The holiday season is officially over and I’m finding it extremely difficult to get back into the swing of things – let alone write my first blog post of 2017!
All I can think about is vacationing…and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Given that many South African’s start thinking and planning there mid year holiday now, I reckon a travel post is the order of the day!
Last year, ScicSailing (pronounced Chic Sailing) invited me – along with a few other travel writers – to cruise the Turkish Med for a week. Our home away from home would be a magnificent 25-meter traditionally designed wooden sailing vessel called a gulet. This was my second time sailing with ScicSailing in Turkey (read my previous post HERE), although the agenda this time round was completely different.
The thing about sailing is it offers one a real chance to unplug from the world, and re-connect with yourself and your loved ones. You also get a chance to enjoy flavorful Mediterranean food – freshly prepared by your onboard chef, sunbathe and swim in the bluest, warmest ocean, visit archeological ruins and deserted beaches, and wander through quaint seaside villages and markets.
The super chic gulet’s in the ScicSailing fleet have around 4-8 cabins, all with their own en-suite bathrooms. There’s a chef on board that preps all meals, a captain, and around two or three crew members – all committed to ensuring you have the most relaxing and memorable time on board.
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 one gets seriously addicted to the sound of billowing sails, waves slapping against the sides of the gulet, and a very gentle rocking sensation. I’m happy to say that I haven’t felt seasick once, during either trip – so be assured that this isn’t a holiday for those with a strong stomach only.
You could opt to join a cruise individually, or get a group together and charter the whole boat – which is what we’re planning to do this year June, along with four friends and our children. The only difference is that this time round, we’ll be cruising around the Greek Islands. And that’s the beauty of booking with ScicSailing – Even though they’re based in Bodrum, Turkey, they also offer cruises to the unspoilt Greek Islands of Patmos, Kalymnos, Symi, Nisyros and Tilos, to name a few.
Now, this is not a holiday that consists just of sailing for hours on end each day (unless that what you want)! The trip is cleverly designed with just the right combo of lounging in the sun relaxing, swimming in the gloriously warm, turquoise waters of the Aegean, and exploring charming Turkish villages and ancient sights.
Here’s an overview of what to expect, written in diary form.
Our first day was spent mostly sailing, and I have to admit, it’s quite something to witness and be part of.
The crew hoisting sails, winding levers & tying ropes, with the Captain stationed at the helm – and then the smooth, gently swaying momentum, as your skim across the open waters, with the only sounds the creaking of the boat & the wind whistling through the billowing sails.
After a few hours of sailing, we approached the Datça peninsula with the Cape Krio lighthouse, and prepared to drop anchor in the sheltered bay. We then proceeded to check out the magnificent archaeological ruins of Knidos, an ancient city that can be traced back to the 4th century BC.
Key ruins include the agora, the theatre, an odeum, a temple of Dionysus, a temple of the Muses, a temple of Aphrodite and the Apollon Terrace.
After an exciting day, we anchored in a beautiful bay for the night. The chef prepared fresh Dorado (caught that day by our crew), which the Captain grilled on a braai that he attached over the yacht’s forward gunwale.
At around 8:00am, we’re woken to a bell ringing and a voice booming out “Breakfast is served”. We make our way onto the deck, and it’s another beautiful day. We dine on fresh fruit and veg, artisan bread and cheeses and Turkish coffee.
Every morning after breakfast the ScicSailing Captain takes out his maps, and briefs us on our sailing route & destinations for the day, discussing weather/wind conditions and how they will affect sailing.
Come late afternoon, we anchored in a beautiful, picturesque bay. The yacht’s dinghy shuttled us to the beach, and we walked up the nearby hill to sip sundowners & watch this sunset! I must admit, the vegetation reminded me a little of our fynbos.
Our day ended with a “glamping style” boho beach dinner under the stars! While the captain made a fire, our chef barbequed chicken kebabs and flat, bitesize lamb meatballs (too good) served with phyllo feta cigars (we had learned to make earlier in the day).
We spent a good part of the day anchored in this picturesque bay, and went to checkout the ruins & pink beach sand (well it can look pink in certain light) on Cleopatra Island.
Our yacht “Nemesis” viewed from the hillside ruins of an ancient amphitheater.
Soaking up some sun.
We anchored in the big bay at Ören for an onshore excursion to the seaside town’s weekly Market Day, which is held in an old neighborhood a few minutes drive inland.
As we entered the market, my hubby snapped this pic of an old lady’s freshly baked bread.
Ören’s market had an abundance of seasonal fruit & veg. These cherries cost 8TL (Turkish Lira) for 1kg: only 40 Rand! They were BEYOND delicious.
A husband & wife team operated this stall that stocked a wide variety of rice, grains, pulses & beans.
A father and son trading in dried fruit & nuts owned this stall. They offered me a delicious fig (above) proudly telling me it come from their garden…
We couldn’t believe how pretty these teeny tiny dried roses were – perfect form & colour. They’re used in many different ways, but primarily to brew tea.
This street musician was sitting quietly in the Ören tea garden, and upon seeing my hubby nearby (taking a pic of a cat) launched into exuberant song – seemingly directed at him. Check out the slightly bemused look of the guy sharing the bench – he must’ve seen this scenario play out countless times before…
This was probably my favourite day of our whole trip. After being whisked ashore in the boats dinghy, we jumped into a rugged, roofless Land Rover Defender 110 with Mustafa Demir from Difference Outdoor at the wheel. The wonderful thing about Mustafah’s company is that they have great working relationships with locals, thus allowing tourists unique access & experiences. We were welcomed into private homes, cool public spaces & interacted with community members – all the while learning firsthand about local lifestyles, history & culture.
We all had a bit of a giggle watching my hubby furiously chase after this local farmer (striding by, refusing to stop) as he attempted to snap a picture of the donkey!
We visited a traditional Turkish homestead belonging to an elderly couple – the patriarch nodded his greeting from the sunny corner of their front porch.
His wife asked us to remove our shoes, and then showed us around the tiny, rustic interior of the low-roofed abode they’ve inhabited for generations.
The wife was stern but sweet, and sold us homemade olive oil soap & jars of honey.
We visited another local village and while in the back courtyard, we were shown this (working) traditional, carpet-weaving setup.
Turkish rugs and kilims are usually made of wool and cotton, tied with a symmetrical knot. Women predominantly weave these kilims, and the intricate patterns and designs represent a storybook of their lives.
It was fascinating to watch this lady at work, seated on the ground in front of an old wooden spindle – her hands effortlessly conducting the process of transforming delicate tufts of sheep wool, into balls of yarn.
We stopped on the outskirts of a village to setup a picnic lunch under a big tree. Mustafa had it all under control. Obviously we had some wine, but no bottle opener. Watch this hilarious short video of me at fellow travel write Andrew Forbes trying to pop the cork with the heel of my Nike (It didn’t work!)
All images by Thoban Jappie
Our final night was spent anchored in the port of Bodrum city. We arrived late afternoon and had a few hours to explore Bodrum. We enjoyed an incredible dinner with our ScicSailing hosts, and then danced into the wee hours…
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. 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, 600 to R15, 355 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, June, July or August. September is one of the busiest months (end European summer) and even in October; sailing is wonderful (and there aren’t as many tourists).