The pink flamingoes at Larnaca Salt Lake

The pink flamingoes at Larnaca Salt Lake

Larnaca is the third largest city in Cyprus (after Nicosia and Limassol) and offers a lot of attractions worth experiencing. Just outside the city and off the road leading to Larnaca International Airport, the Larnaca Salt Lake is one of the most distinctive landmarks of the area. Besides its picturesque beauty, the lake is the haunt of 85 species of water-birds with estimated populations between 20,000–38,000. It is one of the important migratory passages through Cyprus. Among them are 2,000–12,000 flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber) which spend the winter months there feeding off populations of brine shrimp.

Larnaca Salt Lake is a complex network of four salt lakes (3 of them interconnected) of different sizes to the west of Larnaca. The largest is lake Aliki, followed by lake Orphani, lake Soros and lake Spiro. They form the second largest salt lake in Cyprus after the Limassol Salt Lake. The total surface area of the lakes adds up to 2.2 km2. It is considered one of the most important wetlands of Cyprus. It is surrounded by halophytic scrubland and on its bank lies the Hala Sultan Tekke, one of the holiest of shrines within Ottoman Islam. It houses the tomb of Umm Haram, Muhammad's 'wet-nurse'.

Flocks of birdwatchers gather to observe the blaze of pink from flamingoes as they gather in the centre of the lake but also the other important migrants. The Larnaca Salt Lake complex was declared as a protected area by a decision of the Council of Ministers in 1997. Recent evidence suggests that contrary to previous belief the greater flamingo not only stops over but also breeds on this wetland.

During the winter months the lake fills with water whilst in the summer the water evaporates, leaving a crust of salt and a haze of grey dust. According to legend, the lake's saltiness stems from St Lazarus' request of an old woman for food and drink. She refused, claiming her vines had dried up, to which Lazarus replied: "May your vines be dry and be a salt lake forever more." A more scientific explanation is that the salt water penetrates the porous rock between the lake and the sea, making the water very salty.

Salt harvested from this lake used to be one of the island's major exports, being collected with donkeys, carried to the edge of the lake, and piled up into huge pyramidal heaps. With rising labour costs, harvesting dwindled to a negligible amount and stopped altogether in 1986 as the island now imports most of this commodity.

Source:  Most of this article was taken from Wikipedia



Flamingoes at Larnaca