Albania is more and more known for its inexpensive tourism, its riviera and its beach club, but the country is also full of natural treasures that delight nature lovers. This is the case of the Blue Eye Spring which is a pearl of the region of Saranda but deserves to be preserved before suffering too much from mass tourism
What is the Blue Eye spring?
Located between two strategic points in the region, the coastal city of Saranda and the ancient fortified city of Gjirokaster, the Blue Eye, or Syri i kalter in Albanian, is in fact one of the main sources of Bistricë river. This 25-kilometer river flows into Lake Butrint and feeds the surrounding villages and countryside, not only with drinking water but also electricity through hydroelectric power stations.
The spring is about 45m deep, water gushes from the bowels of the earth to become a river. The soil of the region being particularly calcareous, the water is very light blue even turquoise and so clear, whereas the deep spring looks like to a very dark blue pupil in the middle of this crystalline blue, that’s where its name comes from. Its powerful flow of 18400 liters per second creates a strong pressure in which visitors like to throw stones to see them resurface a few minutes later. The water temperature of the spring and the river is always very cold, it never exceeds 13 degrees even during the months of July and August.
The environment of the Blue Eye is very relaxing. The natural park around the spring is a vast area without buildings (except few coffee shop and restaurants near the spring) which consists mainly of oaks, Cercis, and Sycamores that bring shade and freshness very appreciable during the summer. We also find plants and animals endemic to this particular ecosystem such as amazing black dragonflies with blue highlights.
Why we should not swim in the Blue Eye Spring?
After 3 long kilometers of a chaotic road to reach the spring, it is understandable that many tourists and also locals feel so frustrated in front of the sign indicating that it is forbidden to bathe or dive into the Blue Eye. Some obviously do not care about the ban and bathe since there is nobody to monitor the place.
But why does this ban exist?
First of all, for ecological reasons and to preserve this fragile ecosystem. We are more and more tourists every year to visit the Blue Eye, all covered from head to toes of sunscreen, perfumes, lotions, make-up, … And many studies show that sunscreen is a real poison for the environment. Indeed, many chemical compounds seems to be harmful to the fauna and flora like being responsible for the bleaching of the barrier of coral. There is obviously no barrier of coral in the Blue Eye but it is its environment and its fragile ecosystem that makes it such a special place and it is important to preserve it. The spring almost dried up once it would be a shame to see it totally disappear!
The other reason of this ban is related to security. Many tourists and locals have fun diving from the viewpoint inside the underground spring. If the spring is deep the surroundings are not and the opening of the spring is not quite big, a bad calculation could have fatal consequences. The temperature difference is also dangerous, while it is 40 degrees outside it is not recommended to jump into 13 degrees water, it could cause a thermal shock. Keep in mind how long it took you to get to the spring the Blue Eye, imagine how long it takes for an ambulance coming from Saranda to save you… Better be safe than sorry!
« Are you kidding me? Albania has no ecological awareness there is rubbish everywhere on the roadside » – you may think. That’s exactly why we should be more attentive to preserve natural treasure such as the Blue Eye. Albania is already struggling to preserve its environment because of a lack of wills, investments and resources, it does not need uncivilized tourists to destroy its natural heritage.
Tips: The best time to visit the Blue Eye is early morning or late afternoon to avoid chaotic traffic/ super crowded place and to really enjoy this natural treasure. Don’t forget to take empty bottle of water to fill it the water of the Blue Eye spring next to the restaurants.