A friend once asked why the ceramicists on Zakynthos use such vibrant turquoise colours. I believe that it is to do with the clarity of the island’s marine waters. In my book Zakynthos, A Complete Guide with Walks, I describe alternative routes for every walk on Zakynthos, often directing walkers to secret nooks and crannies along the coast to view the marine life and perhaps have a dip – hopefully, with a snorkel and mask to truly appreciate the underwater beauty.
The waters of Zakynthos are as clear as an aquarium most of the year, so it’s possible to see many marine plants and animals just by walking beside village ports like Agios Sostis (Walk 8) and Lake Keri (Walk 9). You may easily glimpse shoals of fish of various sizes, colourful crabs, rays, urchins, starfish, octopuses and anemones – without even getting wet!
For outstanding snorkelling, there are shallow reefs along the shoreline from Gerakas to Daphni (Walks 1-3), with amazing rock forms, a vast array of algae and fish species, dogfish, seabass and, often, sea turtles. If you’re a strong swimmer, then swim around Kentinaria (Walk 13, from point B on the map): the waters on the ocean side of the islet are deep, while the sheltered side is shallow with many fish species. I missed an encounter with a monk seal while swimming here in 2010, so keep your eyes peeled. Another amazing swim spot is Korakonisi (Walk 16), where, again, both deep and shallow waters may be found. Many locals come here to collect natural sea salt and cockles.
Even along the sandy seabed stretch of Laganas and Kalamaki (Walks 6 and 7), you will find isolated rocks supporting various fish species. In places, the fish provide an important service for sea turtles, cleaning the carapaces and skin of algae!
Particularly in spring, many jellyfish, usually Pelagia, along with by-the-wind-sailor are washed into Laganas Bay. Avoid Pelagia: they have long painful stinging tentacles. But you might also see the 40cm-long octopus jellyfish (Rhizostoma): it doesn’t have stinging tentacles and it’s a beautiful pale purple/pink jellyfish that has many small fish swimming amongst its lobes.
If you visit Zakynthos during winter and spring, be sure to walk along Laganas/Kalamaki beach (Walk 7), where a huge variety of seashells of all shapes and sizes are washed up in the winter storms.
Finally, if you have the chance to go on a boat trip around the island, or travel across to Kefalonia, you are likely to see pods of striped dolphins, so keep your eyes peeled. Sperm whales have been documented migrating past Zakynthos, but are located much further offshore!
Photograph: The waters surrounding Zakynthos are as clear as those in an aquarium