Visit Zante Mediterranean Marine Life Center Meet Rescue & Information Center About us

This information centre has been designed to help inform visitors about the wildlife of the area with interesting and informative displays. The centre is built 100 meters from Gerakas beach, a popular nesting beach for turtles.

The beaches of Zakynthos represent the largest nesting rookery of the Loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean. Every year, many dead and injured sea turtles wash up all around Zakynthos. Earth, Sea & Sky are a Zakynthian NGO registered in the UK and are currently working to create a sea turtle rescue station with the help of the Sea Life centres of Europe.

The founder Yiannis Vardakastanis has lived all his life in Gerakas and for many years has been passionately fighting for the preservation of the Zakynthian flora and fauna. The Rescue Station is a dream of Yiannis who wishes to help the animals with which he was raised around as well as helping visitors understand and enjoy the island’s beautiful and sensitive wildlife.

360° Panorama View

There is no need for more hotels (in Zakynthos) and to reduce the number of visitors would ease immense pressure off the island…There are too many tourists, turtle chasing activities, excessive light pollution, human waste and rubbish, all impacting greatly on our fragile eco-system.
-Yannis Vardakastanis-

When Yannis Vardakastanis was a kid in the 1960s, he would be alone in the sandy Gerakas (‘falcon’) beach of the Ionian island of Zakynthos (Zante) in Greece and able to go out swimming with turtles and dolphins. Every late summer the beach would turn black with turtle hatchlings which did not bother and were not bothered by anyone except sea gulls…

In the 1970s like many before him, he left his island as a teenage sailor on freighters to the Far East to somehow end up as a centre forward playing for Lincoln City Football Club in the UK. In the 1980s, as the first package tourists from the UK started landing on his island, it was time to follow them, this time as a Gerakas beach bar proprietor serving up drinks to tourists sitting not very far from the hatchlings.

In 1990 he realised there was something wrong. In his own words: “I was witnessing the rampant growth of mass tourism and building development on the island, encroaching on and destroying the islands vital turtle nesting beaches. I decided that at Gerakas it all had to go. The number of beach umbrellas was halved, the pedaloes banned and my bar was torn down and moved off the beach, with no further building development on Gerakas to be permitted.” So in 1991 he embarked again, this time on a very different journey, that of environmental activism, genuine ecotourism and conservation focusing on Gerakas, through his companies Ionian Eco Villagers and Nature World Travel, and his conservation group Earth, Sea & Sky which was first set up in 1993, and formally registered as an NGO in 2000.

Joint pressure with other environmentalists has since succeeded in getting all night flights banned and achieving nocturnal light and noise restrictions at beachside bars and hotels in Laganas Bay to avoid disturbing the nocturnal nesting of turtles. A key milestone was in 2006, when along with other NGO’s active on the island such as Archelon, WWF and Medasset, they succeeded in a heavy fine being imposed on the Greek government by the European Union, for failing to properly protect the Zakynthos National Marine Park (est. 1999). The fine has apparently waken up the authorities and some progress has been made in the past two years.

In 2006 his organisation joined forces with Sea Life Centres throughout UK and Europe to launch a Turtle SOS Appeal. Together with Sea Life Centres Yannis Vardakastanis is currently undertaking the construction of a turtle rescue centre on Zakynthos, so that injured and distressed turtles do not have to undergo an 8-hour journey to the nearest centre in Athens. In 2005 his work received a High Commendation in the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards for ‘Best in a Marine Environment’, and once more in 2007 in the Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards for ‘Protection of an Endangered Species’, while Yannis and his team have been featured in many leading newspapers and TV documentaries.

Read here The ECOCLUB Interview with Yannis Vardakastanis