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Guides > Nature > Aligadi Turtle Beach

Experience nature at its best

 

Watch baby turtles hatch, or a mother turtle crawl up the beach in the middle of the night to bury her eggs in the sand. This is Alagadi Turtle Beach, near Esentepe, about 20km east of Kyrenia, and its home to two species which nest in the sand - the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) and the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas). This turtle conservation site is constantly monitored during laying and hatching seasons, as is the long stretch of sand on Golden beach in the Karpaz Peninsula and the Akamas Peninsula in the south. Female, or hen, turtles lay 70-150 eggs in the nesting season that runs from late March to early June. Once the mother’s nested, conservation efforts to protect the eggs are deployed, such as cages to prevent dogs or humans from accidentally digging them up. Incubation period depends on temperature, but is normally 50-60 days, with peak hatching between July and August.

Alagadi Beach in North Cyprus

The tiny hatchlings emerge from their eggs at night and make their dangerous journey to the sea. A baby turtle is only around 4cm long and weighs just 15-20 grams. Being born at night provides them greater protection from predators such as seagulls, crabs, dogs and humans, but even so infant mortality is still extremely high, because even if they do make it to the sea they’re also food for large fish. Loggerhead turtles are thought to be one of the oldest species of turtle in the world, weighing up to 450kg. They typically have a diet of jellyfish, squid, flying fish and molluscs, and powerful jaws allow them to crush the shells of clams, crabs and mussels. Interestingly, the Loggerheads appear to be totally immune to the toxins of the Portuguese Man of War. If a Loggerhead Turtle reaches maturity, they can live to 40–65 years old, as their only real predators are sharks and boats such as fishing trawlers. A combination of instinct, moon, gravity and sea, enable a female turtle to return to lay eggs on or near the beach where she was hatched, even if she’s migrated thousands of miles throug the oceans. They used to be killed for their shells, which were used to make combs, spectacle frames and fancy boxes, but now they’re classified as an endangered species and protected.

The Green Sea Turtle, also known as the Black Turtle, is named not for the colour of its shell that are olive to black coloured, but from the green fat beneath its skin. It’s an herbivore, feeding in lagoons and shallows on different species of sea grass. Known for long migrations between their feeding grounds and the beaches where they hatched, they lay their eggs similar to Loggerhead Turtles and once they reach maturity, can live up to 80 years, grow to around 5 feet long, and weigh 70kg-200kg. Green Turtles used to be considered a delicacy, and were killed for their flesh, as well as their eggs, which used to be stolen from their nests, before they were added to the endangered species list. Green Turtles don’t have many predators. Only humans and larger varieties of shark feed on them, but their biggest threat is destruction of their habitats. Sandy beaches, where they’ve laid eggs for millions of year,s are slowly being destroyed to make room for development, which is why conservation areas such as Alagadi Beach are vital for their survival.

 

Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT)

In 1991, the Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT) was founded in North Cyprus.  Today, Marine biology students from universities all over the world come to do their residencies at Alagadi beach. Students and volunteers monitor the turtle eggs throughout the summer season to try to protect them from predators. The beach is closed to the public at night, but you can view the turtles by booking with SPOT. A sighting isn’t guaranteed as it depends on weather and numbers, but generally mid-June to mid-July is busiest. You can do the same at other beaches such as Karşıyaka or Dipkarpaz.

 

Night Viewing

You’ll be surprised how big turtles are and you have to be very quiet so you don’t scare them. Children are allowed to come, but they must be quiet and supervised. Phones or cameras with flashes or lights aren’t allowed as these disorientate mother turtles, who go by the light of the moon to lay their eggs. Pack a beach towel or blanket to lay on, wear long trousers and warm clothes as it can get chilly, and wear trainers or good sandals as there can be uneven terrain. The walk is around 1km to the site and you can expect to be there from around 8pm until 5.30am if you’d like to stay all night, but you can leave earlier via prior arrangement.  The Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT) was founded by British expatriates Ian and Celia Bell and local philanthropist Kutlay Keço. In 1988 a preliminary field study found nesting of green and loggerhead turtles to be significant. SPOT contacted Glasgow University and in 1992 a volunteer expedition team made a thorough survey. On the basis of this expedition, Kutlay committed to provide volunteer accommodation in Alagadi, which is still used today by the Marine Turtle Conservation Project (MTCP). MTCP continues as a collaboration between SPOT, University of Exeter’s Marine Turtle Research Group and the North Cyprus Department for Environmental Protection. Although initially established as an organisation for conserving sea turtles, today SPOT has increased its area of research and projects concerning marine life. These include:

  • Sea Turtles

  • Monk Seals

  • Fisheries

  • Dolphins & Whales

  • Sharks and Rays

  • Bio invasives

  • Pollution

 

Booking

Turtle watching is a great experience and should definitely be on your agenda of things to do in Northern Cyprus if you’re visiting in the summer months. You can book for individuals or groups via the SPOT website. Viewing nights are really popular, so book early. Alternatively you can visit the Alagadi site office close to the beach. Just follow the signs to the Turtle Conservation Project (AKA the Goat Shed). They’re generally open from late May to late September between 9am and 8pm. SPOT also have a Facebook page, a Twitter page and an Instagram Page, where you can find all their information.

 

Tracking turtles - Katie’s story

G055 (Katie) has been monitored since 1995, so she’s probably over 50 by now. In 1999 she was tracked to Egypt, where she seemed to be resident. In 2003 she came back to Alagadi, and was then tracked to Libya. 20 years later, in June 2022, she came back to Alagadi yet again and had a GPS transmitter and dive data logger attached, to see whether she remains faithful to her old foraging site in Libya’s Gulf of Sirte. Safe journey Katie. Can’t wait to try and meet you next time you come into Alagadi beach.

Guides > Nature > Audoin's Gull

Classified as ‘near threatened’ due to its small population, limited range and vulnerability, regions where Audoin's Gull have more than 20 nests are declared as Important Bird Areas. Although foraging grounds of Audouin’s Gull include the northwest coastlines of Africa during winter, its breeding grounds are almost entirely in the Mediterranean. Ebro Delta of Spain contains the largest colony, harbouring 67% of the breeding population worldwide. Detailed information exists about the distribution, numbers and ecology of birds breeding in the Western Mediterranean Region, but little is known about their state in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus, which hosts the eastern most breeding population known to date.

 

The only consistent breeding region in the island is the Kleides Islands off Cape Andreas, and this population has been monitored annually since 2007.The Kleides Islands are not only a significant breeding region for the Audouin’s Gull, but also for the endangered subspecies of Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii) which is an endemic species to the Mediterranean.

Audouins Gull in North Cyprus

The Islands are also used by the Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) for breeding purposes. As a result, the Kleides Islands has been declared as an Important Bird Area since 2004. Each year during the breeding season, a small team visits the Kleides islets by boat, to count the number of adults and nests of Audouin’s Gulls, Yellow-legged Gull, and Mediterranean Shag, a subspecies of Shag found only in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, all of which breed there. This programme contributes data to an international Action Plan for Audouin’s Gull. Results so far suggest that the Cyprus population is decreasing, with 8-28 breeding pairs counted each year, although in different years the birds do nest in different areas on different islets (mainly on Zinaritou, Kasteletta and Kleidi rock). In 2012, for the first time ever, the gulls were also found nesting at Lefkoniso islet, on the north coast of the Karpasia peninsula, about 17km away from the Kleides archipelago. The programme will continue, to acquire a longer run of data and detect any problems with the population.

Since 2008, KUŞKOR has organised an annual census of birds breeding on the islands, and has observed the changes that the colonies of Audouin’s Gull have been experiencing in particular. Historically, >40 pairs bred at the site, but this has steadily fallen and in 2015 recorded the lowest numbers at a mere 8 pairs - a clear warning that the future of the species on our island is in grave danger. The loss of this colony would represent a significant range contraction. The most apparent reason for this decline is likely human disturbance by rod-fishermen using the islands. As the islands are small, even stepping on them can flush the birds and cause them to desert their nests. In the light of this, in 2014 KUŞKOR campaigned with the Turkish Cypriot authorities, and landing on the islands without a permit has now been banned by law, and there are warning signs at the most intensively used places in the region and at boat landing sites, to provide information about the ban. Further threats could also be influencing a decline in this colony including resource competition, kleptoparasitism, and predators like the Yellow Legged Gulls which share the islands. The islands are also likely ratted, which could be contributing to reduced breeding success. Overfishing may also be a factor. The impact of these threats is unknown and, along with threats from climate change, which can affect sea temperature and fish populations, and native and introduced predators, such as Peregrine Falcons, results in a need to keep the tiny population under constant surveillance. Further studies will quantify these threats and help draw up a management plan for the islands aimed at preventing the extinction of the species as a breeding bird of Cyprus.

Guides > Nature > Besparmak Mountains

Also known as the Kyrenia Mountains, this long and narrow mountain range runs for over 170 km parallel to the coast of North Cyprus. One of only two mountain ranges on the island, its highest peak is Selvili Tepe, at just over a 1,000 metres. It’s primarily made of limestone, including dolomite and marble dating to the Mesozoic period. Clothed in pine and cypress forests, including a selection of deciduous trees, Arbutus, Holm Oak, Azarolus, Fig and Walnut are all well spread and frequent.

 

The range is an area of diverse flora, many of them endemic species. There are three main passes through which most traffic is routed, though there are other tracks used by walkers and hikers, especially the famous Besparmak Mountain Trail.


In Byzantine and Lusignan times, the location of these mountains near the sea made them desirable locations for watch towers and castles to

Besparmak Mountains in North Cyprus

overlook the coast and central plain. Castles sat astride of peaks during the Middle Ages that today attract thousands of visitors each year, namely St Hilarion, Buffavento and Kantara. Despite its relatively low altitude, it still  provides an effective barrier between the Mesarya Plain and the northern coastline, preventing harsh winds from drying the fertile soil that fills this agricultural area. Winter rain irrigates the plain and the porous limestone provides an excellent filter for the water that’s preserved in mountain aquifers that provides water for nearly all the towns and villages in North Cyprus. An abundance of fire breakers run alongside the mountain slopes, established after a destructive forest fire in 1996 which continued for three days and destroyed a large part of the Kyrenia forestry and habitat. A giant flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is also painted on the southern slope of these mountains. At 425 metres wide and 250 metres high, this flag can be seen from miles south and is illuminated at night. The Besparmak’s most distinguishing feature is a peak that resembles five fingers with many legends explaining how this came about.

 

The Legendary Tales

A long time ago a pretty girl lived in a village on the outskirts of Kyrenia. Two men were very much in love with this dame, but only one would receive her affection. One’s heart was made of gold, the other’s was full of evil. Tired of trying to outwit one another for her heart, the men decided to settle for a duel in a close by marshland. The malevolent man quickly wounded the other and threw his opponent into the swamp. He was quickly dragged down but somehow managed to drag his opponent in as well so that both were buried alive. The gentle man however was entombed with his left fist tightly quenched above the mud, yearning in desperation his love would save him. When the marshy area dried out, the man’s hand turned into the mountains and today, we can see his knuckles and five fingers on the Besparmak range.

A gutsy villager fell in love with the local Queen and asked for her hand in marriage. For most this would stay an unrequited love, but the villager confronted the Queen nonetheless. The Queen wished to be rid of the rude man and requested that he bring her some water from the spring of Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the Karpaz, quite a risky journey in those days, deemed an almost impossible mission. The man set off and after several weeks returned with the precious water, much to the dismay of the Queen. Although he had succeeded the Queen still refused to marry him. In a fit of rage, he poured the water on to the earth, seized a handful of the resulting mud and threw it at the Queen’s head. She dodged the lump of mud which sailed far across the land all the way to the top of the Kyrenia mountain range, where it is to this day, still showing the impression of the thwarted villager’s five fingers, or a representation of the heartbroken villager’s disappointment.

 

Another famous tale is of the Byzantine hero Digenis Akritas. Tradition has it that the bold warrior leapt across the sea from Anatolia in a magnificent attempt to save Cyprus from the Saracen invaders. Hand gripping the mountain to get out of the sea, it's his heroic handprint in the mountains.

According to another legend, the gnarled massif was formed millions of years ago when the world was peopled by giants. A giant aiming a handful of rocks at his opponent, missed their target and the rocks landed on the hillside, forming the limestone five-finger ridge.

Guides > Nature > Bird Watching

Northern Cyprus is home to around 347 different species of birds, 7 of which are unique to the country. The twice-yearly arrival of migrating birds adds to the unique pleasure of bird watching, with visiting birds heading north from March to May, and south between August and October. Visitors include Swallows, Swifts, Hoopoe, Masked Shrike and Little Ringed Plovers. There are birds that migrate specifically for breeding purposes, and the island is used as a convenient stopping off post for many species in transit to other lands. Learn more about Birds of Northern Cyprus.

Some great places to go bird watching in North Cyprus include:

  • Wetlands around Famagusta

  • Tip of the Karpaz Peninsula

  • Kaplica beach coastal area

  • Various Reservoirs

  • Kyrenia Mountain Range

  • Kaylar and surrounding area

  • Mia Milia Sewage Treatment Plant area

  • Inonu and surrounding area

Bird Watching in North Cyprus

Mountain Bird Watching

One of the best places to watch birds is in the Kyrenia Mountains, where the pines and cypress trees teem with birds. Kantara Castle offers a picturesque spot to observe both resident and migrant birds, including the Blue Rock Thrush, Spectacled Warbler, the resident Cyprus Warbler and Wheatear, and Black-Headed Bunting. Alpine Swifts can be seen darting around their nests, perched on the cliffs around the castle.

North Cyprus Griffon Vulture

The Griffon Vulture still soars above Kantara and St Hilarion in the Kyrenia Mountains, riding the winds on its 2m wingspan. Birds of prey numbers have been affected by hunting but it’s still possible to see buzzards and falcons, and nesting pairs of red kite can be spotted around the Lapta area. Other hunters include scops owl and little owls. The reservoirs at Köprülü and Gonyeli attract overwintering duck, herons and grebes, which in turn attract birds of prey to feast on them.

Karpas peninsula bird watching

This peninsula juts out eastwards from the north coast, pointing towards the Turkish mainland. It’s a major stopping point for many migratory birds where you can spot Golden Orioles and Bee-eaters. The Rollers always provide a great display, as they bounce across the countryside in their trademark jerky flight pattern. At the far end of the Karpas peninsula, the Klidhes Islands provide refuge for sea birds such as Audouin’s Gulls, Cormorants and Shags. During March and April, the islands are also home to breeding Peregrine Falcons, audaciously fast hunters who snatch birds from the sky as food for their offspring.  The peninsula is also home to two game birds, the Francolin and Chikor, both types of partridge.

 

Bird Society (Kuşkor)

The North Cyprus Society for the Protection of Birds (Kuşkor) has been active since 1988 and works for the welfare of all birds and holds regular education programmes for adults and children alike.  Kuşkor work hard to protect and conserve the breeding and migrant bird populations of Northern Cyprus at a time when natural habitat is dwindling through human development and the numbers of birds are depleting due to hunting, poisoning, changes in land use and climate change.

The Kuşkor ringing scheme. Mark and recapture or resight is one of the fundamental methodologies in the field of biological sciences and is applied to bird populations throughout the world as a tool for identifying species structures, taxonomy, demography and movements. In 2001 the Kuşkor Ringing Scheme was founded by Kuşkor officials and qualified British ringers. In 2015 Kuşkor became a member of the European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING). Adopting British Trust for Ornithology conventions and regulations and British-sourced metal rings headed ‘Kuşkor North Cyprus’, the Kuşkor scheme has welcomed qualified ringers who have been trapping birds at sites across Northern Cyprus, assisted by resident ecologists. Cyprus is at the heart of the vast Eastern Mediterranean flyway and has resident, passage migrant, migrant breeding and wintering populations of birds about which relatively little is known, which makes them perfect subjects for ringing studies. As well as adding significantly to our general understanding of birds at the study sites, ringing-based articles from Kuşkor ringers have been published on the breeding Eurasian Reed Warbler, Nightingale and Cyprus Warbler and the presence of the scheme has continued to give focus to avian conservation issues in Northern Cyprus.

Karpasia Peninsula - Kleides Islands

The remote, relatively un-spoilt and picturesque Karpasia Peninsula, with its rolling hills, juniper-dominated shrubland and low-intensity farmland is one of the outstanding IBAs in Cyprus, important for its characteristic Mediterranean bird community. The site is also an Endemic Bird Area, and significant for no fewer than 4 species of global conservation concern, like the Roller and the Audouin’s Gull. The rocky Kleides islands and the islet of Lefkoniso are the only breeding sites in Cyprus for this gull species.

Pentadaktylos Mountains 

This site encompasses most of the Pentadaktylos range, which stretches along the north coast of the island. The steep slopes of the range are sparsely vegetated on the southern face but covered in scrub and mixed forest of pine and cypress on the wetter north-facing slopes. The site is of importance for many breeding forest birds including the Black-headed Bunting and the Bonelli’s Eagle and for its characteristic Mediterranean bird community. It's an Endemic Bird Area site, with significant populations of the endemic Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler.

Kormakitis Peninsula 

On the north-west of the island, Kormakitis Peninsula with its rocky coastline, extensive areas of low scrub, patches of lowland pine forest and low-intensity cereal-growing land, is of importance for passing waterbirds along its coastline and for breeding birds, like the Nightjar and the two endemics.

Mia Milia Sewage Treatment Plant 

A man-made set of sewage treatment pools and surrounding agricultural land on the outskirts of Nicosia. The site attracts breeding waders and has regularly attracted small but significant numbers of the globally threatened White-headed Duck in winter.

Mesaoria Plain 

This extensive site captures an important part of the central Mesaoria plain and is almost entirely dominated by cereal fields. Though more intensively managed and man-dominated than most other IBAs, it is the top breeding site on the island for three species typical of open, flat and dry landscapes: Stone Curlew, Crested Lark and Calandra Lark.

Famagusta Lakes 

An extensive though fragmented complex of fresh and brackish marshes and pools on the outskirts of Famagusta town, the site attracts a wide range of waterbirds, notably breeding Black-winged Stilt and Spur-winged Lapwing. The lakes are also the only known breeding site for Glossy Ibis in Cyprus.

Other bird watching sites in North Cyprus

Cape Andrea’s (Zafer)
Avtepe / Kuruova area
The north cost around Kaplica
Tuzluca Marsh
Silver Beach
Akova Reservoir
Demirhan pools
Akdeniz Reservoir
Cape Koruçam
Geçitköy Reservoir
Acapulco and Arapköy Reservoir
Haspolat
The Five Fingers Mountain and Herbarium

Wild Birds Found in Northern Cyprus

Guides > Nature > Butterflies

Butterflies indicate a healthy environment, and are generally described as the essence of freedom, peace and nature. Northern Cyprus is famed for rural diversity, the beauty of which acts as one of the main draws to this jewel in the Mediterranean. From stunning mountain ranges to powder soft beaches, the landscape is as picturesque as it is varied. Little wonder then that Northern Cyprus attracts thousands of holiday makers year upon year. The very same reason that it’s loved by an altogether different breed of visitor...the humble butterfly.

 

Northern Cyprus acts as a resting point for over 50 different species as they make their yearly pilgrimage. Hundreds upon millions of butterflies migrate each year, flooding the skies with colour while navigating their way, ensure their continuing survival. Fully grown butterflies appear in February in coastal areas such as Kyrenia and Famagusta.

 

They’re on the wing until May in lowland areas, and at the beginning of

Butterflies in North Cyprus

July appear in mountain areas. Butterfly watching is a growing hobby in North Cyprus for nature lovers, who find, identify and record their behaviour. It’s particularly amazing on the Five Finger Mountains and Alevkaya areas, where you’re likely to see Cyprus Grayling and Cyprus Meadow Brown. You can also spot gorgeous butterflies in bushes, nearby flowers or shady locations. If you take a stroll through the Alevkaya forest between May and September, you may have the unique chance to see the wonderful Hermit and Eastern Rock Grayling.

One of the most easily recognisable visitors, is the Vanessa Cardui or Painted Lady. This particular species, distinguishable by its warm orange wings, edged in black and spotted with white polka dots, has an impressive wingspan of up to 9cm. During March this delicate creature travels up to 15,000 kilometres from is wintering locations in Africa, through the Mediterranean and onto Europe before making the return trip in Autumn. Several varieties of butterfly are endemic to Northern Cyprus, which means that these beautiful insects can be appreciated throughout all four seasons. The Paphos Blue or Glaucopsyche Paphos is one of the island’s permanent residents and unmistakable due to its blue wings. February sees adult butterflies start to emerge in coastal regions and are visible on the wing until June. The Levantine Leopard or Apharitis Acamas appears in June and is a rare and spectacular sight. With wings bearing a distinctive leopard print on the underside, edged in a fine line of silver scales, these delicate wings hold a secret only revealed in the sunlight. Each hind wing possesses two tails, the larger of which is painted with an area of blue and only visible when the light hits it.

 

Most commonly seen between April and October at all altitudes, is the Cyprus Meadow Brown or Maniola Cypricola. A lover of fragrant herbs such as thyme, the females have wings painted on the upper side in shades of amber and yellow, with a distinctive jet-black eye spot. Interestingly, the males of the species are less boldly marked. Another butterfly that enjoys the warmth of the Northern Cyprus climate is the Vanessa Atalanta, or Red Admiral. Easily recognised by its black velvet wings, intersected by striking red bands and specks of bright white, this specific butterfly is fiercely territorial. So much so, that females will only mate with males that hold territory. Unusual in the fact that this butterfly is regarded as ‘people-friendly’, the Red Admiral is only too happy to use humans as a comfortable perch to rest on, just one more reason to make Northern Cyprus your holiday destination.

Guides > Nature > Carob Trees

Carob has been cultivated in Cyprus since the 1st century and was one of the island’s major exports from the medieval era right up to the end of British rule. The carob (harnup), is a flowering evergreen tree or shrub in the legume family, Fabaceae, that can reach 10 metres in height and has a broad thick-bowed crown. It’s widely cultivated for its edible pods, but also has many other uses. Although native to the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, it's also found in North America. It’s usually planted together in mixed cultures with olives, pruned and grafted at an early stage.

History

As Kyrenia region harvested over a quarter of the island’s carob tree pods, Kyrenia Harbour became the centre for its trade, and harbour-front buildings were used as warehouses to store the carob harvest before it was packed into hessian sacks and shipped out to Europe, where it was fed to cattle, sheep and horses. The trade of this cash

Carob Tree in North Cyprus

crop was very profitable for the island and helped to produce such abundant wealth it was named the “Cyprus Black Gold”. Although the international carob trade collapsed in the 1960s, it continues to be harvested by local farmers.

 

Carob Tree

The best carob growing areas are within the Kyrenia mountain range, and can be found anywhere, whether it be dry or stony terrain, to 600 metres above sea level. Its leaves are pinnate, smooth-edged leathery leaflets, dark green to russet in colour. The tree produces clusters of long pods, which in early growth resemble a curved goat’s horn, hence referred to locally as keçiboynuz. It blossoms in July to October, when the catkins appear hanging from mature branches. By the end of the summer the mature pods are 10-30 cm long and flat. During ripening, these gradually turn to a rich dark brown colour and before the pod dries out in the summer heat, it's harvested.

Modern Day Uses

Carob is a feed substance that's highly nutritious and full of sugar, so in addition to being used for animal fodder it has other domestic uses. Carob pods are naturally sweet, not bitter, and contain no theobromine or caffeine. The carob tree fruit is widely used in medicine, as it's rich in such vitamins as A, B, B2, B3 and D. The ripe, dried, and sometimes toasted pod, is often ground into carob powder, which is sometimes used to replace cocoa powder. Carob bars are an alternative to chocolate bars and are globally available in health and vegan food stores. However, the local pekmez (molasses) condiment, produced by boiling carob powder into a reduction, is a healthy favourite found in all supermarkets. The carob is also an excellent source of firewood, and the resin extracted from the seeds is used in cosmetics, paper and textile industries.You can just enjoy eating the fresh dark-brown pods itself, filled with natural honey-like juices and enjoyed by many other mammals alike.

Landscaping

The carob tree is widely cultivated in the horticultural nursery industry as an ornamental plant for Mediterranean climates and other temperate regions around the world, and is especially popular in California and Hawaii. It's very drought tolerant, and if the size of the fruit harvest is not of importance, it can be used in xeriscaping designs for gardens, parks, and public municipal and commercial landscapes.

 

Carats

The carat (the unit of measurement for the size of diamonds and other gemstones), is based on the weight of a carob bean, which is remarkably consistent from pod to pod and tree to tree. There are records of carob beans being used to weigh gems as early as Roman times, and it's thought that the word carat actually derived from these pods.

Guides > Nature > Cumbez Tree

In Famagusta town centre lies this colossal ancient tree. Outside Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, this tree according to botanists, was planted at the time when building of the original St Nicholas Cathedral structure commenced, making it over 720 years of age, and the oldest living tree on the island. The tree has many names, including Ficus sycomorus,(sycamore fig) or the Fig-mulberry as its’ leaves resemble those of the mulberry, but locals refer to it simply as the “Cumbez”.

The Cumbez is native to Africa south of the Sahel and north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and is a tropical fig species that has been cultivated since ancient times. The main trunk of the tree is surrounded by smaller trunks springing up from the massive root system, which have grown into the main one, providing it added support.

 

According to local folklore, there are seven trunks round the main

CumbezTree in North Cyprus

trunk, each representing every 100 years of its past. In the Bible, the sycomore is referred to seven times in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. This monumental tree is what botanists call simple deciduous. Its' leaves will have all but disappeared in the winter giving the illusion that the tree has died, yet in a month, towards the beginning of spring, all the leaves cover the whole tree with dense green foliage, throwing a magnificent shade over the courtyard of the cathedral converted mosque, welcoming travellers visiting during the hot summer days. The Cumbez is the oldest living thing in Cyprus and what a story it's witnessed – Lusignan knights, Venetian builders, Ottoman sieges, earthquakes, and only the tree knows what more. It’s listed under the Department of Culture’s National Heritage List and is protected by the Department of Forestry Famagusta Office.

Guides > Nature > Flora & Fauna

Springtime is by far the time best viewing season with 100+ Cyprus endemic species and 19 North Cyprus endemics to  discover. Crocus, cyclamen and muscari do bloom during the winter months, but late February to end of April are best months for seeing Cyprus in bloom. The flora depends on how much rain fell in winter, as the heat from April onwards brings an end to blooming wildflowers.

Flowers

 

The first colour of Spring is the bright yellow of the Oxalis pes-caprae. An agricultural nuisance but a welcome splash of colour, this is soon followed by the anemones in white, pale mauve, blue and red, and after them come some of the Ophrys and Orchis species such as Ophrys fusca (the Brown Bee Orchid) and Orchis morio (Green-winged Orchis), which are widespread and can be found in the pine forests and on rocky hillsides. The Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) has

Flora & Fauna in North Cyprus

flowers in the white to dark blue spectrum, and grows as a flat cluster of broad green leaves with the flowers nestling in the middle. It can easily be seen along road-sides and on many of the ancient sites. The Crown Daisy (Chrysanthemum coronarium), est of the island. covers the fields and verges with pale orange, bathing the countryside in sunshine.  As the weather starts to get warmer, the most colourful of the Spring flowers clothe the scene. Asphodels, Calendula and three varieties of Cistus (Cistus creticus, Cistus parviflorus and Cistus salviifolius) produce a host of shades. The giant fennel (Ferrula communis) is an inedible plant and grows unchecked in fields and mountains. It grows to a height in excess of 2m with a feathery leaf, used by the local florists in flower arrangements. With many heads of bright yellow flowers, towering over all other species it’s unmissable. The vibrant blues of the anchusas (Anchusa azurea), tall, bright and hairy, and Anchusa undulata, low growing, dark blue almost purple), mix with the paler blue of the Dyer’s alkanet (Alkanna Lehmanii), and the equally colourful echiums, (Echium angustifolium, narrow-leaved Bugloss, and Echium plantagineum, viper’s Bugloss). Flowering from February to May are the ranunculus that grow in the foothills of the mountains. The turban buttercup or Persian crowfoot (Ranunculus Asiaticus), grow in a variety of colours from cream to yellow, deep scarlet, and white flashed with red. Though similar, they’re not to be confused with the anemones that share the same habitat. The common pink corn flag (Gladiolus italicus) can be found in the corn fields as can the Cyprus black tulip (Tulipa cypria), not truly black but very dark red. The Arabian sun rose (Fumana Arabica)and the endemic Cyprus sun rose (Helianthemum obtusifolium) favour the same habitat and are very similar, with papery thin yellow petals, growing in rocky terrain they flower from February to May. North Cyprus is also well known for its tulips, and a Tulip Festival is held yearly in Tepebaşı which is a village located between Kyrenia and Güzelyurt on the north west of the island.

Orchids

North Cyprus is home to around 30 different orchids, all of which are protected species, with the Ophrys Kotscdhyi variety only growing in Cyprus. You can join walking tours specifically tailored to see some of the varieties growing on the island.  Mixed in with the orchids, you’ll see brilliant splashes of colour after the rainy season, with poppies and cyclamen mixed with crocus and cyntius.

 

Trees

Olive trees are another feature of North Cyprus, with destruction of these ancient trees completely illegal.  In the autumn you’ll often see families out on their land, shaking olives from trees and taking them to be pressed for oil. Other North Cyprus trees include the jacaranda with its beautifully coloured bark; the wonderfully scented frangipani and jasmine; the purple flowering Judas tree; delicate pepper trees; and the staples of almond and carob trees which litter the gardens of many .  Fig and mulberry trees are also common.

Citrus Trees

Around November, you’ll regularly see orange, lemon and grapefruit trees bursting with fruit. There’s three types of oranges grown in North Cyprus, and each has a specific purpose and many people still have them growing in their gardens.  Pomegranates are also grown.

Ranunculus Asiaticus (Turban Buttercup, Persian Crowfoot)

The Turban Buttercup is a perennial with sparingly branched stems up to 30 cm high, bearing bright flowers of many colour forms, from white to cream, yellow to orange, flame to scarlet, salmon pink , deep salmon pink, carmine and many amalgamations of these. These beautiful flowers have many different colours, which makes spotting them exciting. For the complete novice, identifying them can be confusing, because at first sight they’re not unlike Crown Anemones. The quickest way to differentiate between them is to be sure that there are green sepals below the petals; there’s no green bract wrapped around the stem under the flower. Habitat: Rocky or grassy hillsides, pastures, roadsides, in ditches, foot-hills of the Kyrenia range on open scree below the north face; sea-level to 2,200 feet alt. Flowers from February to May.

 

Cyclamen Cyprium (Cyprus or Autumn Cyclamen)

Flower stalk slender c.10 cm high erect bronze/purple, bearing a sweet-scented flower in the autumn before leaves appear. Petals white or very pale pink with conspicuous deep magneta (noses) blotch M-shaped where they turn sharply up/back; after flowering the stalks curve down forming small tight "springs" bearing a seeding-box (you can pull gently on the coil and feel the spring-tension which pushes the ovary against the ground, enabling ants to carry away the seeds); seed coat dark brown, rough, very sticky when newly shed. Leaves spade-shaped, fleshy grey-green, marbled; leaf underside rich purple or crimson. Tubers with rough greyish bark, about 7 cm diameter or less; roots appear from one side of lower surface. Habitat:Shaded calcareous or ingenious rocks, on steep hillsides, banks, under shrubs or trees; sea-level to 3,000 ft alt.

Anemone Coronaria (Crown Anemone)

This is one of the most memorable and beautiful Mediterranean plants because of its brightly-coloured flowers, which are among the first to appear in the early spring (although exceptionally bad storms of rain or hail and cold winds have been known to retard the flowering time until the sun encourages them to appear). Flower stems 10-30 cm high, bearing a solitary flower head, leaf-like twice cut into narrow segments. Flowers large, 4-8 cms across, without green sepals, which distinguishes it clearly from the Asiatic Buttercup; 5-8 oval petals, in lavender, lilac, deep purple, red to scarlet, rose-pink, magneta, and more rarely white, blue or in many and various intermediate shades, sometimes two-coloured, with a white or pale base; even the white have a circle of white in the area near the stamens (the white petals make this circle more difficult to see, but caught in the sun at certain angle the white circle shines silvery-white or white). The red form and the shades of purple are the most widespread, but it is very exciting to find the rarer pale apricot pink and the deep salmon pink. Fruiting heads become taller and more cylindrical as the petals fade. Stamens numerous; filaments pink, violet or red; anthers purplish or black; styles threadlike 1-2 mm long, blackish. Torus ovoid; nutlets densely woolly. Leaves broadly triangular, 3-12 cm across, divided into 3 triangular, stalked, pinnatifid or deeply divided segments, ultimate divisions narrow, variously toothed; stalks 3-7 cm long.
Habitat:Habitat of both normal and dwarf forms (var. parviflora) with just as many brilliant colours, but with flowers no larger than a lady's small watch-face, open spaces, grassy slopes and hillsides, in cultivated and fallow fields, by roadsides; sea-level to 2,900 ft alt. on the Kyrenia range, near Five Finger mountains and across from the south face towards the Nicosia road. Flowers from December to April.

 

Narcissus Serotinus (Late Narcissus)

Small perennial with ovoid bulb 1.5-3 cm long, with a thick papery dark brown covering. One or two flowers on slender green stems (with tendency to coil or curve); flowers fragrant, with perianth tube narrow, pale green; petals white, apex rounded to slightly pointed; corona very small, with six semi-circular orange lobes, only 1 mm long. Capsule 1 cm long. Leaves only 1-2, very slender, usually appearing after flowering. Habitat:Shallow soil over rocks, open areas; sea-level to 800 ft alt. Flowers October to early December.

Crocus Veneris [var. Cyprium (Cyprus or Autumn Crocus)

Perennial herb with a corm, in flower 4-8 cm high. Flowers 1-2, fragrant; six white segments, often with a violet stripe or feathering on the outside of the outer three. Leaves 3-4, equalling the flower in height, but occasionally with only the tips showing; up to 1 mm wide, bright dark green, with a narrow silvery median stripe on the upper surface. Habitat: Stony and grassy places in maquis or open conifer woods; 300-2,500 ft alt. Flowers November to January.

Tulipa Cypria (Cyprus or Black Tulip)

This tulip appears to be bright scarlet, but in normal reflected light resembles its common name - Black Tulip. (Note that the scarlet flower with yellow inside is considered by botanists to be a distinct species, Tulipa Agenensis). The cup or the solitary head, has 6 oval petals with pointed tips, the black basal blotch on each petal being only slightly bordered by yellow; stamens thick and sturdy, with bright yellow polen borne on dark red oblong anthers; stigmas creamy, conspicuous on top of the ovary. Stalk 30 cm high, pale yellow-green. Leaves at bases spreading sideways, about 20 cm long, grey-green with undulating margins; those part-way up the stem smaller, narrower and sharply-pointed. Habitat: Mostly in cereal fields, hidden below the level of the wheat, but in great numbers. Flowers Mar-Apr.

 

Helianthemum Obtusifolium (Yellow Cyprus Sun Rose)

Straggling shrublet with branches to 25 cm long, growing on stony ground; flower-buds hairy, purple-black striped with two outer sepals and 3 inner broader ones like pointed spades; 5 pale yellow petals 15 mm long; stamens 4 mm long with distinct oblong anthers which show clearly in the open-plan arrangements of the stamens. Habitat: Dry rocky hillsides in garigue; sea-level to 3,000 ft alt. Flowers February to May.

 

5 Flowers that Solely Grow in Cyprus

Officially, there are 140 recorded endemic plants that only grow on the island. Here’s 5 to for you to admire. If you find yourself out in nature, by all means look for them but don’t pick them as you might be putting the species in danger.

 

Tulipa Cypria

Commonly known as the Cyprus Tulip, the Tulipa Cypria is one of the rarest flowers of the island, making it difficult to stumble upon, but an exciting occasion if you do! Considered a strictly protected species, this tulip flowers during the months of March and April. The Cyprus Tulip is small in size, growing up to 15-40 centimetres high, while its particularity is its two larger leaves at the lower end of its stem. Its striking dark, blood-red colour makes it hard to miss!

Bosea Cypria

In full bloom from April until July, this evergreen shrub can be seen in abundance hanging on the side of cliffs, stone walls or even trees and it’s usually found not too far away from the sea level. Prevalent in the Akamas Nature reserve in the Paphos region, the shrub isn’t hard to miss with its bright red berries!

Alyssum Akamasicum

The Alyssum Akamasicum borrowed its name from ‘Akamas’, the notable natural reserve in the Paphos region where it can be found. Notably, there are 11 locations where it can be seen in the Paphos region only. Known to grow close to the sea level, researchers believe that there are only about 3,000 of its kind in the area, justifying its listing as a vulnerable species.

Ophrys Kotschyi

Known as the Cyprus Bee Orchid, the Ophrys kotschyi has 3 subspecies to its name, 1 of them being native to Cyprus. Prevalent in grasslands and open pine woodlands, this beautiful and distinctive orchid is listed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Cyclamen Cyprium

The Cyclamen Cyprium is also known as the Cyprus Cyclamen. It is the national flower of the island. Flowering from November to March, the Cyprus cyclamen likes to grow in the mountainous regions. Its leaves are heart shaped with rigged edges, while its petals are pale pink with magenta streaks on the edges.

Herbarium

If you’re interested in the flora of North Cyprus, then the Herbarium is well worth a visit. You’ll find it in the Alevkaya Forest Station on the mountain ridge between Esentepe and Degirmenlik and it has over 1,200 native plant species.

Illustrated Guide

North Cyprus is a fantastic place to view hundreds of different types of flora and flowers and “An Illustrated Flora of North Cyprus by Dr Deryck Viney, is an invaluable guide for amateurs and professionals alike if you want to become even more familiar.

Guides > Nature > Hunting

Love it or hate it, Cyprus has had a culture of hunting for generations. Hunting season is normally between September and October. Hunters can use dogs to hunt game such as pheasant, snipe, quail, crow, magpie, and rabbit. It's absolutely prohibited to shoot any bird that isn't on the list issued to hunters, especially birds of prey. Hunting for small game doesn't allow dogs and is mainly for smaller migratory bird species.

The Game and Wild Bird LawCovers Hunting Season, Hunting Animals, Hunting Regions and Hunting Days. North Cyprus has its own Hunting Federation who oversee and govern hunters and the issuing of licences.  They're also involved in breeding programmes to replenish stock and conduct patrols, to ensure hunters are compliant with the laws. Over recent years environmental groups, biologist groups and the public, have voiced concerns about decimation of wildlife, the rise in the number of illegal hunters being caught and the use of illegal hunting methods to trap song birds.  Hunting will always

Hunting in North Cyprus

be a sensitive issue, but other detrimental effects on the natural habitat are also to blame for decreases in bird population, such as major road building projects and prolific property development. In addition to permanent game protection zones and no hunting zones, it's forbidden to  hunt, kill, catch or chase any game or wild birds in the following areas:

500 meters or closer to dams and ponds

300 meters or closer to picnic areas

300 meters or closer to Eleousa Monastery

200 meters or closer to residential areas

200 meters or closer to the Tashkent Nature Park

200 meters or closer to the Central Prison buildings

200 meters or closer to Haspolat Treatment Plants

200 meters or closer of all shooting ranges

200 meters or closer to the new Ercan Airport runway construction

200 meters or closer to universities

200 meters or closer to formalized corral areas

200 meters or closer to Muratağa, Atlılar and Sandallar martyrdoms and massacre pits

100 meters or closer to the Animal Waste Storage Area

The TRNC Flag drawn on the rocks over the Tashkent village

200 meters or closer to the adjacent meteorological station

Guides > Nature > Incirli Cave

Within a hill near the tiny village of Cinarli, sits the largest cave on the island. Taking its name from a nearby fig tree, Incirli Cave is a naturally formed gypsum cave located about 2km to the northeast of Cinarli, containing a fascinating collection of stalagmites and stalactites. To better understand the speleology of Incirli, (the study or exploration of caves), here's some key words to get your head around.

Gypsum: A soft sulphate mineral that's widely mined and used as a fertilizer and the main constituent in many forms of plaster, blackboard chalk and dry wall.


Stalactites: Icicle-shaped formations with pointed tips, that hang down from the ceiling of a cave. Produced from water dripping through the cave ceiling.
Stalagmite: Upward-growing mound of mineral deposits made from water dripping onto the floor of a cave. Most have rounded or flattened tips.

Incirli Cave in North Cyprus

The Cave

Incirli cave is a fascinating collection of stalagmites and stalactites. Hidden away off a signed beaten track, the entrance to this amazing cave is so small that you'd hardly know it was there if it weren't for the nearby symbolic fig (Turkish: incir) tree. Two flights of steps take you down into the widest and longest part of the cave. The only known developed gypsum topography cave in Northern Cyprus or Türkiye, it's very well illuminated for visitors with hand rails to make it easy to make your way through. Lined with unique cauliflower shaped structures formed out of the white mineral, coarse stalactites hang from the ceiling whilst smooth stalagmites rise from the ground.  Columns extending to the ceiling and sandstone rock formations add to the beauty.  The air inside is dry and refreshing and the rocks will remind you of coral. The cave extends to a depth of about 250 metres. It's 5-10 metres wide at points, and 4-7 metres high, which is said to change according to the phases of the moon. Towards the end, the passageway narrows and sharply turns, providing a maze-like tour, with small corridors branching off into darkened nooks and rock formations swept upwards in exquisite curves.

Legendary Tales

A long time ago, there were three thieves who hid their stolen goats in this cave. Villagers followed the footprints of the animals all the way to the fig tree where they mysteriously disappeared. After days of patrolling the area and with the help of local police, they laid an ambush which led to the discovery of the cave entrance nearby. As they watched the thieves enter the cave at midnight, they guarded the entrance until sunlight to make their move. Entering the cave the next morning, they were shocked to find no trace of the thieves nor the animals. Rumour has it  the thieves escaped from a second entrance, close to the village of Altinova, some distance from Cinarli – this entrance is still waiting to be rediscovered to this day. In the 1950’s and 1960’s this cave was also known to be used as a hideout for nationalist guerrillas that fought a campaign for the end of British rule.

 

Getting There

The village, also referred to as ‘Platani’ and ‘Bladan’, is in the foothills of the Besparmak Mountains, famous for its organic honey and accessible from all directions. From Kyrenia, drive east along the coast towards Tatlisu and you'll see a sign post which will take you along a stony, windy road for about 4 km until you get to the car park. If you prefer, you can bypass this first sign and carry on a few kilometres where you'll see a second sign which takes you there via a much easier tarmac road. From Famagusta or Nicosia, the road bypassing Gecitkale towards the coast will take you directly to this second sign. A more scenic countryside stretching from Iskele via Sinirustu is yet another course to this remarkable site but the roads are simle to say the least. There is a car park and a ticket office office where you can buy some water or take a toilet break if required. The fig tree at the entrance that this cave takes its name from, has fruits believed to have healing powers. If you visit in the peak of summer you may find some to pick from the lower branches, assuming you beat the locals to it. Caves were amongst the earliest forms of shelter for mankind and one of the first places where humans began to pictorially depict their world around, in wall inscriptions and paintings. The Incirli cave is a fine example of the mysterious and astonishing world that caves represent for the curious and intrepid explorer.

Guides > Nature > Karpaz National Park

Jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea’s easternmost reaches, the Karpaz Peninsula, otherwise known as the “Panhandle”, is a welcome diversion from the hustle and bustle of everyday life further inland. Almost 80 km from one end to the other, this peninsula is perhaps the Mediterranean’s last piece of unspoilt tranquillity, where green and azure meets history. Sparsely populated, with a wealth of deserted golden sand, life’s a beach here. Crop farmers, still relying on archaic horse-drawn implements, cheerily go about their work, while the Cyprus donkey roams freely in abundance.


Along with multiple amphibians, reptiles and birds passing through on their migration routes, loggerhead and green sea turtles are also proud to regard this unspoilt stretch of land as home, sensing idyllic nesting grounds when they see them. From here, Maquis, Cypress and Pine trees pepper the countryside and scurry up hills to altitudes of around 1,000 metres, comprising a handsome backdrop to the serene

Karpaz National Park in North Cyprus

sapphire blue of the gently caressing ocean. The surrounding waters have a wonderful clarity, ideal for snorkellers while  those of a less intrepid nature may opt for a spot of fishing instead. Blessed with a biodiversity so rich, the entire area has been rightfully deemed a national reserve. The architectural eye candy includes several ruins, Kantara Castle and the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas, dedicated to Saint Andrew. The peninsula has lonely white sandy beaches, including the famous Golden Beach.

 

Natural sanctuary

The main reason for making Karpaz a conservation area is its natural flora and fauna. It's home to many endemic and protected species. Plant species number about 1,600 (22 endemic), bird species about 350 (7 endemic) and 26 reptile and amphibian species, so the biological diversity is especially rich.

Plant species

Springtime sees colourful flowers like anemones, turban buttercups, poppies and gladioli. Although the area was cultivated with tomatoes, bananas and fruit trees, the "terra rossa" soil derived from limestone, red in colour due to the iron compounds, hosts orchids and lime-loving plants as well. The area on the whole is a landscape of rolling hills and grain fields, partly domesticated with vineyards, tobacco fields, olive or carob trees. Up to an altitude of 1,000 metres the hills are covered with pines, cypress and maquis vegetation.

 

Wildlife

Karpaz peninsula is one of the main migration stops for birds between Eastern Europe and Africa with around 300 species, amounting to millions of birds following this route in early spring and late summer. The remotest tip of the Karpaz, the Klídhes islands, allows sea birds such as Shag or Audouin's Gull to nest undisturbed. The cliffs provide secure strongholds for nesting Peregrine Falcons, as well as Doves and Pigeons. About 46 sandy beaches in the Karpaz are natural habitats and the main nestling ground to loggerhead ( Caretta caretta ) and green sea turtles ( Chelonia mydas ) who come to lay eggs on sandy beaches east of Cape Plakotí. Cyprus donkeys live freely in the Karpaz national park. Generally black, sometimes ginger, approach them with care.

Life in Karpaz

Almost free from heavy population and industry, the region is one of the least polluted in the European Mediterranean. Fishing is the main industry of the countryside, with Bogaz and Kumyali the most important fishing villages. Many tourists visit to have a trip, admire the abandoned civilization of Byzantine churches, or just enjoy the nature and wide sandy beaches. Among the historical sights is Apostolos Andreas Monastery, a popular meeting point of many worshippers and visitors at the very tip of the Karpaz peninsula.

Guides > Nature > Monumental Olive Trees

Think of the Mediterranean and you'll picture perfect coastlines, spectacular mountainsides and landscapes lined with olive trees. The “Monumental Olive Trees” may not be the first attraction you consider visiting in Northern Cyprus, but these gifts of mother nature are certainly overwhelming.

 

Located in the village of Kalkanli on the North West coast, just outside Guzelyurt, these are the most ancient olive trees in Northern Cyprus, believed to have been planted in the 11th century Lusignan period.

 

Some 2,000 colossal trees over 700 years in age, this area is one of the most important projects in the Natura 2000 initiative under EU protection. The area is a living cultural and natural heritage and makes a very popular attraction. If you enjoy nature and unique sights, these majestic trees in the wilderness are definitely a must-do on the list.

Monumental Olive Trees in North Cyprus

Usually on the last Sunday of March, the annual “Kalkanli Monumental Olive Trees Walk” is held with the aim of promoting olive trees and their importance to Northern Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot cultural heritage alike. Think of the Mediterranean and you'll picture perfect coastlines, spectacular mountainsides and landscapes lined with olive trees. The “Monumental Olive Trees” may not be the first attraction you consider visiting in Northern Cyprus, but these gifts of mother nature are certainly overwhelming.

 

Located in the village of Kalkanli on the North West coast, just outside Guzelyurt, these are the most ancient olive trees in Northern Cyprus, believed to have been planted in the 11th century Lusignan period.

 

Some 2,000 colossal trees over 700 years in age, this area is one of the most important projects in the Natura 2000 initiative under EU protection. The area is a living cultural and natural heritage and makes a very popular attraction. If you enjoy nature and unique sights, these majestic trees in the wilderness are definitely a must-do on the list.

Guides > Nature > Mushrooming

Mushroom hunting is serious business in Northern Cyprus – really. A mushroom is actually the fruit of a fungus, which is simply a net of threadlike fibres called a mycelium, which grows in soil, wood or decaying matter. Most mushrooms are edible and highly delicious, some aren’t edible, and the rest are deadly poisonous, so if you want to go mushroom hunting in Northern Cyprus – take notice!

 

The function of a mushroom is to produce spores which are the bits that make it reproduce. Spore identification is the master key for fungal identification. Some mushrooms produce their spores on gills (gilled fungi); some in pores (pore fungi), some on teeth (tooth fungi), some inside a leathery pouch (puffballs), some on the inside of shallow cups (cup fungi) and some simply on the surface of the mushroom (coral fungi and others). The spores fall off, get blown away by wind, or are carried by animals, water or insects. If a spore lands in a suitable spot, it germinates and grows into a new mycelium.


Mushrooms in North Cyprus

Mushrooms fall into two major groups. Ascomycota includes morels, cup fungi and truffles. They produce their spores in a closed ascus which opens upon maturity, and are called spore shooters. Basidiomycota ​includes gilled agarics, boletes, polypores and jelly fungi. They bear their pores on naked basidia called droppers, because they drop down the gills as they mature. The mushrooms most people recognise are the gilled fungi. These typical parasol-shaped mushrooms have caps with bladelike gills on the underside and stems with or without rings. The pore fungi are similar in appearance but have a spongy layer of tubes of pores on the underside of the cap instead of gills.

 

Mushroom collecting requires the simplest of equipment: an ice box or flat-bottomed basket; small plastic or polystyrene boxes; a roll of waxed paper; a digging tool; and paper for notes. Be sure to collect the entire mushroom, including the base. Take only fresh, young mushrooms that are free of insect damage. Each type of mushroom should be wrapped separately in waxed paper and kept in small polystyrene boxes along with any notes you might want to make about the habitat and appearance of the mushroom. Don’t use plastic wrap as it just hastens decay. It’s a good idea to note where the mushroom is growing (on wood, soil or moss for example); whether it’s single or in clusters, the colour of the caps, gills and stem; and any other distinctive features. The more you can observe about the mushroom in the field, the easier it will be to identity.

Individual spores are too small to be seen with the naked eye, but you can make a spore print to show the colour of the spores which is an important identifying characteristic for many mushrooms, especially the gilled fungi. To make a spore print, cut the stem off and place the cap gill-side or pore-side on a piece of white paper for coloured spores or coloured paper for white spores. (For best results use white paper and black paper).  Cover with a bowl or jar. If the mushroom is at the right stage, not too young, old or deteriorated, the spores will slowly collect on the paper. A spore print will be visible in 12-24 hours. There’s over 100 different species belonging to 60 different genera in Northern Cyprus.

Guides > Nature > Reptiles & Amphibians

Herpetofauna

All of the amphibians and reptiles that exist in a specific area. The herpetofauna of Northern Cyprus is represented by 3 amphibian and 23 reptile species (3 are turtles), 11 lizards and 9 snakes. The biodiversity of Cyprus fauna may not be as wide as continental Eastern Mediterranean countries, but due to its’ geographical isolation, endemism is high. Animals on Cyprus have been separated from their continental counterparts for so long they’ve evolved slightly differently. The Troodos lizard is one of 7 endemic species on the island.

 

Geological formation of the island occurred over three geologic time periods. In the Palaeozoic period, Troodos Mountains started to emerge as an island. In the Mesosoic period the Pentadactylos Mountains started to take shape as another island. During the Cenozoic period, with sea levels changing, the Mesaria plain took shape and formed the island as it is today, so Cyprus has been separated from the Anatolian mainland for around 5 million years. This isolation had a crucial role in forming the present day herpetofauna of Cyprus and is probably the main reason for endemic reptile

Reptiles in North Cyprus

races. There are no venomous lizards or frogs in Cyprus but 30% of snakes are. Cat Snake and Eastern Montpellier Snakes are usually harmless. Even if they bite your fingers their fangs are way back in their upper jaws so they’re unlikely to pierce your skin. The Blunt-nosed Viper however, can be dangerous to mammals, including humans, as it has a large pair of venom fangs in the front of its upper jaw. 

If you’re bitten by a venomous snake:

  • Reassure and calm the person.

  • Immobilise the bite area, as movement may spread the venom.

  • Immediately go to a hospital with antivenin facilities.

  • If medical attention is going to be more than an hour away, a firm, but not tight, ligature can be applied over the bite area to slow the venom spreading.

  • Cutting with a sterile razor or sucking the wound is not recommended. The first may induce shock and the second might poison the sucker!

  • Washing with strong disinfectants or with potassium permanganate should be avoided.

  • People who happen to be highly sensitive to snake venom may collapse. Get them medical attention asap.

Northern Cyprus Herpetofauna

Name
Family
Endemic
Budak's Skink
Scincidae
No
Ocellated Skink
Scincidae
No
Spotted Skink
Scincidae
Subspecies Level
Worm Snake
Typhlopidae
No
Large Whip Snake
Colubridae
No
Dahl's Whip Snake
Colubridae
No
Coin Snake
Colubridae
No
Levantine Dwarf Snake
Colubridae
No
Dice Snake
Colubridae
No
Cat Snake
Colubridae
Subspecies Level
Eastern Montpellier Snake
Colubridae
No
Blunt-Nosed Viper
Viperidae
Subspecies Level
Green Toad
Bufonidae
No
Lemon-Yellow Tree Frog
Hylidae
No
Levantine Marsh Frog
Ranidae
No
Balkan Terrapin
Geomydidae
No
Loggerhead Turtle
Chelonidae
No
Green Turtle
Chelonidae
No
Kotschy's Gecko
Gekkonidae
Subspecies Level
Turkish Gecko
Gekkonidae
No
Starred Agama
Agamidae
Subspecies Level
European Chameleon
Chamaelontidae
No
Spiny-Footed Lizard
Lacertidae
No
Troodos Lizard
Lacertidae
Species Level
Snake-Eyed Lizard
Lacertidae
Subspecies Level

Guides > Nature > Snakes

Snakes normally generate dread as people imagine they're going to jump out and bite, but the reality is that snakes just want to be left alone, so if you do come across one, leave it be! Even non-poisonous snakes may bite or whip their tails to defend themselves if they feel threatened, so simply turn round and walk the other way and they'll more often than not simply slide away or not react at all.

 

Worm Snake

The pink worm snake (Typhlops Vermicularis) is the most uncommon snake in Cyprus. It’s small, only 25-40 centimetres long, and its shape makes it look like a worm. It lives and hunts underground, eating ants, ant eggs and maggots, as well as spiders and insects. Snakes are an important part of the ecological system and their extinction would have grave consequences. There are many natural predators, including cats, which were imported in large quantities on the orders of a saint in the 4th century, and they are very effective at their job.

Snakes in North Cyprus

The Large Whip Snake or Black Snake

The Black Snake (Coluber Jugularis) is common in North Cyprus and non-venomous, but it does kill its prey by constriction (squeezing them to death!). Can grow to around 3 metres in length and is considered the longest snake in Europe. Up until 5-6 years of age, it has a brick colour with dark brown spots but later takes its' characteristic black colour.  Can be found in heights up to 1,500 metres, habitat can be fields, forests, mountain areas and sometimes up a tree raiding a bird’s nest for eggs.  Its diet consists of small mammals, bird, lizards and even other snakes. It was imported to keep the numbers of poisonous varieties down. It is completely harmless but considered dangerous when thretened. If found in danger, it lifts its body to bite, which is not poisonous but may last longer due to the curviness of its teeth. It is this snake which is most often seen on the island, and you can often see them on the road where they have been run over by a car. An adult has gleaming black skin with a bluish tint. The younger snakes are light brown with dark spots or stripes. The whip snake eats rodents and other snakes, and is a powerful enemy of the poisonous blunt-nosed viper.

 

The Cyprus Whip Snake

Non-venomous species endemic to Cyprus.  Changes from olive-brown to a dark brown-black on maturing.  Can grow to around 1.5m, is often seen in rocky, well vegetated areas near to streams and mainly feeds on lizards, snakes, frogs, rodents and inssects. It is completely harmless and will flee in the presence of humans. It's a rare breed on the island and located at heights up to 2,400 metres. It moves day as well as night. Ir prefers wet shady area near streams or dams which are covered by bushes or other vegetation.

The Coin Snake

The coin Snake (Coluber Numifer) is non-venomous and often mistaken for the Blunt Nosed Viper, which is very dangerous, but the circles on its back are brighter and more distinct. Will hiss loudly if it feels threatened and can give a painful bite.  Grows to around 1.4m, has a large head, is yellow or gray brown in colour and has distinctive markings on the top and side of its head with a roundish pattern along its length.  Feeds on lizards, mice, small birds and geckos.  Most often seen in the coastlines and mountain areas.

The Cat Snake

Hunts at night so you may not see this one so much. Slow moving and venomous but not known to bite humans. If threatened, will coil up into a ring, raise itself and hiss at you.  Can grow to around 1m in length, has a yellow-brown body colour covered with black spots and lives mainly on a diet of lizards. Not a common species, but you may find them in some coastal areas as well as the Troodos mountain area.You can find this snake at all heights, in open forest areas as well as residential areas and can lay  to 8 eggs. It mainly feeds on small mammals as well as lizards. It hunts at dawn and dusk and kills its prey with venom and then swallows it.

 

The Montpellier Snake

Venomous but very rarely would bite and the poison is not life threatening anyway, but would cause swelling and headaches so take note..  Usually grey-brown in colour and can grow to 2m in length.  Has coarse scales which sound like grinding when slithering and ridged eyebrows make it look quite menacing.  Found in forests, open fields, coastal and mountain areas, it feeds mainly on lizards, small mammals and insects. It also feeds on other  snakes while the young feed on insects and mainly beetles. On the back of its jaw it has two large poisonous teeth. Its large eyes are characteristic of its good eyesight which is its main sense.

 

The Blunt Nosed Viper

The most dangerous snake in North Cyprus with a potentially deadly bite. It's also a protected species so it's illegal to kill them (even though their bite might kill you!). Grey-brown colour camouflages it with the rocky terrain it favours, so keep alert if you're walking in mountain areas.  They're also known to like areas around swimming pools during the hotter summer months, because of wildlife that comes to drink at pool-sides.  Can be quite fat in appearance and growing to around 1.5m with a diamond patterned back.  It will warn you of its presence with hissing (how considerate!), but will attack quickly if threatened.  Its bite is made more dangerous by the fact that it imbeds its fangs into tissue and pumps large amounts of poison into the wound.

Guides > Nature > Tulipa Cypria

This perennial bulb plant is a Cyprus endemic belonging to the Liliaceae family. Grown on the pastures around the Tepebaşı and Avtepe villages, the deep red flower blossoms can be seen in March and April.

 

Under protection and picking forbidden, the absence of references to this endemic tulip species in ancient literature suggests that the Cyprus Tulip may be a recent mutant of a species which arrived within the last 300 – 400 years.

 

Tulipa cypria, the Cyprus tulip, is an erect perennial bulbous herb, 15–40 cm high (in blossom), with glabrous, glaucous leaves.  It flowers March–April. The fruit is a capsule. The Cypriot tulip grows in juniperus phoenicea maquis pastures and cereal fields, on limestone at altitudes of 100–300 m (330–980 ft) above sea level.

 

The plant is endemic to Cyprus, on Akamas, Kormakitis and some areas of the Pentadaktylos range. It's very rare and strictly protected.

Tulipa Cypria in North Cyprus

Guides > Nature > SPOT (Society for the Protection of Turtles)

Guides > Nature > Water

A new £270 million undersea water pipeline from Türkiye (Northern Cyprus Water Supply Project) puts water “on tap” in North Cyprus. Previously water come solely from rainfall and costly desalination and dry summers saw drinking, golf course and irrigation water shortages. Now the Northern Cyprus Water Supply Project, initiated by Türkiye 40 miles away, has guaranteed clean, pure drinking water for everyone in the TRNC and, potentially, eventually for the whole island.

Alakopru dam, built in Anamur in the Mersin province of Southern Türkiye, holds up to 4.61 billion cubic feet of water.  The water goes to a pumping station which pumps it through an 80km (50 mile) long pipe, 250m nder the sea, to a pumping station in Northern Cyprus.  There, it gets pumped to the massively expanded, spectacular Gecitkoy Dam, which nestles behind the Besparmak hills close to Kyrenia. This project has enhanced irrigation, agriculture and hence the standard of living, as well as ensuring that all residents and visitors never have to face water shortages in the future. 

Water in North Cyprus

The pipeline will also potentially provide electricity to Northern Cyprus from Türkiye. Dubbed “Peace Water” or in Turkish “Baris Su” – many experts hope the water can act as a catalyst for increasing co-operation between North and South Cyprus, as the South is urgently in need of a reliable supply of fresh water too.  Half of the new water will be used for irrigation and half for domestic consumption. One thing's for sure – you can now benefit not just from the reported increase in land prices as a result of the pipeline, but also from beautifully pure and healthy Turkish spring water.  On tap!

Guides > Nature > Wild Donkeys

You might have bumped into these lovely animals while exploring the beautiful landscapes of the Karpaz Peninsula, or paying a visit to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, or out towards Zafer Burnu.

 

Descended from the African wild ass, donkeys were domesticated around 4,000 BC. Traditionally, donkeys played an important role in agriculture on the Karpaz Peninsula, to carry olives from the groves and cereals from the fields to mills. Households often had one or two donkeys which were sure-footed and often able to carry more than a horse. However by the 1970’s, tractors and trucks began to replace these donkeys which were abandoned and left to fend for themselves. All stray donkeys across the island were subsequently rounded up and taken to the Karpaz, and despite farmers installing fences to protect their crops, many donkeys escaped into the wider area which is the protected National Park.


WIld Donkeys in North Cyprus

These hardworking, faithful, reliable and docile creatures with strikingly beautiful eyes are a must see for island sightseers. You’d be forgiven if you thought you saw horses at first, thanks to their sizeable bodies, but don’t let their size fool you, these donkeys are actually quite friendly. Lovers of open fields and tasty carrots or carobs, they enjoy being patted and given treats. Just make sure you don’t squeeze them too much because they'll show some attitude if you step too far into their comfort zones. The most popular and widespread type of the Cyprus Donkey has a dark coat with a white belly and is probably of European origin. This is the unusually large breed, which is a favourite amongst tourists. There’s also a smaller type of donkey that typically has a grey coat and has African roots. One thing is certain about both breeds: no matter their size or coat, you’ll love them just the same.

 

The Cyprus Donkey isn’t the only animal unique to Cyprus. There’s the majestic Cyprus Mouflon, a wild sheep, which is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Mediterranean Monk Seal is also under the “endangered” category, and has been spotted along the shores of Cyprus in increasing numbers over recent years, even though they’re not unique to Cyprus. Perhaps it was the focus on preserving these animals or many others, like green and loggerhead turtles, that left the friendly Cyprus Donkey slightly underappreciated over the years. When news broke out in 2008 that their numbers were declining, the reaction of the Cypriot population was so heartfelt that it sparked one of the first collaborations between both sides of the island in years.

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