Akamas is a promontory cape at the northwest extremity of Cyprus island, with an area of 230 square kilometres. It is divided into two summits, rising towards the north.
At the far southwest of the Akamas Peninsula is Lara Beach, accessible by car and most famous for the green and loggerhead turtles, that breed at its turtle hatchery.
In this large national park, 25 different microecosystems of European importance have been recorded and it is the habitat of 168 species of endemic birds, 20 different reptiles and 16 unique butterfly species found only there, and 12 mammals such as the fox and the hare.
The area has been declared as of vital ecological importance for the entire Mediterranean and any kind of residential development is forbidden. Out of the 530 species of native plants found in the area, 39 species are endemic, and 23 are endangered.
More animals found in Akamas include fruit bats, shrews, hedgehogs, snakes, lizards, griffon vultures, Cyprus warblers and Cyprus scops owls. Vulnerable species include bats, monk seals and sea turtles.
The sea turtles
These beautiful creatures have existed for more than 100 million years. That makes them one of the most ancient creatures on earth. They have even survived the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Now they need our help to survive.
Beyond, this part of western Cyprus juts almost defiantly into the Mediterranean and is one of the island's last remaining wildernesses.
The challenge for survival
Date 22 March 1986: A group of conservationists visits Akamas Peninsula, one of the few remaining natural areas of Cyprus left untouched by uncontrolled and widespread touristic development. During this visit, the group, later christened "Friends of Akamas", call on the State to designate Akamas Peninsula as protected. 33 years later, the same group, together with seven other organizations, continue to demand the self-evident for Akamas.
Over the last 3 decades, the importance of the Akamas Peninsula for nature and local communities, has been recognized through laws and decrees, while a whole series of conservation and management plans, have been prepared for the area.
Despite this, a brief visit to Akamas is enough for one to realize that the area not only is it not properly managed, but there are many illegalities and no measures have been taken to rectify these. Illegal restaurants and refreshment stalls and other illegal constructions and arbitrary interventions, the majority of which have been there for years, continue to exist.
As the Cypriot environmental group Terra Cypria states: "The implementation of the Sustainable Development Plan of the Akamas National Forest Park, which was approved by the Ministerial Council in 2018, requires the removal of all these illegalities before the Plan is implemented. This has simply not happened. The only actions that have been undertaken so far, are road works, in an area where no building work and no alteration of the natural environment is permitted."
It's our obligation to Save Akamas, but we need to move from words to action.
We need to take immediate action to all illegalities and promote the proper management of the area, by implementing the Management Plans for Natura 2000 sites of the Akamas Peninsula.
Only then will Akamas be truly protected, not only for the sake of its nature and its communities, but for the sake of its children!
Sources: Terra Cypria, EU environment, Cyprus Ministry of Environment, Friends of Akamas