Monday, October 29, 2012

Diving in Karystos: Some important sites

October 2012

This autumn we were able to take in some remarkable diving at Karystos. Since people are asking where exactly...I am posting a map. The nine sites I show here were first discovered by the Dikelas dive team and all are really fantastic. Since no site is protected (despite some being in a Natura 2000 area), please use the information below with great caution. I believe more diving means more knowledge and awareness so I think people should see these places. I think when they see them, they'll want to protect them. So here goes a quick description:

Arapis Islet. At the peak of the Cavo D'Oro cape itself. A small white limestone rock - haunt of Med Monk Seals during the day, and allegedly sharks at night. We went off the easily sloping shore down to 30 or so meters - happy to see the beautiful deep-living basslets known as Anthias anthias down there just past the thermocline - it was cold! Despite the legends of BIG fish down there - we say nothing big....(overfishing...). 

Archampolis Wreck. A ship wreck of an old steal ship (about 15 m. long or longer) at 15 m. depth. The ship holds some really larger fish (that spear-fishers know well - but its usually hard to get here with winds etc). We saw large Sciaena umbra. Nest to the wreck is a really amazing shallow cave - amazinly decorated in colourful corraline algae. 

Mirmigia - Kastri. Nearby is the ancient classical Greek site of Ancient Geraistos. Site of beautiful reefs and "canyon" like gulleys - no big fish seen. Typical cavers, grottos, colourful. But it had an erie wildness here. 

Mantili. A reef here of cipollino marble - jutting up to near the surface like a sea-mount is called "Galani". Easily you go down to about 34 m. at the base of the rock wall and under the old bunker bed (fallen from a passing ship...) are a couple of large groupers. The tunnel like cave at 27 m. leads you up to 18 m. We've dove here twice. The current was strong the second time. Large shoals of large-bodied sparids seen in first dive. I could imagin a Great White here...

Pelaitisa Islet. Across from Karystos Harbour - a picturesque place. We dove on the south side that is deeper with talus-like rocks and hollows. Green due to eutrophication due to a sewage-water outfall nearby (yuk!). However, it is a really neat dive - we dove it near dusk -gloomy, fish-rich - reminded me of Canada or something - Atlantic....

Mnima. A promontory with a rather low sloping shore with Posidonia beds and a shallow rocky shore. Lots of fish and clear water (even when the wind was blowing from the south). Anyway, typical stuff. 

Kalamitsi. Beach dive. Takes a lot of paddling to get out to a 25 m. drop-off but it is a wonderful travel experiance. Huge rocks loom above. Big fish- many groupers seen on the second dive we did at this place.  Fish rich: in one 100 minute or so dive our team counted 50 fish species! Really special. 

Petalioi (pronounced Petalii). An archipelago of 11 islands. The site we did is between the two larger ones - it is called "gefyra", meaning bridge. I think its artificial - yes a "'bridge-like causeway" at about 4 m depth spanning for a few hundred meters and "uniting the two major islands"'. Drops to about 8 m max. Lots of fish and a very strong current. 

Founti. Again one of the outer Petalii Islets - also a seabird breeding islet. Typical and beautiful drop-offs reminiscent of Kalamitsi. Typica small caverns and  shallow grottos. Resident Bottle-nosed Dolphins often shot by local fishermen - but are still there - and very shy. 

Family trip out of Karystos Port. Strategically placed in the wide open bay; within minutes you can go all around  by Zodiac. On a clear day Arapis Islet is just two hours away....
In the Galani Cave at 23 m. depth at Mandili Islet. How many people have been here?
Part of the wall like fringe of the "Bridge" at Petallii. The sandy area on the left is at about 7 m. depth.
The most colourful places are in the nooks and crannies. Sponges abound and this is the place to see Cardinal Fish.  This is at Founti Island.
At Mnima the Posidonia in autumn with Spicara maena, Spicara smaris and Damsel fishes. 
Cardinal with Damsels, posidonia and grotto colours.
This is the Med''s most pretty tiny grouper - Serranus scriba.  Actually just a "'perch".
One of the corals seen at Mirmigia-Kastri. 
In the eutrophic waters on the south side of Pelaitisa Islet near Karystos - a treated water sewage outfall is nearby.
Thalassoma pavo - aka Peacock Wrasses at Mnima. A tropical note in the Med. They probably originated from west African - Eastern Atlantic coral reefs and somehow entered the Med ages ago. 
Rabbit fish - Siganus luridus - a recent invader from the Red Sea. We didn't see too many of these this autumn. 
South side of Pelaitisa islet. Dark, slightly turbid, lots of birds on the islet roosting. Lots of fish in the waters.
Couple of really large Moray Eels at Mirmigia - Kastri. They'll snap at you if you get close - the really big one was shyer hid away real quick. 
Parrot-Fish - Sparisoma cretense- read the bit I wrote about the Peacock Wrasse. These are  tropical too.
Damsel Fish showls at Mandel. Also tropical. Nice match with the deep blue depths.
This picture I add to show that the macro really does work on Kyriako's camera. Sponges are great!
At 34 m. depth at the Galani Reef Mandili Islet. Yes I always dreamt of going down here when I was a kid - when line-fishing with dad above.
Galani Cave, Mandili Islet. Its very safe, very easy tunnel-like and very open  above.   One of our highlights even in this low-risk situation...
A Moray Eel acting like a black sponge. This cannot be a coincidence.  Galani Reef, Mandili Islet.
Cave art at Galani Reef, Mandili Islet. I have lots of photos like this.
Tripterygion - a small blenny-like fish in the colourful caverns. 
Spicara maena, Symphodus mediterraneus, Coris julis and Posidonia. Its all very Greek-sounding down at Mnima.
Karystos Bay and the Mnima Peninsula where we have dived in the distance. This photo taken by  Denise Birraux on a recent trip to Karystos.
Petalii posidonia sea grass (dark) and white-sand patterns - typically Med! (This photo from a trip to Petalii a few years back while filming with Vaggelis Euthymiou and HCMR team)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Expeditions: Early autumn surveying on Euboea

October 2012

Southern Euboea - a typical coastal area immediately east of Attika....It is worthy of further exploration! We had a truly deep learning-experience exploring cryptobenthic fishes on the coasts, shores and stream-mouths during a collaboration with Marcelo Kovacic (Croatia), Radek Sanda (Czech Republic) and Jasna Vukic (Czech Republic). We employed a big zodiac and the services of Capt. Kyriakos Dikelas to explore the little-known subject of the tiny "hidden fishes" - mostly gobies and other small gems you find in the estuaries, mud, sand, crevices and deep marine grottos. Several objectives were carried out through rigorous work by the team and assistants: a) the area's first complete list of cryptobenthic fishes was compiled (17 goby species, plus another 2 that were not collected, only observed); b) visual fish census techniques of all fish taxa were applied and methods compared (80+ species were recorded); c) Current protected areas and proposed protected areas within Greece's Natura 2000 scheme were explored ichthyologically for the first time. Results of our study will soon be published.

This kind of scientific survey work should be part of some kind of monitoring of coastal waters but unfortunately and remarkably it is neglected. Fish could indicate a lot about the health and naturalness of the water's conditions. Fish are used in inland and brackish waters as bioindicators for water body ecological integrity, surely they are of interest in the marine environment as well. This is not easy. The sea is open and chaotic and making "fish surveys" practicable is not tried-and-tested. So we are taking small steps, looking at small things, covering unknown waters, one-step at at time. 

I want to thank HCMR and the Museum of Prague for supporting this venture. Most of all, big thanks to Kyriakos Dikelas ( and Nikos Lagonikos (South Evia Travel for all they did to make the expedition a success.

Marcelo Kovacic and Radek off the Galani Reef at Mandili, the southernmost islet belonging to Euboea.  This dive includes a tunnel-like cave that begins at 27 m. and rises to 18 m. 

The magnificent Archampolis Gorge on the Cavo D'Oro Straits. This is the heart of an important and extensive Special Protected Area within the Natura 2000 of "Mount Ochi and surrounding area". We managed to see a Monk Seal just north of this site.

Steinitz's Goby (Gammogobius steinitzi) a small cave-goby that  has been recorded only very rarely in Greece.  The goby is upside-down because it prefers to live that way on the top of marine caves and grottos!
The Banded Goby (Chromogobius quadrivittatus) denizen of the beach pebble-cobbles was found only after peristant work by Radek Sand in the Petalii archipelago.

Black-headed Blenny (Lipophrys nigriceps) - a common species - an inhabitant of shady overhangs and shallow caves. 

My friend ichthyologist Radek Sanda in the beautiful waters of the Petalii Archipelago on a clear day in October!

The Golden Goby (Gobius auratus), a brilliant fish; one of 17 gobies collected during a week's work. Yes this was may favorite...

Striped Blenny (Parablennius rouxi) and Striped Goby (Gobius vitatus - Back); they are said to mimic the young wrasses.

Long days but with a smile! Thanks to the Dikelas crew (overlooking from boat...) who did their best for safety, organization and comfort.
One of three "Sand Gobies", this is Sarato's Goby (Gobius fallax); another common one is the Slender Goby (Gobius geniporus) - I like to call these "Ammogovii" in Greek....but most people can't tell them apart without a bit of study.

Typical pose  of  a "Sand Goby" in situ. This is Buchichi's Goby (Gobius buchichii) at the Kalamitsi beach on the Paximada Peninsula. 
Closer look at Buchichi's Goby ex situ - kept in a small field aquarium for photography.  Note the eye-markings - a good field mark.
Dozens of fish were photographed like this - it is not easy, takes a lot of patience and often some of the rarest do not get photographed. This is a small unidentified Scorpion Fish, but a tiny Splechtna's Goby (Didogobius splechtnai) did not get a photo while it was alive - it was duly processed and preserved for the lab before I got a shot at it.... 

Kastri Bay. The area behind the dunes has a small wetland. A fire swept across the landscape in August.

A small wetland is found downstream of the Adia and Komito valleys; huge wind generators dominate above.  Many more "wind farms"are planned.  In many locations signs of landslides, roading-erosion and more such landscape vandalism scarring the scene even from far out at sea.

Kyriakos Dikellas, Captain and dive-master and guide with Marcelo Kovacic  exploring the southern Euboean Coast.
My teenage son Dimitris joined the expedition during the last few days . This is on Petalii - yes one of the most beautiful seascapes close to Athens....
In early autumn the sea looks like this - this is a view of the Paximada Peninsula west of Karystos.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sites: Hello to Turkey from the Greek side of the River....

October 10th 2012

On the Evros River today (Greek-Turkish Border). We're sampling - fish, waters, everything..... Second time I've electro-fished at this beautiful site south of Tychero Village, where the Provatonas Stream creates a confluence with the mighty Evros. The Evros is our Danube- many Turks and Greeks I know love it. However, its ridiculous - I always feel really nervous near this border. Its a true no-man's land, it has a spooky feeling. You're always alone here - no one or someone - some army, some refugees, its no-ones' river.

But its a special feeling....You walk up to this serene river valley scene - then you feel a frontier - some kind of invisible wall. Jays and woodpeckers fly across the river, changing countries. Fish swim across too. You hear a tree frog singing from the Turkish side, then a marsh frog from the Greek side. Cormorants fly down the middle. You hear things mostly - you see only nature.

Then you think of  a Peace. Why are we at cold war? You see the old clothes washed up on the banks - thousands of refugees crossing the river to Europe. Many people drown here. You see the big Turkish flag down-river, then the Greek army trucks, mine-signs, FRONTEX gaurd jeeps. Its sounds like some kind of industrial operation - and it makes some people nervous.

In February 1997 a friend Tassos Verouchis from Karystos was killed by a mine just upriver. He was a soldier at the time, wandering down to the river to fish, with another chap - both were killed. I was in the army then too - but I didn't go fishing....I recalled this today, as I said it to our crew: "'we are on a border (!!), a place so beautiful and wild, yet human-kind can be so cruel here"'. I'm talking to myself.

So, our crew - a girl from Alexandroupolis a local from Marisia village, Yorgos and Athena - we sampled here today. I sampled the fish. Caught 17 species. But I electrofished in a rather unorthodox way; one electro-anode and one net, on just one bank - the Greek side of the river. I should have done this using more nets, more people. Ok, this in not Europe!

Although everyone knows that I often kill fish to take samples sometimes even I can get sentimental too. In this river, I found a long-line with large hooks while electrofishing and suddenly a big carp came up - hooked on the line. HUGE for a carp in my experience - about 50 cm. I was amazed by the injured mouth of the fish - probably caused by being on the hook for days - the long-line probably forgotten. So I released the fish into the river. It felt good to release a big fish.

Lets make Peace.