is native to the Samaria Gorge
Fauna of Crete
Crete certainly isn't famed as a safari destination. The average holidaymaker on Crete will only see very few living wild animals.
In contrast to the mainland, where approximately 300 brown bears and 800 wolves live in the wild, there is almost no more big game on our island anymore.
Cretan Wild Goats
Only the timid wild goat (Capra aegarus creticus), known as agrími or kri-kri in Greek, is still native to some of the uninhabited islands off the coast and in Samaria Gorge. There, however, they are increasingly mingling with the domestic goats, because some of the shepherds from the neighbouring regions drive their goats into the gorge for the purpose of adding genetic diversity, and the odd domesticated billy is sometimes among them. The wild goat population is estimated at approximately 2500 animals. You are sure to spot them in Chania public gardens.
Mammals only to be found on Crete
Two very rare, endemic mammals (meaning they are only found on Crete) are the Cretan wildcat (felis silvestris), of which only a few animals are left, and the Cretan shrew (croccidura zimmermanni). Other mammals living on the island include rats, hares, rabbits, martens, hedgehogs, badgers, stoats and bats. There are no foxes, which is why the island is also free of rabies.
Geese, and sometimes even bearded vultures, are often spotted in the Cretan mountains, and especially over isolated gorges. There are also golden eagles and the Bonelli's eagle, and ospreys in the Asterousia Mountains on the south coast. The common buzzard is wide-spread. Eleonora's falcons often arrive in summer. Storks are almost never seen on Crete: they avoid the Aegean on their way from Europe to Africa and Southwest Asia, and prefer to migrate closer to land across the Bosphorus.
The best place to see what species of fish can be found in the Aegean is in the CretAquarium east of Iraklio, or at a fish market. A 17 m long sperm whale was even sighted in the Aegean in 2008, but in general, whales and dolphins have become a rare sight in the Mediterranean. The population of sea turtles, however, has stabilised, especially Caretta caretta, which also frequent the sandy beaches on the Cretan coast in summer, to lay their eggs.
Two species of sea turtle live in the Mediterranean, the green sea turtle (Cehlonia mydes) and the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). Both can grow to be 1 m to 1.5 m in length. The Caretta caretta are returning in growing numbers to lay their eggs on the sandy beaches of Crete, ever since their nests have been protected by volunteers and holidaymakers have been made aware of the turtles' needs. People should make allowances for turtles wherever they nest, and not drive parasols into the sand or build sandcastles. Best practice is to leave them well alone.
The individual females come to the beach every two to three years under the cover of darkness. They dig out nests 50 to 100 cm deep, in which they lay around 100 eggs, each the size of a table tennis ball. Then they cover them up again with sand, smooth the sand over with their bodies leaving no trace of their brood, and disappear again into the sea. The same animals will come up to three times within the same year between about mid-June and mid-August, in order to lay their soft shelled eggs. Seven to eight weeks after the eggs are laid, their young then emerge from their eggs, again at night, and strive purposefully towards the sea, as long as they're not disorientated by torches or sources of light close to the beach.
In several places on Crete, volunteers inform passers-by about the sea turtles and protection measures, as is the case in Chania and Rethymno, for example.
Comical lizards are to be found everywhere on Crete and are not dangerous in the slightest. There are two species only found on Crete. Firstly, the Cretan wall lizard (Podarcis cretensis), which also scurries around towns and villages. They rarely grow to more than 20 cm, and their tails take up a solid two thirds of their length. Their markings on top consist of a variable pattern of dark speckles bordered by two light vertical lines. The underlying colour on their back is green for the male, and the females are much smaller and generally brown or grey. Bright spots are speckled across a dark background along their flanks. The males present shining blue spots along their stomachs, especially in spring for the mating season. The vibrant, bluish-turquoise tail is particularly striking on young animals, with an intensive colouration that increasingly pales with age. Wall lizards lay their eggs in high summer in holes in the ground or between stones, and leave them there to their own devices.
The Cretan sub-species of the Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata polyepidota) can easily be observed at your leisure, since it likes to lie on the hot tarmac and on elevated look-out points in trees and bushes. They don't startle easily, so you can usually get a good photograph. They're practically unmistakeable with a length of up to 50 cm or more, a relatively strong build and their shining green colour. Only the young animals are brown in colour, with distinct, bright, vertical lines along their backs which has no other markings. Balkan green lizards mate after vicious fights between rival males in the early spring. The females bury up to two clutches of 5 to 20 eggs each in the ground from May to July. Their young hatch between July and September. Balkan green lizards eat mostly locusts and cicadas, spiders and snails, and sometimes even young rodents and scorpions.
There are four species of snake on Crete. None of them pose any threat to people. If holidaymakers ever happen to see one, it's usually in early summer, lying on the tarmac as roadkill. If you go hiking, a snake might dart across your path - but they are shy animals and flee from people.
The most beautiful snake on Crete is the European ratsnake, which is nonvenomous. Your will easily recognise it from its markings: red to red/brown blotches with black borders on a grey or yellowish background. They grow up to a maximum of 1 - 1.2 metres in length and mostly eat young mice, lizards and insects. The females lay 3-8 eggs, mostly under stones. After about 60-70 days, the young hatch in August and September.
The only venomous snake on Crete is the European cat snake, but its fangs sit so far back in its jaw, that they are no threat to humans. Moreover, its venom is very week. This snake grows up to 1 m in length and also lays eggs. Its young hatch between July and September. At night they prey on small mammals, such as mice, as well as geckos and lizards.
Other species of snake found on Crete include the dice snake and the Balkan whip snake. Both are completely nonvenomous. The dice snake grows up to 90 cm in length and usually lives close to waterways, because they prefer to eat fish and amphibians, newt larvae and tadpoles. These animals can dive and swim, and sometimes even wait for their prey on river beds. They are not found in the sea. The Balkan whip snake, by contrast, grows up to 1 m in length and prefers a stony, dry habitat. Its favourite food is birds and small mammals, but they also eat locusts and lizards.
Discover heavenly Crete for yourself
An island full of surprises
A holiday destination for bathing enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, and those interested in history and culture. Today, Crete is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean - cosmopolitan yet mysterious.
Popular hotels on the sandy beach
The Corissia Hotels are situated within the tranquil, picturesque village of Georgioupolis right on the sandy beach. An ideal seaside resort both to relax and explore the island, because that is just what holidays on Crete are all about.
Let yourself be pampered