My brother, Colin, has spent the last five years researching lizards on small islets scattered throughout the Aegean Sea. When the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to meet up with him in Greece and spend ten days exploring the Cyclades.
Colin studies lizards on small islands searching for answers to questions about how fast species can evolve and what role lizards play in Mediterranean food webs. For his PhD research in Greece he uses Oru kayaks to access remote islands to catch the Aegean wall lizard, Podarcis erhardii. His research is based on the largest island in the Cyclades, Naxos and from there has motored, waded, and especially kayaked to over 30 islands in the area. After hearing stories of exploring uninhabited coastlines from a kayak I was anxious to get a look first hand.
I got my first chance to try out the Oru kayaks when Colin took me to Panagia, an island just off the western coast of Naxos whose only structure is a beautiful old chapel. It was a picture-perfect island with the dome of the solitary church matching the aquamarine of the water and the stark whitewashed walls popping out against the blue sky and green grass. We set up the kayaks on a nearby beach drawing a great deal of attention from the other beachgoers, launched into the surf, and set out for the island. With the wind at our back we cruised out, enjoying the crystal-clear water and circling the little islet admiring it from all sides.
On one of my last days in Greece, Colin took me on a spontaneous trip to another uninhabited island to catch lizards and get some photos at sunset. The kayaks folded up into our tiny Fiat and off we drove to another launch site half an hour down the coast. After a twenty minute paddle to the island, we stacked the kayaks next to the remains of a centuries-old tower and we went exploring. By the time we returned the tide had changed and the sun was setting fast. We booked it to our kayaks and had to fight the current and waves to get back to the mainland. As the sun set, the kayaks held true to their course regardless of the wind and waves hitting us on all sides. We made it to our launch and had the kayaks folded up and stowed in no time. We enjoyed fresh calamari that night and some delicious cold ouzo.
Colin has now defended his PhD on lizards in the Mediterranean and I have returned to California where I make maps and digital media at Maps for Good. My brother and I often talk about our adventures in Greece. The Oru kayaks helped make those good times exploring the Cyclades possible. I can’t wait to plan another adventure kayaking with my brother again soon. For now we have the memories and photos from the trip to keep our adventure spirit satisfied.