There is something about a certain kind of blue that gets the diving juices flowing, and whatever blue you need to get into, you’ll find it in the Aegean.
There are some places that, quite easily but undeservedly, could fall through the cracks when you’re drawing up your dive destination bucket list. Some like it hot, some like a lot of fish, some like easy diving and some might like places with 1,001 tones of blue and the pleasure of exceptional underwater visibility. If it’s these last two that decide it for you, then look no further than the Mediterranean Sea of Southern Turkey.
Arriving at the domestic airport in the small town of Bodrum on southwest Turkey’s Aegean coast, and being picked up by the dive centre boss himself, gets the trip off to a good start. The boat is just a short drive away and, on the road, I am already treated to the stunning view of the Turkish Aegean Sea. One thousand and one blue tones, indeed! Maybe even one thousand and two! I have to jump into it right away!
It’s August and that means that the air is around 40°C, dry, and with a constant slight breeze from the sea. In even better news, the water is 27°C and just a shorty will do.
The area has round about a dozen different dive sites, most of them around a place called Kara Ada, the “Black Island”, which is where I finally get to jump into the water.
Certainly, the Mediterranean Sea is not a big player when it comes to diversity or biomass of marine life. There are not a lot of fish here – it is a small sea and it’s been drastically overfished. Everybody knows this. But then just below the boat, as if to prove me wrong, we are surrounded by hundreds of sea bream, some Turkish wrasse and, on the rocky ground, two octopuses observing the scene. Not a bad welcome!
And then there is the blue of the water. Not one tone of blue but countless. From bright blues and turquoise in the shallows to indigos and other darker blues in the deep… and everything in between. There is not enough air in the tank to count the colours. Sunbeams are drawing pleasing patterns on the sea floor. And yes, the visibility must be around 45 metres or more and I actually don’t see any reason to swim around at all; I just could stay where I am and enjoy the view. But for the sake of the sport, let’s swim around a bit.
The impressive underwater landscape is composed of huge, rocky reefs, and, thanks to the incredible visibility, we can enjoy the majesty of the scenery. Everything is touched by light. Ancient amphorae scattered everywhere and the highlight of the dive is the wreck of a sunken plane.
But better leave those amphorae where they are – the local authorities have absolutely no sense of humour regarding this kind of “collecting” and the fines are rough stuff.
Some groupers swim around us and I see a smaller bunch of jacks swimming by at a distance. And all those different blue tones! I feel like an astronaut in space, and B.B. King’s “How Blue Can You Get” is ringing in my ears.
The next day, after a four-hour (rented) car journey, we reach the small town of Kas – our next destination. With around 25 different dive sites and more than 20 dive centres, Kas is known as Turkey’s “Eldorado” of scuba diving.
Here, the waters are deep and if you’re not careful you can easily find yourself at depths that might exceed your training level. A dive of 40 metres is quite standard, and tec divers can visit the wreck of an Italian airplane at 70 metres at the bottom of the Flying Fish reef.
A dive at the Canyon is one of the area’s highlights and almost legendary among Turkish scuba divers. Starting at three metres, we fly through an underwater canyon that ends at around 25. From there we visit the wreck of a Greek cotton freighter, a diveable underwater chimney, and with any luck the sight of a Mediterranean monk seal, of which there are only 500 left worldwide.
Soaring around this extraordinary underwater landscape is incredible fun, thanks to the more than 40 metres of visibility. Currents are common but usually only at the surface. Once we get to six metres, all is fine and our flight through the big blue can begin.
Flying Fish reef the next day. According to European dive magazines (and to almost all Turkish divers), this is considered to be Turkey’s top spot. An underwater mountain, boats anchor at its peak, just six metres under the surface. If you want to see the fish (jacks, huge groupers, and tuna) you will need to deal with the current – there is no other way. The hardest part is the descent, but below 10 metres, large rocks provide quiet areas to rest and have a look around (or take some photos!). From 20 to 30 metres, you can see the wreck of the Italian aircraft lying at 60 metres below you.
Shallower dive sites are certainly worth a visit, too. The Dakota wreck, Pidgin Island, Neptune Reef and Two Brothers are good spots, as well. Squids, turtles, smaller jacks, cornet fishes, stingrays, wrasse, sea bream, groupers and macro critters such as nudis, shrimps, Neptune’s veils, and flatworms are common sights here, especially when the water starts to cool down slightly around middle of September.
And even if none of these creatures shows up on the day (what you see on a dive, as you know, is always a matter of luck), there is always the blue. One thousand and one different tones (or even 1,002!) make for an underwater oriental dreamscape. This might be what makes the waters of Southern Turkey special in their very own, unique way.
For more of Rico’s incredible work, visit his website: www.maviphoto.com
This article featured in SD OCEAN PLANET (Issue 8/2014)