Zakynthos (Zante) is an ideal location for spotting reptiles because the warm climate encourages them to emerge from the vegetation and bask in the sunlight, a bit like us holidaymakers! In my book Zakynthos, A Complete Guide with Walks, I tell you the best places to see certain species of snakes, lizards and tortoises (and of course sea turtles, the subject of the first article of this series).
I have frequently seen the Hermann’s tortoise at Gerakas (Walk 1-2) and Vrondonero (Walk 7). Lake Keri (Walk 9) is great for spotting terrapins (although several species are introduced and invasive). And the island’s sinuous ancient olive trees make particularly ideal sites for Balkan whip lizards to bask on sunlit patches of bark, while geckos emerge from their nooks and crannies to hunt insects at night (at twilight both compete in the hunting!).
Zakynthos also has several species of snakes, none of which are dangerous (although you may need antihistamine if bitten). Those most frequently seen are the four-line snake and the Montpellier, both of which can be spotted on most walks on Zakynthos. Here again, the ancient olive trees are an ideal site for four-line snakes: they take advantage of branches with holes, to get a good look at passing walkers! (Can you spot the head and body of the snake in this photograph, taken on Walk 6?)
When looking for snakes, just tread lightly and keep looking, particularly in the undergrowth and along the old stone walls, as well as up in trees. The cat snake (or so-called ‘holy snake’ because of the cross mark on its head) may be spotted on mountain walks, particularly around Exo Chora and Kampi (Walks 17 and 18). The migration of this snake coincides with the Name Day of the Patron Saint in Kefalonia, where it is placed on the icons.
If you are unlucky and don’t spot any reptiles on the walks, then take a break and enjoy an evening meal at one of the restaurants in the Sunflower Zakynthos guide, and keep your eye on the walls and lamps: you are bound to spot the odd gecko hunting for insects attracted to the lights or the sun-warmed walls!
Photograph: Four-line snake on an ancient olive tree, seen on Walk 6. Note its head viewing the scenery from a hole in the branch! Photo: Martin K S Lilley.