Thodorou: In Search of Inspiration

Crete is Greece’s largest and southernmost island and “mother” to 81 smaller, uninhabited islands and islets that jut out over the waters of Cretan and Libyan Sea. Sculpted by time and 6000 years of human history, Crete’s nature is a unique treasure, a heritage that needs to be safeguarded for future generations. Her natural environment is characterized by rich biodiversity, by a significant number of endemic species, a mosaic of ecosystems and landscapes of exquisite beauty.

For this reason, Crete participates in the NATURA 2000 Network. 53 Cretan areas are protected by the program, that is more than 30% of the island’s surface, demonstrating the significance of the Cretan ecosystem both locally and globally. The Samaria Gorge, Balos, and Gramvoussa are among the most wide-known protected natural environments one should see as soon as they visit the island. Even more enticing, the islets of Thodorou are definitely a ‘must’ for nature lovers.

Located only a few miles  to the west of Chania Old Harbour, the Thodorou islets are inviting you to experience a unique palette of colours, scents, tastes, myths and history, unlike any other area in Chania. Agii Theodoroi, the official name of the island, covers a rocky surface of 697 acres, with her maximum length reaching 3,8km. Adjacent to Agii Theodoroi, there is a smaller island called Glaraki, meaning “Small Seagull”, in Greek. Together, they make up a duo to which the locals refer as “Thodorou”.

 

Thodorou is famous as a Natural Reserve for the protection and preservation of the renowned Cretan Ibex or Kri-Kri as it is called in Greece. The wild goats had been relocated here from the White Mountains due to the resemblance the two landscapes share: mountainous and rocky with steep cliffs and brushwood. In Thodorou, the Capra Aegagrus Creticus may breed and reproduce in peace, away from poachers  and other risks. Currently, it is estimated that more than 100 ibexes reside on the island under the protection of the Forestry Admnistration. It is believed that soon their population will grow even bigger and the Cretan ibex will be removerd from the list of endangered species.

 

Until this happens, though, visitors are forbidden to go ashore except from the 8th of June. It is the day that the church of Agios Theodoros celebrates and honors the Saint after whom the island was named, San Teodoro, a cherished festival since the Venetian period. Boats from Agia Marina and Platanias, the two closest points in the mainland, transport to the single beach of the island people who wish to participate in the Divine Liturgy and then cautiously tour around to witness the rare natural perks Thodorou has to offer.

 

Apart from the Cretan wild goat, thodorou is also home to several other indigenous species, among them some of the rarest birds of prey in Europe, like the migratory hawk ‘Mavropetritis’  (Eleonora’s falcon), the golden eagle, Bonelli’s eagle and the griffon vulture. Notably, Thodorou is also recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a Global Cernter for Plant Diversity, with more than 180 endemic species that do not exist anywhere in the world. The Cretan orchid, the Cretan ebony, the Cretan bell, crocus and ladania are only the  most well-known plants that grow in this pristine soil.

 

Despite the island’s small size, she has a vast number of legends and stories to share. Both the ancient Greek mythology and the early Christian folklore offer different versions of the island’s creation. The common ground is that a monstrous sea beast, a leviathan, along with its cub threatened the coast of Crete terrorizing the habitants, their spears and arrows being unable to prevent them from approaching the shore. At that point, the womens’ prayers to the God of the Sea, Poseidon, or to Agia Marina (Santa Marina) and Agios Georgios (Saint George) were answered: the two monsters were petrified, to Agii Theodori and Glaraki respectively. In a fascinating way, the cave on the south side of Agii Theodori, called by the locals Therio, is supposed to be the wide open mouth of the beast at the moment it was turned to stone.

 

Through historical times, the island had been given many different names: Akytos or Akoition, meaning ‘unfit for habitation’, in the Minoan times while there are also records that attribute it names like Letoa or Toullouros. Its current name is owned to the chapel dedicated to Saint Theodore Stratilatos originally built in the Early Christian period and re-built later, during the Venetian era.

       

Venetians were convinced about the strategic importance and dominance of Thodorou regarding the defence of Crete both from the Ottomans as well as from pirates. For this reason, in 1574 they spent a huge sum of money, 21500 ducats, to build an impressive polygonal fortress (called Turluru) at the top of the island and a second one, lower down in the south side called San Francesco. A third one was planned on the north, but soon they abandoned the idea on financial grounds.

However, the fate of these fortresses was tragic. In 1645, the Ottomans launched a fierce attack on the islets, laying siege to it and despite the heroic resistance of 70 Venetian defenders, the islet was captured. Rejecting the option of surrending, the captain of castle, Vlasios, ordered the ignition of the powder keg. In the massive explosion, the entire fortress blew up resulting in  numerous deaths of Ottomans and Venetians alike.

In 1650, the Ottomans returned the islet to the Venetians and remained under their rule until 1699, 30 years after the occupation of Crete by the Turks. It was only in 1897, when a squadron of Cretan rebels, led by Timoleon Vlassos, landed in Thodorou and retained the island under their rule up until today.

As mentioned earlier, wandering around the island might be prohibited to visitors, nevertheless, Thodorou is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. A diving attraction the island has to offer is the wreckage of a WW2 German aircraft that was shot down during the “Operation Mercury” launched by Nazis in May, 1941. Little is known about the history of the plane or the fate of the pilots. What we do know, is that it broke apart when it hit the water and now lies scattered in several parts along the sandy seabed on the east side of the islet.

At Chania Yachting we have the outmost respect for this little paradise and our cruises to the island are conducted with absolute discretion towards this unique natural environment. Therefore, we suggest to our guests:

 

1.Distant Anchorage

 

We avoid anchoring in a distance closer than 100m from the shore.

Our SUPs and our swimming platform can bring you closer to the beach

so that you can admire the perks of this Natural Reserve

 

2. Appropriate Ethic

 

Even though music is a mood booster, we are inclined not to pump up the volume when we are close to Thodorou. This is likely to scare animals and birds away

or bother them in their natural habitat

 

3. Right Weather Conditions

 

Weather permitting, staying on the north side of the island is the anchorage of our preference. There is the passage to another world and another time, where the only sound beyond the chirping of seagulls, swallows, and other birds is the sound of waves on the steep cliffs

 

4. Leave No Trace Behind

 

We do not litter the sea, we avoid plastic and unnecessary fuel consumption.

The more it feels like you never stepped foot in the area,

the more respectful your visit is  

 

5. Positive Attitude

 

Let yourselves be allured by the breathtaking vistas Thodorou has to offer

and become another positive supporter of the aim that this reserve continues to prosper for many generations to come

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