Tiny particles of pink shell rise and swirl, carried by soft waves and left to fall in lines and piles. Behind the famous pink coral sand of Elafonisi an acquamarine sea leads to the far horizon, as far as African shores.
Little fish dart among the rocks. The Wandering Kiwi family are busy, heads down, full of excitement at the fish, stripy, colourful, unexpected in the pristine water.
Clouds glide forward in dark banks from the rugged Cretan mountains but evapourate into wispy white puffs when they hit the sea air. Large gulls soar overhead. Back in the sand dunes, seashore plants stud the white sand – sea daffodils and low-lying juniper bushes.
There are fifteen to twenty other people, spread out along the beach, we all have our own space to enjoy what instantly went straight to the top of my favourite beaches in the world category.
You have to wade across a small channel to the island of Elafonisi, perched on the southwest corner of Crete. It is a national park and no umbrellas or bars of structures of any kind are allowed. Keep walking through the sand dunes to the far beach, where you can feel part of the pristine wilderness.
It took about an hour-and-a-half to drive to Elafonisi from our base in Chania, making it an ideal day trip. There is plenty of free parking at the beach and we took our own food.
It is an attractive drive through the Topolia Gorge where you should and stop to take a look at the cathedral-like St Sofia’s Cave. The mountain villages are gorgeous here, with stone houses set in lush greenery. The chestnuts were thick on the ground in Elos and Vlatos. This is part of the Ennia Horia or nine villages region.
But I’m still dreaming of Elafonisi.
By Natasha von Geldern
Many thanks to the super-comfortable Samaria Hotel in Chania for hosting the Wandering Kiwis. Chania is gorgeous and makes a great base for exploring the eastern part of Crete.