5. Gorgeous photos (pardon the pun!) – wish my vacation shots came out this well. I had a few hours no Crete as part of a tour, but we didn’t see the island, just the famous ruins (some of which had been restored to the point of being unnatural).

    1. If by “famous ruins (some of which had been restored to the point of being unnatural)” you mean Knossos, I entirely agree. I think that Knossos ranks as my most disappointing historical site ever. Pheastos near the south coast is much better.

  6. Many thanks for the kind comments by WEIT readers, especially for those from Mike and Elizabeth for identifying the flowering shrubs.

  7. Those photos are excellent, and very evocative of the terrain.

    We walked the Samaria Gorge a few years ago. We signed up for a coach ride timed to arrive at the top of the gorge at about 7am. The outside temperature was pretty academic: the gorge was quite comfortable right to the bottom, where one emerges onto a south-facing, very hot beach.

    Fortunately there are plenty of tavernas to cool one down again.

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