Sea urchin’s exoskeleton

The crystal clear waters surrounding Corfu contain an amazing hidden habitat, with its own flora and fauna. Glimpses of this alien world can be snatched in the net of the local fishermen, or better still whilst snorkelling in the warm waters. A boat trip or ferry crossing could possibly lead to a close encounter with Dolphins; one of their favourite pastimes is “bowriding” the bow wave of large boats and ships. The northern and western coastlines have more traditional sandy beaches and therefore larger waves, whereas the eastern coast has pebble beaches with very calm seas, indeed it resembles a large inland lake and is often as flat as a millpond during the summer months, ideal for snorkelling. Due to the relatively unpolluted water’s in this area of the Mediterranean, several endangered species cling on to their very existence on some of Corfu’s neighbouring islands. The Monk seal of which less than 500 individuals remain on this planet, some off the coast of Morocco and in the Mediterranean its last stronghold is on the islands of Zakynthos and Cephalonia.

Taking in nets near Messongi

Monk seals are very shy and avoid humans at all costs so they should never be approached.The Loggerhead turtle is another endangered species found in these waters, the only marine turtle known to nest in Greece. One of its most important nesting sites in Greece is at Laganas on Zakynthos. Threats to its existence include: - Development on nesting beaches and marine pollution i.e. – fishing nets and plastic bags.

 

Snorkelling amongst the seaweed encrusted rocks is guaranteed to reveal many strange and otherwise private creatures.
Blennies, crabs, sea urchin’s, octopus and the apparently inanimate sea cucumber, a strange sausage like creature, about five or six inches long with leathery skin. When taken from the water and squeezed it will exude a jet of water just like a water pistol- very useful!!

 

A market bargain

If when on holiday and the weather is bad, a trip to Corfu town may seem like a sensible way to spend the day: - be sure to visit the open air market adjacent to the new fort, where many species of fish are on sale, some quite bizarre.
A few minutes away from the open air market is the berth of Corfu’s glass bottomed boat. The perfect way to see a lot of the underwater flora and fauna without getting your feet wet. Be prepared to wait your turn though as they are often quite busy.
Occasional visitors to the seas around Corfu are the whales, a number of these majestic animals inhabit the Mediterranean including, the Sperm whale, Pilot whale, Curviers beaked whale and by far the largest in these waters is the Fin whale, up to 20mtrs. or more in length. Dolphins are a much more common sight, although their numbers have dwindled dramatically in the last century. A long ferry crossing usually presents the opportunity of seeing one or more species.

Common dolphin

The Common dolphin which despite it’s name is quite rare is identifiable by a distinct dark “V” shaped mark directly below the dorsal fin. Now an endangered species. Risso’s dolphin, which looks like a whale, it lacks the stereotypical dolphin’s beak. Generally mottled grey with brighter undersides and about 3 mtrs. long.
 

Striped dolphin


Bottlenose dolphin, the star of most aquariums has a strong looking head with a distinctive forehead and is grey/black in appearance with a lighter underside. The Striped dolphin, by far the most numerous has dark stripes starting from behind the eyes and continuing rearwards towards the tail.

Another spectacular inhabitant of these waters is Noctiluca miliaris, a bioluminescent marine protozoan, responsible for the beautiful phosphorescence seen in the sea at night. Large by protozoan standards, 0.6 – 2mm. In diameter. This tiny creature emits a greenish-yellow light when disturbed to light up the sea around boats, nets and swimmers.
 

Waterspout with lightning

The high temperatures in the summer months sporadically lead to strange atmospheric conditions conducive to the creation of tornados or when over water, waterspouts.
A truly awe inspiring sight of the power of nature. Fortunately these don’t have the ferocity or longevity of their cousins in America.
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