Summer is long in this region and the scenery luminous in the brilliant Mediterranean light. Thousands of years ago wooden boats were made here for trade, war, fishing and sponge diving, and the design and structure reflects a maritime culture going back far into antiquity. Exploring these shores by sea would take several weeks, so most
people spread it over a number of years, nourishing mind and spirit with unforgettable memories.One of the loveliest statches of coastline is that between Bodrum and Gökova, with its myriad of tiny bays, inlets and islands. Murat Belge wrote about this area in the July issue of Skylife, so this month we are heading in another direction, due south from Bodrum harbour.
Depending on the power of your engine or the wind if you are sailing, you arrive in the ancient harbour at Knidos in three to four hours, watching out for the ruins of the stone breakwaters as you enter to anchor. Knidos was famous for its naked statue of Aphrodite, which is now lost, and the gods were reputed to send those mortals whom they wished a long and healthy life to this city. Archaeologists have gradually brought the city to light in the course of long years of excavations. From Knidos we made for the fishing village in the cove of Palamut Bükü, with its tiny fishermen's shelter and pebble beach. Next stop is Hiyat Bükü, a pretty sheltered bay offering good anchorage in bad weather. The village has two tea gardens and is surrounded by market gardens. After turning round Inceburun headland into the Gulf of Hisarönü our boat headed northeast on its way to the
little town of Datça. Next on our itinerary was Bencik, a narrow winding inlet at the head of the gulf, which seems to bore its way deep into the land like a long tongue. Here the trees grow so close to the shore that they seem to be attempting to conceal the water with their leafy branches. If you cast a net here you can be sure of eating red mullet for supper.
The village of Selimiye nestles between steep hills on the eastern shore of a sheltered bay. The picturesque traditional houses and restaurants selling delicious freshly caught fish make this a popular halt for yachtsmen. From Selimiye turn southwards and enter the delightful channel speckled with islands which leads to Bozburun, where there is a marina, shops and restaurants. This has become an important centre of yacht construction over recent years, as well as a useful place for replenishing stores. Out of Bozburun sail past Karaburun headland and anchor in the bay of Bozukkale, which takes its name (meaning Spoilt Castle) from the ruins of a castle which was begun as protection against attacks by sea raiders but never completed. This is a perfect place for yachts to spend the night, as is the next-door Serçe Bay, surrounded by steep hills.Now east again to the Gulf of Marmaris, with brief halts to swim and enjoy the scenery in the bays of Gebe Kilise, Kadirga and Turunç.
To be saved up for another holiday is exploration of the coast east
of Marmaris. First head southeast, a route which brings you to the pine clad bay of Ekincik in around two or three hours. Here you can hire tiny rowing boats to carry you through the Köycegiz Delta to Dalyan to see the Lycian rock tombs, have a therapeutic mud bath and visit the ruins of Caunos, an itinerary which occupies an entire day.The following morning carry on eastwards to the luxuriant green Gulf of Göcek with its mass of islands of all shapes and sizes, and so many coves and bays that even a week's sailing is not enough to explore them all. Next visit Tersane Bay, the submerged Roman baths at Batik Hamam, and Bedri Rahmi Bay named after the modern Turkish painter Bedri Rahmi Eyüboglu, who used to sail along this coast and did a rock painting here. The village of Göcek is a tiny resort with accomodation and a marina with full amenities.
After an enjoyable night here, you can explore the coves around the islands of Göcek, Yassica and Zeytin, before heading east again out of the gulf around the headland of Iblis. Here there is an ancient tradition of throwing bread into the sea for the dead sailors. Immediately after passing the headland turn due north to anchor into the sheltered western shore of Gemile Island. From here you can row into the crystal clear turquoise
lagoon of Ölüdeniz by dinghy and spend a day on the fine sand beach.The following morning you can sail back around Iblis headland and anchor off Kelebekler Vadisi, or Butterfly Valley, where the intrepid can explore this wild and remote spot. Here the scent of thyme fills the air, and the evergreen maquis scrub is interspersed with rocks.If you now turn north you come to the harbour of Fethiye, a largish town, from which minibuses provide transport to the splendid ancient cities of Xanthos, Letoon and Patara, for the grand finale of the blue cruise.