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Turkish delight

by Jan Siedlecki

Reproduced from in focus 22 (June 1987)


Just as I was contemplating a 'cheap' diving holiday in warm waters, the Turkish Government lifted its long-standing ban on diving. A virtually 'unexplored' part of the Mediterranean combined with an exotic 'interior' was certainly tempting, so the idea was put in motion.

The Diver's Holiday article I had seen however did not provide an address to start my enquiries, but eventually contact was made in the autumn of 1985. I received an enthusiastic reply and a beautifully produced brochure describing the wonders of their underwater world, even stating what the price Included and excluded, but not what the price was.

Another letter produced package prices for just diving, despite the fact that by now they were advertising Inclusive holidays. So what was the price for an all inclusive package?

It was already 1986 and a London travel agent materialised with information that the prices for the year were not yet available. At last they were ready at Easter. but for the quoted price any self-respecting diver would have chosen the Red Sea. It was then that I learned that a Diver's Holiday Adviser was invited to explore Turkey but was unable to go and suggested I went instead. It also transpired a different company was involved. Letters followed, letters were lost. Another two months went by.

Time was short if I was to avoid the hottest months of the year, July and August. The location was to be Antalya an the southern coast, because of a likely excursion to Cappadocia (more of which later). Promises were made and promises ware broken, Summer was drawing to a close. lNo time left to organise the club holiday and prices quoted by Indigenous companies specialising in diving holidays were still an obstacle. Hurghada would have been £5 cheaper!

So in desperation I booked an ordinary English package holiday in Bodrum on the Aegean coast with two more divers from my club. Two weeks at the end of September, bed and breakfast in a pension, inclusive of flights and transfers for £275. Diving to be organised on the spot.

We could have dived in Bodrum, which was expensive, but in the next bay of Gumbet, two more diving outfits were operating. One German and the one I had started with! Ve got a deal an the original prices quoted a year earlier. This amounted to £60 for 10 boat dives with tanks and weights provided, which was very reasonable by comparison with other places in this part of the world. The beauty of it was that the dives did not have to be consecutive. Just as well bearing in mind all the other attractions.

The underwater scenery was typical Mediterranean, but we had a lingering suspicion that there was more to see than they were prepared to show us. after all the whole of Bodrum's St Peter's Castle, built by early crusaders, was turned into an underwater archaeological museum stuffed with goodies provided by George Bass' expeditions. Nevertheless I enjoyed myself filming sequences of amphora debris, hunting octopus and collecting sponges. The sunken city of Nindos was out of bounds. So a snorkelling escapade was organised without the patronage of a diving school.

The boat trips were short, so their was either time to return to base for a light lunch or anchor at another village for a snack and then have a second dive in the afternoon. Back in plenty of time to return to Bodrum (by means of 'dolmush' - the cheapest transport at 15 p a head) for an excellent evening meal, which at the very most would set you back £5 including wine and brandy.

The best dives were on a submerged pinnacle between Bumbet and Karada Island. Groupers I missed, but scorpion fish were there as well as the more usual inhabitants. Furthest trips were to Kocek and Kargi Islands - from where the Island of Kos was clearly visible - with amphora shards aplenty. The most frequented were Gorecik Is and Kucuk peninsula teeming with octopus.

Besides diving, as I have said already, there were other distractions such as visits to Ephesus, one of the largest Greek settlements on these shores, with its Goddess Artemis, later replaced by the Virgin Mary, who lived there with St. John. To some perhaps one Greek ruin is very much like another, but the same cannot be said about Famukkale (Cotton Castles) formed from calcium-bearing springs and considered the ninth wonder of the world. I was determined however to visit Cappadocia with its underground cities, fairy chimneys and early Christian churches scooped out of the lava covered rock, That is how I discovered cheap bus travel at £5.for 750 Km!

Despite early traumas, a most enjoyable holiday, which I can heartily recommend, providing that the Turks for all their charm, can eventually organise the tourism.

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