On the second night of our gulet cruise of Mediterranean Turkey, we docked into a small, scenic bay to drop anchor. The evening was much the same as before. A delicious meal followed by copious amounts of alcoholic drinks, good company and a night spent sleeping on the deck, under the stars.
The next morning, I was the first to wake up. I did not want to disturb anyone, so just sat on the end of the gang plank, inhaling my first dose of daily nicotine.
Still half asleep, I stared into the distance, trying to determine what my eyes were actually seeing. A small, rounded object kept bobbing up and down out of the sea, appearing and disappearing, repeating the process many times, while slowly coming closer to the boat.
I was watching it with intensity, but also strongly felt that it was watching me back. At this point, a crew member appeared with a cup of coffee. I asked him what it could be and he simply shrugged his shoulders and said “probably a loggerhead turtle of Turkey”.
Now I was fully awake! Having heard and read a lot about the turtles of the Mediterranean coast, the thought of actually seeing one with my own eyes, excited the hell out of me!
(At this point, I should apologize for the clarity in my photos, but my camera zoom was just not good enough to get detailed pictures. Where I have used other people’s pictures, credit is mentioned underneath)
The loggerhead turtle of Turkey is also known as Caretta Caretta, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has put them on the “red list” which means they face a high threat of extinction.
Their plight in Turkey was made famous by June Haimoff MBE, who is an English environmentalist. She, along with other notable people saved one of their major breeding grounds (Iztu beach in Dalyan) from urban development. There is also a loggerhead rehabilitation centre for injured turtles, that mostly get hurt by boat rudders or fishing lines.
The loggerhead turtle, along with one other, kept swimming up close to our boat, and then going away, but it was soon time to depart on our course. I was highly disappointed but told not to worry because I would see plenty more in Simena.
Now, I have been to Simena before but never saw one turtle, so I presumed the chances of seeing them there, were extremely slim, and I was just being pacified. How wrong could I be?
The turtles were everywhere, and the rest of the passengers also joined in, on the excitement. After all, this is a wild reptile that when fully grown can measure up to 35 inches long and weigh as much as 35 kilograms. How can anyone deny them the respect they rightly deserve?
We continued seeing them, all the way along the coastline, till we reached Gokkaya.I wondered why I saw so many turtles this time but none on my visit to the region before. A friend said the loggerhead turtles of Turkey were fleeing enmass down the coastline from Demre where a new hotel had been built. Turtles typically don’t like bright lights and loud noise.
I could not find factual evidence on the Internet to back this up apart from an article dated in 2008, before the proposed development took place. It says the environmental ministry of Turkey had allocated it as a loggerhead nesting spot but development still went ahead.
While researching, I came across another article; dated September 2014 that says Iztu beach is under threat again. At the moment, the loggerhead turtle of Turkey seems to be adapting to changes on the Mediterranean coast but isn’t it a shame that once again, man-made development takes precedence over other species habitats?
Further Reading : The Dekamer sea turtle rescue centre in Dalyan