Owner insight: Exploring Turkey

Written by Gemma Fottles

When it comes to superyacht cruising grounds, sometimes it may be easy to forget that there is a big wide world to discover outside of the hustle and bustle of the Mediterranean and Caribbean hotspots. With more and more owners and charter clients opting to stray a little further from the beaten track, here we shine a spotlight on some of the more exciting cruising destinations from all four corners of the world, with the help of the expert Captain’s and Owners who have fallen in love with it. Here we take a closer look at Turkey, with the help of Turkish owner Riza Isik, who takes us through his favourite 7-day itinerary from Bodrum through Gökova Bay.

Riza Isik :
Born on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, I am currently the Chairman and CEO of Isiklar Holding, as well as two charitable organisation, and the proud owner of a 78’ Hatteras named Parthenia. A keen sports fisherman, I love to cruise the Aegean Sea whenever I can in both Turkish and Greek waters, and tend to spend the months of July, August and September on board Parthenia.

Just one of my favourite aspects of cruising in Turkey is, undoubtedly, the fantastic fishing. An early morning excursion to catch tuna, mahi mahi and spearfish really enhances any cruising experience. This coupled with the abundance of historical sites along the Turkish coast - some of which are already submerged in a few feet of water meaning that you can literally swim in history - really make the region stand out as a must visit destination.

There are two regions in the Aegean/Mediterranean coast of Turkey which are unparalleled in their natural beauty and absolute pristine condition, with almost no human settlement in and around the bays: Gökova and Göcek. The Turkish government declared both regions natural parks in the early 70s forbidding any construction. You could practically cruise for a whole week without seeing any houses or cars - the only light in the night is starlight and the moon. These regions are full of many different bays entirely covered by pine trees coming right down to the water side and the whole coast in these regions is studded with many small islands with ancient ruins of housing, amphitheaters and the such. Needless to say the waters are crystal clear and warm with sea temperatures varying from 22 to 28 degrees celsius from June until the end of November.

My favourite town on the Turkish coast is Bodrum, with the best marina, Milta Marina, located right in the heart of the city across from the historical Bodrum Castle. My advice is to start your cruise from Milta Marina and cruise Gökova Bay.

Day 1) A 30 nm cruise into Gökova will take you to Büyük Çatı Bay where, upon entry, you will see a small island with a large single tree bent at the entrance to this secluded bay. You can anchor inside or just outside dependent on the size of the yacht, but both locations are excellent! Within the Bay many local fisherman are on hand to catch fresh fish to send to the hotels in Marmaris or Datca, as well as an abundance of the loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta, which you can swim with. Here you will spend the night and understand what I mean by the only light is starlight. I heartily suggest stargazing after dinner with Turkish coffee and Armagnac.

Day 2) A six nm cruise from Büyük Çatı Bay awaits today to reach deeper into Gökova Bay and experience the Yedi Adalar (Seven Islands). I suggest rising before sunrise and cruising towards the centre of the Bay for an hour to fish for tuna in the early morning hours. Returning back to the Seven Islands, there are many perfect anchorage spots covered by the small islands, each and every one being uniquely beautiful in its own way. I would suggest the anchoring location on the right hand side within Saklı Koyu where you will have your own little beach and from the upper deck you can spend time taking in the Islands underneath a breathtaking sunset.

Day 3) Another early start to fit in some tuna fishing towards the middle waters of Gökova Bay, then head on deeper into Gökova to Tuzla Köyü. Tuzla is a wonderful bay with multiple anchorage locations. I like to spend the day snorkelling for octopus and small fish or indulging in some watersports in the private bay.

Day 4) Eight miles of cruising deeper into Gökova Bay will get you to Değirmenbükü. At the entrance to this bay you will be greeted by the bronze statue of a mermaid sitting on a rock, interestingly donated by the famous late Turkish sailor, Sadun Boro, who sailed around the world and claimed, rightfully so, that Gökova was paradise on earth. In Okluk bay there is a very nice local fish restaurant and a small grocery shop where you can find bare essentials and nothing more. The bays are full of octopus and small fish, though fishing has been restricted for the last couple of years - so pictures only please!

Day 5) Five more miles of cruising into Gökova Bay today to reach Karaca Sogut Bay. Here you will see a couple of houses and two restaurants as well as a small marina for sailboats.As you enter the bay on the right side is a sailing club which has an excellent restaurant where you can go with your tender and enjoy a very special meal.Next to this sailing club is a rehabilitation pool for endangered seals,and if you are lucky you can snorkel and take a look at a seal through the netting.Many anchorage locations on both sides of the bay.

Day 6) Four miles of cruising this morning will get you to Sedir Island. This island is full of ancient ruins both along the perimeter of the island as well as an almost intact amphitheater right in the middle.You can anchor around the island and go ashore, where a famous Cleopatra beach with really beautiful, unique sand accentuating the Turquoise colors of the Aegean awaits - a swim here is a must! I suggest to do it early in the morning before the day trippers arrive with many small boats.

Day 7) On the final day, we head back to Bodrum: a 27 nm cruise will get you to Alakışla Bükü where you can spend time on the opposite side of Gökova Bay some 12 miles from Bodrum Milta Marina. As you enter the bay there is a small cove with a large rock in the middle and a beautiful beach behind it on your left. This little cove is a wonderful location to spend the day and the larger bay of Alakışla is well suited for all kinds of watersports, and there are some ancient ruins to see in the main bay right behind the large beach. From here Bodrum is one hour of cruising and you can choose to return back to civilisation and the active nightlife of Bodrum after a week of soul cleansing serenity of Gökova Bay.

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