GREECE - SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2019
MILOS & PELOPONNESE
For our couples vacation in 2019, my girlfriend Daphne and I decided to go to Greece.
Daphne had succesfully completed her fashion designer studies in july and I completed my bachelor thesis in mid september, so we both had earned us a nice trip.
We each had different priorities for the trip, but did not despise the others preference: Daphne wanted to visit beautiful beaches and go hiking and I wanted to go herping of course.
After a few long nights of looking for possible vacation destinations, we settled on Greece, eventhough we both wanted to go somewhere tropical at first. Greece was the "budget" choice in the end. After a lot of research we decided to fly to Athens and then take the ferry to some island for a beach-and-herping getaway. That Island later turned out to be Milos, which looking back was a very wise decision.
Being a viper freak, my main target was to find a Milos Viper (Macrovipera lebetina schweizeri) on the Island. This snake is one of the most venomous, yet beautiful viper species in europe and the only Macrovipera species/subspecies on european territory. They only occur on four greek islands including Milos.
However, there are three more snake species on Milos I was hoping to find: Leopard snake (Zamenis situla), Cat snake (Telescopus fallax) and the Milos Grasssnake (Natrix natrix schweizeri). The lizard species on Milos were very intriguing aswell so I was very hyped for the trip.
Our second destination in Greece was the Peloponnese peninsula. We made this decision due to the weather situation and because we wanted warmer weather for the beaches. On the peninsula I had two main targets: The southern subspecies of the Nose Horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes meridionalis) and one of my favorite amphibian species, the Eastern Spadefoot (Pelobates syriacus / Pelobates balcanicus). Thankfully I found an area where both targets occur. We planed 4 days on the Peloponnese, but because we loved Milos so much and stayed there longer, we only had one full day for herping on the peninsula.
September 22nd - 26th Arrival and first reptiles
Our flight arrived very late in Athens on the 22nd. On the morning of the 23rd, we drove to the harbour of Piräus and entered the ferry to Milos. We arrived on the Island in the late evening. On the 24th, We had our first herping day. We visited a wet area in hope of vipers, but found no snakes (just a cat snake shed). However we were able to see the first lizards of the trip: Milos Wall Lizard (Podarcis milensis) and one of my favorite european lizards, Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi). At midday we drove to the beach to cool off and luckily found a beautiful mantis (Empusa fasciata). The next day we took some time to hang out and did not go herping. On the 26th we found another cool gecko species, the Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). After checking some nice rocky edges of field I saw the worst thing a herper can find: A DOR viper.
September 27th The first vipers!
In the morning I drove to a rocky area to search for vipers. After checking rocky walls and edges of fields for hours and only finding more wall lizards and geckos, it was getting very hot in the sun. I decided to try another area. The new spot was more shady and even had a couple of puddles of water. I approached the small ponds only to finally find my first Milos Viper! It was hanging over the puddle in ambush for birds. I had read about this behaviour of the species in fall, but to actually see it was incredible. After a quick photoshoot, I headed to our accomodation to tell Daphne about my success.
In the evening we went to some bigger ponds together in hope of Grasssnakes. The ponds were full of water frogs (Pelophylax sp.) but we could not find any Grasssnakes there. However, on a bank of the pond I found a small viper and another, very brightly colored specimen at the edge of the water. Daphne was very happy to see here first Milos Vipers and she even decided to join me in herping a nearby valley the next moring. So after a great meal, we headed to bed early that night in anticipation of the next day.
September 28th & 29th Red vipers & the trees have eyes
We woke up early the next morning to hike up a dry riverbed. Within the first few metres, we found our first snake, a very beautiful male Milos Viper. It was laying in ambush, partially covored by leaves in the sand. I took some images and we continued to head up the valley shortly after. After quite a while, we approached a small puddle. Having seen 3 vipers around water the day before, I jokingly said "okay, heres the water, so wheres the viper?" only to follow it up with "holy sh*t, a red one!!!". The red Milos Viper female was laying on some reddish rocks very close to the pond. While creeping up on her, I scared away another viper on the other side of the puddle. While I took images of the red specimen, Daphne headed further up the valley and found another viper on a rock in the middle of a small puddle. Happy, we returned to the car. It was the perfect day up to that moment, until Daphne hit her head pretty bad on the car door, which was swinging towards her in the strong wind. We ended our outdoor activities that day in order for her to get some rest. In the afternoon we switched to another accomodation in a more peaceful and quiet part of the island.
The next day we slept longer than usual and went to the beach at noon. At night, we returned to the valley. Within sight of our car we found the first viper ... on a branch! It was an amazing sight. We headed back into the river valley, only to find an even more red viper than the one the day before in a bush. We ended up seeing a few more vipers that night, all either near the puddles or on branches.
September 30th & October 1st The final days on Milos
Eventhough we had already extended our time on the island, we decided to stay two more days. After the crazy night on the 29th, Daphne and I were excited to try another valley for herping. We headed up another dirt road and proceeded down a valley on foot. The first viper we found that day was the biggest we've seen so far. It was a particularly fat and grumpy one aswell. Further down the valley we stumbled upon another viper. This speciman was laying on a branch over a puddle. After a successfull morning, we headed to the beach for the rest of the day. At night I went to a couple different locations to search for Cat Snakes, but only photographed water frogs and found a mantis and another viper.
The next morning was our last morning on Milos sadly. We did a couple of fast checks around some valleys and found two more vipers. After our tour, we had to return to the harbour. The ferry took even longer back to Athens than on the way to Milos. We arrived in Athens at night and then drove to the northern Peloponnese.
Morning of October 2nd Herping on the Peloponnese with Elias
On the morning after the long drive, I met Elias Tzoras, a very friendly and skilled greek herper, who promised to show me some nice vipers. We drove to a eucalyptus forest and began searching the area. It did not take long, until Elias spotted the first snake, a female Nose Horned Viper. We found some more vipers , liazrds and tortoises in that forest, before switching spots. On the second spot, we found some lizards aswell as a Dice- and a Grasssnake. Before it got too hot, we went for a third spot, which proved to be successfull aswell, as Elias found a very big male Nose Horned Viper and more tortoises. We picked up Daphne and after showing her some tortoises, we went to eat some good greek food and headed to the beach afterwards. Sadly, Elias had to leave shortly after, but we had a great time herping with him!
Night of the 2nd- and morning of the 3rd of October
At night, we went back to the forest. The area was full of mosquitos and so Daphne waited on me, as I got stung all over while herping. It was worth it though, because besides a lot of scorpions and a few Tree Frogs, I found many more Nose Horned Vipers in the forest. I havent seen any nocturnal activity of Vipera species up to that day, so it was a very interesting experience.
We then moved to another area, where I was happy to find my second target species on the Peloponnese: The Eastern Spadefoot! A lot of these cute amphibians were sitting on completely dry soil next to a sandy road.
I did some early morning flipping the next day and found a Balkan Whip Snake. Sadly I only had a few minutes until we had to drive all the way back to the airport in Athens.
In conclusion, it was one of the greatest trips we ever had!
We had a total blast in Greece: The herps and beaches were fantastic and the people were amazingly kind. For example, whenever we were herping at night with our car parked besides the road, people stopped their car to ask us if we were having car troubles and needed help. Thats something we were not used to from living in Germany.
Since our vacation in Australia, we had a hard time finding the perfect holiday destination in europe but are happy to have finally found it. The trip was not only successfull herping wise because we had a great time throughout the trip. I want to thank my wonderful girlfriend for this vacation and am looking forward to many more!
Also huge thanks to the people who gave me a lot of advice herpingwise and therefore made this trip even better:
Andre Schmid, Daniel Bohle and Elias Tzoras.
Here are my 7 favorite images of this trip. Thank you for reading the report and enjoy!
Vipera ammodytes meridionalis
Macrovipera lebetina schweizeri
Pelophylax sp. (Milos Water Frog)
Pelobates syriacus / balcanicus