Alf Chappell at Balaban Island.



OLUDENIZ HAS TO BE ONE of the most photographed beaches in Europe. As the turquoise water melting into the white sands of its fingertip bays comes into view, you realise why.
Were in the south-west of Turkey, an hours drive from Dalaman Airport, and I am staying in a family resort that covers a staggering 37 hectares. Its called LykiaWorld.
Surrounded by mountains and palm-tree forests, the resort has 19 swimming pools, tennis courts, gym, discos, kids clubs and a multitude of sporting activities from water-skiing and quad-biking to rock-climbing and horse-riding, designed to keep everybody happy.
Scuba-diving and paragliding were my pursuits of choice. When it came to the former, my buddy and soon to become underwater model Alf Chappell, manager of the diving centre, had a word for it: Ginormous!
This, he told me, was the only way to describe the caves and arches that the coast of the mountainous area of Oludeniz had to offer.
Alf used to run the award-winning European Divers, also in Turkey and popular with British divers.
Now, after a three-year rest, he was back in the game. Growing bored at home, he had decided he would take on the challenge of reassembling a dive centre that had lost its way.
This he seems to have done in style at LykiaWorld, in the process reuniting his old team. It seemed that they couldnt get on the plane fast enough to join him in his new venture.
Alf is a tough leader, the F-word flying randomly from his mouth from dawn till dusk, but he is respected for his industrious approach and organisational sense. I could see exactly what he wanted to achieve, and Lykiaworlds is one of the best-managed dive centres I have come across.
A safe diving centre is a happy diving centre! is its motto, and Alf and his staff adhere to it faithfully.
I was desperate to get into the clear water as soon as I could. I was prepared for there to be few corals, this being the Mediterranean, but I hadnt bargained on how relatively little life there was. It became clear from my first back-roll.
The first dive, Pinnacle Rock, was named because of the drop-off that adjoins this area. At 35m there is an old amphora field and a seagrass bottom beside the wall where you can find sting rays from time to time.
Hidden in a sandy cloud, looking for a bite to eat, ray tails will be all you see until they sense your presence and disappear into the blue.
We headed back to the resort and stopped in a bay called Butterfly Valley. Every May butterflies hatch here, and backpackers camping on this idyllic beach, accessible only by boat, can witness this natural phenomenon.
I have rarely enjoyed such a pleasant surface interval! The colours blended in my head - the brown of the rock, the green of the forest, the blue of the cloudless sky and the sea, and the white of the sand, with a light breeze refreshing the atmosphere.
As we sat on the boat listening to Alfs diving anecdotes, I saw a beautiful caretta turtle pop up at the surface to catch a quick breath before disappearing. I didnt see another that week, so I was grateful that this specimen showed its face.

THE SECOND DIVE WAS BUTTERFLY VALLEY WALL to the left of the bay, facing the beach. The dive looked more interesting than the first. Thirty metres at its deepest, the wall was quite impressive, sharp and stiff.
Looking into the blue, I could see small bonitos chasing a group of shining sand smelt, common fish in these waters.
But the relative lack of marine life made it seem quite exciting to see a nudibranch on a sponge. I thought I had discovered something quite rare in this environment, and called everyone over to show them my little treasure.
So what the masked faces that soon surrounded me seemed to say. It became clear that nudibranchs were the one creature present in abundance in these waters, close to the surface at least. So regular visitors were not impressed.
On the way back to the resort, I asked these divers why they came back year after year. Surely not to see these little fellows
Some told me they felt secure with Alf as their dive leader. Others were there with their families because they liked the resort itself, but most kept coming back for the caves and other rock structures.
So the next morning, we headed in the opposite direction.

ALADINS CAVERN WAS OUR FIRST DIVE. As usual the visibility was around 50m and the water still. I asked Alf to model for my pictures to give them a bit of perspective and for composition. Too many people seem to think that only beautiful girls can pose under water, but if you need just the shape of the diver, anyone a little bit aquatic, short of a Michelin Man, will do the job.
Alf soon proved his worth, and responded surprisingly willingly to my underwater orders - left a bit, right a bit, up, down... It was the first time for many years that anyone had told him what to do under water, and with good grace he realised that being an effective diving model was no easy task.
Aladins Cavern was beautiful. You dive beneath a wide arch and surface into a big chamber, the light penetrating through gaps in the rock ceiling giving wonderful effects. The surface is so still that you can see the silhouette of the divers reflecting on the top.
You dont need to go deep on this dive to enjoy the surroundings and the architecture.
The second dive, Mexican Hat, is named after the shape of a deep tunnel into the rock. At about 30m inside the hole, the temperature plummets by 5-10C. The rock texture changes radically because of the lack of light, and shrimps can be seen hiding in cracks. On the way out, you notice all the tubeworms living on the linings of the walls.
Not far away was my favourite dive, Secret Garden. We went slightly deeper and away from the other divers on this one, to around 40m, to see the sponges growing in the shadows.
What impressed me most about this place was the rock formation. Imagine taking a giant spoon and removing the biggest scoop ever from the wall.
I was standing in the deep blue, in the shadows, watching the sunrays going through the surface. I wished I had a fisheye lens fitted into my eyes to capture this immensity all at once.
In the end the water was so clear that it gave me vertigo. I could hardly assess my depth, and was surprised to see that I was much deeper than I thought. Clear water can easily affect your judgment, and a depth gauge is essential kit.
And at last, on the top of the wall hiding from the bright light, were many yellow corals, shaped like the common red sun coral.
In the same area were our two last dive sites and I can recommend them. Balaban Island was one - you start at any point on the tiny island and carry out a complete turn around the rock. On the seabed was rock debris, and rather more fauna.
Tuna and sand smelt constantly passed by. Scorpionfish were numerous, as were those caterpillar-like fireworms that look so soft but feel painful should you happen to touch one accidentally.
Lastly, Amphora Cave is a little arch with an old amphora on top. Apparently you can sometimes see my friend the turtle here, though I didnt.
The instructors run courses from the PADI 5* dive centre onto the house reef from April to November.
In 2008 a special pool will be opened, promoting the establishment to IDC dive centre status.
Internships are run for anyone who wants to improve their diving skills, and the fact that conditions are usually benign removes some stress for beginners. The courses are goal- orientated, so it shouldnt matter how long it takes to master the skills.
Paragliding is worth trying if you havent already - its another pursuit that gives you a sense of freedom. Keep it for your last day when desaturating - its a perfect end to any trip.

Paragliding
Paragliding is a good way of passing your deco day - and of getting a superior view of LykiaWorld.
Aladin
Aladins Cave
blenny
blenny
scorpionfish
scorpionfish
Nudibranchs
Nudibranchs are frequently seen by divers at Oludeniz.
The
The LykiaWorld dive team.
FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Gerald Rambert flew with Excel from London Gatwick to Dalaman in Turkey. Road transfer to Oludeniz, Fethiye.
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION: LykiaWorld, www.lykiaworld.com
WHEN TO GO: April to November
MONEY: Euros and Lira.
PRICES: A return flight costs around £350 depending on season. A double room at LykiaWorld Resort costs about £700 per week. A 10-dive package costs £160, an Open Water Diver course 245.
FURTHER INFORMATION: www.kulturturizm.gov.tr