CORFU, Greece - One of the settings that features in Gerald Durrell's classic trilogy about life on the island of Corfu, the beautiful landscape of the Antinioti Lagoon, with its otters, orchids and lilies, continues to draw visitors to the present day.
A favourite spot of the Durrells located to the north of the island, between the beaches of Almyros and Agios Spyridonas, the slightly brackish lagoon covers an area of roughly 40 hectares and forms part of a unique wetland that connects with the nearby Kounoufadi swamp. It is known for its rare water plants and for banks strewn with a variety wild flowers, especially the colourful orchids and lilies that float on the surface of the water.
According to biologists, there are more than 16 different types of orchids growing in and around the lake, including the rare species Opphrys, Orchis and Serapias. The lagoon is also home to many endemic and migratory birds, with more than 90 recorded species, including many wetland species considered at risk. It is a haven for the European and Caspian pond turtles (Emys orbicularis and Mauremys caspica) and, more unusually, of pockets of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) that are among the lagoon's protected species and among the rarest and most threatened mammals in Europe.
Fish farming on the lake is mainly seasonal and based on the regular migrations of certain species from the sea and back again, with most catches being of eels, mullet, bream and bass. In addition to the more common fish, the lake is a refuge for the rare fish species Valencia hispanica and Aphanius fasciatus, as well as the endangered fish Knipowitschia goerneri that is endemic to Corfu.
The lagoon is included in the Natura 2000 network and many of the plants and animals that live there are protected by the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, though there are frequent complaints from locals of violations, especially by hunters.