About three days before we actually boarded the boat, we booked the four day, three night, Fethiye to Olympos, cruise through Alaturka Cruises for 165 EURO per person. In peak times this can jump up to near 190 EURO, though sometimes they do offer discounts for booking in advance. Cruises run daily in high season, sporadically in low.
We were escorted from the Fethiye Guesthouse (owned by the same company) down to the office and then to the gullet Andriake, where we would spend the next 96 hours with the other twelve people who would soon become our friends and companions. We were briefly sat down, given a run over the itinerary and shown to our rooms, of which we would almost never use for anything other than the bathrooms and storage for our bags – all the fun (and sleeping!) happens outside as the rooms can get a bit stuffy and smelly.
Within minutes of departing from Fethiye, headed for the first stop at St Nicholas island, we were all trying to learn names and nationalities. The dominating nationality was Australian, with five of the fourteen guests aboard representing, following this there were two Americans, two Finnish, two French, two Spanish and an Englishman with all but the two Americans being a couple, the demographic suited Em and I well.
After a couple of hours we reached the first destination and took our first swim (of many) at the base of St Nicholas Island – it was here we encountered a few boat peddlers, selling crepes and icecream, whom, much like the peddlers at the grand bazaar, have a plethora of witty sayings to try help them make a sale, such as “Yummy yummy in your tummy”. Our first stop was brief and shortly after our swim we moved around to the lagoon next to Ölüdeniz beach and had another dip. About 30 minutes after diving in and jumping off a few rocks, we said goodbye to a several of people in our group as they’d opted to go paragliding off the mountain next to Ölüdeniz that Em and I had done independantly the day before. We knew they were in for a good time.
Whilst they headed up and off the mountain, our captain sailed us over to Butterfly Bay. This is a small bay amidst two soaring cliffs which look at least 200m tall and the bay is only accessable by foot or boat (so I believe). Unforunately, the seas were a little too rough for the captain to make landing, so we just dipped into the cove, did an about turn and headed back to St Nicholas Island early to wait for the others, watch an amazing sunset and moor for the night.
Upon arrival we took another dip and then headed in the dingy over to the island. Once we came ashore there were some not very intense negotiations with the ticket man. He wanted to charge 8TL for entry, but refused to give any change for what seemed to be no reason whatsoever. Well, we showed him, paying 71TL for 9 people’s entry, 1 LIRA DISCOUNT, hells yeah! The brief ascent up the only hill on the island, through some old Lycian ruins, got us to the top. The view was amazing, you could see back to Ölüdeniz beach and the paragliding platform as well as the other way toward where the sun would set. Despite jumping the gun and being about an hour early for the event of the afteroon, we sat around, were subsequently joined by the others who were back from their paragliding adventure just before sunset. A few minutes later the sun set and it was awesome, as expected and advised.
We headed back to the boat where dinner was all but waiting for us. The chef and captain had prepared us a meal of fish with a side of everything from rice to yoghurt, it was a huge meal! I learnt how to fillet a fish pro style, but struggled to when it came to actually putting this into practise. We ended the meal with a few games of Gin Rummy and Kings – knocking back drinks is definitely the best way to get to know people.
When it was time to hit the hay, we went below to grab our sheets and pillows and proceeded to setup on the cushions at the front of the boat. Sleeping under the stars in the cool night air, to the gentle rocking of the boat – now this was a holiday. Well that was until the morning when, despite warning, we were somewhat taken by surprise when the captain at the first hint of the sun rising (5am) sailed us toward our next destination through choppy seas – the rocking was intense! It was also on this morning that we learnt the true power of the sun on a boat; sleeping on the front of the boat under blankets when the scorching sun starts to heat you up like popcorn in a microwave, yuck. It was then that we decided to unfurl the cover so we could chill outside in the shade, smartest move all trip! Never again would the sun wake us prematurely.
Breakfast was another excellent meal of cereal, olives, eggs, fruit, yoghurt and other delicious things. None of the meals over the cruise would disappoint or leave us hungry. After eating, it was definitely time for another quick dip, before heading over to Kaş – the largest of the towns that we would visit on the cruise, also home to the cutest cat. The two hour visit left just enough time to check out the old amphitheatre (if you were interested), the Lycian Tombs, the Lion Sarcophagus or just find a nice cafe and enjoy the company of a kitten. En route back to the boat, Em and I indulged in some delicious Dondurma (Turkish icecream). It was in Kaş that the French couple opted to do some Scuba Diving as the area apparently has some amazing wrecks that you can dive around.
The gullet continued along the coastline finding a small bay to stay for the night. Dinner was chicken with the usual sides of everything! Dinner was followed by an even larger game, or two, of kings with things getting a little ridiculous towards the end, party! We’d had a very relaxing day as most of our travelling had been done between 5am and 9am.
The third day saw us to the Sunken city of Kekova, the small town of Simena, a bay where cold natural water met the sea (an unreal feeling) and a night at Smugglers Cove as well as the departure of two of our companions. Kekova is a large stretch of ancient Lycian buildings which were sunken by an earthquake and are quite well preserved though a little underwhelming. This is due to signage saying you may only cruise past on a boat, there is no stopping, swimming or snorkeling allowed. On the otherside of the passage is Soimena, this little village is home to a fort with a spectacular view of the surrounds. The village also has a few shops, as well as waterside restaurants where, if you wish to indulge like a few of the travellers, you can get some lobster into you or if you’re feeling a little disconnected, jump on the WiFi. The cruise then headed onwards for Smugglers Cove, though before we would hit the land for some funpartytimes, a couple of the group who had not partaken in paragliding would submit to the peddling of a Turkish man and head for the skies in their own parasail, it looked like amazing fun and a much cheaper alternative.
The meals on the final day may take the cake for being some of the best, I doubt anyone can argue that the grilled mushrooms with cheddar or the grilled zucchini with parmasan for lunch, with sides of salads, bread and other meze foods, can be bested. Although, the dinner of Turkish meat with sides of salad and other delicious things could be in contention. Regardless, after dinner we had a few pre-drinks to yet another game of kings, before heading to land and partying at Smugglers Cove. Smugglers cove in short, is a small little bar with DJ and dance floor as well as copious amounts of seating that sends a small boat around to the gullets to pick up guests. As the night wore on bottles of wine, beer and shots were downed and there was dancing to all kinds of music, from 80s rock to crap like Pitbull. On the night we were there, our group made up half of the 30 people – however, we were told that the following night they were expecting nearer to 150 people, though I’m not sure where they would all come from.
Upon returning to the boat, everyone mellowed out, gorging on tubs of Chokella (imagine a cheap alternative to Nutella) and one of the Australians whipped out his acoustic guitar and played us some tunes. Needless to say, it brought out the worst singer in all of us. A few more drinks and we were done. It had been an excellent final night.
Our final day was simple, we had our last meal together and cruised past the blue cave, which our captain said we couldn’t swim in because it’s ‘not allowed’ – though i’m still a sceptic. Only a couple of hours later we were in Demre where we would get a free shuttle to Olympos. It was here that the group split as most of us would go our seperate ways, perhaps to meet in the future. Em and I would hang with the Americans and the French in Olympos, and an Australian and the Englishman in Goreme, but the rest, time will tell.
A gullet cruise around the southwest corner of Turkey is an excellent idea if you have a few days to spend seeing some truly amazing sights. They are also relatively cheap, as ours worked out at 50AUD a day, and thats with accommodation and four meals a day. Costs onboard are reasonable, they need to be as you can’t bring your own alcohol or water with you. A 500ml beer will set you back 6TL, a bottle of wine 40TL and a bottle of water 0.50TL. It’s not until you start thinking about spirits that you need to watch your wallet.
The Alaturka Blue Cruise from Fethiye to Olympos has definitely been a highlight of our 4 months abroad and it was a pleasure to meet such amazing people and be looked after by an excellent crew.