Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Blue Cruise in Turkey's Magic Waters

Text by Melih Uslu | Photographs by Nihat Gençosman   
Poet Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu went on a blue cruise in the 1950s with his literary colleagues, writing afterwards in his account: “The blue cruise is a fairy tale, untold, unwritten, unillustrated…”

In Turkey today the blue cruise takes place in a region that includes the country’s southern Aegean and western Mediterranean shores. Horizons awash in myriad tones of blue, hot, golden-sand beaches, water lapping the side of the boat, the pungent iodine scent of the sea… If all this makes your head spin, then you are ready to set out on a blue cruise.

The Ports of Anatolia

Before you embark on a blue cruise, there is one crucial thing you need to decide: On what day and from which port you are going to lift anchor, and in what harbour you’ll end your cruise. Port choices include Bodrum, Marmaris, Göcek, Antalya, Fethiye, Kaş, Datça and Kuşadası. Cruises range from day outings to three-day, even weeklong voyages. If you like, you can start from Kuşadası and sail as far as Antalya.

But experienced captains recommend that you shun cruises of more than a week in favour of intriguing bays and routes with lots of surprises. If you already have a congenial group, or if you prefer to be alone on your cruise, you can rent a boat and take off in whatever direction you like. If you’re thinking of renting a more modest vessel rather than a gulet, you can opt for one of the European-made fibreglass craft, called a ‘bareboat’. And if you have an amateur sailing license, then you can use one of these boats, which can operate either sail- or engine-powered, without any crew.

Otherwise, you can join one of the package tours organized by travel agencies and rent a cabin in one of the many different boats of all sizes that are available. Known as ‘cabin charters’, these package tours offer attractive terms of payment.

Besides the beauty of nature, a blue cruise also promises a hefty dose of history, all the way from the Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman to the ancient Anatolian civilizations of Lycia, Pamphilia and Caria. The best time for spring and summer cruises is from early June to late September.

Passing the Time on Board

Energised by the spellbinding landscapes and the oxygen-rich air, you will start your day early on a blue cruise. The hours before the midday heat and close to sunset are the best for being on the water, while the part of the day when the sun is scorching hot is perfect for anchoring in a cove and doing a lot of swimming and napping, exploring the environs on foot, going shopping and enjoying lunch at a rustic fish restaurant.

If you have no sailing license, you will need to have a captain on your boat. If you set sail on a hot summer day, it’s a good idea to have some air conditioning as well. Sleeping on deck on windless, starry nights is an added boon.

With its spacious, modern interiors, the gulet, a traditional boat of Turkey’s south-western coastline, ensures passengers a comfortable holiday. Running 14 to 20 meters in length, these wooden craft are suitable for extended cruises thanks to their cabins, corridors and decks. Equipped with heating and air conditioning options and king-size beds, their cabins, which are designed for a view of the sea, also include a toilet, wash basin, shower, stove and oven, radio and refrigerator. Have no worries either if you happen to be particularly fastidious when it comes to sheets and towels, because both are changed frequently. Cabins do not usually include television, but if you can’t live without it, just say so when making your reservation. An experienced captain and a couple service personnel will accompany you for your entire voyage. And plastic boats are conveniently ready and waiting at all times to ferry you to shore.

The Most Popular Routes

One of the most crucial details for an unforgettable blue cruise is choosing the right route to satisfy your expectations. Bodrum, Marmaris and Kaş are the favoured ports for blue cruises on Turkey’s coasts. Cruises from Bodrum take one of two main routes: the northern route from Bodrum to the Bay of Güllük and its breezy coves is ideal for water sports like surfing. Güllük cruises from Bodrum stop at the peninsula’s most beautiful bays such as Gümüşlük, Altınkum, Akbük, Torba, Göltürkbükü and Yalıkavak. If you like, you can also visit the ancient cities of Didyma, Miletus and Priene.

For those who prefer to set sail from Marmaris, three different routes await you: the Bozburun and Datça peninsulas and the Bay of Fethiye. The cruise to Datça includes Datça and Knidos as well as the bays and small islands between Hisarönü, Kızkumu, Orhaniye, Selimiye and Bozukkale. The Fethiye route includes a day at Dalyan and a tour of the ancient city of Kaunos. The other days are spent exploring the historical sites and natural riches of Fethiye Bay.

One of the most beautiful blue cruises of all is the Kaş-Demre route, one of the loveliest routes in the whole wide world, where you can see the island of Kekova, the Sunken City, Kaleköy (Simena), Santa Claus’s house and the ancient city of Myra. And as long as you’ve come as far as Demre, don’t forget to taste the blue crabs that are indigenous to this area.

Whichever route you choose, you will experience the beauty of Turkey on the sea. And the endless blue in all its myriad shades.

This text and photographs are courtesy of SkyLife, a monthly magazine published by Turkish Airlines.

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