Photographing sea turtles for 12 years

It all started in 2007, when Kostas Papafitsoros, now well known for his unique sea turtle pictures, saw a poster announcing ARCHELON’s conservation projects on the Athens metro and joined as volunteer. Since then, he has been joining our projects every year, and his interest in sea turtle conservation brought him to photography and to research. We asked him how did this special interest in sea turtle photography evolve and below is what he answered.

"Strangely, both the object and the technique of my photos evolved alongside with the tasks I was entrusted with as a member of the ARCHELON team on Zakynthos. The sight of tens of hatchlings rushing to the sea during a nest excavation in east Laganas, provided my first photo opportunity back in August 2007. Next came a series of snapshots of sea turtles coming up to the surface to breathe, taken from a turtle spotting boat with the use of telephoto lenses, during the 2008 and 2009 breeding seasons.

My first participation in ARCHELON’s night surveys was in 2008, and nesting turtles caught my attention. To capture these moments I tried to combine the light of the full moon together with long exposure of a high ISO sensitivity camera. (I assume you know that artificial lights disturb the nesting turtles and their use is not allowed on the beaches of the the National Marine Park of Zakynthos as well as in all of their nesting sites in Greece).The first results were mediocre, but soon the technology of digital cameras advanced to the point it allowed a real breakthrough in the quality of the photos. I have been using this technique in Zakynthos and in the vast beaches of Kyparissia Bay, which is another great sea turtle nesting site monitored by ARCHELON for more than 35 years now.


And then came the underwater photography passion. I still remember the first time I swam with turtles in Laganas Bay, in the summer of 2009! The first underwater photos in 2010 were nothing special, but soon I learned how to make the most of the camera I had then. The important factors for good photos were snorkeling at the times of the day with the best light, being patient, persistent and staying in the water as long as possible. The real boost of photo quality came after 2014, when I started using a proper DSLR camera underwater. Typically, I would learn about new techniques in online underwater photography forums during the winter and I would try to apply these during the summer. It is a never ending learning process.


Photographing sea turtles has led me to visit remote parts of the world on volunteer and photographic expeditions, like Hawaii (green sea turtles), Ghana (leatherbacks) and recently to the Galápagos islands (“black” green sea turtles). My activities have evolved into several research projects, and their results are presented to the international sea turtle symposia around the world.

The most important element of sea turtle photography for me is understanding their behavior. I often encounter sea turtles that I have seen in all previous years. They exhibit a series of interesting behaviors like foraging, being cleaned by fish or being involved in antagonistic interactions with other turtles. At times I am very excited to encounter individuals that I have not seen for a decade!


Nothing of the above would have happened if I had not joined ARCHELON’s projects in the first place. I strongly recommend them".

You can get a taste of Kostas Papafitsoros’ Sea Turtle Photography here. Maybe you will recognize several of them, as they appear in ARCHELON’s website and social media pages. Thank you, Kostas.



    Lilo, the tiny green turtle, made it back to the sea!

    In November 2021 a small green turtle arrived at the ARCHELON Rescue Centre with a very serious head injury. After almost two years of intensive care, one Wednesday in September 2023 he was finally discharged and returned to the sea!

    Read more

    World record of 37 years of reproductive life for a loggerhead sea turtle in Zakynthos, Greece – increased number of nests this summer, says ARCHELON

    ARCHELON – the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece announces an important outcome of the systematic work of this year's sea turtle nest monitoring team in Zakynthos. Based on their long-term observations, ARCHELON managed to certify a new World Record of reproductive activity for loggerhead turtles.

    Read more

    ATTENTION! Sea turtles are not pets: Do not touch them or feed them!

    The Municipality of Eastern Mani and the Port Authorities requested the assistance of ARCHELON to inform beach users in the area of Limeni, near Mani, where 35 new incidents of sea turtle attacks on sea bathers have been recorded during this summer season. These are added to the already long list of 200 such records of previous years found in the nearby Health Center in Areopolis.

    Read more

    Interview with a volunteer: Lea Heinen, Rescue Centre

    Interview with a volunteer: Lea Heinen, Rescue Centre Lea shares her experience volunteering at the ARCHELON Sea Turtle Rescue Centre: “I think when a turtle starts to eat after a month of trying, when you can see the improvement or healing of a turtle's injury and when a turtle is released back into the sea, into its natural habitat, into its home - then you know that you are indeed saving turtles”.

    Read more

    Kids Beach Competition 2023: Make your own little sea turtle with natural materials and send us a photo!

    Help us spread the message about the protection of sea turtles by making your own baby turtles with natural materials you will find on the beach. Sand, stones, pebbles, shells, seaweed, sticks and whatever else you have available, can be transformed with a little imagination! Take a photo of your work and send it to the ARCHELON Beach Competition.

    Read more

    Paving the way for next steps in conservation of marine turtles in the Mediterranean region

    Last week the partner organizations of the project “Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region” met for the 9th Steering Committee Meeting. The meeting was organized by SPA/RAC in the area of Kyparissia Bay, Greece on the 4th and 5th of July, 2023 in collaboration with ARCHELON.

    Read more

    An offer to EXPERIENCED volunteers: You can now join the beach projects for 2-3 weeks!

    The time is just right to join the projects again, even if you have only 2 or 3 weeks of available time. This offer is valid for August, September, October 2023. Apply through our new website and find out more about the dates and places you can join. More…

    Read more

    The nesting season has begun! Learn what you can do if you find sea turtle tracks or nests on the beach

    The nesting season for the loggerhead sea turtles has begun. The nests that are made in the areas monitored by ARCHELON and other collaborating groups are already being recorded. However, if you find tracks or nests on other beaches, you can also participate in the effort to record and protect these sporadic nests. Find out why it's important…

    Read more

    A breath away from registering a new world record on the years of known active reproduction of a loggerhead sea turtle is ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece

    This is the year when ARCHELON, a nonprofit environmental NGO, is celebrating 40 years of continuous and targeted action to save sea turtles in Greece and the Mediterranean. At the same time, the project teams of ARCHELON are ready to register the longest period of active reproduction known for the Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), in case it happens this year!

    Read more
  10. OUR NEWS

    A Saturday unlike any other - Turtle Festival 2023

    ARCHELON invites kids and adults to celebrate the environment and the sea in an exciting way at the "Sea Turtle Festival" on Saturday, May 27 at the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in the 3rd Marina of Glyfada.

    Read more
  11. OUR NEWS

    Announcement for all past volunteers of ARCHELON: Shall we meet this September?

    Highlight: Hi everyone! This year marks 40 years of ARCHELON’s action for protecting sea turtles in Greece. During these four decades, thousands of volunteers from many countries joined our sea turtle projects and the Rescue Centre to help save the turtles. Let’s meet again this coming September and celebrate the animals we saved during all these years.

    Read more
  12. OUR NEWS

    Waiting list for schools that want to visit the ARCHELON Rescue Centre

    Thousands of Greek students visit the Centre and get informed about the value of protecting the environment through contact with a particularly beloved animal, the sea turtle. "All the available visiting hours until the end of the 2022-2023 school year have been booked, but there is a waiting list that is activated in case of cancellations", says Anna Kontoleon, ARCHELON’s Education Officer. More hours for online tours may be added in May if volunteers become available.

    Read more
  13. OUR NEWS

    People are supporting wildlife conservation

    The donations and "adoptions" made at the Rescue Centre in Glyfada, Attica and at ARCHELON’s field projects in Zakynthos, the Peloponnese and Crete in 2022, reached the amount of €350,000. We did a lot last year thanks to all these people, who also made it possible for us to continue this year.

    Read more
  14. OUR NEWS

    Gail Schofield

    We learned with deep sadness the passing away of Gail Schofield, a pronounced sea turtle researcher and former ARCHELON volunteer. Read more…

    Read more
  15. OUR NEWS

    More than half of the rehabilitated sea turtles got released back to the sea in 2022!

    The Sea Turtle Rescue Centre of ARCHELON in Glyfada rescues, takes care of and rehabilitates injured sea turtles from all parts of Greece since 1994. More than half of the sea turtles that were under care at the Rescue Centre in 2022 got released back to the sea after reaching full recovery this year! Read more…

    Read more
1 out of 0
Subscribe to our newsletter!
Learn about our latest actions and find out about our programs and how you can help sea turtles!