Turkey: Sleek, slow and a charter for fun

The best way to see the Aegean sights is to hire a gulet

By Rupert Parker, July 10, 2014
Carpe Diem: a traditional Turkish gulet based in the Aegean has four cabins 'as big and tall as hotel rooms'

Carpe Diem: a traditional Turkish gulet based in the Aegean has four cabins 'as big and tall as hotel rooms'

Normally, I'm not a great fan of life on the ocean wave, and my idea of hell is a mega cruise ship holding thousands of people. Last year I did take a Star Clippers voyage along the Italian Coast with only 100 others and that was fun so, I was delighted to board a 30m gulet, a traditional Turkish sailing boat, with only four cabins - with room for my friends.

We flew into Dalaman, just under three hours from the UK, and within 30 minutes, were boarding our vessel. Carpe Diem I was moored in the bay, and we boarded the tender with our baggage. The crew were immaculate in white, and we were welcomed with drinks by Captain Hakan.

Of the four cabins, two were twins, a full beam master with a single and a double, and mine, which had a large luxurious double. Forget about being cramped in your quarters, this was as big and tall as a normal hotel room, with a high-pressure shower in a spacious bathroom, crammed with expensive toiletries.

We were soon on our way, gliding past the steep wooded cliffs which line this part of the Aegean. There was not enough wind to get under sail but I was promised that was to come. We anchored in a quiet bay and lunch was served.

Every meal started with a selection of Turkish salads and dips, enough to fill you up, if you so desire. It's a healthy way of eating and there's always fish to follow.

Next day we anchored in Hamam Bay, close to Fethiye, where the ruins emerging from the sea are reputed to be the site of Cleopatra's Turkish bath.

Getting there

Charters: Carpe Diem 1 offers private charters sailing out of Bodrum, Marmaris and Gocek along the Turkish coast or Rhodes and Kos. It operates April – November with lead in prices from £8,000 inclusive for seven nights, but shorter breaks are possible. Similar 5 star smaller and larger boats are available. Inclusive rates for up to nine guests cover meals and soft drinks, airport transfers, speedboat and watersports equipment, chef and crew services (flights, speedboat fuel and alcohol are not included. A wine list is offered, or stocked to guests' own preference) www.dreamcharters.co.uk
Fly: Monarch Airlines flies to Dalaman from London Gatwick, Luton, Birmingham, Leeds Bradford and Manchester.
More info: www.gototurkey.co.uk

In fact, the Egyptian queen is associated with many places on this coast, but it still makes a delightful spot for snorkelling. The turquoise sea is crystal clear, fish dart between the ancient stones, and there's even the promise of turtle sighting.

The afternoon brought a light breeze so Captain Hakan made the most of it and sailed west towards Dalyan. Around five knots was the most the boat could manage in those conditions, but it was enormously peaceful without the sound of the engines. Morning brought us to the ancient sea port of Kaunos, dating back to the 10th century. It's been occupied by the Persians, Greeks and Romans and was finally abandoned in the 15th century because of malaria.

Over the years, the harbour silted up and was colonised by reeds, an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. We boarded a boat to visit the 5,000-seater Roman amphitheatre and the remains of a massive bath complex. High above the Dalyan River were rock tombs with facades carved into the mountain to resemble Hellenistic temples, complete with Ionian pillars. This is a fertile valley, with large groves of oranges, lemons, walnuts, pomegranates and hazelnuts while Grey Mullet and Sea Bream are plentiful in the river.

Dalyan is a pleasant fishing village but the big tourist attractions are the mud baths, fed by sulphurous volcanic springs. The minerals are meant to be good for your skin so it's necessary to cover yourself all over and stand in the sun until it dries. Only then are you permitted to be hosed down and soak in the warm waters.

We wound our way back to the sea through a labyrinth of reeds to emerge at the rear of Iztuzu Beach, better known as Turtle Beach. Loggerheads use their 5km spit of sand to lay their eggs and the area is closed after 8 pm so they can do so. A couple circled our boat before swimming off into the sunset. We aimed in the same direction and reboarded, a relief to be back on home territory, away from people.

That night, feasting on fish, by moonlight, I realised that the great attraction of chartering a yacht is that you're free to do as you please.

It's easy to while away the days swimming and snorkelling and there's no great need to cover huge distances or even go ashore and see the sights.

If you're feeling energetic, then you can take one of the canoes to paddle round the bays, or try your hand at water skiing.

I ended up bouncing over the waves in a rubber doughnut, pulled by speedboat, a delightfully silly activity, and I couldn't stop laughing.

This is as good as it gets.

Last updated: 2:45pm, July 10 2014