These magnificent sea creatures are an endangered species and happily protected by Greek as well as international law. They are the old men of the Greek sea having populated the Mediterranean for millions of years. They are air-breathing reptiles who spend their lives diving to eat sea plants, crustaceans and fish. They can often hold their breath for up to 30 minutes but all have to come up for air on a regular basis. Unlike their close land relations, the tortoise, the loggerhead sea turtle cannot pull its head and limbs into its shell. They use their front flippers to pull themselves through the water and their back flippers as rudders. The can potential live well into their 70's and around Hydra, can grow to almost a meter in length. Only the females leave the water to lay their eggs in burrows on the same beach that they (the mother) also hatched from. We don't have suitable sandy beaches on Hydra, but occasionally they can be seen swimming around the coast.
The Greek Tortoise has populated most areas of Hydra (with the exception of the town and villages) but is surprisingly difficult to spot most of the time. Early Spring is the best time to look for them is when they have just woken up from hibernation and are out and about looking for food and a mate. One of the best places I know of is in the fields either side of the path leading to the Plakes beach from the main Vlychos beach. Once the tortoises have mated they go their separate ways, the females lay their eggs (about 15 each in 3 or 4 burrows) which they then abandon and head off to enjoy a solitary life for the rest of the year, at which point they become practically invisible in the landscape.
Bougainvilleas add vibrant colour to the streets and gardens all around Hydra Island. The dominant colour is the original pink, but you'll also find plenty of deep purple, white and orange. Most on Hydra are deciduous and they flower predominatenly from May until October.
The prickly pears grows in particular abundance on Hydra. The Mediterranean climate suits them perfectly. Prickly pears typically grow with flat, rounded cladodes (also called platyclades) that are armed with two kinds of spines; large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike prickles called glochids, that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. Many types of prickly pears grow into dense, tangled structures.
Barley was first cultivated in western Asia at least 9,000 years ago and is now an annual grass of temperate regions too. Its important grain is used in the brewing of beer (malting barley). Grain not used in this process is used to feed livestock and at the end of March - beginning of April, barley is reaped in abundance for this purpose in Greece.
These are a creeping plants, which often form extensive mats on roadsides and coastal areas. The actual plant is fleshy and has woody-based stems. The leaves are slightly waxy and are between 8 - 12cm long and have a triangular cross-section. They are arranged in opposite pairs an have serrated edges.