What does a tour bus look like when it takes to the sea? Possibly the Falcon, a 70 foot long power boat that is one of the many tour boats that work out of Kalkan harbor. Boasting a lower deck with booth seating and an upper deck with mats for sunbathers, the Falcon is the epitome of the popular day cruise industry. How, you may ask, do I know this? Ah, well there is a tale worth telling...
Yes, the Euro2008 team had gone from tour buses to tour boats. When it's the only game in town, you belly up to the table and put your money down. Our daughters were desperate for an activity that didn't involve ancient ruins and archaeological sites, so we decided to book a five destination boat trip, a sun soaked day that would probe some of the regional maritime attractions. It was to be a day of swimming, snorkeling, and basking in the shade of the big sun awnings. A tourist's dream day.
Our first destination was Kaputas Beach, a sheltered cove southeast of Kalkan. The water, when I dove in, was blue beyond my experience. I come from a land where oceans and rivers are green (Washington) or in more recent years, brown (the Bristol Channel). This Aegean blue was stunning. I'd never seen anything like it. Since our boat was anchored in deep water off Kaputas Beach, I couldn't see the bottom. My eyes followed the rays of sunlight down, down, the light bottle glass blue fading slowly to deep indigo and then black. It was truly captivating, the perfect way to begin our trip.
After a decent interval for swimming, the crew pulled the anchor off the bottom, the motor burbled to life, and we were off, cutting across the bay to Mouse and Snake Island. The two islands are adjacent to one another; no more than a ten foot gap separates their shores. At first glance they appear to be barren rocks, although there is a little greenery of the thorny variety growing on the bigger Snake Island. Despite the apparently inhospitable conditions, they do support life: a herd of goats picking a path across the rocks. I'm amazed they could find enough to eat on these rocks.
At this stop, the Skipper anchors the boat in close to the shore. When we drop overboard, we can see massive boulders 30 feet below our keel. Time for masks and snorkels. The water is crystalline, and if the mask I'd borrowed from the boat didn't flood with every dive, I would have had a fine view. I should note, for those of you planning a trip to Kalkan, that although the tour boat brochures will claim they have enough masks, fins, and snorkels for all passengers, this may be optimistic. The Falcon certainly had enough equipment for everyone, but it was a mishmash of low quality equipment, undoubtedly items left behind by previous customers. If you have your own mask, bring it.
I spent my time diving for the little purple snail shells that littered the bottom. Once again I was struck with the scarcity of sea life. I had expected to be chasing aquarium quality fish through a luxurious garden of seaweeds and grasses, but the rocks and sands are surprisingly barren. For jaw-dropping underwater beauty, Indonesia is still the best place I have snorkeled.
Back aboard the Falcon and we head west to Gerenlik Beach, our lunch stop. The crew unwraps a buffet lunch which, giving credit where due, is rather tasty. The fish is fried grouper, and it is surrounded by a variety of pasta dishes and a salad dressed with plain yogurt. They are good cooks, these swabs. I go back for seconds.
Now I have long known that women are not like men. Here is one way men and women are different: women believe that slathering their bodies with decaying, stinking, slimy mud (probably infused with a healthy quantity of seagull poop) is somehow a desirable thing. When our crew announced that the next attraction of our trip was a healthful mud bath, my companions went wild. “It will make our skin soft,” I was told. “You should try it.”
No thanks. I like my skin tough, like a tortoise's carapace. So, I pulled out the long telephoto lens while my three Euro2008 teammates swam to shore to receive their “beauty” treatment. What can I say about this? The pictures are worth far more than a thousand words. They dug mud out of a plastic bucket and slathered it all over their bodies, working it into hair, faces, armpits, and anywhere else they could reach. Then they stood on the beach for a while, letting the magical mud perform its sorcery. When they finally hit the water, great clouds of brown stained their wakes, like exhaust fumes poisoning the clear blue water. Was their skin softer? Was it all worth it? I find it hard to believe.
On to Camel Stone, a double hump of rock rising out of the water. The attraction here was the great schools of fish drifting and flicking as a single unit near the stone. The other boats threw bread into the water, which caused the schools to coalesce, grouping around the bread as the fish fought for a bite. I floated, face down in the water, drifting with these fish until my pale back began to burn. One man reported seeing a squid, but I didn't catch a glimpse of it.
Once folks had tired of Camel Stone, we motored ten minutes north to Firnaz Bay, our fifth and last stop. Not surprisingly, since most people had worn themselves out around Camel Stone, there were few takers for a dip in Firnaz Bay. Too much swimming for one trip. Most of the passengers simply lolled on deck, working off the ardors of the mud bath. After a dignified period, the Falcon upped anchor for the last time and headed back to Kalkan.
As we came in from the Aegean, I could see the town in its full splendor: thousands of white concrete condominiums ― ranging from two to five stories high ― planted in a lazy curve that ascended from harbor to halfway up the hills behind the town. White concrete, baking in the sun, waiting for the next big earthquake. One of our fellow passengers owned a house in Bodrum, a nearby holiday resort, and he spent a good portion of the afternoon extolling the virtues of Turkish home ownership to the other Brits on board. Sounded like a poorly disguised real estate agent to me. I kept my distance. If I was going to buy a holiday house anywhere in Turkey, I think I'd rather be in Sirince.
It was a lovely day, one that probably could have been bettered only if we'd rented a sailboat and I'd had the chance to pick and choose our spots. But with a sweet wind blowing, I fear there would have been much sailing and little swimming. Certainly no mud baths. So at the end of the day it probably was better this way.