Fridays Fact About: Larnaca Salt Lakes & Flamingos

The Larnaca Salt Lake complex consists of 4 main lakes, the largest is lake Aliki, followed by lake Orphani, lake Soros and lake Spiro, which was part of the Orphani Lake but
was cut off when the airport runway was constructed. Smaller lakes also form near the coast to the east of Orphani.

Larnaca Salt Lakes 1

They form the second largest salt lake in Cyprus, after Akrotiri Salt Lake (also known as Limassol Salt Lake).  The salinity of these waters differ from that of Akrotiri, and even differ within the network – Aliki has the highest salinity, hence it’s use for salt harvesting in the past, and evidence has proved that these lakes were connected to the sea until recent times (bronze age anchors and sea shells have been found in Aliki).  In the past, every Larnaca Salt Lakes 3 saltsummer, when the main lake was completely dry, it was mined for salt – salt harvested from this lake used to be one of the island’s major exports, being collected by donkeys, carried to the edge of the lake and piled up into huge pyramidal heaps. Harvesting dwindled in the early 80s and stopped altogether in 1986 due to rising labour costs, as the island imports most of this commodity.

Protection:

These wetlands have been declared a Ramsar site, Natura 2000 site, Special Protected Area under the Barcelona Convention and an Important Bird Area (IBA).  The wetland area is also distinct because it also features extensive halophytic communities (halophytes are plants that grow in waters of high salinity) and two small forests, on which many types of orchids grow.

 

Bird Life & Flamingos:

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The salinity of the waters provide an excellent habitat for alga that is fed on by brine shrimp, which in turn attracts wonderful bird life, for which the lakes are now most famously known.  Many birds overwinter here, such as Flamingo, various species of duck as well as seagulls.  Other birds, such as waders, also stop over during their spring migration, while other species nest and reproduce here.  The lake is the haunt of around 85 species of water-birds and on average about 1,000-2,000 Flamingo overwinter here each year. In peak years, such as 1995 and 2005, there may be as many as 7,000. Recent evidence suggests that contrary to previous belief the Greater Flamingo not only stops over but also breeds on this wetland.

Flocks of birdwatchers gather to observe the blaze of pink from flamingos as they gather in the centre of the lake, as well as the other important migrating birds.  There is a birdwatcher’s tower at the nearby sewage plant which offers excellent year round birdwatching possibilities and also a picnic area in the adjacent forest.

 

The Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque

This mosque gives the lake a real oasis like aura – it is the largest and most impressive mosque in Larnaca and one of the most beautiful mosques in Cyprus.  Built hundreds of years ago, the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque was built in honour of ‘Umm Haram’, the wet nurse of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Over time, a cemetery, minaret, mausoleum, and convent were added to the mosque.  Today, the mosque is open to visitors of any religion. Inside, visitors can explore the mosque and attend religious services.  The mosque also contains an impressive ornamental garden filled with dozens of beautiful plants and flowers. The garden also has stunning views over the nearby salt lakes.

 

 

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