hydra's ecology & geology
In ancient times Hydra was covered with pines and had plenty of water (the source of the island’s name). Today, the island is mostly dry, its water supplied by a desalination plant behind Mandraki Beach Resort. Hydra still has a working well in the area of Kala Pigadia (meaning “good wells”), and some residents will take plastic bottles down to fill up with free drinking water.
By the time temperatures start soaring in mid-summer, most ground-level vegetation (grasses, flowering plants, scrub brush) has dried out and turned brown, but colorful spring and early summer bring a wealth of wildflowers, including white and yellow daisies, cyclamen, irises, thistles, and red poppies. Purple, orange, and even yellow bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumbago, and geraniums bloom and persist throughout the summer. Century plants, prickly pears, Hottentot figs, and cacti are ubiquitous. In addition to the pine trees in the hills, cypress, olive, eucalyptus, fig, lemon, and even orange trees abound.
Birds species include partridges, quails, swallows, owls, and many migratory birds; small, harmless bats are common in the evenings. Animal species include rabbits and foxes (generally up in the mountains), as well as equines (horses, mules, donkeys), feral and domestic cats, and domestic dogs, as well as livestock such as sheep, goats, chickens, and roosters. Tortoises are common. Semipoisonous (nonlethal) snakes exist in more rural areas and are rarely seen in town.
Sadly, dynamite and small-net fishing decimated the fish population in the waters around Hydra. Due to EU regulations banning dynamiting and specifying minimum net sizes, the marine ecology is regenerating. Marine life consists a variety of smaller fish, sometimes quite colorful, swimming singly or in schools (e.g., silvery-blue, needlelike gar fish, small tuna, barbounia, mullet, red snapper, small barracuda, dolphins, the odd swordfish), the rare sea turtle), as well as sea urchins, octopuses, star fish, squid, sea turtles (very rare), eels, and sea centipedes (which feed on the sea floor but should not be approached). In some summers jellyfish float through the local waters for a few days, but for the most part the seas around Hydra are free of them.