Samos 6th until 13th of July 2015

Having visited Samos already two times (2008 and 2009) this island was maybe not the most obvious choice as a summer holidays destination. Despite the high number of species that can be found here I know all too well that all the rumours about the low numbers of most species are true and even under prime circumstances herping can be hard here (see also Speybroeck et al (2014)). On the other hand Laura and I were looking for a cheap destination that still offers some herping opportunities and we quickly came to Samos. In part because it is also the only place in Greece where Mediterranean Chameleon can be found and we were hoping that nocturnal searches would still give us a chance to see some interesting snakes.

Due to its close proximity to the Turkish mainland, its relative recent isolation and the wide array of habitats, a staggering 28 species can be found on the island. A number only surpassed by the island of Corfu. Most of these species are however found in low numbers and are not all that common. We did not search that much by daytime as swimming and relaxing on the beach is more tempting and more rewarding with the high temperatures we had. Our searches for animals were mostly done after dinner as most snake species become nocturnal during the hot summermonths.

As a base we choose Hotel Angeliki in Ireon, a small town at the SE part of the island from where it is easy to reach the specious lowlands but also the more mountaineous areas with lush valleys and refreshing streams. Tourism is not as massive as for example in Vathy, Kokkari or Pythagorion and the tranquillity of the town makes for a perfect place to relax. All in all it was so good to be back in the Mediterranean bassin in summer, the smells of the garrigue vegetation, the sounds of the singing cicadas and the sight of the azure sea, I missed it!

Overview of prospected sites.
Overview of prospected sites.

All pictures © Bobby Bok & Laura Tiemann

6th of July 2015

We were lucky for having an early flight and a smooth journey made us arrive on time on the island. After collecting the rental car and dropping our luggage at the hotel we were soon on our way to explore and search for wildlife. Our first stop was the riverbed of the Imvrassos, the river where according to Greek mythology the goddess Hera was born and lived together with Zeus. While wading through the refreshing shallow water we could easily observe the first of many Balkan Terrapins (Mauremys rivulata), Levant Water Frogs (Pelophylax bedriagae) and our first Grass Snake (Natrix natrix). Afterwards we searched at the Glyfada lakes and at Potokaki Beach and found several quick and shy Snake-eyed Lacertids (Ophisops elegans) including many freshly hatched juveniles, a Starred Agama (Laudakia stellio), two young Green Toads (Bufotes viridis) and a skin of a Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius). Eager to see more species (and especially the rare European Pond Terrapin) we went to a beautiful little lake with crystal clear water. On the way a small Dahl's Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum) escaped sadly but a dip in the lake cheered us up a bit. The hot afternoon we spend at the beach of Psilli Ammos and after things got a bit cooler we headed back to Ireon for a shower and a meal at the fantastic restaurant Karavopetra. After dark we went for roadcruising around Koumaradei but the heavy wind made us doubt if it would be any good. At a small roadside quarry we went out of the car and Laura found the first Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) and I saw the tiniest creature crawling through the grass, A Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus)! When we drove back we felt incredibly lucky to encountered this beautiful little creature which is not so readily seen. Half way back to Ireon we had to press the brakes hard because of a sluggishly moving snake on the road. Our luck was not over yet as this was our first Ottoman Viper (Montivipera xanthina) which was crossing. Amazing! Back at Ireon we had a last stroll through the riverbed of the Imvrassos but only found Balkan Terrapin, Levant Water Frog and Green Toad but could look back to an amazing first day.

7th of July 2015

After our first breakfast in the Hotel Angeliki we were already looking forward of having breakfast here every day, simply the best breakfast I ever had in Greece. During the morning hours we went towards a beautiful rivervalley with a waterbassin and explored here. We could rather easily observe Levant Water Frog, Balkan terrapin, Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata), Anatolian Rock Lizard (Anatololacerta anatolica) and a Grass Snake. During noon it got incredibly hot already so we had a dip in the cool water of the stream with Beautiful Demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo) and White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) flying elegantly above our heads. Afterwards we went south of Ireon and steep bumpy roads brought us to the stunning Asprokavos Beach. Completely deserted due to its remote position and a fantastic place to spend the hottest hours of the day. After another great meal at Karavopetra restaurant we headed back to the same rivervalley and found Levant Water Frog, Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Balkan Terrapin, Grass Snake, Turkish Gecko and a dead Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca). About two meters high up in a rock wall in a small olive grove I stared right into the face of another Ottoman Viper. While getting my camera ready the animal did not feel comfortable any more and slid back in the rock wall and out of reach. What a pity! Luckily I soon found the first Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) so we weren't too sad. After photographing several interesting Camel Spiders (Galeodes spec.) it was time to drive back to the hotel and crawl into our comfortable beds.

8th of July 2015

Near Mytilini we searched during the morning hours in the hope to find a Levant Skink but only Levant Water Frog, Balkan Terrapin, Snake-eyed Lacertid and Balkan Green Lizard were encountered. Several Chukar (Alectoris chukar) were seen foraging as well. A long bumpy ride southwards followed as we headed towards a tiny little beach we spotted via Google Earth. At one point the road became too steep so we had to walk a bit but it was all very much worth the effort. The most stunning and deserted beach revealed itself after we climbed the cliffs and once again we had this beach all to ourself. Truly a perfect beach! In the evening we searched the same riverbed again and several wild beasts were hooting and howling, Tawny Owls (Strix aluco) and Golden Jackal (Canis aureus). We did not find the desired Eastern Tree Frogs I found here in 2009 but could observe three Grass Snakes foraging in a small pond. Also we encountered a group of five biologists in the same riverbed who were also snake searching all night already. The group of highly interested, curious and capable people were a delight to talk to. Also the respect they showed for their subjects was heartwarming and thanks a lot for saying hi guys!

9th of July 2015

The Northwestern part of the island is more rugged and harder to explore as driveable roads are absent. We hiked from Potami to Mikro Seitani and Megalo Seitani and encountered newly hatched juveniles of Anatolian Rock Lizard on the first beach and several fast and shy Snake-eyed Lacertids on the latter. The scenery here is amazing with wide gorges opening behind both beaches and steep cliffs bordering them. Despite being well known, also these beaches are still unfrequented and we were amongst the few visitors. On the way back we visited several spots for Leopard Snake but only encountered Snake-eyed Lacertid. The evening searched also did not deliver many species and we only encountered several Turkish Geckoes and a Striped Hawk-moth (Hyles livornica). We did have a close encounter with a Golden Jackal crossing the sand track 5 meters in front of us and a little later we could hear a group of them howling. Great!

10th of July 2015

In the morning we went to Moni Spiliani and visited Gagou Beach in the hope of seeing the famous Mediterranean Monk Seal "Argiro". Unfortunately she was not there but we left our number at a nearby tavern and had lunch in the capitol of Samos. Afterwards we tried to reach another beach we spotted via Google Earth but the roads proved to be too much and went to Asprokavos again which is never a bad alternative. Also we could swim to the nearby Bobokaki Beach. In the evening we went back to Moni Spiliani as the habitat looks great for Cat Snake but only encountered Turkish Geckoes, howling Golden Jackal and saw several Little Owls (Athene noctua) picking grasshoppers from the tarmac. A stroll through the Imvrassos riverbed made us feel like in a jungle, wading through the shallows and sliding between thick reedstems. Balkan terrapins, mullets and eels slid through the water, several huge Levant Water Frogs posted on the riverbanks, Mediterranean Chameleons and a Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) were vast asleep in the reeds along the river while the sounds of crickets and Scops Owl (Otus scops) completed the jungle vibe. After a sweet Samiotic wine we went happily to bed.

11th of July 2015

An early morning to look for basking chameleons in the riverbed. And with success! Afterwards breakfast and on to the picturesque mountain village of Manolates where we searched again for Levant Skink without much luck. We did have an encounter with several cute kittens. For lunch we went into Kokkari and at the seaside we stuffed ourselves with Greek yoghurt and "tosti's" when a call came. Argiro was back! In 15min. we drove from Kokkari to Gagou Beach and she was still there. A sad thing to see one of the worlds most critically endangered marine mammals like this but on the other hand also a unique encounter as the shy Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) is rarely seen. After chatting a bit with Dutch volunteer Sebastiaan and talking about the islands herpetofauna and the amphibian monitoring they are setting up, we headed towards a remote beach near Posidonio which (again) we had all to ourselves. In the late afternoon we searched for snakes around Kerveli and found several Snake-eyed Skinks (Ablepharus kitaibelii). In the evening we searched the nice rivervalley with the waterbassin again and found Common Toad and Mediterranean Chameleon.

12th of July 2015

We slept in a bit as all the nocturnal searches started to take their toll. The rest of the day we spent at "perfect beach" with only Starred Agama as observed herp species. In the evening we searched again for Cat Snake but only found several Turkish Geckoes, Predatory Bush Cricket (Saga hellenica) female laying eggs, a huge DOR Caspian Whip Snake and a DOR Ottoman Viper. Apparantly snakes were out this night....

13th of July 2015

After enjoying our last breakfast on the island it was time for the 10min. drive to the airport and being flown back home by the capable Cap'n Dave. While we certainly were a bit dissappointed to not find any Emys, Hyla, Trachylepis or Telescopus despite thorough searching, we knew herping on Samos would be hard and especially in the summer months. That being said we had an amazing relaxing holiday (for a change!) and who can complain after seeing several iconic Aegean species such as Sand Boa, Ottoman Viper, Mediterranean Chameleon, Mediterranean Monk Seal and Golden Jackal in one week time? We certainly don't! The low abundance of amphibians and reptiles on Samos keeps me puzzled and I am guessing this was not my last time on this stunning island.


Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Green Toad (Bufotes viridis)

Levant Water Frog (Pelophylax bedriagae)

Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca ssp. ibera) dead individual

Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata)

Starred Agama (Laudakia stellio ssp. daani)

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon ssp. recticrista)

Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)

Anatolian Rock Lizard (Anatololacerta anatolica)

Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata ssp. diplochondrodes)

Snake-eyed Lacertid (Ophisops elegans ssp. macrodactylus)

Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus ssp. turcicus)

Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius) dead on road

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix ssp. persa)

Dahl's Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum ssp. dahli)

Ottoman Viper (Montivipera xanthina)


Many thanks to Daniel Bohle for providing valuable intell for our trip.