Updated: Jun 22
Living in Chania Crete for the last 16 years and having been working for some of the biggest incoming Travel Agencies here, I have a clear view of the Touristic & Travel matters in our region.
After all these years of watching the same problems, I made my decision to inform and try to create a network of people who are visiting Chania and care about eco-sustainability in general. As we have our own Travel Agency now, Bonnie and Clyde Urban Tours, we need to bring to the light these problems.
We cannot pretend that we do not see old problems any longer, leaving the local authorities, the tourism-society and the Overseas Travel Agents to deal with them, according to their own needs & profits calculations.
Chania is blessed & cursed to have two of the most beautiful beaches not only in Greece but also Worldwide. You'll have probably heard of or visited Elafonissi Beach or Balos sea lagoons.
We will take the chance to go a little deeper with Elafonissi this time. The example of this beach is more present than before in accordance with the long term fire burnings almost everywhere in Greece.
Situated in the South West part of the Chania region, 70 kms. away from the city centre, it became very popular & well known because of its pink sand, the sensitive biodiversity & the light blue shallow waters. First of all, let’s make it clear that there is no pink sand. The pink colour comes from millions & millions of broken shells, smaller or bigger, in tiny-tiny pieces, that stay on top of the sand that we all know & create this illusion of the pink coloured sand. Of course collecting this sand is prohibited.
The area of Elafonissi, is a part of Natura 2000, the European network that protects very sensitive environments & eco-systems. The place is defined as “Site of Community Importance” for the EU. Unfortunately, this is not a strong enough title for the local authorities & big Travel agencies.
With an extremely sensitive biodiversity of plants, flowers, juniper trees, sea turtles & even dolphins, it should be expected to be a very well protected area from massive tourism & human activity. Well, not this time. We are in Greece. At the same time, in other places on our planet, like Thailand, sunscreens banned from marine national parks.
The area, still during year 2021, remains without any kind of control, of how many people will enter daily this unique place. For the local authorities, success comes through a high volume of people, hoping to make some more money by renting sun chairs & selling ice-creams. As the place have not collapse yet, probably we have not reach the maximum limit of arrivals. Simple, isn't it?
In a Natura 2000 area, is this legal? All we can say in this case is that we let the wolfs become the shepherds.
Huge Cretan Travel agencies are allowed to sell excursions to Elafonissi on a daily basis with no limits. One, two, three or ten busses can be on the same day or at the same time of day. It makes no difference. All are welcome to enjoy for 3 ½ hours the pink sand. If time is not enough, you can take some of it back home. Will there be anyone to stop you? I do not think so.
One thing that I would really like to know is how much money all these agencies have paid back after all these years to protect this sensitive ecosystem or to collect the garbage that tourists leave behind them. I would really like to know how many people are allowed to visit this place every day without creating any balance problems to it & if the use of the bushes and juniper trees as a toilette helps these plants growing faster.
Together with hundreds of cars, mini vans, scooters, ATV'S etc, we all can imagine that reality is even worst.
Unfortunately, this is the second catastrophic era for Elafonissi, following the first one, which was the dynamite fishing back to 80's & 90's. Will there be anything left for the future generations? It is hard to say. We are living the last 10 days in Greece a huge environmental disaster from the burning fires. Villages, forests and animals lost in just a few moments. Is the danger of fire present in Elafonissi? Is there any active plan by the authorities for emergency cases, such as fire?
In all the countries of this planet, that respect their ecosystems, a place like Elafonissi would be protected by the governmental & local authorities.
There are of course positive actions that can be done even with no cost, like; limited & clear number of visitors daily, no parking space inside the Natura 2000 area for busses & cars, an entrance fee that will be used for the maintenance and cleaning of the area, no visitors during animals and the other species reproduction period, no fishing or collecting sand, stones, plants etc. Easy, isn't it?
We'll be using our Travel Agency's Bonnie and Clyde Urban Tours, website, blog, network, connections & social media, as channels to promote forward thinking & eco-responsibilty, that have as a core a long term sustainability. At the other hand, we promote non-touristy tours.
How is it possible in the name of profit, for the big Tour Operators and the transfer companies, to accept that, Elafonissi overtourism situation, is the one and only reality?
If you ever have the chance to visit this paradise, during the Winter time, I am certain that you’ll change your mind.