The Sundowners Yacht Club went to Fethiye Bay in search of sunshine, gentle sailing and turquoise sea and got more than they bargained for with the local wildlife..
‘Jump in quick,’ cried Vernon. ‘You have to see this!’ Replacing his mask, he dived down again and resurfaced, blowing out water through his snorkel. ‘There are needlefish, everywhere, changing colour.’ That was enough for the rest of us, we grabbed our snorkels and jumped in. The water was warm and crystal clear and sure enough, there were dozens of needlefish all over the place. We were anchored off Gemilier Island to explore the Byzantine ruins dating back to the fourth century, but for now we were content on seeing what was on off underwater.
Emma snorkelling off Gemilier Island
May Bank Holiday weekend in Fethiye Bay
We were en route to Fethiye Bay in Turkey for the Sundowners Yacht Club’s virgin overseas adventure. Eleven of us set sail on two boats, Pangea and Radja, boats groaning under the weight of all the local produce we had packed into them: olives, bread, local cheese, perfectly ripe tomatoes, stuffed vine leaves, cans of pop, plenty of water plus the compulsory duty free gin for our Sundowners. Sunscreen was applied and off we set for our first destination, Tersane Creek, which was to be our lunch and possible swim spot for the day. On arrival we dropped anchor in a delightful bay surrounded by mountains and ate a sumptuous and healthy lunch of Greek salad, lettuce salad with homemade salad dressing prepared by Robin, local bread and ham, followed by some small baklava cakes dripping in honey. Some of us did brave a swim and yes it was fresh but refreshing and we soon dried off in the heat of the day.
Swordfish from Cleopatra
Wall Bay, aka Cleopatra Bay was to be our overnight stop so after a gentle sail, we moored up against the pontoon, to be greeted by the taverna owner’s son who took our orders for the evening meal. Most opted for swordfish kebabs and others for lamb cutlets. We settled in to our evening in this beautiful bay, starting off with a gin & tonic.
First Sundowners of the trip
A few of us went in search of the shower on offer at the restaurant, only to discover that it was a tent with a jet of cold water but we couldn’t complain as they had generously supplied shower gel! The restaurant surroundings were idyllic, with the biggest grandfather turkey we had ever seen wandering around the grounds and the owner tending to the outdoor bread oven which produced a fantastic almost cake-like bread.
Grandfather turkey in residence
The meal was delicious, starting off with a mezze of roasted aubergines, bean salad, tzatziki, lettuce and onion salad and washed down with plenty of white and red wine and followed by swordfish and lamb and completed with a shot of local spirit (contents unknown).
Abandoned churches, snorkelling with needle fish, table tennis and home-made lamb casserole
Day two’s first stop was to be Tersane Adesi, off Gemiler Island, famous for its extensive Byzantine ruins. After a lovely sail in perfect conditions and sailing through the gap in the islands, we found ourselves in a delightful lunch spot with wonderful snorkelling. There were groups of needle fish, some which changed colour if you went too close so as to camouflage themselves. The ruins spilt into the sea so you could dive down and see them under water. After another delicious lunch, we pulled on our swim shoes, blew up the dinghy and rowed ashore. On the island we explored the remains of several churches built between the fourth and sixth centuries AD and over fifty Christian tombs. Archaeologists believe it was the location of the original tomb of Saint Nicholas (yes, Santa Claus!) Apparently the Island may have been used by Christian pilgrims en route to the Holy Lands.
Spectacular views off Gemiler Island, surrounded by Byzantine Ruins
Somewhat bedraggled from our swimming and hiking, we plotted our route to Karacaören Bay. Along the way we basked in the glorious sunshine and took in the impressive mountain ranges. On arrival we discovered a large restaurant built above the water on stilts with magnificent views towards the enormous mountains of Baba Dağ. There were stunning colours reflecting off the mountains’ steep sides when we arrived in the evening sun. We looped on to the mooring buoys provided by the restaurant and settled in to our evening in another glorious bay. With supplies of ice running low, Christian and I decided to swim across to the other boat to see what we could trade. We packed a dry bag with cheese and swam over. On arrival we were greeted with a gin & tonic (with ice!) and who were we to argue?! The trade was successful and we returned to our boat a block of cheese lighter but with a bag full of ice! Once installed in the restaurant, the table tennis matches began and people’s competitiveness certainly came out!
Table tennis match in progress
After devouring an array of colourful mezze, the home-made Grandma’s recipe lamb casserole was the top choice on the menu. Several glasses of wine later, Vernon began ferrying people back to the boats on the dinghy. Some of us stayed up in the cock-pit for a while longer to enjoy the clear starry night (and maybe another glass of vino!)
We are sailing…and celebrating a birthday!
Today after breakfast we headed straight for the Blue Cave near Ölüdeniz; it wasn’t really swimming weather with the wind picking up but we did row inside the cave for a look at the indigo waters. We had a quick look at Butterfly Valley to try and catch a glimpse of the rare Tiger Butterfly…maybe next time.
So although it wasn’t quite sunbathing weather today, we did have the wind, around a force 5 and with the wind in our sails, we got up to a boat speed of an impressive 8 knots. We sailed to Kucuk Kuyruk, on the East side of the Kapu Dağ peninsula for lunch, described in the pilot as a spectacular anchorage and we even spotted a turtle, emerging from bed of seagrass below. From here we carried on to Kapi Creek for the night. It was Gareth’s birthday and in the absence of an actual birthday cake, we had to settle for surprising him with a block of halva (a dense, sweet, tahini based confection served across the Middle East), in which we put some lit candles. The halva had mixed reviews and the word concrete was mentioned at one stage! Still, it was a lovely place to celebrate and a good time was had by all.
Gareth with his unusual birthday cake
Seagull island, fish market and bazaar
Today we were up and out with the larks, before anyone else had even poked their head into the cock-pit. We sailed to Seagull Bay for breakfast and wow what a beautiful spot. After some Greek yoghurt, honey, fruit salad and bread, most of us went in for a snorkel around the bay. We had the place to ourselves with not another boat in sight and only a local man repairing his jetty and fish for company. We swam, we sunbathed and generally enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of being somewhere so off the map. Bliss. After lunch we sailed all the way back to the marina for an evening in Fethiye. We checked out the local fish market, where you select your restaurant, walk across to the fishmongers, select and pay for a whole fish (generally shared between two) and sit down to wait for it to be cooked. The seabass was to die for, simply grilled and served with a wedge of lemon and for just a few Lira.
Enjoying our fantastic fish supper
After dinner we walked through the night bazaar for a spot of handbag, Turkish Delight and spice shopping before heading back to the boats for our last night aboard.
Discussing the local spices at the night bazaar
Scary gorges, deserted towns and coffee shops with no bathroom doors
After leaving the boats, we had one last day to enjoy what this southern part of Turkey had to offer and Paul had a packed itinerary in store for us. We jumped aboard the minibus and followed a winding road up into the hills where we arrived at the gorge where we were going to try gorge walking. The river looked extremely fast-flowing and muddy and after putting on our swim shoes and hard hats, our tour guide led the way into the river where at stages it was hard to put one foot in front of the other. It was a great experience but we were glad to be back on terra firma and into a taverna for our last lunch.
Hard hats at the ready for our gorge walk experience
Next stop was Kayaköy, an abandoned town where the Greeks lived until 1922. We wandered round the ghost town, now a museum village, which was made up of hundreds of rundown but still mostly standing Greek-style houses and churches which covered a small mountainside. Whilst having a Turkish coffee at a roadside coffee shop afterwards, I went in search of the bathroom. The owner called after me “There’s no door on the bathroom; the door will arrive tomorrow!” Only in rural Turkey!
The abandoned town
Our spirits high from a wonderful few days of sailing and exploring, we made our way to the airport. Some even extended their trip by heading to Istanbul for a few days.
Fethiye Bay, you exceeded all expectations – we will be back to see you soon!
By Emma Martin.