With its location on the south-eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus attracts more than 370 different bird species during their migration from Africa to Europe – and back again. The region of Larnaka is one of the best areas on the island to observe these majestic birds, and this route gives you the opportunity to visit its two major lakes.
The bird watching trip starts from Oroklini Lake, which is one of only seven natural wetlands in Cyprus, and has recently been restored through the European LIFE Conservation Project. A display of fully-illustrated placards at the Information Kiosk and Bird Watch Tower provide information on all the different species that nest at the lake, including the Cattle Egret, Spur-winged Lapwing, Spoonbill and many others. The lake is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) mainly for two nesting species the Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and the Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus (Hoplopterus) spinosus.
Apart from these two bird species there are a further four Annex I species that breed or have bred at the site (Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus and Little Tern Sterna albifrons), whereas Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus and Common Tern Sterna hirundo have only nested in 2007. In addition to the above, there are a further 58 Annex I species that stage during migration (in spring or autumn) or overwinter at the site and 36 non-Annex I regularly occurring migratory species, especially waterbirds. A total of around 190 species have been recorded at the site. It is worth noting that the Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina nested successfully the last 4 years (2009-2012) at the site. These were the first nesting records for the species on the island ever.
To get to the Lake you will need to get onto the Lefkosia highway at the airport roundabout and travel towards Ayia Napa (don’t turn off for Lefkosia/Nicosia) until you reach the junction for Oroklini, take this exit and head down towards the sea until you see the Lake on your right-hand side. It should take you about half an hour by car from Fig Tree Villa.
Leaving the lake and heading south, you will reach the Dhekalia Road running parallel with the sea. Turn right and follow the coast until you reach the city of Larnaka and its port. Turn left at the Police Station traffic lights once you get into Larnaca onto Finikoudes seafront area. The road now takes you past Larnaka Marina and along the vibrant ‘Finikoudes’ (palm tree) promenade (you may wish to stop for lunch or a drink here) until you reach the Medieval Fort of Larnaka at the end, where a right turn will take you towards the beautiful stone-built church of Agios Lazaros (Saint Lazarus). Continue along this road until you reach the main airport road and turn left at the traffic lights (facing the large Faneromeni Church). Before you reach the airport you will see a large salt lake on your left, so look out for the small car parking area as soon as you see the lake and leave your car here. Now take the walkway to your left around the lake and enjoy the sights.
This famous Larnaka Salt Lake is one of the most important wetlands in Cyprus. It’s the haunt of 85 species of water birds, with estimated populations between 20,000 and 38,000. Among them are thousands of flamingos, which spend the winter months at the lake, and are a magnificent sight to behold in their flocks of vibrant pink. Care must be taken not to disturb these sensitive birds whilst viewing them. You should come across a small viewing hide along this pathway.
Returning to your car, drive a little further along until you reach a small traffic island, turn right here into the road leading to the revered Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, which is amazing with its tall palm trees surrounding the beautiful building combined with the serenity of the area and the sounds of the birds at the lake. After the Arab armies successfully landed in Larnaka in 648AD, the Holy Helper and aunt of Mohamed – Umm Haram – died at the site when she fell off her mule. Grand Khalif Moavia, who was taking part in the expedition, immediately ordered the construction of a mosque on the spot. The mosque was first renovated in 1816, and most recently in 2002 by UNOPS, when archaeological excavations also revealed that the site has been inhabited since Neolithic times, with some archaeologists believing that the tomb is a monumental monolithic tomb of the prehistoric period. Today, the mosque is the main Muslim pilgrimage site of Cyprus, and stands as one of the most important holy places of worship for Muslims, ranked immediately after Mecca, Medina in Saudi Arabia and Al Aksha in Jerusalem.
Upon leaving the Mosque head back down to the small island and turn right towards the airport and keep following the road straight until you arrive back in Kiti, about 10 minutes drive.