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Crete 19 – 26 April 2017 *

Island birds and flowers in the cradle of civilisation.

Crete is a magical and mysterious island. Home of Europe's earliest civilisation, influenced by many nations, yet it retains its own identity and culture of which its people are justifiably proud.

The island's position in the Mediterranean has not only played a crucial role in its history but is an important migration route for birds on their way north in spring. Crete in April is free of crowds, the days can be warm and the hillsides are full of flowers.

This, the largest and most southerly of all the Greek islands, is dominated by a backbone of mountains through which cut many deep gorges. These are as spectacular as they are rich in wildlife, be it migrant birds, nesting vultures or endemic wild flowers.

Nature and history are difficult to separate on Crete, with wildlife close to important archeological sites. We shall sample Minoan ruins at Phaestos.

We are based at the small and friendly Sophia Hotel in Plakias on Crete's south coast, once a fishing village, now a small town. It is ideally placed for local walks and excursions and has an impressive backdrop of gorges and mountains.

Plakias Bay
Plakias Bay from the Gio Ma taverna (Ivan Nethercoat).

Flowers

Crete's rich flora of 1600 native species includes 140 endemic to the island, such as Cretan cyclamen and Cretan ebony. In April many orchids are at their peak with Cretan bee, naked man, few-flowered, rainbow, four-spotted and bumblebee orchids among 20 or more species. Shrubs like Jerusalem sage and cistus contribute to colourful and aromatic hillsides.

asparagus pea crown anemone Orchis boryi
Left to right: asparagus pea, crown anemone, Orchis boryi (all by Phil Brew).
From Cretan flora through a macro lens. See also our Crete orchids page.

Birds

The mountains and gorges of Crete are a stronghold for birds of prey, with the largest population of griffon vultures in Greece. Lammergeier, Bonelli's and golden eagles and buzzard all breed, as do crag martin, blue rock thrush, chough and raven. The hillsides and scrub support both Sardinian and the much rarer Rüppell's warbler. At this time of year many birds pass through on migration, pausing especially at wetlands, however small. These might include red-footed falcon, alpine swift, bee-eater, squacco heron, little bittern and various waders and warblers.

Other wildlife

Even at this time of the year there are butterflies such as swallowtail, scarce swallowtail, Cleopatra and the endemic Cretan festoon. We often see freshwater crabs; reptiles can include Balkan (stripe-necked) terrapin and Balkan green lizard.

freshwater crab
Freshwater – or land – crab

Holiday details

As well as local walks, our minibus trips this week include trips to Moní Préveli, Kourtaliótiko and Kotsiphou Gorges, Frangokastello, Spili, Ayia reservoir and, probably, the mountain plateau at Omalos.

Price: £1,390 per person in single or twin room, for a full week (Wednesday to Wednesday). There is no single single supplement on this holiday.

This includes taverna evening meals, with wine and coffee, plus picnics or an occasional taverna lunch.

En suite facilities

Flights: EasyJet flights, Gatwick to Heraklion.

Deposit: £300

Maximum number: 14, with two leaders.

Dragon arum

dragonarum

Conservation project

The lammergeier conservation project is run by the Hellenic Ornithological Society, BirdLife Greece. Crete has the only breeding population in south-east Europe (6-7 pairs in 2013, with four nests); the species is practically extinct in mainland Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans.

Alongside survey, monitoring and raising public awareness, the long-term survival of Europe's rarest vulture is being tackled by site protection, food provision and the encouragement of traditional grazing systems. More on lammergeiers and other conservation matters on Crete here.

Leaders

Chris Durdin is the driving force behind Honeyguide, running holidays since 1991. For many years he combined this with his work for the RSPB in Eastern England, often the Society’s spokesman, but has been concentrating on Honeyguide full-time since 2009. Chris is the co-author of a book about Norfolk’s cranes. He’s also a qualified soccer coach, for one son’s under 14 year group. As a naturalist, Chris is an all rounder.

Chris has regularly co-led Honeyguide's Crete holiday for many years. He also looks after the website for Flowers of Crete.

Co-leader is David Collins, Honeyguide leader on Crete in 2002 and 2003 and our regular leader on Fuerteventura, where you can read more about him.

Southern Skimmer swallowtail on lantana
Southern skimmer Orthetrum brunneum and swallowtail on lantana, both near Moni Préveli, spring 2016.

* This is one day later than in the brochure, as these are better dates for our friends at the Hotel Sofia.

Crete map

Holiday reports

Holiday report April/May 2016

Holiday report April 2015

Holiday report April 2014

Many more Crete holiday reports from two decades of Honeyguide holidays here.

Crete photos

Crete gallery, photos by Ivan Nethercoat.

Crete orchid gallery

Photos from April 2012 by Honeyguide leader Tim Strudwick and Honeyguider Steve Kourik.

Black-eared wheatear (Steve Fletcher)

Black-eared wheatear (Steve Fletcher)

Honeyguide web pages about Crete

Crete Bird Reports. Collated by Stephanie Coghlan, made available on the internet through Honeyguide.

Cretan flora through a macro lens

Our Crete orchids page and orchids gallery.

More on lammergeiers and other conservation matters on Crete here.

Crete information and useful links

 

There are pictures of the Hotel Sophia - or Sofia - on its website here.

Sofia Hotel

Our transport on Crete is arranged by Ariadne of the locally-based holiday and travel service company www.authentic-crete.gr

More on vultures in Crete here.

www.cretewww.com is a website "dedicated to help record, conserve and promote the wildlife of Crete."

Cretan flora: an ID web guide

Flowers of Crete: a non-profit making organisation, Flowers of Crete encourages interest in Crete's wild flowers and promotes their conservation.

Crete pages on Fatbirder.com.

Useful link for Crete information, including weather: www.greekisland.co.uk


Unforgettable things ...

to do before you die: discovering wild flowers on Crete. Of course we think that, but it’s not only us.

One of 40 things in Unforgettable things to do before you die by Steve Watkins and Clare Jones (BBC Books, 2005) is a spring visit to see Crete’s wild flowers.

Wildflower Wonders of the World

Crete also features in Wildflower Wonders of the World by Bob Gibbons (left), including photos from the Kedros Foothills and Omalos Plateau.

Fountains in Spili

Fountains in the square at Spili

Lammergeier

Lammergeier (Roger Tidman)

Hellenic Ornithological Society

More information about the work to protect bearded vultures - as they prefer to call them in Greece - on the website of the Hellenic Ornithological Society and the Natural History Museum of Crete.

Chris Durdin

Chris Durdin

Facebook Honeyguide
... where there are many holiday photos to enjoy.

Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife