Kos is blessed with lots of wildlife – some more unusual than others!
When we first arrived on Kos, we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of wildlife, but we hadn’t expected wild peacocks! They live in Plaka, which we call “The Hidden Forest” because you can’t see it until you’re in it. This is a beautiful and tranquil area, not far from the airport. There must be 50+ peacocks living in the forest.
This year a large number of babies hatched. They are SO cute! The Animal Welfare team from Kos Town came to feed them every day. The van honks its horn as it comes into the forest and the peacocks all come running to the clearing, their legs going as fast as they can, like Roadrunner from Looney Tunes! So funny! There is also a pool of Terrapins and frogs in the forest. They are hard to spot, but once your eyes get used to what you are looking for, you keep seeing more and more of them. Plaka is definitely worth a visit.
We were also surprised by just how many wild tortoises roam the island. You can find them everywhere – on the beaches, in the mountains and just crossing the road. There is one particular area on the mountainside near Pyli where they congregate each May for a certain activity. Let’s just say there’s a lot of clonking going on!
One day we took a group of tourists on a “tortoise hunt” in this area. We soon lost count of how many tortoises there were. One of the tourists was a Grecophile, you know the type – knew everything about anything to do with Greece and had to correct everything we said.
When we were recounting our visit to a (gullible!) friend later that day, Roger (who likes to tell tall tales) said that there were so many more tortoises than usual today, and that there was one huge, old tortoise, sitting on a rock, surrounded by all the other tortoises, as though they were having their annual Tortoise Conference. The Grecophile was eavesdropping on the conversation and blurt out in frustration “Oh blow, I must have missed that!” We quietly giggled and didn’t put her right!
There are not as many sheep on the island as I had expected. The flocks are well contained, and more often than not are huddled together, having a prayer meeting. They huddle in a circle, heads down under each other’s bellies, to shade their heads from the sun. This makes me think of them having a holy, woolly, prayer meeting!
Sheeps cheese is often steeped in red wine, creating a lovely rind. It goes off very quickly though, so has to be eaten very fresh. It is not often found in the supermarkets but can be bought directly from the shepherds, if you know where they live.
Grouse are beautiful birds. They used to wander over the land and around the House, making their cheerful, chirrupy, clucking sounds. With their black “sunglasses”, striped wings and red beak, they are very distinctive. Unfortunately, hunting is traditionally a favourite pastime for the Greeks during the winter months and many of the grouse get shot. It’s not a case of needing them for food anymore, but more a case of having them as trophies, which I find very sad.
When I first worked in Kos in 1996, there were only about 15 cars in the village of Kefalos. People still travelled about on donkeys. Since joining the European Union in 2001, this scenario has reversed. Donkeys are still around but in fewer numbers. They are well cared for and owners are usually very happy for them to be photographed.
Octopus swim in the waters around all of the Greek islands. They are very shy, yet inquisitive creatures. In shallow waters, they can curl up at rest on the seabed and look like large pebbles – so much so that I actually managed to step on one by mistake. Its tentacles quickly unfurled and he swam off, rising to the surface to have a look around and see who had trodden on him. They like to cling on to rocks and walls too.
We once watched a young man walking along Limionas Harbour. He suddenly quickened his pace, went to the edge of the harbour wall, knelt down, placed his arm into the water and snatched out an octopus, all within about 5 seconds! They are delicious to eat (apparently!) and to prepare them, (once killed) they are rinsed in the washing machine and hung out to dry (literally!)
Yes, honestly! They spend their time divided between the salt pans near Tigaki in the winter, and the wetlands north of Kos Town in the summer. They are very shy, so tend to stay near the middle of the salt pans/wetlands, so you need a good pair of binoculars or zoom-lens camera to get a good view of them. Sadly, I currently have neither – but that’s a challenge for you when you visit!
I hope you will enjoy looking out for some of the wild inhabitants of this beautiful island during your stay!