While the people of the Kalymnos, Greece struggled to survive as their centuries-old harvesting customs were obliterated, a new tourist attraction is giving the island new life.
Kalymnos, the small Greek island found in the Aegean Sea, just off the coast of Turkey, has undergone a great deal of change over the years. Since the 19th century, the people of Kalymnos partook in the age-old tradition of sea sponge harvesting. Those who showed skill became legendary figures of sorts, and it soon turned into family dynasties that were passed between generations. Some folks spent their whole lives diving in the sea, but recent changes to the waters threatened their livelihood.
Since the later half of the 20th century, over-harvesting and climate change have taken a toll on the sea sponges, and the practice barely exists nowadays. And while the loss of tradition rocked the small community emotionally, it also decimated an entire island's economy. But luckily, a new trend has brought fresh faces and lots of tourism to the area. Dating back to the 1990s, rock climbers from across Europe began coming in small numbers to explore Kalymnos's many cliffs, but its attractiveness for adventure tourism has skyrocketed in recent years.
According to National Geographic, the island hosted its first rock climbing festival in 2000, and today there are roughly 3,900 routes ranging in length and difficulty. And nearby islands have also picked up on the idea, opening trails of their own. "The numbers are continuously growing," boasted Lucas Dourdourekas of the Kalymnos Rescue Team. People have been drawn to the "huge vertical walls, the negative cliffs, the routes with pockets, the great variety and all close to each other... and the spectacular sea view." Not only has it brought a rush of income to the small community, but its also proven to be an eco-friendly tourism avenue if moderated properly.
With eco-tourism and adventure tourism constantly on the rise, the island of Kalymnos has learned a valuable lesson in how to revive their small economy and get with the times. Check back soon for more interesting stories from around the world.