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Guided butterfly, botanical & birdwatching holidays
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Rhodes Orchid Odyssey

 

Dates & Prices

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Dates: 7 – 14 Apr 2018

Price: £1,245

Single Room Supplement: £none

Deposit: £150 per person


Price Includes: All meals, accommodation, all ground transport including transfers, services of guides, holiday report & charitable donation

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks & any other personal items

Conservation Donation: 10% of profits donated to a wildlife project or charity

Leader: Yiannis Christofides & Jon Dunn

Group Size: Minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 guests plus 1-2 leaders

Grade: Gentle paced walks in a variety of terrains

Holiday Highlights


  • Led by Yiannis Christofides (botanist, naturalist, guide & author of The Flora of Cyprus) + Jon Dunn (Birder, botanist, naturalist, guide & author of Orchid Summer)
  • Discover 40-50 of the islands 70+ Orchid species
  • Endemic / regional Orchid species such as the Colossus Orchid and King Ferdinand’s Orchid
  • 1,490 plant species on a small island, including rare & endemic specials such as the Rhodes Peony & Rhodes Fritillary.
  • Enjoy spring butterflies, such as Lesser Fiery Copper, an endemic form of the Cleopatra, Green Underside Blue, Long-tailed Blue, Black-veined White, Large Wall Brown, Eastern Festoon & both Scarce and European Swallowtail
  • Birds such as Long-legged Buzzard, Woodchat Shrike, Crested Lark, Lesser Kestrel, Alpine Swift and Crag Martin

Enjoy the beauty of Greece in spring and spend a relaxing week discovering the richness of Orchids and other flora of Rhodes!


Holiday Guides

Yiannis Christofides is a botanist living in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus. Having obtained a degree in Chemistry from the University of London he returned to his mountain village where he took up botany. This led to a new book on the Orchids of Cyprus, with colour photos to aid identification. Several new plants were recorded for Cyprus and new locations were found for old ones. He is now about to publish a new book entitled The Illustrated Flora of Cyprus.

His interests include Orchids round the Mediterranean, the Floras of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey and also the flora of European Mountains. He takes a keen interest in other life-forms such as Butterflies and other Insects, Reptiles, Dragonflies and even Lichens. He likes to share his knowledge with members of his groups and his infectious enthusiasm makes him one of our most popular leaders. Yiannis is also knowledgeable about the geology and history of areas he visits. He currently leads on our Cyprus, Lesvos, Crete, Rhodes, Peloponnese, French Pyrenees, Alps and Italian Dolomites trips.

Jon Dunn

Jon Dunn is a natural history writer, photographer and experienced wildlife tour leader based in the Shetland Isles, but with strong links in mainland Europe and North America that see him travelling widely in search of memorable wildlife encounters.

An accomplished all-round naturalist, Jon is the author of the Britain’s Sea Mammals field-guide, and co-author of the Britain’s Mammals field-guide, both for Princeton University Press. Jon writes weekly “Rarity Round-Ups” for Rare Bird Alert. His writing and photography feature in many popular wildlife magazines, including BBC WildlifeBirdwatching, and British Wildlife. Jon is due to publish Orchid Summer in April 2018 – a celebration of the beauty and history of the wild orchid species of the British Isles, embraced in one glorious and kaleidoscopic summer-long hunt.

We invite you to join us for what will be our 7th consecutive year on Rhodes, for a wonderful week of Greek weather and wildlife!

Greece is a botanist’s paradise. There are around 6,000 plant species. On top of that, more than 700 species are endemic to Greece. This degree of endemism makes it almost unique in Europe!

In Greek mythology the island of Rhodes belonged to Helios (God of the Sun). Helios requested from Zeus and the other Gods for any land that was to rise from the sea to become his. As he spoke a beautiful island slowly emerged from the bottom of the blue sea, Rhodes. Helios bathed Rhodes with his own radiance and made it the most beautiful island in the Aegean Sea. Indeed, it is blessed with over 300 days of sunshine a year and spring is a wonderful time to appreciate the natural beauty of this jewel in the Aegean!

Rhodes, the capital of the Dodecanese group of islands in Greece, is situated just off the coast of east Turkey. Therefore, it is blessed with an interesting mixture of east Mediterranean and Asian flora and fauna. Although the island is a popular destination for sun and beach loving tourists, there is much natural beauty to discover, if one takes the time! The island is blessed with 1,500 recorded plant species, including well over 50 species of Orchid – an impressive list for an island only 80km long and 30km at its widest point.

Rhodes has many varied biotopes, a factor in the distribution of Orchids on the island, including significant coverage of Pine forest and phrygana. It is one of the best Greek islands for orchids, with a large list of diverse and interesting species, particularly in the genus Ophrys. A visit in spring means meadows ablaze with flowers and alive to the tune of insects and the fluttering of butterflies. The forest floors are also decorated with a dazzling display of Orchids and other flowers. The wildlife and warm weather form a winning combination for a relaxing week of botany. We will of course look at anything else of interest, be it birds, butterflies, or anything else that catches our eye!

Our base for the first part of the week will be a stunning mountain retreat, surrounded by a rare and uniquely pristine Cypress & Pine forest. From here we’ll embark on daily adventures around the island, followed by relaxing evening meals at our hotel and also in traditional village tavernas, serving only the best quality locally sourced and prepared Rhodian cuisine. For the second part of the week we’ll relocate further south, to a hotel on the east coast, giving us the opportunity of sea views and a dip in the Aegean, whilst reducing travelling times and distances for some of the sites in the ‘deep south’ of the island.

We will find orchids in a variety of habitats including old Olive groves, phrygana, river edges and forested mountain slopes. In the company of Yiannis, our expert botanist, we will tour many parts of the island. Yiannis will lead us to hidden glades and secret corners to show us as many different species as possible. We will of course be looking for some of the local specialities, such as the Colossus Orchid and King Ferdinand’s Orchid, also known as the Earwig Orchid. The island has over 40 Ophrys species recorded, including several endemics.

The topography of Rhodes can best be described as moderately hilly, with the highest mountain, Attavyros, reaching 1,215m. During our week on Rhodes we’ll climb to between 600-800m, where there are some fantastically rich floristic areas to explore and the plants to discover include some Rhodes specialities! The Rhodes Paeony Paeonia clusii rhodia, a strikingly beautiful rare and endemic white flowered Peony is one such plant. The perfume from its blooms fills the forest air and it really is a treat for the senses! Another is the Rhodes Fritillary Fritillaria rhodia, an elegant and delicate endemic species. Beneath large and impressive Cypress trees, the forest floor is also carpeted with delicate endemic Cyclamen Cyclamen rhodia. On the limestone cliffs of Mount Attavyros we’ll also see the fascinating Star Thistle Centaurea lactucifolia, endemic to Rhodes and nearby Halki Island.

    

Day 1: On arrival at Rhodes Airport you will be met by your English speaking botanist guide, who will accompany you throughout the trip. From the airport we head south towards our base for the week. Depending on your arrival time we may make one or two stops on our journey to view our first orchids, or to look at any other wildlife of interest. We will be staying at an excellent hotel amongst the picturesque and very atmospheric forested slopes of one of the islands three mountains. 

Day 2:  Our first full day will focus on exploring our immediate surroundings and it will not be long before we are amongst a wealth of orchids and other interesting flora upon what is a beautiful and ancient forested mountain. As we tread carefully through seas of Cyclamen rhodia and Anemone blanda our eyes will be drawn to the orchids in between. Species to see include Ophrys reinholdii, Ophrys ferum equinum, Ophrys polyxo, Anacamptis papilionacea, Orchis anatolica, Orchis provincialis, Orchis italica and Ophrys umbilicata ssp. rhodia, a member of the Ophrys umbilicata group with green sepals.

We’ll take a break from orchid spotting to enjoy a freshly prepared picnic lunch. We’ll either rest in a forest glade or take our leisure time in a nearby village, next to an impressive Italian made fountain. The fountain is home to some of the islands endemic freshwater Gizani fish (which always appreciate some bread from visitors!). Our lunch will include some traditional and homemade snacks such as dolmathes (stuffed vine leaves) tiropita (cheese pies) and pitaroudia (chickpea fritters) – plus the classic Greek village salad topped with delicious and fresh Feta cheese and oregano!

Our day will be enhanced by searching for the beautiful and endemic white-flowered Rhodes Paeony and if we find it in good flower we’ll be rewarded by its sweet perfume filling the forest air! As the day goes on we should get closer views of the aptly named Eastern Festoon butterflies, roosting in curious formations as they do on the stems of the Asphodel flowers, upon which they had earlier been busily nectaring from.

Day 3: Today we will venture further afield and head to the lowlands to visit some different habitats and look for more orchid species. We’ll split our time between forested slopes first and then the more open, hotter and drier phrygana and olive groves. 

Ophrys mammosa

One of the first orchids we hope to see will be Ophrys mammosa or Breasted Ophrys. On the surrounding thorny Genistas, pink Cistus cretica and also on the Small-flowered Rockrose Cistus parviflorus we could see Green-underside Blue, Eastern Baton Blue and Green Hairstreak, butterflies, nectaring onthe abundant Small-fruited Asphodel. Further orchid treats in this area include Limodorum abortivum and Ophrys bombyliflora.

In sunlit olive groves we’ll look for the large Serapias carica and we should also see some of our first Anacamptis fragrans. At this time of year glorious magenta coloured Gladiolus Gladiolus italicus can also be seen in groves and nearby agricultural fields. We should also be able to find Ophrys attaviria, Ophrys blitotherpa, Ophrys polyxo, Anacamptis pyramidalis, Ophrys sicula and Ophrys phrygana, amongst others.

To finish the day we’ll look for one of the rarest and most beautiful orchids, a subspecies of the Cretan Bee Orchid Ophrys cretica ssp. beloniae, which on Rhodes can only be found in the southern half of the island. In addition we will aim to show you King Ferdinand’s Orchid Ophrys regis-ferdinandii, also called the Earwig Orchid on account of its similarity to an Earwig.

Day 4: We head to the highest mountain on Rhodes today, Mount Attaviros, with a peak of 1,215 metres. In Greek mythology Althaemenes (son of Catreus, king of Crete) founded an altar to Zeus on the mountain. He was said to have chosen the site as the only point on Rhodes from which his homeland of Crete could be seen. The remains of the sanctuary can be seen near the summit. Upon the mountain there were, it is said, brazen bulls which roared when anything extraordinary was going to happen – we must listen out for them during our visit!

In some of the foothills we’ll look for large Aegean Butterfly Orchids, Anacamptis papillionacea ssp. heroica, Horseshoe Orchids Ophrys ferrum-equinum, Ophrys regis-fernandii and Anacamptis pyramidalis. We may also be fortunate to find some late flowering examples of Ophrys speculum. These sites are usually a good place to see Black-veined white and Cleopatra butterflies too, which are an endemic subspecies Cleopatra ssp. fiori

As we climb higher we should be able to locate good numbers of Enamel Bee Orchids Ophrys candica, Orchis anatolica, Ophrys omegaifera ssp. omegaifera, Neotinea maculata and Ophrys reinholdii amongst the Pinus brutia dominated forest. Higher still and above the tree line we’ll look for Shadow Bee Orchid Ophrys fusca ssp. cinereophila, Neotinea  lactea  and Orchis fragrans. And who knows what other surprise finds our exploration of the mountain may turn up!

After a picnic lunch spent on the mountain we’ll venture to some sites in and around some of the traditional villages in this part of the island. Fantastic honey is produced in these places and we may stop to sample Pine, Thyme and Heather types. There are some fantastic flowers to see, such as the rare and endemic Star Thistle Centaurea lactucifolia and the Large Rhodian Bellflower Campanula hagiela, with its beautiful violet flowers.

Day 5: We start the day a little early, in order to fit in some bird watching with our botanising. At a wide river mouth, adjacent fields and beach we’ll look out for, amongst others, Crested Lark, Bee-eater, Corn Bunting, Woodchat Shrike, Spanish Sparrow, Alpine Swift, Wood Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, Stone Curlew, Marsh Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron and Squacco Heron.

We’ll also visit a Lesser Kestrel colony, where we get fantastic and quite unique views of these beautiful birds. To watch their aerial displays accompanied by those of Alpine, Pallid and Common Swift is a real spectacle! We should also be able to spot Blue Rock Thrush.

One of our main orchid targets will be the Colossal Bee Orchid Ophrys holserica ssp. collosaea. It is a tall and robust species, coming in a variety of forms and living up to their name, which is taken from the somewhat mythical statue of the Colossus of Rhodes. In addition we should see Ophrys umbilicata ssp. rhodia, Serapias bergonii, Ophrys mammosa and Ophrys Calypso. We may also find some of the first Holy Orchid Anacamptis sancta of the season in flower too. Whilst we’re focusing at the ground level we may also be able to see some of the island’s numerous reptile species, including Snake-eyed Lizard, Ocellated Skink and Snake-eyed skink

Day 6: We head south and east today, to areas in central Rhodes. In addition to several hidden glades we’ll visit the largest freshwater lake on the island, for a day of botany, birds and to enjoy whatever other wildlife we can find. One special orchid for the day is a red variety of the Violet Limadore  Limodorum abortivum  var. rubrum. In addition we should find numerous other orchids, such as Orchis italica, Ophrys candica, Ophrys sicula, Ophrys ferrum-equinum and Ophrys bombyliflora. At one fine spot we should enjoy a profusion of Anacamptis laxiflora, accompanied by similarly good numbers of Ophrys polyxo and Serapias bergonii. We’ll finish the day with a meal in one of the areas traditional village tavernas.

Day 7: For our last full day we’ll spend more time in the mountainous areas, searching new spots for orchids we may not have seen already and revisiting sites to check for fresh flowers and photography opportunities.  Orchid species we may be able to add if not already seen during the rest of the week may include Orchis antropophora, Anacamptis morio ssp. picta and Ophrys oreas. If we have time available later we may also fit in a visit to an archaeological site or to the imposing medieval old town of Rhodes, one of the finest and still inhabited medieval towns in Europe and designated as a World Heritage Site.

Day 8: Today we travel to Rhodes airport for our flight home. Depending on the flight schedule we may be able to make some final excursions; to revisit favourite locations or to explore one or two new sites.

Maja, 2015… For me it was a very relaxing holiday I liked it very much and I’m very happy about all the new Orchids I saw!

Gordon & Diane, 2015… We enjoyed the holiday immensely, due in large measure to your excellent planning, and the nice people who come on your trips!

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Email: enquiries@greenwings.co.uk

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