North Cyprus Holiday Journal - Newbies in North Cyprus - Day 4
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Selimiye Mosque Inside
Selimiye Mosque Inside
photo by: Sinem Tulipa Turcica
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Newbies in North Cyprus, Day 4

Day 4: Friday

Kyrenia Harbour

Today was earmarked for a trip into Kyrenia town to explore the Venetian harbour area with its sturdy castle and famous waterside restaurants. Every guidebook I had read warned of the problems of parking in Kyrenia, but in the end it was simplicity itself. The large car park beside the castle was in the perfect position for exploring the town, and at two Turkish lira for the day (£1), was an absolute bargain. We wandered down the main pedestrianised area and then turned towards the harbour area, emerging from the narrow mediaeval streets into the perfect crescent of the old Venetian harbour. Imposing Kyrenia Castle still guards the entrance to the harbour, now bobbing with a mix of wooden pleasure boats, yachts, and one enormous floating gin palace motor cruiser. We quickly spotted a restaurant table set above street level, in the cool shade, when we enjoyed an excellent fish lunch watching the tourists trotting by below us.

Wandering back to the car, we came across the Round Tower Gallery, a fascinating mix paintings, photography, and second-hand bookstore in one of the old defensive towers of Kyrenia. The collection of photographs taken during the British rule of Cyprus pre-1974 proved particularly fascinating, views of everyday Cypriot life interspersed with shots of British Army officers in dubiously baggy shorts smiling for the camera.

Turtle Watching in Alagadi Beach Kyrenia Cyprus

I have always wanted to watch sea turtles hatching from their sandy nests, and the beaches of North Cyprus remain one of the few places you can do this in the Mediterranean today. In fact, we almost missed the opportunity, since we arrived in North Cyprus at the very end of the breeding season. We joined the North Cyprus Turtle Project (SPOT) based at Alagadi Beach for their final nest excavation of the season. These dedicated volunteers from the University of Exeter come every year to monitor the green turtles and loggerhead turtles as they lay their eggs the warm gritty sand along the North Cyprus coast. During nightly vigils, they painstakingly log the location of each nest, then protect them from predators while the young turtles develop safely below the sands. Finally, two months later, the young turtles finally break free and scuttle across the beach to the waves beyond, watched and logged by their protectors.

However, these tiny hatchlings sometimes need a helping hand. As the excavation revealed, green turtle nests can be very deep, and as the mother refills the nest after laying eggs, stones in the sand can form an impenetrable roof over the egg chamber. The nest we saw excavated was the last one to be laid in the season, and while about 20 young turtles had already hatched from it the night before, the volunteers suspected they were still young hatchlings trapped in the nest.

As the volunteers carefully cleared away the sand mimicking the flipper action of the turtle to avoid disruption, the egg chamber was revealed, along with around 100 unhatched eggs. (This often happens with nests laid late in the season.) However, to the delight of the 30 or so people who had come to watch, three tiny turtle hatchlings were finally lifted to safety, their little flippers flapping like a manic clockwork toy. Placed in the safety of plastic bucket with a towel on top to keep it dark, these hatchlings would later be released back into the sea once darkness had fallen. It was humbling to think that although sea turtles can live for up to 100 years, the chances of survival for these tiny hatchlings is 1000:1, so it's clear why they need all the help they can get.