Holidays should be mandatory. I hadn’t taken leave in ages, so it was with huge relief that I sunk my weary body (and overloaded brain) into a Turkish Airways seat and jetted off to Istanbul this past May. I wasn’t destined for the capital however; I was on my way to meet a girlfriend on a chic yacht docked on the South West coast of the Aegean Sea. What lay ahead was a week aboard a Gulet (traditionally designed wooden sailing vessel from Turkey), gently making it’s way from Marmaris exploring some of the prettiest bays in this part of the Eastern Med.
Home away from home
Thanks to ScicSailing, my girlfriend Helen and I spent a week with a group of international travel journos, all there to write about the holiday experience that is sailing in Turkey. The super chic Gulet’s in the fleet have around 8-12 cabins, all with their own bathrooms. You could opt to join a cruise individually, or you could get a group together and charter the whole boat.
Helen & I striking a pose. I must admit, holidaying with a girlfriend is SO much fun!
The experience is incredibly relaxing but interesting too – just the right combo of lounging in the sun (smothered in SPF 50 of course), swimming in the gloriously warm waters and exploring charming Turkish villages and ancient sights. Don’t get me wrong; this ain’t History Channel-type stuff, but rather fun meanders through some of the prettiest sights on the Turkish coast. By car, it’s hard to reach some of the wonderfully unspoiled places we visited, and so sailing is the solution. But while we explored the magical St. Nicolas Island (scattered with the remains of ancient churches) and Cleopatra’s Bath, renowned for the healing properties of the water in this shallow bay, it was the sailing itself that I fell madly in love with.
We did a day trip on the Dalyan river where we got to see majestic tombs dating back to the 4th century BC. We also bought some delicious crabs that we scoffed for lunch.
The ancient city of Kaunos (above) was amazing to explore.
St Nicholas Island (above). It’s believed that St Nicholas, or Santa Claus lived here.
ScicSailing is one of the few fleets that favour sailing with the wind rather than engines. As much as possible, sailing is done sans motor – and I got seriously addicted to the sound of creaking wood, waves slapping against the sides of the gulet and a very gentle rocking sensation. I’m proud to say I didn’t feel seasick once – so be assured that this isn’t a holiday for those with a strong stomach only.
Captain, my captain
When I wasn’t glued to my page-turner of a book, I was eating – the food was just too delicious to resist. Freshly prepped by Scic’s majorly talented chef (what he can turn out in the tiny gulley is beyond impressive). Think grilled fish, prawns and calamari –and tasty vegetable dishes like garlicky tomatoes, grilled eggplant and red peppers infused with olive oil. And this was a carb-laden holiday (and why not?) because fresh bread smothered in yoghurt laced with carrot, beetroot and baby marrow was too good to turn away. And while a Muslim country, drinking alcohol isn’t off limits, and trust me, there’s nothing like a chilled glass of rose (by local producer Pamukkale Sefoni) while watching the sunset. Bliss!
Our chef even taught me how to make Turkish Cigars. These delicious, deep fried, cigar-shaped pastries are filled with cheese, herbs and spices.
Of course I packed waaaay too many beauty products. Aside from shampoo & conditioner, the only other products I used were the ones below.
Dermalogica Daylight Defense protection 50 sport spf50 R490
Both Helen & I agree that is one of the BEST sunscreens we’ve ever used. It’s appropriate for both face and body and has a lightweight and spreadable texture. We literally spent 5+ hours a day tanning and didn’t experience even a hint of sunburn. The best thing about the formula is that it doesn’t dry the skin out like most sunscreens do.
Dermalogica Age Smart Dynamic skin recovery spf 50 R990 & Antioxidant Hydramist Travel 30 ml R170
The refreshing antioxidant hydramist creates an hydrating shield over the skin that helps reduce fine lines, firms and fights oxidative damage. It’s so wonderfully refreshing and I found myself spritzing my face several times a day.
I LOVE the Age Smart Dynamic skin recovery spf 50 moisturiser and have blogged about it before. To briefly recap; in addition to hydrating and protecting the skin, it also combats triggers that lead to skin ageing. It contains ingredients that stimulate collagen synthesis and enhance the skin’s natural ability to fight skin-aging free radicals. It has a lightweight texture, absorbs quickly and does a great job of protecting the skin.
I opted to take just one scent along (gasp!) and settled on Bvlgari Aqua Divinia (R970 for a 40ml EDT). It’s inspired by Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus. The fragrance is very bright, light and wearable. It’s a floral-aquatic and contains notes of magnolia, salt crystals, quince, red ginger, precious woods and amber.
Shower time was a treat, thanks to the Babor Relaxing Lavender Mint Calming Shower Oil & Bath R370. It contains almond oil that helps retain the skin’s hydro-lipid film, thereby reducing moisture loss. This shower oil beautifully conditions the skin as you shower, leaving it soft and supple.
So, what does all this Zen cost?
If you book well in advance, Turkish Airlines do great deals and you could snag a ticket (Cape Town to Istanbul via Joburg return) for roughly R6, 000 to R9, 000. You’ll need to add to the budget a return flight to Bodrum or Dalaman (where your yacht will be docked) and that means a short stopover in Istanbul and then an hour’s flight to your destination. However, I managed to get a CT-JHB-Istanbul-Dalaman return for R7000. Visit www.turkishairlines.com for flights from Cape Town and Joburg. For a visa (free of charge), visit www.evisa.gov.tr/info . On the subject of visas, it literally takes minutes to get yours online. Turkey is one country without strict visa regulations for SA passport holders – another reason to go sailing!
The sailing trip itself will set you back between R13, 200 to R14, 725 per person for one week and includes breakfast, lunch and five dinners on-board and all snacks and drinks (including alcohol). Excursions and some activities (like waterskiing) aren’t included. I recommend you book to sail in May before the UK and European holidays begin. But the experience is just as nice in September and October when the weather is still wonderfully sunny and the sea temperature is mild.