Lipsi – The Rena Five Island Boat Cruise

Before we arrived on Lipsi we had already decided that we were going to book the boat trip on the Rena. Casting my mind back to my last visit to Lipsi in 2004, I have a vague recollection of doing a similar boat trip however, I know that it definitely didn’t call into Arki. Maybe it’s the same boat trip or maybe it’s not. My old grey cells can’t compute.

Anyway, that doesn’t matter. One evening on our way to dinner we take a stroll to the Rena that is moored up adjacent to Asprakis Ouzerie. Rena herself, a lovely lady with a bright face with a ready smile, greets us and introduces us to Captain Giannis who you can also find sitting on the boat most evenings. Rena tells us that being out on the boat will definitely provide some welcome respite from the heat. We book a place on the spot and agree that this will be a perfect finale to our fantastic stay on Lipsi.

The day of the boat trip came around quickly and after breakfast, we head to The Rena which is in her usual spot We were advised to arrive at around 10am for a 1030 departure giving time for the 40€ payment per person to be taken. There are already people on board who have spread out their towels onto the small front deck. We are happy with a shaded seat at the side of the boat.

While waiting for the remaining passengers, I watch with some curiosity as a man carefully cleans a clutch of freshly caught fish. Sitting on an upturned crate on the edge of the harbour wall, he lowers a bucket tied with a rope into the water. Once full with salty bring he scoops it up onto the quayside. Freshly cleaned fish are subsequently dropped into the bucket and then rinsed again before being moved to another bucket. A very thorough process that is carried out with a skilful hand.

Next to him, seagulls hop around a brightly painted caique from where they have a vantage point over his work, waiting expectantly to secure a scrap or two. The man packs up his buckets, hoses down his work area and then takes the rewards of his labours into the Asprakis Ouzerie. How often in our everyday lives are we blessed enough to see food caught or harvested that morning end up on our plates the same day? Only fruit and vegetables from my own garden I’m afraid to say.

Eventually, the engine of the Rena kicks into operation sending a shudder down the wooden floor planks and we are cast off. Looking back at the square and the small marina, Greek flags flutter on the breeze almost everywhere I look. It isn’t long before we pass a rocky outcrop where swallows swoop and dart amongst the thermal currents.

Our first anchor drop is just off the island of Makronisi. There are already a good number of private yachts and the odd tour boat here and their passengers are already out on the water with paddle boards and snorkels. The rock formations are really interesting. The strata of shale rock is layered up like sheets of filo pastry – a bit like a limestone baklava. We see several men scale the rocks and then hurl themself back into the water. One misjudged dive and those rocks would rip their skin to shreds. (channelling my inner grandma!) There are natural tunnels (I don’t think they fit the true definition of a cave) going right through the rock and this is one of the first places the snorkellers head to.

About fifty per cent of the people on board the Rena take the opportunity to swim there. Peter and I are part of the fifty per cent who stay on board to watch. There are two ways to access the water. Firstly by jumping from the edge of the boat by a section where the rail is lifted or by a set of ladders from the other side of the boat. There is an Australian family on the boat – parents with children and also what could be a couple of aunts, uncles and cousins. They all throw themselves into the water with such wild abandon and the youngest girl GoProing her entry into the sea. I never fail to be amazed at how water savvy some kids are from such an early age. It’s just fantastic.

Our seats are just by the section of boat where people can hurl themselves from the edge of the boat so have a prime position to watch the spectacle. One Italian man stands on the gunnel and for some reason decides to throw his goggles into the water before jumping. We all sat and watched his goggles sink slowly to the bottom of the sea bed. He did jump in after them but was too late. He attempted repeatedly to swim down to the bottom to find them but with no joy. One man leant over to pass him another pair of goggles to help him see but still no luck. About twenty minutes later he called to his wife to jump in and bring him his flippers. She didn’t look too enthusiastic about this and after climbing down the ladders and swimming around from the other side of the boat, it was clear that she wasn’t a very confident swimmer. He is going to get these goggles come what may!

By now at least half an hour has passed and in this time the boat has moved around on its solitary anchor. If he had been gauging the location of his goggles by the position of the boat, he was never going to find them. And he didn’t. It’s time to climb back aboard and head off to the next destination of Aspronisi.

The Rena sails along the southeast coast of Lipsi. Kadsadia beach is easily identified as we pass. Further along, we sail close to Monodendri Beach identified by its namesake, a solitary tree that has somehow managed to sprout and thrive from a rock. Already, this single source of shade for this designated nudist beach has been claimed by two people (who appear to be clothed!). There are several little rocky coves that don’t appear on the map at all. If this had been your first view of Lipsi you could have been forgiven for thinking this is a totally barren island. Little would you know that this rocky facade hides a rich and fertile interior.

It isn’t long before we arrive at Aspronisi to the southeast of Lipsi and Oh My Word – I’m completely taken aback by the stunning turquoise waters here. The contrast is quite startling between the blue of the sea and the stark white of the stone-clad beach. I am definitely going to swim here. Once the rush to get off the boat by the younger and fitter passengers on the boat, I climb up onto the gunnel all with good intentions to jump off. However, the water appears a lot further down than when standing on the boat railings. Although my intentions were good, the acute vertigo that has plagued me all my life kicks in. I decide to take the ladders down instead.

This is just glorious. The water is refreshing and crystal clear and some of the most beautiful waters I have ever swum in. Those with reef shoes or feet made of steel make their way onto the islet itself which is just a bed of stone. I don’t have reef shoes, so I can just about manage to stand on the shoreline to take a closer look at the islet. The flat stones lend themselves perfectly to the building of stone sculptures which can be seen all over the islet. One of the better ways for man to leave their mark on the landscape.

After an hour or so of swimming in these magical waters, we are back on the boat again now heading towards the coast of Arki. I’m quite excited to be back on Arki having spent 7 glorious days there a few years ago. Before we arrive in the tiny port, we drop anchor in a small bay between Arki and another cluster of islands written as Tiganaki on the Rena leaflet but Makronisi on Google Maps. Markronisi means long island so I daresay used to describe many uninhabited islets. Tiganaki I’m pretty sure refers to the beach of the same name on Arki. I’d trekked there one day during my stay. Not that the name of the place makes a difference but it’s just an exercise of fitting jigsaw pieces from my memory together. The water here is green – almost a shade of emerald picked up from the verdant hues of the landscape. This is just a short swim stop before heading around the bay to Arki’s small marina.

Along the way, we pass a huge super yacht moored up in another bay. Now I may be a bit of a ferry nerd but I’ve never really paid much attention to yachts. However, I think I’ve seen this one before – can’t remember where but I’ve definitely seen her in and around the islands previously. It really is such a magnificent vessel that you can’t help but give her a second look. The flags on top of the masts confirm that this is the Maltese Falcon. If you’d like to charter her, the cost will be 490k-580k€ per week. I’ve never had a hankering to travel the islands by yacht but I would give anything to see this beauty with her sails unfurled! Check out the link below to see more:

Within minutes we pull into the small marina alongside a couple of yachts. The first person that I recognise coming towards the boat is Manoli the owner of O Tripas, just one of a handful of tavernas on the island. He is easily recognisable by his trademark Panama hat and brightly coloured neckerchief that also adorns the roof of his taverna.

We have a couple of hours on Arki and most of the people from our boat head to the tavernas for something to eat. Conscious that Peter hasn’t yet had a swim, we head to the little Patelia Beach close to the port. This is a ten to fifteen-minute walk up and down a steep hill and around into another bay. I’d spent almost every day on this beach during my stay and have very fond memories of it.

There are only two other people here so finding a bit of shade is easy. We hang our clothes from the sturdy branches of a tamarisk tree and head straight for the water. After about an hour, several other people make their way to the beach so we take that as our time to depart and take sustenance at one of the tavernas.

Our plan to swim first and eat later kind of backfired on us. In the time since leaving the boat, several other tour boats had arrived and the tavernas were now full without even a spare chair free. We were left with no choice but to walk back towards Patelia Beach and see if Captain Stefanis’ wife could feed us. I used to have breakfast here almost every day where often the baked goods were made to order. The lovely owner would sit me down and go and do her thing in the kitchen before bringing out her freshly baked wares. They always tasted extra good because of this.

Today we are in luck. We have horta and a Greek salad with crusty bread washed down with wine. Plenty to keep us going until dinner and we didn’t want to be late back for the boat. Whilst at Captain Stefanis’ place I saw another face that I remembered. The captain of the little boat Maria. As well as transporting goods from the large ferries around Arki and over to neighbouring Marathi, he would also take passengers to these places too. The prices varies depending on how many people will be making the journey. I think I paid around 10€ for a return trip to Marathi where I spent the day. Definitely worth doing if you ever stay on Arki.

Before boarding the Rena again we have just enough time to stroll around the small marina and say a quick Hi to Nikolas from Nikolas Taverna and who we’ve worked with for many years. It isn’t often we do bookings on Arki but I do have clients staying with him this year but I suspect that it’s the restaurant business that brings in the money. Especially now that tour boats now have Arki on their itinerary. They certainly didn’t come into Arki in 2019 so I suspect it is a relatively new arrangement.

When doing my longer solo travels, the one thing I miss is being able to share the experience with Peter and so I’m really happy to have shown him an island where I had a wonderful stay.

Back on board, the Rena skirts by neighbouring Marathi and drops anchor just off the little islet of Agrelousa. More swimming is had and the music from within the Rena’s cabin now livens up. This carries on as we take a leisurely sail back to Lipsi marina ending this fabulous day on a high. Check out the guy on the jetty just as we arrive back!

This trip has been absolutely amazing and a fantastic way to spend a day. A massive thank you to Rena and Captain Giannis! You can find out more on their website or alternatively pop along any evening and chat to them on their boat moored up by Asprakis Ouzerie – you won’t want to miss it!

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  1. Sounds a great boat trip, I visited Arki from a boat trip from Leros and went to the same beach as you and Peter , glad you got to show him . My only sadness about being here on Andros alone is not sharing it with Kevin or Freya 🥲

    1. Arki is a lovely little island. For me its real beauty was the island’s interior landscape which unfortunately you won’t get to experience on a day trip. I hope that you go back and stay at least for several days to feel the real essence of the place. It’s quite unique. ❤

  2. Happy memories of my trip to Arki, I also spent time on Pateli beach and at the little taverna there. I haven’t been on the Rena boat trip yet , but its definitely on my list for next year !

Let me know what you think. ❤

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