Monday, March 10, 2008

Budget Cruising and Paragliding the Turkish Coast

Typical gulet south of Oludeniz. This was “Sydney” which ran tandem with “Blue Key” most of the trip. The area under the front sail is covered with thick foam mattresses which are packed with sunbathers in this shot and are ideal for sleeping under the stars at night. The bowsprit has a padded sailbag which is a real comfy perch - I spent a lot of the time sitting here checking the scene.
Picture yourself strapped into a tandem paraglider at the top of a 2000m mountain. You and your pilot are going to run down a short slope, take off, cruise out over the edge, and after 20 to 30 minutes of soaring and drifting land on a drop-dead gorgeous beach directly below. You are on the spectacular Mediterranean coast of Turkey, the mountain is the soaring Babadag and the picture-postcard beach is Oludeniz.
Babadag is not too much short of Australia's highest peak, Kosciusco, but a few minutes after take-off we are considerably higher riding an updraft as the sea-breeze hits the mountain side. The bay and Oludeniz’s beautiful beach and lagoon look spectacular from up here. I can see the gulet Blue Key, my transport and accommodation over the next few days, moored in the southern section of the bay, a short swim away from the entrance to the lagoon. My shipmates are probably lounging on deck or at the beach, but I couldn’t resist this side trip into the heavens. Takeoff area on the less steep north-west facing slope of Babadag. Once airborne your pilot hangs a left ...........

..... which gives a view northwards. That's Fethiye by the bay in the background (widen) .....

.....and further left to this. Oludeniz's gorgeous beach and lagoon below.
Getting lower - flights typically head out to sea and then return (duh!) The big motor yacht in the bay had a small helicopter on the back deck! That is "Blue Key" just to its left near the rock islet. The lower slopes of awesome Babadag are in background.

Gulets are motorised sail boats built on traditional Turkish lines - much broader in the beam than conventional yachts for added comfort and stability. Gulet cruising Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts is a big industry involving dozens of boats ranging from budget to very high end.
The Turquoise Coast between Fethiye and Olympos is pretty special, ruged and mountainous with neat little inlets, beaches and some islands thrown in plus the occasional village or town hugging steep slopes above picturesque harbours. Over the centuries the area has been sacked and settled by Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and Crusaders - it is not unusual to find the remains of a medieval Crusader castle built over the ruins of Helenic battlements. Fairly intact Roman amphitheatres can be seen in several places. Not to mention sunken cities.

Well, only one sunken city, where an earthquake saw the Byzantine era Kekova vanish beneath the waters of a sparkling bay opposite the lovely no-vehicles village of Simena which climbs steeply to a 13th Century Crusader castle. We put into one of the several small piers. Simena seems scarcely changed from what it must have looked like a century ago when it was part of Greece, so we go camera crazy with shots of the narrow spiralling streets and panoramic coastal vistas from the castle ramparts. There’s time to check the shops and tavernas and then we cast off and cruise around the bay where several small sections of Kekova are still visible above water. Several tourists from town are doing the same in kayaks and glass bottomed boats.Picture postcard Simena (widen)

Shot over town and bay - view from Crusader castle overlooking picture-postcard village of Simena. The sunken city of Kekova is between town and distant island.

History buffs will also get a kick out of the first night anchorage alongside St Nicholas Island, where St John was supposed to have been imprisoned for several years. The small hilly islet is covered by the ruins of stone huts from the third century BC and has great views from the highest point.
Gulets tied up for the night in the shelter of st Nicholas Island. Some of the stone ruins can be seen above the people on Sydney's bow (widen)

For non-history types, there is plenty to keep you occupied. Lots of swimming and snorkelling in lovely sheltered coves, beach time on several deserted stretches of sand, some trekking to good viewpoints, other village visits, fishing - and on the last night a visit to a disco in a deserted inlet - deserted except for a cove packed with half a dozen gulets and several cruising yachts. Rock and roll is optional and after a brief look I catch a ride back to Blue Key which is far enough across the bay that noise levels present no problems to a welcome sleep after a strenuous day.
Sleeping arrangements are optional - my berth is in a dual cabin below deck, just enough space, comfortable and well ventilated. But I much prefer hauling my sleeping bag and pillow up onto the thick sunbeds on deck - lack of cloud in Turkey’s rainless summer plus no lights from nearby towns make the star show pretty special.

There are no complaints about the food. Lots of Turkish salads - tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, eggs, cheese, olives - plus BBQ fish (there is always a line over the side) other meats, omelettes, fruit and heaps of thick rough-cut Turkish bread (cookie’s first stop at any town is the bakery), jam, honey, biscuits and coffee. Alcohol can be purchased on many gulets, but Blue Key is BYO. The other guests, 3 Brit gap-year girls, 2 South African soldiers, a Turkish-Australian couple on honeymoon and a young Danish couple have brought theirs with gusto - the occupants of the big super yacht with the helicopter on the rear deck which has just moored near us at Oludeniz are fortunate we are moving on.
Blue Key is crewed by three Turkish guys in their 20s, who are not only capable sailors, but great cooks, ace fishermen, good snorkellers and full of personality.
Tuckertime on deck! - image

“Terry are you crazy?” asks Andre, my French pilot. I guess I am, because I agree to some aerobatics. He puts the paraglider into a tight spin, all the time his helmet camera recording a flight video which can be purchased for $US20. Whoa! Instant vertigo! “Top Gun” I’m not. So I beg out and we renew our sweep back from the sea towards the beach, me snapping merrily away on my camera. We fly in over town, do a turn and descend over the rooftops to a perfect landing at our designated mat on the beach promenade.
Approaching ground zero. Our landing mat is on the far left. Promenade strollers sometimes get a shock. As do sunbathers when the non-professionals overshoot.

I sit and watch some other landings. Amateurs come from around the world because Babadag is one of the highest easily-accessed launch sites. Not all are as skilled as my pilot and several overshoot, scattering sunbathers on the beach and in one case, swimmers in the water.
Good entertainment, but I notice Blue Key’s tender cruising into the beach for me. Time to depart towards Olympos with its lovely cliff-ringed cove backed by ruins overgrown by thick forest. Plus an ex-hippy commune further up the narrow valley featuring budget accommodation including tree houses - wooden huts on high piers, up around the tree crowns.

Gorgeous bay and beach at Olympos. Forest in narrow valley behind conceals ruins from many eras - this shot actually taken from smashed rampart of old Crusader fort. The bay is too shallow for the Gulets which put into Andriace harbour about 50km south. After a few hours shopping and checking St Nicholas' Church in Demre it's into the minibus for the trip thru the coastal mountains to Olympos village which is about 2km upvalley.
Funky treehouse bungalows in the village at Olympos - image

Fully catered gulet cruises start at around US$215 for 4 days and 3 nights low season. High season (June to mid Sept) starts around $255. Longer trips and one day cruises are also offered. There are many operators - two of which are and
The main ports of departure are the holiday towns of Fethiye and Marmaris, several hundred km south of Istanbul. Turkey’s long distance buses are inexpensive and excellent. You can fly into nearby Dalaman and several Greek islands are within a short ferry ride.
Spring sees mild to warm days, cool nights, little rain. Summer can be very hot, even drier, more crowded. September is perfect with less heat and fewer crowds, as is October except you can expect more rainy days as the month progresses.

Paragliders are steerable parachutes. Their larger than normal fabric area plus a kind of aerofoil shape to the wing or canopy means they can actually gain altitude in updrafts. On a tandem, the pilot sits behind and above the passenger, ensuring top views. Google “paragliding Oludeniz” for some details. This season’s prices start around the $150 mark.
Unseasonal early storm saw a landslide block the winding access road to mountain peak - a two hour delay while a grader was brought up to clear the way (widen).

If you fancy budget cruising beautiful islands perhaps you could check the Whitsunday Cruising page

If you see any mistakes or have extra info, please post it below. If you have questions, please ask them on the FORUM which can be accessed thru the index - I don't get to check individual pages often but I try to monitor the forum daily when not on a trip.


janbuyle said...


Twice a year I go to Oludeniz. This is my favourite spot in May and October. I like the atmosphere, the hotels, the beach, the Elvis imitator and most of all : the superb flying!

There is one BIG annoyance I have when I go to Oludeniz : The Babadag Mountain Tax raised by the Forestry Ministry.

Single pilot going up to Babadag take off’s have to pay 10 YTL (=5 euro ) every time they go up, tandem passengers pay 15 YTL. There are approximately 60.000 starts a year from mount Babadag. That's a lot of money for the Forestry Ministry !

I wouldn’t mind paying this tax if at least some of the money would be used to make flying in Oludeniz better and safer: Rubber mats on take off, good sanitary installation, better roads, webcams on top (so you can check conditions before going up),…

That is why I started an Internet Petition on the Babadag Mountain Tax. In the petition we ask the Forestry Ministry to lower the tax or to spend at least part of the money on making flying conditions better and safer. If many pilots sign the petition this might change something !

If you agree on this subject, please sign the petition now and forward the link to other pilots : www.BabadagNoTax.netThanks !

tezza said...

I just got a message from Thorn Tree poster BAKLAVALOVA which puts a new perspective on the above comment:
"I have lived in Olu for the past 11 years and just wanted to let you know that you have a post on your website by someone who has the wrong information.
The Forestry Commission leased out the Babadag paragliding jump site as well as the beach in Olu to a private company from the Black Sea region about 5 years ago, so it's not a tax you pay to fly, it is an entrance fee to the site.
Despite boycotts by paragliding companies who looked for alternative sites and many letters and petitions, nothing has changed and nor will it. This is Turkey, we are just about out of the 3rd world, and private ventures as anywhere else are all about making money, and these guys have the monopoly. It's a business and to use the service you have to pay......"

Mitja Goole said...


Your style of presentation is very impressive.You have given some of the beautiful pictures of that place which makes it more attractive.Really it is a nice place to visit. I liked this place and hope everybody also likes it.

Gulet Cruise

Carter Collins said...

This blog is very informative and pictures are so beautiful. The budget cruise is a slightly cheaper way of exploring the Turkish coast, relaxing under the sun and making new friends on board of a typically Turkish Gulet boat. Really it is a nice place to visit. Thanks...
Cruise Turkey

Nigel Daly said...

Oh great article... Tried paragliding for the first time this year and have to admit that it was incredible - I have never tried anything more exciting in my life (the roller coaster in Florida that I tried several years ago is just smoking aside:)
Oludeniz Paragliding