Pylos - The little islands of Navarino Bay
The little islands of Navarino Bay: Tsichli-Baba, Sphacteria, Chelonaki
Facing with Pylos city and closing Navarino Bay, the island of Sphacteria is a huge natural barrier against the strong winds in the Ionian Sea and thus protects the Gulf of Pylos. Only two narrow passages permit access in to the bay: – in the south “the Great Thouri pass” – in the north, the “Sykia pass”. This rocky barrier is made up of many islands, which are ranked as follows: – from the southern entrance of the bay, initially you found Tsichli-Baba island with a huge arch, then the Koutsounes both rocks; just after, follows in alignment, the main island Sphacteria to cliffs falling precipitously into the sea. At the center of the Bay of Navarino is the island of Marathonisi or Chelonaki.
On a daily basis during the summer months the tourist boats include in their itinerary a visit to the monuments of the fallen soldiers in the Battle of Navarino between the Turk-Egyptian fleet and the Allies (the British, French and Russians).
Fanari (Tsichli-Baba) Island
Sight-seeing begins in Fanari. The boat is being stranded to the little pier and the visitors can see the monument built by the French Republic (1890) for the French who were killed in the Battle of Navarino. Fanari took its name by the lighthouse that exists on the little island accommodating the route of the ships during the night. After you climb the stairs (140 in total), you will have the chance to admire the whole town of Pylos with Niocastro and the Golden Coast in the background… the whole Bay of Navarino at your feet! The monument of the French (which was erected in 1890) stands next to end of the stairs and reminds all the important events that took place there and led to the establishment of the Greek State. You will see the lighthouse (which started functioned for the first time in 1873) right in front of you, located on the edge of the island.
You may carefully walk on the pebbles among the thyme bushes and you will find yourself on the other side of the island that overlooks the Ionian Sea. Relax and enjoy the ocean spreading out right in front of you. As you lower your gaze you will see the beautiful formations of the rocks and the bubbling of the waters upon them. Right next to Fanari you will see two immense rocks, the Koutsoynes. According to historical accounts during the siege of Niokastro by Ibrahim (26/4/1825) in the course of the Greek Revolution, the battleship “Aris” managed to escape through this passage, after having caused considerable damage to the Turk-Egyptian fleet by sinking several ships, despite all odds.
Our next destination is the island of Sphacteria with its extremely rocky topography; the island of Navarino Bay with the long historical presence along the centuries. Due to its strategic position, the island was used as the base for military operations since the early antiquity. As you sail along the coast, you will initially see the monument of Santore Santarosa, a philhellene and former Military Minister of Italy. He arrived in Greece in 1824, fought for the Greeks and died during the Revolution. The visitors will view two more monuments on the island. Initially, there is the monument of Alexi Malle. He was an officer in the French Body of Maison, who was killed during a skirmish. Additionally, there is the tomb of Paula Maria Bonaparte, the nephew of the victorious army commander Napoleon (there is a whole story behind his final burial in Sphacteria). In the centre of the island you will see the pier where the boats are being tied up. After you disembark, you shall walk for a few meters and you will see a column with the history of the island inscribed on it. If you walk a bit further in the same direction, you will see the small church of Panagoula on your left. The building is not well-preserved. Right next to the church there is the wooden church of St. Nicholas which was built in 1897 by the Russians and is dedicated to their people who were killed in the Battle of Navarino.
Marathonisi or Chelonaki Island (which in Greek means small turtle)
The little island of Chelonaki in the centre of the bay is the next stop of the tour. The boats are stranded in the small pier. There, the visitors will see the English monument (memorial). There is a small lighthouse for the night signal to the boats that are sailing during night. Please have in mind that you can also dive into the beautiful and clear waters either from the boat or from the small concrete pier. The extreme heats during the summer months will prompt you do that!