Sapientza is the largest of the Oenousses island cluster, located just off the southern coast of Messinia. It is very near Methoni, where you can catch a ride on special fishing boats that regularly make the crossing. Why make the trip? To see one of the natural miracles of Morea: wild strawberry trees.

The fishing boat will drop you off at the pier of Magazakia. From there it is a short hike through wild oak, white lupin bushes and sea onions, to reach the centre of the island, where you will come to a large clearing surrounded by woods. This is Spartolaka, a large expanse of cracked clay and petrified pollen that forms a very distinct landscape. The virgin woods around the clearing are not visible from the sea and are jungle-like in density. The slopes of Sapientza are covered in wild olive trees, spiny broom, thick wild oaks, phillyrea shrubs, Holm oak, myrtle and wildflowers that smell just lovely. Above it all, right in the centre of the island is a dense and magical forest of wild strawberries. But these are no bushes of the kind that most people are accustomed to. These are trees, growing as high as 10 and 15 metres, with strawberries as big as crab-apples. The Sapientza wild strawberry forest covers an area of 2.4 hectares and has been listed for protection as a natural monument since 1986.

The woods and oak forests of Sapientza are inhabited by small flocks of wild mouflon sheep and Cretan goats known as kri-kri, as well as partridges, pheasants, quails, wood pigeons, woodcocks, thrushes and other birds. The animals are not especially feral and can be approached, though cautiously. Make sure to bring along a pair of binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens to capture snaps of the wildlife in its natural habitat. The most common sightings are of female mouflon that venture down to the beach for fresh water at the troughs arranged there or that graze at Spartolaka, and occasionally a few kri-kri.
For a panoramic view take the path that leads to the lighthouse. The stone-built Sapientza Lighthouse was constructed in 1890 and has been in operation in modern days since 1989 using photovoltaic panels, which means that it is not manned. Enjoy one of the most legendary dusks of the Ionian from the lighthouse’s courtyard, taking in the beautiful and tranquil landscape, with nothing but the sound of the wind interrupting your thoughts.

2016-03-11T19:17:11+00:00