23 July 2008

Monk seal sighting near Meganisi, Greece

Amazing! It was our first day of surveying for the Ionian Dolphin Project around the island of Kalamos (Greece). We were looking for dolphins for about two hours, when we had a great sighting along the coast of Meganisi island... Something rounded and black popped out of the water, very close to a pebbled beach. It disappeared in the water... and came out again.

Binoculars in hands our biologist onboard shouted out: “It’s a MONK SEAL!” It was the first time I had seen one in the wild. I was so happy: finally I could see one of these disappearing marine mammals.

The monk seal Monachus monachus was slowly swimming along the coast to reach the next small bay. It was about two meters long. It was five minutes of unbelievable sighting for a biologist. Some years ago I’ve been working on public awareness at the National Marine Park of Sporades (Aegean Sea, Greece) dispersing leaflets about the biology and conservation of monk seals. They struggle to survive in very few places in the Mediterranean Sea, mostly around remote and quiet islands with pebbled beaches hidden in caves. How lucky we were to get to see one of them! It was unforgettable.

Aliki Hadjidakis, Switzerland/Greece

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