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A yachting cruise is undoubtedly the best way to explore Turkey’s south-western coast
29.05.15 - 13:58 -
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Sailing the turquoise coast
Beautiful unspoilt bays on the Turkish coast. :: A. F.
From the winding path we could make out the clear water of the bay. In the distance it was a distinctive dark blue, so typical of the Aegean, then became turquoise and ended as a pale aquamarine by the shore. We had been walking for more than half an hour; hugging the edge of the cove, the narrow trial meandered between rocks and tall Mediterranean pines.
Before long we reached the modest restaurant at the other side of the bay. Our reward for our short afternoon hike was a cold ‘Efes’ beer, or for the less indulgent among us, a freshly squeezed orange juice, hand pressed from fruit piled up on a table.
We kicked off our trainers and sat on ornately decorated cushions scattered across the rickety wooden deck that jutted out over the water. Within moments we got talking to a fellow visitor, a guy who, with his girlfriend, was also enjoying a week’s sailing along Turkey’s rugged, unspoilt south west coast. When moored up in a quiet bay, there is sense of community among the yachts, each visitor sharing stories and travel tips.
Although far from being sailors, we were still enjoying both the thrill and relaxing calm of the Aegean, as guests of a sailing cruise aboard a traditional style Turkish gulet schooner. With seven ensuite cabins our yacht comfortably accommodated the 12 of us.
Sailing the Aegean
Each day when the warm Aegean breeze obliged, the crew would hoist the sails and the vessel would cut through the inky blue waters with grace – no sound of the motor, just the water splashing against the hull.
It’s probably no surprise why this part of the Eastern Mediterranean is so popular for sailing holidays. Turkey’s Riviera, although dotted with posh ports like Gocek and some buzzing seaside resorts like Bodrum, on the whole still remains fairly untouched. The steep, precipitous rocky coastline that drops down into the sea makes access other than by boat pretty much impossible. Taking a yacht affords access to bays and coves otherwise inaccessible to visitors; and the scenery must surely be some of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.
Our afternoon walk was around the beautiful bay of ‘Cleopatra’s Baths’, a pristine cove inaccessible by road, where the stone remnants of an ancient thermal spa rise out of the clear waters, said to be built as a gift for the visiting Cleopatra. The only way to reach these historic ruins and experience the stunning bay is to arrive by boat.
Our home for the past week, ScicSailing’s ‘Naviga’, an elegant twin-masted yacht, was moored close by for the night. By the time we returned the crew were already busy readying the aft deck for a candlelit dinner, while fellow guests were swimming.
It was hard to believe that it was our last night, a week’s sailing and cruising of the Aegean had breezed by. I’d start each day early being offered a dark Turkish tea from the crew and then go sit on deck, as the sun rose. Early morning would see the cool greys and blues of the sky warm to pink and orange, while the water, as it absorbed the sunlight, would turn to a clear blue, revealing a myriad of fish and the sandy bottom below. It was a special time when there was complete silence in the bay.
Perfect day
A favourite day was a river cruise up the Dalyan River to gain a privileged view of the remarkable Kaunian rock tombs. Said to date back to centuries BC, these extraordinary structures are carved out of the rock face, with intricate columned designs like Hellenistic temples. A guide then took us up to the nearby ancient seaport of Kaunos, where the romantic ruins of an amphitheatre remain, although now twisted, old Mediterranean olive trees grow up in between the huge grey stones. After swimming in the river, renowned for its tasty blue crabs, we had an alfresco lunch of fresh line-caught fish prepared on a tiny BBQ at the back of the river boat – it felt like the perfect day. In fact each day was different, with the opportunity to swim; visit a historic site; kick back and read; or just do absolutely nothing in the sun, as the crew navigated the mythical waters of the Aegean.
We had started our week-long sailing cruise in Marmaris and ended our sojourn under sail in the intimate marina community of Gocek. It’s a small town, yet boasts seven marinas and is a favourite with those on sailing vacations. The airport of Dalaman with direct flights to cities across Europe isn’t far away, but one can start or end a sailing holiday with a relaxing night or two at The D-Resort, a luxury spa hotel with beautiful gardens that reaches down to the water, where there is a private beach, a chill out bar and al fresco restaurant serving classic Turkish as well as contemporary Mediterranean dishes.
For us though this was our last night on board. The evening the dinner under the stars had a celebratory mood as we tucking into a Turkish meze, sipped chilled wine and recalled happy memories of a great week together. Friendships had been forged over the week, and good times enjoyed; from a full moon white party, to drinking wine on a hilltop with 360 degree vistas, as the sun set.
In fact, we’d experienced a hidden Turkey only discovered by those under sail, and it was something we’d would always remember.
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