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Samaria National Park, Greece – A snorkel in the mountains
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Since the beginning of 2014, Samaria National Park has been preparing an eco-tourism offer (package) for the park based on the common criteria defined by the MEET Project. At the end of the Project in 2015, the package will be included in the MEET catalogue, whose aim is to regroup the best packages developed by the Mediterranean Protected Areas.
The managers of the park organized a first test of their package in October with a small group of tourists. Seven participants from Australia, Spain, Italy, France and Greece were pleased to discover the island of Crete and especially the National Park of Samaria during a 6-day stay.
The Samaria Gorge, the core area and the most famous part of the Park, attracts hundreds of people every day of the summer. Exploring the gorge and the surrounding areas during the low season gives a new perception of the environment and allows a closer contact with the locals. The idea of the package is to experience the Cretan mountains and sea, coupled with gastronomy lessons and the local cultural influence.
The group was lucky to be led by two experienced guides during the whole week. Among the key activities, the participants were able to discover the 16km Samaria Gorge, completed with information about the particular landscapes, the local flora and fauna, the abandoned village of Samaria and the customs and habits of local people. Starting in the mountains, the trail finished at sea level, in Agya Roumeli, a remote small village only accessible on foot or by boat.
To reach Lykos, another coastal village, the group took a boat and, during the ride, discovered the beauty of the underwater landscapes of the Libyan Sea with snorkeling activities. In clear blue waters, the group followed an underwater trail surrounded by fish and wildlife.Another day, another landscape: the group climbed along a challenging coastal path, where the participants enjoyed the panorama, a good combination of sea and mountain in the company of vultures. Stunning!
The last hiking trail of the week brought the group in old pastures and a forest of pines. The trail ends on cliffs where the sea-view (at 700 meters above sea level) has punctuated the visit. Flowers, birds and even cetaceans highlighted the beauty of this moment.
On the last night, a Cretan feast was organized with locals. A shared meal, traditional songs, dancing and confidences closed this rewarding week.
One of the strengths of the group leaders was their double competence: they were professional guides and cooks. During the week, the participants had the opportunity to cook most of the meals they ate with local products and traditional Cretan recipes.
All week long, the group also received interesting information about the management of the park, the endemic species of fauna and flora and the history between man and nature.