The black lizards of Linosa Island (south of Sicily) had been on our bucket list for a long time. However, we always had been scared off as the journey to this remote island is complicated and takes a lot of time. Anyway, in 2018 we decided to visit this tiny island of only 5 square kilometers: As expected, getting there was a logistic challenge – but what we found is one of the most beautiful places in the Mediterranean.
12.06. – Getting there, 1st step
In the evening we took a plane from Düsseldorf to Rome and slept in a B&B at the coast near Fiumicino Airport: noisy Fiumicino flight path, lukewarm pizza – Bella Italia!
13.06. – Getting there, 2nd step
In the morning, we had some time to explore the Fiumicino coast: In the greater Rome area you shouldn’t have too high expectations regarding the beaches. But at least we came across same Italian Wall Lizards (Podarcis siculus campestris) and Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica). At noon, we headed back to the airport for our connecting flight to Lampedusa. After our arrival on Lampedusa, we checked in at our accommodation and started to explore the island. No, Lampedusa is definitely not an extraordinary beautiful island: a naked limestone plateau with functional architecture, a lot of litter and crowded with tourists. In the evening it started to rain and we stopped our field trip for an early dinner.
14.06. – Getting there, 3rd step
Twice a day, there’s a ferry from Lampedusa to Linosa. Ours was scheduled for 9 a.m.. However, at the ticket office they were reluctant to give us our tickets and told us to wait until 8:30: Due to bad weather conditions it wasn’t sure if there would be a ferry at all (admittedly: it was quite windy). After some more discussions, we were proud owners of two ferry tickets ready to enter the boat. The captain informed all passengers that the weather was very bad. Though, the boat would leave to Linosa but there would be no boat back today… and not tomorrow… and the day after tomorrow – who knows… We hesitated for a moment – should we really do this trip? – and entered the boat. Actually, we should be the only(!) passengers on this passage. It turned out to be a hell of a ride. Crossing the rough sea was like a rollercoaster – nothing for the faint-hearted…
After one hour we arrived at Linosa, were our host Guiseppe was already waiting for us: We made it, finally! The island welcomed us with a gorgeous Canary Island-like volcano landscape and – compared to Lampedusa – rich vegetation: a different world! Besides of us there were hardly any tourists on the island – a calm and relaxed place (Linosa has a few B&BS, a Trattoria which is open already in June and a small supermarket). We started exploring the island. To our pleasure, the local black subspecies of Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis laurentiimuelleri) turned out to be quite common and not shy at all. These lizards are real opportunists always trying to find new food resources: We saw them licking pollen form flowers but also cannibalism seems to occur frequently. They can be found in areas with rich vegetation but also on bald coastal rocks. Furthermore, we came across the melanistic local morph of Chalcides ocellatus as well as Tarentola mauritanica. After this great nature experience we soon forgot our long journey to get here.
15.06. – The Robinson Crusoe-Effect
Nice weather, but still windy: As announced, the ferries were out of service for the whole day. We started to get concerned about the white crestwaves on the sea: Like Robinson Crusoe, we were stranded on a lonely island – uncertain how long we had to stay here… (Actually, we left open who of us should be Robinson and who should be Friday).
But we didn’t have time to worry as we still had some extensive photo sessions with the lizards on our schedule. Once again, they proved to be curious opportunists: fruits of the Opuntia plants – and also their flowers - were appreciated food sources, but also the cadaver of Tarentola mauritanica (and even fruit gum were accepted). As soon as we rested, the lizards approached to find out if we had something to eat: back-pack, camera, sunglasses – everything was subject of profound investigation. We don’t know if this confidingness is caused by the absence of predators like snakes on the island or by the fact that it has been populated by humans only since the 19th century. Similar behavior has been reported from some uninhabited Balearic islets. However: a fantastic spectacle with an impressive volcanic scenery! Time flew like an arrow and we headed back in the evening with countless pictures on our memory sticks.
16.06. – return trip, part 1
In the morning, our host told us that today “maybe” a ferry would come – quite encouraging… But actually, despite of the fact that there was still strong wind, at 10:45 we were able to take a boat to Lampedusa. Before, we took some quick pictures of skinks and lizards yet, when it was time to say goodbye: Linosa will be an unforgettable memory for us.
We arrived at Lampedusa at noon, our return flight to Rome was scheduled for the late evening. So we had enough time to explore the island. We hired a car: a shiny Fiat Punto which obviously had been produced before the invention of power steering (Note: on Lampedusa it is possible to rent a car without showing a driving license or any other document). As we had realized three days ago, Lampedusa doesn’t impress by scenic landscapes. However, the island is home for some reptile species: Besides of Tarentola mauritanica and Chalcides ocellatus also Macroprotodon cucullatus and Malpolon monspessulanus occur on the island – the latter two were only observed DOR. Furthermore, in Lampedusa city there are introduced populations of Podarcis siculus and Podarcis filfolensis – but we didn’t see any Lacertid there.
Our flight to Rome was in time. However, our transfer to the hotel in Rome was delayed: Due to a marathon, the complete city of Rome was blocked resulting in a huge traffic jam. We arrived at our accommodation at 00:30 a.m.
17.06. – return trip, part 2
As our return flight to Düsseldorf was scheduled for the evening we had plenty of time for sightseeing in Rome. In between the numerous old stones of Forum Romanum and the countless tourist groups we spotted some lizards at least: Podarcis muralis and Podarcis siculus. At noon, the heat forced us (as well as the lizards) to hide in the shadow: A lazy afternoon, waiting for the return flight.
At 10 p.m. we finally arrived at home – happy and satisfied with this successful trip: Travelling to Linosa requires exorbitant effort – a trip you probably will do only once in your life. However, as a reward, we found an extraordinary beautiful island with its fascinating inhabitants.