Sitting on the balcony of my hotel room in hilly Kalkan, I stared at the panoramic view of the bay. The sun was slipping down behind the horizon and while I fully appreciated the amazing landscape view in front of me, my thoughts were still firmly focused on memories of my last week gulet cruising in Turkey. I had hooked up with My Blue Cruise, a yachting and gulet company operating on the Mediterranean coast of Fethiye, to attend one of their Blue Voyage routes from Fethiye to Olympos.
In the past, I have spent a lot of time around boats, whether it was disastrously attempting sea kayaking in Kekova or lounging around on day time trips out of Altinkum. However, they have always been day adventures and this was my first time, spending overnight at sea.
Upon my return, a friend asked how my trip was. After what seemed like ages, the only response, I could give, was that I had found my utopia.
Termed by Wikipedia as “a state of mind or imaginary place, where everything is perfect”, I still felt in a state of disbelief.
My trip had taken place at the right time, in the right place, with superb company, quality service and a perfect introduction into viewing the Mediterranean coast of Turkey from sea not land. It was one of those experiences that left me with an overall sense of being blessed in life.
The Turkish Riviera and Blue Voyage Routes
The Turkish Riviera is not as highly promoted as its counterpart in France, yet it has one bigger advantage. While the French Riviera is generally limited to the rich, famous and elite members of society, the Turkish Riviera caters for everyone from budget holiday makers to billionaires.
The Turkish Riviera is also nicknamed the “Turquoise coast” and it stretches from the Northern Aegean near Istanbul, right around the coastline to Antalya on the Mediterranean coast. Within this area, set routes and courses, called “Mavi Yolculuklar,” ( Blue Voyage routes) are sold at budget prices, ensuring this tourism concept caters for everyone.
The Fisherman of Halicarnassus
Credit for the Blue Voyage routes mainly belongs with the “Fisherman of Halicarnassus,” who was Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçli, a writer exiled to the Bodrum peninsula in 1925.
Determined to make the most of his confinement, he spent many weeks exploring the coastline using traditional gulet boats.
At the time, these vessels were mainly used for sponge diving and fishing but due to the works and promotion by Cevat, crowds flocked to the Bodrum peninsula requesting to spend nights at sea, so the boats adapted to accommodate tourists.
Along with a friend called Arzu Erhat, Cevat penned a book about his experiences and the Turkish Riviera was born.
What to Expect when Gulet Cruising in Turkey
The boat had four double cabins with private en-suite. Although they were spacious, immaculately clean and maintained, we didn’t use them. Preferring to sleep on deck, there is something surreal about starring at the stars above you and the gentle sound of Mediterranean waves lapping against the boat, but more delights were to come.
One morning I woke up early, but everyone else was still sleeping. I sat on the gang plank to smoke a cigarette and watch the sunrise but noticed a head bobbing in and out of the water. It was too round to be a dolphin and I had never heard of seals in this area.
The figure kept coming closer to the boat and it transpired our early morning visitor was a Caretta Caretta turtle. Also known as the loggerhead turtle, an adult make can grow to as much as 135 kilograms but unfortunately, this species is on the endangered list.
Aside from that, the attention given by staff to customers is outstanding, even though I was on a budget gulet cruise. Four times a day, the bell would ring, for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The cook, who was extremely good at what he does, served a variety of traditional dishes that would instantly put any Turkish housewife to shame.
At other times, the motorised dingy boat would take us ashore to explore coastal resorts and historical sites and on my last night on the boat, we used the water taxi to get to the nearest bar. The whole lifestyle was quite surreal, and I did struggle with returning back to normality. My advice is don’t plan any activities for at least 24 hours after the trip because my body really did feel like there was not an ounce of energy left in it.
What to Pack for Gulet Cruising in Turkey
Pack lightly for gulet cruising in Turkey because wardrobe space is limited. During the day, you need…
- Swimming costume
- Swimming towel
- Shorts and T-shirt for shore excursions
- Suitable footwear. My flip-flops drastically let me down when I was exploring the ancient ruins of Gemiler and Simena castle, so definitely invest in some good footwear.
- For evenings, we stayed on the boat so casual clothing is just required for dinner.
- Sun cream and body moisturizer are essential
- The sun and salt water drastically affected the condition of my hair but luckily I had some wonderful products from Avon including intense conditioner and detangling spray.
- For evening time, I wore light make up such as lipstick and mascara. There was no need for a full face of make-up, since the sun kissed look hits you almost immediately.
I also figured this was a good time to catch up on some reading and luckily, I had packed a copy of Ayses trail, a book about the history of the Lycian way and a woman’s determination to complete the 516 kilometre walk. It was a fitting read since I was sailing part of the Lycian way instead of walking it. (Review is to follow shortly)
Private or Charter
Private charter when gulet cruising in Turkey is cost effective if you have a large group of friends, or are happy to pay extra for the privacy. Otherwise, cabin charter is an extremely cheap option.
Although I was traveling alone, other people on the boat were two solo male travellers, a couple and three young friends from Australia. We explored ruins together and often indulged in good hearted conversation. It is an excellent way to meet new people.
Typically, the larger boats holding 12 cabins or more are used as party boats, especially on the Fethiye to Olympos route which is popular with young backpackers touring Turkey. If you do not want a party boat, stipulate this when booking with the cruise supplier.
Average Costs and Prices of Extras
My four day – three night cruise was taken in high season, when the price is just 225 euros including food. Extras to pay for include…
- Transport fees to get there
- Drinks on board the boat
- Entrance fees into historical sites
- Extra activities such as paragliding or Jet skiing
Equipment and Internet Access
Apart from my mobile phone and DSLR camera, the only piece of equipment that I wish I had was an underwater camera. Other passengers had them and the results of their pictures were stunning. I had Internet access on my mobile phone and in certain areas; other passengers could access the boat’s Wi-Fi.My honest advice, is to use your phone and iPad to update Facebook and then disconnect. The beauty of gulet cruising in Turkey is to soak up the natural beauty of the country. Don’t miss it all by being glued to the Internet.