Day 1 – Meeting the group
Hey there, this is Oğuzhan, an outdoor adventure guide at Dragoman. What follows are journal excerpts about the fun and unique boat-accommodated sea kayak trip!
The first day, I met the group at Dragoman’s office in Kaş. When the whole group arrived, I was already at the office but there was so much commotion and chatter that I didn’t get to introduce myself, so I just stayed back and observed. I always observe. Thankfully, after observing the people and their interactions, I knew that it was gonna be a fun and easy-going group. I finally interrupted the chatter and introduced myself. O-ğ-u-z-h-a-n! Yup, a little confusion with the name thanks to the soft G!
After gathering everybody, we carried all the bags and suitcases to the boat and the group settled in their rooms. The name of the boat is Naos; a classic 65ft (21mt) wooden Turkish Gulet, with 5+1 luxurious en-suite cabins accommodating up to 12 guests and it was built in Kaş in 2016. It is run by a family: a dad, a mom and their son. The captain was Mustafa but his son Berat is also a very skilled young captain. As is usually the case, the mother, Azime, is the cook, the cleaning lady, the captain assistant and helper for everything else.
Shortly after settling in the boat, it was time for lunch. Azime prepared an amazing meal. It was all vegetarian and all Turkish mama style! After lunch, I informed the group about what our days would be like. That first day we would practice kayaking so that everybody had a feel for paddling and the kayaks for the rest of the trip. After resting and digesting a little bit, the dingy dropped us off at Limanağzı where we got in our kayaks. We paddled in the bay for 3 kms, checking out the rock-cut tombs on the cliffs and enjoying the coastal rock formations, finally finishing at our boat.
We had another delicious meal for dinner and went to bed fairly early. I slept on the deck with my sleeping bag and all the others were in their rooms.
Day 2 – Limanağzı to Üzümlü bay by seakayak
– Good morning everybody! How did you sleep?
– Didn’t sleep well.
– Did anybody sleep well?
– I slept well. (Frank)
Well, except Frank, who seems to have the ability to sleep through anything, no one slept well because of the battleship that came into the bay and its generator that was on all night long! Also, there was a woman in the boat anchored next to ours and let me tell you she had a very specific and loud laughter!
Thankfully, despite the early wakeup call and not having slept well, the group was in good spirits during breakfast and excited to jump on the kayaks. Without losing too much time after breakfast everybody got in their kayaks and we started paddling towards Üzümlü bay. The weather forecast was showing some strong winds in the afternoon, so we left early to safely arrive at our destination in advance of the winds
The morning was glorious! Paddling by the rocks and seeing how the winds shaped the brush and spotting wild goats on the cliffs were moments to be remembered! Solihin, my all-knowing, all-teasing banter man, a father, a photographer and a well-travelled gentleman with “unique” sweatpants, took some photos of the goats and the coastline. Still waiting for him to send me those photos from the trip though…! After paddling for a while, we arrived at Shepherd bay for a short break. Hassina had to go on the boat since she had a shoulder problem and did not want to force it too much, so I jumped in the double kayak with Miriam. She enjoyed having the guide paddle with her. Guess why…? While I was tying my single kayak to the boat, Solihin managed to slip and fall on the rocks and hit his head but luckily, he just had a little scratch. The rest of the day was incident-free mostly because Solihin was in his kayak and not wandering on the rocks.
In the afternoon, the winds did pick up, so I decided to shorten the route a little bit and we anchored in İnönü bay instead of Üzümlü. The group liked and appreciated the idea a lot. It was a beautiful spot with crystal clear waters and a little canyon crevice. Miriam took the SUP board that was on the boat and did some yoga and enjoyed a nap in the crevice. We had another mouth-watering dinner, some drinks and the group had nice conversations and lots of laughter! Soon enough it was time for bed.
Day 3 — From İnönü Bay to Aperlai
Thankfully everybody slept like Frank, meaning well! Today was a shorter day compared to the second day, so we did not have to get up as early and the group was thrilled because of it. After breakfast, we got ready and into our kayaks. The last ones to get in the kayak were Hassina and Miriam since Miriam’s gloves were too big for her hands. We suspected Jay took hers. There was a whole commotion to find out the answer to this mystery. We followed the shoreline until we reached a beautiful hidden bay close to Aperlai—it’s so beautiful a movie was shot here recently. There is a small pebble beach and the back side of the beach connects to a freshwater stream. In the stream we found a baby squid and followed it around, enjoying seeing its amazing colors and how it glided in the water effortlessly. Lots of cute little pufferfish accompanied the ladies in the water while little shrimps were having a taste of their sun-kissed skin. We ate our snacks and got back in our kayaks. Not so long after we reached our boat anchored in front of the ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Aperlai founded around the 3rd century BC and continued its existence for about 1300 years until the 7th century AD.
It started to get quite windy by that time, so I tied the kayaks on the boat and we, well the whole group except for me, got on the boat for lunch. While I was trying to tie all the kayaks to the boat, I somehow managed to capsize my kayak. Normally, this is not a problem being an experienced sea kayak guide; I just do a 360-degree eskimo roll under the water and come back up to the surface. (Side note: the eskimo roll is not only to show off, it is first and foremost a self-rescue technique.)
However, the back hatch of my kayak had come open, and despite me doing 4 eskimo rolls back-to-back, each time I would capsize because of the water that was creating an imbalance as it was filling the open hatch. The back of my kayak started to sink because of the amount of water in it. I tied a rope around the back of the kayak and pulled it up to the boat and then I spent at least a half an hour or so hand pumping the water out of my kayak from within the kayak. When I came to the boat, Alicia’s comment was: “Oh, you look wet!” After lunch, Miriam and Jay wanted to go on land so that they could see the ruins and go around the ancient city of Aperlai.
The rest of the group took their time to enjoy a couple of drinks, read and just relax. After getting Miriam and Jay back to the boat we went back to the open sea and then anchored in the protected inner bay of Kekova. We spent the afternoon just relaxing on the boat and swimming. For dinner we had tunny fish that Berat, the captain’s son, had caught early in the morning. Captain Mustafa grilled the fish and Azime prepared all sorts of Turkish meze. It was all amazing. We had a few more drinks and the group played a game. Everyone seemed to enjoy it a lot while I was taking some notes and reading my book; giving them time amongst themselves. This night though more people joined me on the deck instead of sleeping in their rooms. The moon was getting fuller and brighter.
Day 4 — visiting Kaleköy, Simena
Throughout the week, I had to make adjustments to our routes and the plan of the tour because of the winds and for the sake of the safety and pleasure of the group. Nobody wants to paddle in crazy winds and waves and be stressed. It may be fun for some but for most it is not at all. And today the weather forecast showed extremely high winds, so I decided to cancel the kayaking part of the day. Instead I took the group to Simena, a small Lycian city, where there is a castle at the top of the village with an amazing panoramic view of the whole bay and Kekova island (it is known today as Kaleköy, which means castle village in Turkish).
The group happily explored the village’s windy foot paths, bought nice little hand-made things and tried the homemade delicious ice cream and excellent Turkish coffee in one of the cafes. We hiked back to the new shipyard behind the castle, through the ancient Lycian tombs and spotted million-year-old fossils. We met a sweet dog on the way as well. We also tried Turkey’s national sport: it is called bulldozer gazing. It is like stargazing but instead of watching the stars and being mesmerized you just stare at the bulldozer and dream on! (It isn’t a realy sport btw, yet it is a common thing and it has become a common Turkish joke). The rest of the afternoon was spent on the boat in a sheltered bay. I think it was nice for the group to take a break from paddling and therefore to be ready for the next day. Miriam did more yoga-ish moves on the deck and she also taught soul cleansing rituals to the others. Lemme tell ya, there were some very creative moves by Solihin and Frank…!
Yes, the dinner was delicious again! And nothing went to waste!
Day 5 — Shipyard Bay (Tershane) to Gökkaya
Today’s route had to be adjusted a little bit because of the winds again. We had breakfast and started paddling towards Shipyard bay across the bay where we spent the night. Shipyard bay is located on Kekova island and it is the only spot on the island where you can swim on top of the sunken ruins. It is also the narrowest part of the island so you can walk to the open seaside and see the ruins over there.
The group preferred to just paddle on the shore over the ruins since they all had been here before (they were mainly expats living at least part-time in the Kaş/Kalkan area). Then we followed the shoreline along the island, and just before the sunken city of Kekova we stopped, and I explained the history of the area and the Lycians. The light was great, and it made the experience of paddling over the ruins even more special! After the sunken city we paddled across to Hamidiye bay.
The group was pretty pumped to paddle today, especially Hassina and Miriam, so they did not want to take a break there. We continued to paddle and stopped at Burç bay. At this bay, there is a spring water and it is pretty cold, so it was refreshing to have a dip here and have our snacks of fruit and peanuts. Solihin did not fall this time but he did drop his camera bag! Thankfully it was all good; no damage.
After the break, we paddled around the little islands and found our way to the so called “pirate cave.” We went into the cave which is pretty big. The cave is a nesting ground for big bats. There were many of them sleeping in the dark crevices, but we could see and hear them pretty clearly once we got close to them.
After the cave, we paddled to our boat, Naos, which was anchored somewhere near the small islands. The lunch was ready for us upon arrival. At this moment, the winds started to slowly pick up. We had our lunch and I explained to the group that the winds would be stronger and that we should probably call it a day and get going towards Kaş. The group agreed, so I tied the double kayaks to the back of the boat in pairs on each side of the boat and I put my single kayak on the boat. Little did we know that once we left the sheltered islands, it was going to be a LOT choppier and windier…
As soon as we left the sheltered area, the wind got stronger and the waves got bigger. I knew that this was going to be the case a bit later but was surprised that it happened so early in the day. Well, now there was no going back. We pushed forward albeit with a very slow pace so that our kayaks tied behind the boat wouldn’t capsize because of the waves. Azime and I were nervous watching the waves hit the kayaks from side to side, but we were doing great with our slow pace. We managed to reach the castle village and if we could have just gone a bit further, we would have had really calm weather and water in Üçağız bay.
However, it was not going to be that easy; just as we were approaching the castle village, the rope of the kayak that was tied to the boat snapped, and in a matter of seconds, our kayak was drifting away with the waves. You can imagine our reaction, but Berat threw off his shirt and swam to the dingy that was tied to the boat. He reached the dingy and climbed up on it despite the waves, managing untie and start it. He steered the dingy safely towards the drifting kayak until he managed to bring it back.
In the meantime, so that the same thing didn’t happen to them, I decided I needed to pull the double kayaks that were in the water onto the boat. I untied the first kayak and struggled to lift it up 2 meters or so onto the boat myself but finally managed to do so. It was a real struggle because the back of the boat is like a high wall and when I tried to pull the kayak up, the kayak had to be completely vertical with the back of it in the waves before I was able to start pulling it onto the boat. Berat brought the second drifted kayak and gave the rope to me and I pulled it up onto the boat with the help of Azime as well. It was strenuous!
Now we had three kayaks on board and two tied to the back of the boat. We still had to reach Üçağız. The waves were that big that even the coast guard’s zodiac was trailing behind our boat to have a bit of a shelter. It was going smoothly but unfortunately just as we were making the turn to Üçağız one of the kayaks capsized in the waves. There was not much to do at that point, so I told our captain to go full throttle and get us in the bay. He did so. It was so much calmer in the bay. I will not bore you with the details but Berat and I had to tow all the kayaks to the shore and store them on our trailer. The capsized kayak had a ton of water in it, so I had to pump it all out with my hand pump as well. We had to wait for the wind to calm down for a while and then we started our route back to Kaş which was via the open seaside. It was no surprise that it was windier and choppier out in the open. We sought shelter in a bay where we anchored and had dinner. Captain Mustafa decided that it would be even choppier if we were to leave the bay that night, so we had to wait a little longer and maybe spend the night where we were. And that was the case; we spent the night in that bay.
Obviously, it was no big deal for anybody; the group was gonna spend an extra day on the boat! The only thing was that everybody, including our families and the Dragoman office, knew that we would be coming back to Kaş that evening, and where we had anchored there was no cell phone reception. Not to create panic, Berat and I went out on the open sea with the dingy in huge waves in order to capture a cell phone signal so that I could very briefly let the office know about the situation. In the evening, we played games and finished whatever drinks were still on the boat. Lisette came up with great variations to describe some things in English like “utensils, tools” that I will not explain here what she meant by those. I played Scrabble (in English) for the first time with Gillie, Miriam and Alicia and guess what…? I won! (I am Turkish by the way…) Of course, as Miriam said, it is beginner’s luck… Right, uh-huh!
I must admit that I had so much more fun than I thought I would have. Normally I don’t like to spend so much time on a boat, but the group was amazing! Lots of great conversation and stories and bantering. I think they liked me too. Alicia was laid back and enjoyed paddling and all. Solihin likes to banter like me and so I tried to be a good match for him. Lisette and Frank shared jokes and stories with me and always listened to me as well. Hassina was happy as long as she had a cup of hot water, so easy! She couldn’t drink cold water, so we always had hot water ready for her! Gillie and Jay were just plain joyful and full of appreciation. I think Miriam enjoyed the paddling the most when I was in the double with her (not paddling so much as talking and sharing her story, which I appreciated a lot). 😛
We went to bed with a sense of great achievement and the sensation of having done something pleasurable.
Day 6, the extra unexpected morning only — There is not much to say except for one thing: we will all remember dawn: the sun rising in the east and the full moon in the west, both visible in the sky at the same time!