Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hi, we have discontinued entries to this blog.  Instead, please refer to our FaceBook page for updates from Aquaworld. The link is

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Herpetologists Alive!

Jan, Gijs, Jeroen, John (I'm always here), Anniek and Peter

Aquaworld seems to have become a stopping off point for passing field herpetologists (those who spend much of their time turning stones over and paddling around pools looking for snakes, lizards etc etc) and we are, of course, very happy to receive them.

The group above seem a typical, friendly bunch - but they're all infected with the same mad desire to spend a large portion of their free time searching for and reporting on any and all reptiles they come across...

Naturally, I am totally in sympathy!

Although all these visitors were new to me, Jeroen and I have had previous email correspondence and I was really pleased to be able to meet him face to face. When not chasing reptilians around, Jeroen (who holds a PhD) is currently working on estuarine benthic invertebrates of the river Scheldt at the Flemish 'Research Institute for Nature and Forest' in Brussels.

The group's report is now available online and we look forward to seeing any other passing reptile lovers in the years to come.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spring 2009 News

This spring has, as usual, been a case of getting everything ready for the high season and trying to help out a few people and critters along the way...

Matt Wilson, Suzanne and Kevin Byrnes (right to left) were the first serious herpetologists of the year and it was a pleasure to meet with them and trade information. Matt has set up a great web site on herping in Europe - - well worth a look!

In May the big surprise was a call from one of the local hotels saying that they had a fish which had grown too big for their 1.50m aquarium - would we please give it a home? If our tentative identification is correct, we now possess an alligator gar - the largest purely freshwater fish in North America - and at a maximum of about 3.0m, it would certainly have outgrown its welcome in its old home...

So, the season is now well and truely under way and, if you're coming to see us at Aquaworld, we've got more than ever for you to get up close and personal to.

By the way, we now have a FaceBook page at where you can upload photos/videos etc - or just drop in to say hello to the other 150 or so members.

If you've visited Aquaworld and would like to write a review for everyone else to read, you can do so at

We look forward to seeing you all soon,

Judith & John

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ready for 2009!

Gosh, another year has slipped by and 2009 is well and truly on us...

It hardly seems any time at all since I last wrote here - but it was, in fact, far too long ago!

Since then we have seen the arrival of several new inhabitants at Aquaworld; Naga, Raja, Yin and Yang - the four Burmese pythons, Mookie - a well-loved green iguana who needed a new home and Georgos - a rather battered little loggerhead turtle found upside down on the beach road here in Hersonissos just yesterday by two local children.

Raja and John

Mookie eyes up his breakfast

Hopefully, Georgos will recover and, after a little tender loving care, can be relaeased back into the wild as was his predecessor, the ever-hungry Dimitris, last year.

Although looking after reptiles like Sobek the crocodile, the pythons and the iguanas is great fun - getting the chance to help wild animals along the way and to eventually return them to their natural habitat is by far the most rewarding part of what we do here at Aquaworld.

Dimitris heading back to sea...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Snap's Last Season

Snap, the little Nile crocodile who has been cared for at Aquaworld for the last five years, is off to pastures new at the end of this summer.

Snap had been up for sale in the pet trade and that was why he was "rescued" and homed at Aquaworld - Nile crocodiles are simply not pets and should never be sold to unqualified folk without the right conditions to keep an animal which can grow to as much as 6 meters and kill people!

We ourselves lack the space to keep such a large creature comfortably, so we started looking for a permanent home for Snap last year. Unfortunately, things had kind of stalled until the arrival of animal welfare officer David Barnes at Aquaworld last month. He checked out the well-being of our animals and was very complimentary about their condition(s). We then turned to the problem of a home for Snap, and David really did set the wheels in motion.

He soon had an offer of a place for our little croc in a new, state-of-the-art facility in Spain and put us in touch with the relevant CITES authorities to ensure that all the paper-work was in order. Only one problem remained, that of the actual time Snap would have to be crated up in order to reach Spain by normal commercial flights. As David set to work on trying to find someone who might somehow enable a direct flight from Crete to Spain, an easier and equally effective alternative opened up.

Mr Lesueur, the director of the new Attica Zoological Park just outside Athens has today confirmed that Snap will be given just what he needs there - a great environment with caring people. Athens is only forty-five minutes flying time from Crete, so we estimate that Snap will only have to put up with being in a box for two-and-a-half hours or so and, much to our delight, we will be able to accompany him personally to his new home.

On behalf of Snap, our sincere thanks go to David Barnes, Dimitris Vernicos and Mr Lesueur of Attica Zoo, as well as to Enrique Prieto of the Cocodrilo Park in Torremolinos who originally offered him a home.

And, of course, our sincere thanks to all of you for your interest :-)

Friday, June 22, 2007

18th April, 2007

A familiar face suddenly appeared at the door today, that of Libby Weir-Breen, the founder of Island Holidays Plus.

Libby and her fellow guide Richard White had brought (dragged in :) ) four of their clients who had grave reservations about visiting an establishment which kept live animals and charged people for seeing them.

I was given just twenty minutes to change that attitude, if I could!

What followed was a delightful conversation and tour around Aquaworld. This eventually far exceeded the specified time and resulted in a fruitful exchange of both information and ideas, something we always try to achieve.

Our sincere thanks for your generosity to the four lady visitors, Libby, Richard and all at Island Holidays - we hope to see you again soon!

22nd April, 2007

This is hardly the way to write a blog, but my only excuse is the wonderful fact that Aquaworld has had a start to the season like no other! Finding time to update the blog has just been impossible - but I'll try to make it up now by adding new postings with a date at the top which corresponds to (roughly) when the events described actually happened...

Dimitris Revisits Aquaworld – With a Few Friends!

Dimitris enjoying his return visit

Dimitris Cartas first met the inhabitants of Aquaworld Aquarium in August last year, and when he paid a return visit this month it was with thirty-five of his environmental studies class-mates and four of their teachers for company.

The Cartas family was on holiday in Crete last summer and searched out Aquaworld after having read about it on the aquarium website. Mr Cartas senior was so impressed that he wrote in the Visitors’ Book that:

“This is a very well done job. I really enjoyed the facility. The philosophy of this aquarium and reptile base is really pet oriented where I got the opportunity to be very close to reptiles that most of the time we consider unfriendly and dangerous. I was very pleased. I recommend this visit to families with young kids.”

When Dimitris’ school (the 2nd Senior High of Haidariou) decided to visit Crete for their annual excursion, he remembered the little aquarium in Hersonissos and advised his class and teachers to visit it as part of their itinerary. When they agreed, Dimitris took it on himself to make all the arrangements with John & Judith McLaren - curators of Aquaworld.

As part of the proceedings, Dimitris had asked John to give them all a talk on environmental issues – but all notions of formality quickly evaporated when the party met some of the ‘kids’ of Aquaworld. There was a happy, excited and totally uncontrollable buzz as the young students found themselves holding snakes and lizards – very often for the first time in their lives – and delighting in very ‘up close and personal’ experiences.

“Although a lecture proved impossible,” remarked John, “we did have a prolonged and very fruitful Q&A session on an individual basis. The discussion ranged from such things as the reputation of reptiles versus the hard facts, animal conservation and protection of the environment. I found it very satisfying to talk with such an enthusiastic group of youngsters and I feel this bodes well for the future of environmental studies in Greece.”

On leaving, Dimitris added his thoughts to his father’s in the Visitors’ Book:
“This is a very great learning experience and it changes your point of view towards the environment.”

Some of Dimitris' classmates get up close & personal with a rescued boa

Monday, March 12, 2007

The First Week of the Campaign
Well, the campaign to improve the lot of the loggerhead turtles on Zakynthos is well underway.
Yesterday I finished a new blog-type page to add to Aquaworld's main site and I've just this moment finished linking all the other pages of the site to it. you can read it at:
I welcome all comments/criticism - anything that can help relieve this dreadful shame on the Greek nation.
I have also just emailed Medasset, Archelon, WWF Greece and Greenpeace with details of the petition. Hopefully, we will find some support there. If you can think of anyone who can contribute - even just a single signature - please let them know. Remember, the link to the petition is:
To those of you who have already signed, thank you so much for forming what I hope is the kernel of something much greater. Again, let me appeal to you all - the key to this petition having any effect is if the good citizens of Zakynthos really believe that their pockets will become much lighter as a result of it. In turn, that means lots of signatures, so please pass on word of our enterprise and together I'm sure we can make it work.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Caretta caretta - A National Shame!

It was something of a puzzle to read recently on the Internet that I was caring for a loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) at Aquaworld! It wasn't until another publication - the Ko-go Khronicles - did its research properly and reported correctly that the turtle was being cared for at the nearby CretAquarium that the mystery was solved. Some journalists just can't seem to get it right....

However, while one turtle may be getting all the tender loving care it needs to make sure it can be released soon, others are not faring so well here in Greece!

All the facts of the Greek national shame taking place daily at Zakynthos, the most critical and vital nesting place for the loggerhead in the entire Mediterranean, can be read on the detailed Medasset report and photographs of the disgraceful ongoing habitat destruction can also be viewed online.

There is no need to reiterate all the facts here. It is sufficient to say that greed and self interest - the overwhelming desire for the tourist euro, dollar, pound or whatever - is not simply threatening this ancient species, the very sand in which the turtles lay their eggs is even being removed for building purposes!!!

I feel that it is high time that those responsible are sent a very strong message - we will not put up with this disgrace any longer.

It is with this in mind that I have created an online petition which I would like everyone who cares for the future of the loggerhead turtle to sign - you can choose to remain anonymous if you so desire. The key message to the people of Zakynthos is simple - put things right or suffer the financial consequences of an ongoing, snowballing tourist boycott of the entire area. When you've signed it, please forward it to all the caring individuals you know.

There is only a fairly basic petition online at present, but a website is under construction and this blog will let you know when its available - keep on reading :-)

Friday, November 17, 2006

All Creatures Great and Small

At the suggestion of many visitors to Aquaworld, I have started to extend the aquarium web site to include a variety of spiders and insects and other creepie-crawlies, as well as the birds and mammals of Crete.

The first of these pages is now under construction and features fifteen images taken in October this year by Stef van Overdijk from Holland. You can see it at:

Particularly fascinating is this wolf spider with numerous young clinging to her (?) back:

Guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine are the two images of one of the local Cretan scorpions:

If you have any images of any Cretan wildlife that you would like to add to these new pages as they are being constructed, or any information about local fauna that you think should be mentioned, please feel free to send them to me at

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another Season Over!
As the thunder growls overhead and the streets of Hersonissos run with muddy water and the warm winter clothing is aired once more, it's time to declare the season over.
In spite of all its ups and downs, the year 2006 has seen yet another record in the number of visitors to Aquaworld - part of a continual growth curve which was only interrupted in 2004 - Athens Olympic year. A rather sad latter half of May and a somewhat disasterous June were more than offset by new heights reached in July, September and October.
A large part of this is due to the unfailing patronage of an ever-increasing number of regular visitors to Crete - visitors for whom a trip to Aquaworld is now simply an established part of their holiday itinerary - a "must-do" each time they're here. These folks have been particularly active in suggesting to others that they should not miss out on the experience - both by way of word of mouth and by the many favourable comments they have posted on the Internet. Our thanks to them all.
Highlights of the year started at the end of last summer with the first ever hatching of marginated tortoises (Testudo marginata) in the reptile garden. It is our hope that we will become successful enough in this respect that one day we will be releasing young tortoises on an annual basis into suitable wild habitats.
The local Balkan terrapins (Mauremys rivulata) have again produced seven young which will also eventually be released to augment threatened populations around the island.
Krakos, a three-year-old Boa constrictor, was given into our care and his former owners made the very kind gesture of donating his brand new terrarium to Aquaworld.
Burma (Python molurus bivittatus) has now grown to almost four metres and has become a star of local television as well as having had a video made for a national TV channel.
Snap, the Nile crocodile, is still with us but we are now investigating the possibility of rehoming him at the new Attica Zoo outside Athens. He still hasn't managed to chomp me - but I'm sure he still feels he owes me one!
On the other hand, Mr Prickles, the green iguana, managed to do just that and I went around for a couple of weeks with my hand in a sling. Word of advice - never get between warring male iguanas - it's painful!
Again, thanks to all concerned and we hope to see you all again next year.
John & Judith McLaren

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Aquaworld Art

Colin Middleton recently visited Aquaworld and, in spite of them persisting in moving around at the most inopportune moments, produced the following images of the moray eel and the octopus:

Colin, thank you for sharing your art with us all. At some stage soon, I'll add them to the main site at - and I will do so with pleasure - beautiful portrayals!

John McLaren

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Aquaworld's Signs - Gone!

At an "inter-aquaria" management meeting on 6th September, I agreed to the positioning of a new CretAquarium sign below my "Aquaworld, 50m this way" signs in Hersonissos. This was at the suggestion of Mr Fotis Pantazoglou, a member of the CretAquarium management, and with the agreement of CretAquarium manager, Mr Papadakis. Our joint aim was to point out clearly to visitors to Crete that there were two aquaria on the island and indicate where they were relative to each other.

Before the Agreement

"Please don't take my signs away!"

By a remarkable coincidence, just hours after the new CretAquarium sign went up below mine, an official of the prefecture of Heraklion just happened to pass by and order MY signs' removal since there is apparently a rule that there cannot be two signs indicating the "same thing in different places." He/she totally ignored numerous other "illegal" signs along the same road!

Through no wishes of their own, local community police were obliged to take my signs down. This they did carefully and returned them to me more or less intact.

After the Agreement

"Same lamp post - just 50m from Aquaworld,
but no longer any mention of Crete's first aquarium
just around the corner!"

I immediately telephoned Mr Pantazoglou and informed him of the facts. He replied that the whole thing was ridiculous since CretAquarium and Aquaworld were obviously not the "same thing" at all. Nonetheless, Aquaworld's signs now lie useless in front of the aquarium and tourists have little idea where to find us.

"Aquaworld's derelict signs lying useless in
front of the aquarium."

In a discussion with Mr Danelakis, deputy mayor of Hersonissos, he suggested that I simply put some distance between the two signs and the problem would be solved. I respectfully asked Mr Pantazoglou to move the CretAquarium sign some 30m up the road and I would be able to put my signs back. There has been no response to this suggestion as yet.

Instead, Mr Pantazoglou has recommended me to put new signs up. His signwriter, following his instructions, has come up with this:

"Suggested new signs - which Aquaworld has to pay for!"

Now, these are undoubtedly very attractive signs, and my respects to Lefteris who has wasted his time producing them. You might notice the fundamental flaw - they don't mention the word "Aquarium" or its Greek equivalent "Enythreio" anywhere! They could be directing people to a water park, an aquarium supply shop or, as more than one person has suggested, a scuba-diving centre!

The second problem with these suggested signs is that they are definitely not the correct colours for directing visitors to places of interest. These are clearly, legally defined throughout Europe, and Greece is no exception. You can see the rules if you go to

Pages 24 & 28 clearly show that all "touristic" signs MUST have a brown background, Greek lettering in yellow, and the phoenetic, or English, lettering in white - almost exactly as the "illegal" Aquaworld signs are, in fact.

I have tried on several occasions to get my Aquaworld signs - as they are - legalised, but keep on coming up against seemingly insurmountable walls - "It's not possible" (an official of the Hersonissos council) and "It's too difficult" (a member of the local community police). Since he obviously has the know-how, I have asked Mr Pantazoglou for his assistance on this one. Yet again, no reply as yet.

Now, call me naive if you will, but I still believe that the CretAquarium team are not actively out to scupper Aquaworld, but not one of the many local people I've spoken to believes this. They see a deliberate and calculated campaign to reduce the profile of Aquaworld to zero and to make it all but invisible to visitors to Crete.

What do you believe? Please vote "Yes" if you think there are too many coincidences and that Aquaworld has been targeted:

Do you think CretAquarium is trying to sink Aquaworld?
Free polls from

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Tribute to Steve Irwin - The Crocodile Hunter

At the time of writing, the Aquaworld website has been visited by almost 7,000 people today - rather than the usual 200 or so. Normally, this would have given me great pleasure, but sadly most of these "hits" have been due to people searching for images of the common stingray. As most of the world now knows, Steve Irwin was killed by the sting of a ray apparently penetrating his heart - not a reckless misjudgement, but an event whose chances of occuring must be less than those of being killed by a falling meteor. We have today lost one of the stalwarts of animal conservation.

However controversial people found his approach, and there are many who sought only to trivialise and sensationalise his work, he has left us a priceless legacy.

First and foremost, his wife Terri and their two children, Bindi Sue and Bob, will have a figure to admire and give inspiration, forever.

Secondly, I feel sure that, when they overcome their grief, the staff of Australia Zoo will find the willpower to continue and build on his work.

Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, Steve Irwin has filled the hearts of an entire generation all around the world with his love for the animals which share our planet - and without which we would be nothing. Over recent years, there has hardly been a day at Aquaworld where his name has not been mentioned. Children love him and have learned to love wildlife through him - a priceless gift to all who care about animals.

Visitors to Aquaworld today have without exception expressed their sincere regrets about Steve's passing and I would like to finish by conveying that feeling to all concerned. Steve deserves a place in all our hearts and, Australian icon as he was - son of Victoria, resident of Queensland and citizen of the world, I hope his country honours him fittingly as we all say a sad goodbye.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Aquaworld Website Honoured by State Television

(Press Release)

The Aquaworld aquarium website was recently honoured by the Greek national television service - ERT. It currently takes pride of place in their listing of "No 1" sites and also heads their table for sites concerned with marine ecology.

Accompanying the link, ERT describes Aquaworld as "...a gem, not only for our country but also for the whole of the Mediterranean. The fabulous work and the enthusiasm of the people who decided to create this aquarium is admirable and because of them those who visit Crete have the opportunity to admire the treasures of the Mediterranean up close. Fish, reptiles and various other marine species create an unbelievable magical mosaic ... "

The Aquaworld site was written last winter by John McLaren, founder of Aquaworld, and drew on the Internet Studies he had recently undertaken with Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. Mr McLaren conducted a poll of Aquaworld visitors and carried out extensive video testing of other aquarium sites before deciding on the very simple layout of the Aquaworld site. "People want to know just a couple of basic things about an aquarium - where it is, when it's open, and how much it costs to get in - so these key points are all included on the home page for each language," he says, "but the Aquaworld site allows visitors to go far further, if they wish, and learn much more about Aquaworld and the creatures on display."

Many of the images on the site were created by Jelger and Maaike of Digital Nature - others came from Aquaworld's own archives.

The site was subsequently translated into Greek by retired police officer Nikos Metaxiotis, into Dutch by Petra of Pet Planet - Hersonissos' first pet shop - and into Swedish by Nicole, a Swedish artist living here on Crete and a helper at the Cretan Animal Welfare Group. A German translation is being undertaken by Master of Science candidate Samuel Tanner (studies permitting) at the University of Zurich.

Mr McLaren describes this totally unexpected accolade to his site as "a breath of fresh air following on from our eventual recognition after ten years work by the Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT) last year."

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Sign of the Times

Or “Notes from a Small Aquarium”

It had long occurred to me that Aquaworld should have its own signs in the Hersonissos area to help visitors find their way there. After all, the Natural History Museum, Lychnostasis Museum and various other places of interest to the tourist were clearly signposted – so why not my little aquarium?

Of course, I wanted the signs to be as professional looking as possible and thought it best to adopt the European standard of a brown background with white English language and yellow Greek language lettering.

Having no wish to upset the local authorities, I took Nikos - a retired Greek policeman friend - to help with any language difficulties and determinedly approached the powers that be in the Hersonissos town hall. The receptionist directed us to a very pleasant young man in the accountancy department who listened patiently to Nikos’ explanation (in Greek) of what I wanted and then answered in excellent English by asking what my name was and entering it in his computer. When I asked why, he told me that he was first checking to see if I had any outstanding fines against me for having the one sign that I had had for years on private land at the bottom corner of the street. I breathed a sigh of relief when he informed me that I didn’t!

He then went on to explain that Greek law forbids any signs at the side of the road other than those put there by the authorities. I put forward the notion that this was not really in the interests of a nation which depends so heavily on tourism – how would they find anything? The idea that the Hersonissos council itself should be putting such signs up was met with silence, but it was agreed that the law was stupid.

I had been down this particular road many times before and did not want to get into a discussion about the basis of democracy and how Greek people really should have a means of changing “stupid” laws – I did not wish to see the expression of shocked horror, bordering on heresy, which usually accompanies such outrageous notions – so I let that one pass.

“OK, so, if no signs whatsoever are permitted, how many people have you fined for putting them up?” was my next question. It turned out that, although there was a total of some one and a half million Euros worth of penalties on this young man’s computer, none had been paid since none had ever been issued. This would appear to be one of those wonderful Greek ways of getting things done in spite of “stupid” laws. The council had done its duty by fining offenders – it simply didn’t bother to inform them!

My final, despairing effort went along the lines of “Well, I’ve lived here since 1991, and some of the signs we’re talking about have been here even longer. If they’re illegal – why haven’t they been taken down by the council?” This last effort was met with an enigmatic smile and the one-word answer which explained it all – “Politics!”

As Nikos and I left the offices, he shook his head in sorrow and advised me to put my signs up, regardless.

There things might have rested since I had no wish to have my name added to that large list of offenders – I simply couldn’t afford the kind of fines the council officials were talking about should they ever decide to actually act on them. However, several events were to change my mind.

Arriving back at Aquaworld one Sunday morning after shopping the fresh fruit and vegetables for tortoises and iguanas, I was somewhat alarmed to find the olive trees around my one and only sign being hacked down. I dumped the greengroceries and rushed back to find out what was happening. Two men were obviously as intent on removing all vegetation from the site as any attack by Agent Orange! One of these good fellows spoke English and explained that they were about to bring in a bull-dozer to level the land and that I had two hours to rescue my sign or it would suffer the same fate as the trees. All this on a Sunday morning!

With amazing good grace, my “advertising” man, Vassilis, abandoned his family and came rushing down from Episcopi to dismantle the sign. With equal goodwill, the bulldozer guy lifted out each of the supporting poles with all the delicacy of a dentist performing an extraction and presented them to me, one by one. I now had not a sign to my name…

As a little aside, I sat for a few moments with the tree-felling, land-levelling men and mentioned that I thought that the land on that side of the road was green belt and not for development – even as a car park for the new super market across the road. “Oh no,” I was reassured, “We’re not building anything - just removing the trees, flattening the site and covering it with tarmac – that’s not classed as development.” I took the following picture as a memento of this “non-development” in progress:

This isn't development???

The vagaries of Greek planning policy aside, I then sought out the owner of the piece of land just to the left of the bulldozer to see if he would allow me to reposition my poor, battered, old sign there. The worthy gentleman in question turned out to be the local caffeneion owner – and he needed time to think about it. It transpired that he also hoped to rent his land to the supermarket should they find their car park to be too small! During the next couple of days while he contemplated my request, I found definite evidence that a sign or two were really necessary if Aquaworld were to survive.

One English lady and her daughter managed to visit us in spite of being told at their Hersonissos hotel that the only aquarium in Crete was CretAquarium. They followed instructions and were disappointed not to find Snap, Blondie, Stephania and all the others they had read about on the Aquaworld website. Eventually they happened to hear about us from another family and were delighted to eventually find us. It turned out, the lady confided on their second visit, that a relative of the hotel owners worked at the new aquarium and that they thought she could only be asking about it!

A young Dutch couple, waving one of my Aquaworld flyers around and knowing that it was close at hand, asked final directions from a taxi driver at the rank just around the corner. “Oh, aquarium!” he told them, “I know where that is. I’ll take you for 15 Euro.” Needless to say, even the worst of taxi drivers would not ask such a price for a 100m journey!

Finally, when the caffeneion owner had given his consent and my original sign was back up, a family arrived who had had a similar experience. They had homed in on us, to within 50m or so, only to be told by the assistant at a sports wear shop directly opposite the sign (she must have spent hours gazing at it whilst waiting for the odd customer) that it was much too far to walk and they needed to take a taxi or the bus.

By this time, my nerves were getting raw and Vassilis was summoned down from the hills again. I told him exactly what I wanted – down to the colour scheme and the wording – and off he went to “design” the signs. I should have realised that this was the wrong word because, sure enough, he turned up a few days later with wonderful red, black and yellow printouts of his proposals. A quick car trip later to view “Eco Park” (whatever that is), “Natural History Museum” and “CretAquarium” signs, he got the gist and my new, illegal signs went up rapidly.

Of course, and especially since the road Aquaworld is situated on leads to the council offices, I expected official fallout the following day – but came there none. I drove around every morning checking that all three were still there and finally, after a couple of weeks, breathed a sigh of relief and decided that life was not so bad after all.

This euphoria lasted until the last Friday of July.

The phone rang that morning and I was informed that we would have no power at all the following day! Since kids’ clubs were due to arrive the next morning from both Kokkini Hani and the nether regions of Hersonissos, I quite naturally exploded - but was assured that it was all part of the “Heraklion Plan” and had nothing to do with the local electricity (DEH) office. It transpired that the blackout was to allow new cables to be strung up for, you guessed it, the new supermarket on the corner!

Again, a small aside here. I went complaining to the local DEH offices some years ago regarding not knowing about scheduled cuts (I also mentioned by-passing areas where work was to be done so that cuts could be minimised – but was assured that “we don’t do that here…”). I asked to have my name added to the list of those businesses which had a “need-to-know” about such goings-on, but was gruffly told that there was no such list in Hersonissos. The guy on the cash register took pity on me and my fish and asked for the Aquaworld number. He wrote it on a post-it and stuck it to the till. I guess it’s still there and I owe him an apology since he still remembers to ring and warn me!

But, back to that fateful Friday morning.

After I had resolved to rent a generator the next day (the last one we owned for such emergencies was stolen) and had calmed down somewhat, two workmen arrived to tell me that they had been ordered to remove all my signs – even the old one!!! In all fairness to them, they thought it was pretty unfair and that’s why they’d stopped by to let me know. Unfortunately for them though, they had caught me at a rather bad moment, to put it mildly. I demanded that, if they were going to remove my signs, they should also remove every other illegal sign in the whole area! After my wife, Judith, had calmed me down a little, I asked who had ordered their removal and they agreed to go away somewhere while I returned to the council offices and sought this miscreant out.

You're not removing MY signs!

Mr Georgos Danelakis turned out to be the deputy mayor of Hersonissos and, fortunately, I had to wait for a while outside his office before he could see me. The comely young receptionist offered me water (I drank three cups) and promised to bring her family to Aquaworld when I told her of all my woes. Two phone calls from Judith ordering me to calm down also helped. The hands stopped shaking and I was ushered in.

On realising my lack of proficiency in the Greek language, Mr Danelakis kindly switched to English and told me that I was, in effect, “stealing water.” I thought that this must be some idiom which had gotten a little lost in translation, and insisted that I was only trying to preserve my few little “tabeles” – or signs – to let people know where Aquaworld was. However, someone else must have been really guilty of stealing water because that’s what he thought the whole issue was, quite literally.

Anyway, once we were past that little hurdle, I asked why he had ordered the removal of my signs and was assured that he hadn’t. “Maybe it was the police…” he mused. “No,” I replied “Two council workmen said that you had told them to do so.” With that, he picked up the phone and had a brief conversation with “the major.” It wasn’t until some time later that I realised he meant “the mayor” – so my confusion continued unabated.

Eventually it was established that the “other aquarium” had complained about my three signs causing the very confusion I had sought to resolve and that this was the source of the problem. With my assurance that I would sort it out personally, Mr Danelakis agreed that both he and the “major” had no problem with my signs if we two aquaria decided on an amicable solution.

Note the distance of the signs from Aquaworld - obviously designed to confuse!Hastening back to Aquaworld, I telephoned the “secretariat” of CretAquarium and asked, somewhat tersely, to speak to the manager, Mr Papadakis. I was informed that he was in a meeting and unavailable. I left my name and number, the nature of the problem, and asked that he contact me as soon as possible.

An hour and a half later, I phoned again and got the same member of the secretariat (I thought that was something in the Kremlin, in another era, but I could be wrong). I was told that Mrs Polychronaki, not Mr Papadakis, would be contacting me, but that she hadn’t had time to do so, as yet.

Determined to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, I asked the young lady to let her know that, if she hadn’t phoned me before then, as soon as Aquaworld closed, I would drive to CretAquarium to see her. This caused a little consternation and I was asked at what time that would be.

“Well, I close at 6.00pm, so I’ll be there by 6.30 or so.”

“She won’t be here then,” I was told.

Note the distance of the signs from Aquaworld - obviously designed to confuse!“Excuse me, but CretAquarium is open until 9.00 pm. Are you telling me there are no members of management on duty after 6.30?” I asked in some disbelief.

“Yes” was the answer.

I leave you to decide on that point, but Mrs Polychronaki did indeed phone me an hour or so later. She stressed several times that no “official” complaint about my signs had ever been lodged, but noted that there had been some discussion over “confusion” between the two aquaria (who said what to whom will always, I suppose, remain a mystery), but we agreed to cooperate in any way we thought appropriate to reduce such confusion and this message was relayed back to a thankful Mr Danelakis.

Foreign visitors very rarely have any difficulty, in fact. They can tell the difference between Aquaworld and CretAquarium. The main problem seems to be with Greek folks who only see the word “enythreio” (my best approximation of the Greek for “aquarium”) on a sign and assume what they will. The fact that Aquaworld has existed for over eleven years often, but not always, goes unnoticed.

Oh yes, the visit from the kids’ clubs went ahead without a hitch – although the generator was very noisy –and they all enjoyed it.