Cyprus is a rugged, sun-drenched isle languishing at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe. In early spring, while western Europe endures late winter gloom, the eastern Mediterranean already sparkles beneath clear blue skies and warm sunshine, its birdlife augmented by the arrival of summer visitors and northbound migrants. Cyprus’s hillsides now show the vivacity of spring, cloaked by a veneer of cheerful anemones, Turban Buttercups, asphodels and marigolds, and encompassed by glittering turquoise waters and sun-bleached rocks. This is the most colourful season of the island’s calendar, and a period when modest temperatures allow its rich natural history to be enjoyed to the full.
We begin our holiday with five nights on the south-west coast of Cyprus, split between three nights at Paphos and two nights at Polis, a short distance to the north. From here we will explore the surrounding cliff-tops, headlands, coastal maquis and salt lakes in search of a wide variety of birds, plants and other wildlife, breaking each day with a picnic lunch. There will also be plenty of opportunities to sample a full range of Cypriot cuisine in our hotels, or perhaps in one of the island’s delightful tavernas in the evenings.
Our visit is timed to coincide with the migration of thousands of birds winging northwards to their breeding grounds across a Cypriot landscape rejuvenated by winter rains. Over 200 species have been recorded, including such rarities as Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Caspian Plover and White-breasted Kingfisher. Exotic Hoopoes, Cranes, Purple Herons and Glossy Ibises loiter at the coastal wetlands near Akrotiri. An array of eastern warblers, such as Ruppell’s, Subalpine and Olivaceous, descend to mingle with the endemic Cyprus Warbler, all sporting their immaculate breeding plumages.
Both of our hotels lie close to coastal 'migrant traps', where tired migrants make landfall after their long crossing of the Mediterranean. The headland at Paphos, for example, has become famous amongst birdwatchers for the sheer variety of migrants that often rest there first thing in the morning, while the Akarmas Peninsula near Polis can be equally rewarding at times. In addition to the species mentioned, we should keep our eyes open for Collared Flycatcher, Short-toed Lark, Wryneck, Woodchat Shrike and Ortolan Bunting.
For the final part of our holiday we will be based in the village of Platres in the Troodos Mountains. On the fringes of the pine-clad mountains we explore the home of the Masked Shrike which obligingly perches in the open as it scours the ground for small lizards and robust beetles. In forests nearby we may find small groups of the rare Mouflon, recovering now from the verge of extinction. The maquis is flushed with delicate pink, white and purple flowered rock roses, a fusion of hues reminiscent of an impressionist’s canvas. Scattered beneath the shrubs lies a wealth of orchids. A Cypriot spring truly presents a feast of varied and exciting encounters for the naturalist.
Our leisurely ambles along goat tracks and eroded gullies will bring fulfilment to the most discerning of naturalists; an irresistible attraction of our holiday being the immediacy and ease with which a diversity of wildlife can be enjoyed. At the same coastal salt lake, mountain forest or ravine in the foothills, we will discover ample to satiate the ornithologist, botanist, herpetologist and entomologist. There is time on our unhurried rambles for the photographer to ponder composition and for the watercolour artist to seize the advantages of wonderful lighting and clear air.
Our itinerary offers the expectation of a holiday of rich contrasts. Away from the tourist centres we will discover a Cyprus of tranquil villages, lovely vineyards and legendary hospitality. Forests, mountains, creeks and saltpans all sit within striking distance of our hotels, and we will enjoy these habitats to the full.
For those wishing to enjoy the rich cultural heritage of this historic island, Cyprus reveals much evidence of early settlement and we strongly recommend extending your holiday. Sites such as ancient Kourion boast a series of fine mosaics which even the keenest birdwatcher will find an enthralling diversion from the Cretzschmar’s Buntings and Cyprus Wheatears which adorn the ornate stonework.
Yiannis was an excellent leader, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about everything - flora, geology and history of the island. We visited a wide range of habitats so there was always something new to discover and learn. A well paced tour to offer variety and interest.
Mr & Mrs H.
Combination of birds, botany, wildlife, archaeology and history was very good.
The holiday was very enjoyable. The two leaders were excellent. Andy was so knowledgeable and looked after everybody's interests so caringly. They both produced the most wonderful picnics with the minimum of fuss; we just had to sit down and enjoy.
Andy and Yiannis were both great and very knowledgeable. It was a privilege to see such a fantastic range of birds and plants during the course of the holiday.
Very good trip; both leaders were excellent at finding and identifying the species we encountered. With their knowledge and skills I saw far more wildlife than I would have done if I'd come here on my own. The visits to Paphos and Kourion added another dimension to the trip and were very interesting to see. For my first Naturetrek holiday I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would certainly be interested in travelling with Naturetrek again.
I wanted to see Cyprus - the wildlife, scenery and items of cultural interest. The wildlife was well covered by the itinerary and expertise of the tour leaders, who were both excellent. All in all I enjoyed the holiday and thought it good value for money.
The Faros Village Hotel and the Aphrodite Beach Hotel were very good indeed and the standard of food was high. Yiannis: an inspirational enthusiast! It was a real pleasure to have someone who knew so much about the local flora. He guided and informed with great good humour and scholarship. An incredible asset to this trip. Andy Smith: an exceptionally knowledgeable ornithologist - expert at locating birds and identifying their calls. We all saw far more birdlife through his expertise. This was my first Naturetrek holiday - and a most pleasurable experience too.
Both leaders were dedicated, extremely knowledgeable and caring, ensuring that all members of the party were involved and well looked after. Transport arrangements, including the drivers, were excellent. A most enjoyable and interesting holiday.
I am pleased that Naturetek is available for people with disability. Every attempt was made to help me to participate with my mobility problems. I appreciated Yiannis' botanical demonstrations, which allowed me to closely see plants which were inaccessible to me directly.
Andy Smith is the most excellent ornithologist and every bird excites him. I love his enthusiasm and always learn something from him.
This was our first Naturetrek holiday and we greatly enjoyed it. Marcus is an excellent leader, extremely knowledgeable, and invariably friendly, helpful and courteous. An ideal field companion.
The combination of Marcus and Yiannis as trip leaders seemed to me to be inspired. Their enthusiasm and knowledge quite simply made the holiday.