Lesvos April 2001
When travelling to Lesvos you have 2 options. Option 1 is to travel by Olympus Air via Athens: this extends your travel time by several hours because you have to wait at Athens for the connecting flight. What it does give you however, is the opportunity of seeing the early migrants you may miss by travelling later. Option 2 is to take one of the direct charter flights which usually start in the first week in May: this gives a shorter flight and a more agreeable arrival time. Also Lesvos is fairly new to tourism and many of the resorts don’t get geared up for tourists until the direct flights start.
If you’re travelling to Lesvos independently I would recommend you get a taxi from the airport and have your hire car delivered to your hotel. Mytilini is a nightmare to find your way through; we have yet to see a sign in Mytilini that points to Skala. The airport is well signed on your return through Mytilini so you can elect to drop the car off at the airport if you so wish.
Hiring a car on Lesvos is simple as most of the major car hire companies are represented. You can hire a car through your Travel Agent, via the internet, at the airport or through your hotel. Car hire is, in the main, more expensive than on the continent with a grade 2 vehicle costing £300+ per week. Be prepared to shop around especially on the net because bargains do exist. It is possible to find one of the major hirers providing vehicles at 30% less than their rivals. Hertz is a company that regularly has bargain prices.
Be aware that insurance may not cover damage to the underside of the vehicle. This is mainly due to birders in the early days taking cars on roads that in reality were little more than dry river beds.
If you’re not totally satisfied with your hire car and have genuine reasons, complain immediately, this usually results in an upgrade at no extra cost.
The most important decisions you will make are where to base yourself,
and when to go. To maximise the number of migrants seen I would recommend
you go as early as direct flights will allow, mid/late April. If you
are a serious birder and birding is the reason for your holiday then
Skala Kalloni is your only choice. Skala is central for most birding
sites but more importantly it is also very close to some of the major
birding hot spots on the island. It would be possible to stay at Skala
without hiring a car and still get in some serious birding. This can’t
be said for any other part of the island. If birding were incidental
to the holiday then I would recommend the north of the island where
you will find a greater choice of accommodation.
The weather from April is usually fine with warm sunny days and evenings that may require a sweater slung over the shoulder. We may have been lucky during our visits but we have encountered little in the way of rain although it’s not uncommon to have a stiff breeze that will chill if you stand about in it too long.
If you are self catering and I would recommend this for the serious birder, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from and you will soon find your own favourite. Be aware that if you go in early April not all the restaurants will be open and the ones that are may operate with a reduced menu. We can recommend the Sea Horse in Skala where we had good service, well cooked food, decent wine all at a very reasonable price.
All the hotels will also provide evening meals although in our opinion they are not to the standard you get in the restaurants, you will also find the choice of meals limited.
Self-catering is probably the best option if you’re on a birding holiday as this gives you the flexibility of early starts & late finishes without worrying about meal times. Skala Kalloni has plenty of self-catering apartments and studios but beware, in the main, they are not of the standard you would normally expect in Western Europe.
We have yet to find a kettle at any of the apartments we have had, so if you like an early morning cuppa we would recommend you take a travel kettle especially if you chose to stay at one of the hotels.
The Greeks also tend to provide the bare minimum of both cooking utensils and cutlery so we restricted our cooking to breakfast after returning from early birding sorties.
Most of these early morning sorties culminated in our visit to one of the two bakeries in Scala Kalloni to stock up on fresh bread and pastries for the day ahead. The old one at the harbour makes bread in a traditional oven and is superb. The new one makes very acceptable bread and has a far greater choice of bread rolls and pastries. I would heartily recommend the apple turnovers from the old one if you can get them.
There are several general stores in Skala, which cater for most things but if you’re a more serious self-caterer then you may need to visit the supermarket, which is situated on the main road into Kalloni town and sells every thing you would expect from a supermarket.
Should you require cash this can be obtained from a cash point machine on the front in Skala near the harbour, instructions can be obtained in English. Credit cards are accepted at most places.
Should you hire a car and stop in Skala your nearest petrol station is on the main road adjacent to the salt pans. If you go to the birding spots to the north a petrol station is situated near the village of Agra
Birding on Lesvos has been popular with British birders for a dozen years or so and therefore all of the best birding spots are well documented. Love him or loathe him Richard Brooks bird watching guide to Lesvos is essential.
I have already mentioned early morning or late afternoon birding previously, at some sites this is essential because of the disturbance caused by unthinking birders and photographers and early morning means just that, pre 06.00am on site I’m afraid. To illustrate this I have seen both Little Crake & Spotted Crake at the Inland Lake every time when I have been there at first light I have yet to see either species once the birders start arriving at say 07.00am
You will soon find the back way to the salt pans
from Skala, which will mean you will have to traverse the East River
ford, this isn’t a problem at all, but you will be surprised at
the number of vehicles that have strayed off the ford and got stuck
in the river because the driver has been distracted by the birds.
Pat and Judy Hayes
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