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Day trips to Zante’s Turtle Island

Pack your flip flops and hop on a boat over to the beautiful Marathonisi Island for the chance to spot turtles in the sea and learn about where they nest.

The endangered Loggerhead Turtles, or Caretta-Caretta, have been nesting on Zante's beaches for thousands of years. And with 80% of the Mediterranean population returning each summer it's the most important nesting ground in Europe.

Situated in Laganas Bay, the peaceful pine-covered islet, often known simply as Turtle Island, is a favourite of theirs – some say the island is even shaped like a turtle.

You can go on an organised boat trip to get there or be your own captain, but it's important that you respect these magnificent creatures or choose a tour company that does.

Protecting the turtles

Loggerhead turtles remember where they were born and return to the same beach some 20 to 30 years later to lay their own eggs.

The months when female turtles come and lay their eggs in the sand coincides with peak tourist season – June to August. This means it's really important to follow the guidelines as to how to protect these endangered creatures

The nesting beaches are closed off between sunset and sunrise so the turtles aren't disturbed when they come ashore.

This season is also when you're most likely to see the turtles in the water during the day. And dolphins also live in the water here, so you might spot one of those too.

The whole area is classified as the National Marine park of Zakynthos and you can go to one of the information booths along the coast to find out the best ways of protecting the turtles. They can also advise on responsible tour companies.

Boat cruises

Your organised boat cruise is most likely to leave from either the small marina at Aghios Sostis, next door to Laganas, or the harbour at Keri and will have an English-speaking guide. Most tours stop at Turtle Island's small cove with sea caves to snorkel around in the beautifully clear and calm water.

Boat trips often also take in the sea caves and lighthouse of the Keri peninsula. You can buy some refreshments while onboard or, if you're hiring a boat, there are floating snack bars that circle the island from which you can pick up watermelon, ice cream or doughnuts.

Turtle Island cruises

Taking a six-hour organised cruise or glass-bottomed boat tour means you'll have plenty of time to spot turtles in the water, and stop-off for an hour or more to relax on the beach before journeying back past the turtles.

Pick up and drop off is included from various hotels across the island and you should pack your swimwear for the chance to dip in the water at various points. Another option is to go on a three-hour trip where you stay on the boat purely for turtle watching without docking on the island.

Whole island cruise

To make the most of your time on the seas, you can take a day tour around all of Zante's hotspots that includes Turtle Island.

This is ideal if you're staying in the north of the island as many tours start from Alykes and take in the Blue Caves along the northwest shores, as well as stopping at the famous Shipwreck Beach. Then you'll head down to spot the turtles in Laganas Bay and stop at Turtle Island for swimming opportunities, before making the return journey.

Hire your own boat

If you're confident with handling a boat, you can hire one from the bay at Agios Sostis or Keri Lake and spend as much time as you like on Turtle Island or in the water spotting the turtles. You need to plan to be off the beach by sunset when the island closes.

Or one of the most eco-friendly ways of seeing some turtles is to take a pedalo out. Turtle Island is about a kilometre from the shore, but can see the turtles in the bay with far less pedalling.

Make sure you take some suncream and water and you might even be able to flag down one of the floating snack bars to grab yourself something to eat.

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