One of the most exhilarating and enjoyable experiences in Turkey is to take a boat trip along the clear sapphire coasts that gird the country. While taking a weeklong excursion along Turkey’s azure coastline is perhaps the most perfect way to travel, don’t be daunted by costs and commitments as pretty much all of Turkey’s holiday destinations offer daily boat trips that will take you to pristine coves, mud baths, deserted islands and even ancient sites. Boarding a boat to be whisked away to sea for the day with a group of unfamiliar faces may seem intimidating to a visiting foreigner, but I am here to tell you that taking a boat on a daytrip excursion along Turkey’s southern coast is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing ways to wile way the day in Turkey.
As a visiting foreigner, when it comes to boarding a boat in Turkey, whatever the duration, there are two choices: arranging a privately organized tour or hopping on an already scheduled daily boat tour. The first option is ideal for visiting groups of friends and family. However, keep in mind that in high season, many boats will have been pre-booked. My mother and other seasoned expats will have established their own personal favorite boat charter and may book their daytrip boat excursions months ahead. Sometimes expats will post potential privately organized boat trips on social media sites, which makes it easier to take along and ensure there will be fellow English-speakers aboard. The price for a privately chartered boat is generally fixed and thus the sum is divided amongst the participants, meaning the more the merrier and the more affordable. But, once again don’t fret as boating may seem like a luxury, it is an affordable and highly accessible activity here in Turkey.
Which brings me to the hundreds and thousands of daily boat trips, the routes and costs of which have been pre-established and for a fixed price, generally between TL 100 to TL 200 TL ($11-$20), will whisk you away on an adventure equipped with a full barbeque buffet spread. The lunch provided on these daytrips can be a serious part of the draw as in general, there will be grilled meats and a wide variety of Turkish salads and spreads. The cuisine aboard boats have become so synonymous with sailing excursions that racing events such as the annual Bodrum Cup, which is taking place this week, will have separate competitions devoted entirely to the culinary specialties prepared on board.
In all honesty, it is rare to board a fully rigged sailboat in these scenarios, as those are generally reserved for overnight and weeklong trips and of course depend on which way the wind blows. Most of the time, the boats used for these excursions will be a “Gulet,” which is generally a double-masted wooden sailboat with ample seating and lounging space aboard. These types of boats are particular to Turkey, and especially Bodrum, and were developed in this fashion to be more comfortable for the tourists that board them. Every year, the Bodrum Cup, which is a multiple-day race of gulet boats, celebrates this tradition of boating as well as these special boats the region is famed for. Some of the racing boats will also take on guests, thus you can be a part of this regatta excitements simply as a spectator on board. Throughout the winter, the boaters in Bodrum will be racing in the Tirhandil Cup, which is a race focusing on the Tirhandil, which is the predecessor to the gulet and a serious long-distance sailing boats.
So, you want to board a boat, but you don’t know where to start... First and foremost, it is important to choose the right trip and the right boat. While the gulet is the predominant choice of vessel in Bodrum, in Fethiye for example, most boats setting off for daytrips will be large motoring boats with table and booths, whereas the boats in Dalyan are all shallow-bottomed and smaller to protect against harming the caretta turtles that nest in the region each year. Another important point to note that could make or break any trip is that different boats cater to different clientele and will play music accordingly. Make sure to ask whether music will be played and what type as there are a number of notorious party boats that will turn into a disco in the middle of the day and sea. This would of course may not be suitable for all, and especially families or foreigners seeing a relaxing respite at sea. Thus, make sure to ask the average age and number of guests that will board and if so, what type of music will be played.
While a lunch is generally included in the price of a boat trip, extra beverages will not be, thus be prepared to purchase drinks on board, the tally of which will be added to your bill at the end of the day. Most of the boats servicing customers on these types of daytrips will have restrooms and even cabins to change in, but it is always good practice to double check everything is in operation before boarding. As the main purpose is mostly to swim in Turkey’s pristine waters make sure to bring your bathing suit, a towel, sunscreen, possibly a hat and something to wrap up in if the wind kicks up when you’re at sea. Also keep in mind that a day at sea and in the breeze can take its toll and you may be exhausted by the time the trip comes to a close. The general rule amongst sailors is to wear plastic-soled shoes to prevent any possible markings on the wooden flowing, thus don’t be surprised to be asked to take your shoes off if otherwise.
There are countless options when it comes to daytrip destinations as Turkey’s southern coast is laden with history, deserted islands, remote coves and thermal springs and mud baths. From Bodrum, popular routes will be to Aquarium Cove, where, as the name suggests, you can swim among fish in clear turquoise water. “Meteor” is a cove famed for a meteor having created a deep hole, “Pigs Cove” is an area where you can spot wild boar cavorting by the sea while “Rabbit Island” offers the same, but in this case it is roaming rabbits you might see. At “Camel Beach” you could potentially ride a camel and "Cleopatra’s Beach" is famed for its mud baths that were an integral part of the Egyptian Queen’s beauty routine. Setting sail from Datça or Dalyan could take you Knidos or Kaunus, both spectacular ancient sites dating back thousands and thousands of years. From Fethiye, boats will take off for the stunning lagoon of Oludeniz and head to Butterfly Valley, a remote cove and canyon that is home to over 100 different butterfly species that has become a camping haven. One of the most popular is the “12-island” tour, which will take you to a dozen small and secluded islands and coves that dot the southern coast between Turkey and Greece.
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