I LANDED AT DALAMAN AIRPORT in Turkey with mixed expectations. Kas, a small fishing town located some 95 miles’ drive down the coast, was my final destination. But had Kas succumbed to mainstream tourism with English pubs, black-pudding breakfasts and conveyor-belt diving, or would I find an unspoilt haven offering me some high-quality photo opportunities
I was anxiously hoping that the extra mileage would be enough to deter the masses.
Finding my contact, expat Alison Ure, outside the arrivals hall couldn’t have been any easier. Holding the latest edition of DIVER above her head was a dead giveaway.
The two-hour taxi transfer gave us plenty of time to chat about the diving conditions and what I was likely to encounter.
My ears pricked up when Alison mentioned a WW2 Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM-79 three-engined bomber at a depth of around 60m. But this turned out to be a carrot-dangler that was sadly beyond my reach. I asked if I could go to see the plane several times during my stay, but was told that it was not offered as a recreational dive.

ALISON AND HER PARTNER Tony Rumens had bought a number of apartments located a few kilometres outside the main town centre. The Dolphin View apartment complex overlooked the picturesque bay and had a communal swimming pool and barbecue area.
It was an extremely peaceful setting –the perfect spot to relax after a hard day’s diving. There was a regular bus service that stopped at the top of the road, but a hire car would be a more convenient mode of transport, especially if humping dive-kit around.
Alison and Tony had completed their own open-water training at Kas Explorers dive centre, and were so impressed with the service that they decided to join forces and offer diving holiday packages.
Kas Explorers is owned by Turkish couple Belma Namli and Altug Tosun. They have two small outlets, one in the centre of town and the other at the Nur Beach Hotel.
Belma and Altug are really nice people, and experienced divers, Belma being the most qualified instructor in Kas. They are extremely passionate about the sea and protecting local dive sites, and don’t even eat fish. I instantly warmed to them both. A calm, relaxed manner is so important on a diving holiday – it just helps everyone to chill out and enjoy the moment.
Belma and Altug had put together
an exciting itinerary sampling the best wrecks, caves and amphora sites that Kas could offer (excluding the Savoia-Marchetti bomber).
I’m sure there was some friendly rivalry between the pair to see who would look better in my pictures.
They had planned my first dive on a Dakota C47 transport plane, situated in a small protected bay just 10 minutes’ boat ride from the harbour.
The twin-engined aircraft had been used by the Turkish Army to drop paratroopers in the 1974 invasion of Cyprus. A consortium of dive centres had bought the C47 from the army, in the form of a donation to the veterans’ charity, and then sank it as an artificial reef project in July 2009.
Altug told me that the plane had been transported in five pieces and then re-built on the beach before its sinking. He had driven the boat that towed the plane to its final resting spot, and said it had caused a big commotion with the locals, because they thought it was a whale!.
Belma drew the short straw, and ended up guiding me around the Dakota. We had seen a loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) at the surface, but under water it was nowhere to be seen. There was no current, but plenty of silt, which didn’t help with my pictures.
The plane was intact, apart from one loose engine cowling, and looked as though it was ready for take-off.
I did notice some slight damage to the nose-cone, where it had been dropped during the initial sinking ceremony, otherwise perfecto!
After skirting around the outside, we ventured inside the fuselage through the rear cargo door. The bench-seats and even the static line used by the paratroopers was still in position
and untouched.
The cockpit door was not welded shut, so I took a peek inside. There was an old laptop open on the navigator’s table (left by another dive centre) and I was amazed to see all the instrumentation, including seats, throttle sticks and control column on display. I could even read the descriptions of all the switches and dials. Wearing full scuba made it a tight squeeze, but I managed to shoehorn myself into the cockpit and get a nice picture of Belma by the pilot’s seat.
As I shuffled out backwards, I realised that the door had closed behind me.
I had seen this diver trap on the way in, and thought I had wedged the door open sufficiently.
I uttered a few expletives while I contorted my hand behind my back and found the door’s edge. It opened without problems, but it did have me worried for a few seconds.
I really liked the C47 Dakota, and returned to the wreck several times.
The nose is at 17m and the tail section sits at a maximum depth of 23m. This allows plenty of air time for exploration.
Just to round off the dive, we had a shoal of 20 or more barracuda keeping us company on the safety stop.

WE THEN VENTURED across the bay to a place called Neptune Reef. This was a huge excavated amphora site, complete with grid-lines and artefact labels. Altug guided me around the dig, pointing out a number of different-shaped amphora. We kept an eye open for bull rays, but I didn’t see any in the sea-grass.
Pigeon Island was our next port of call. At around 25m we found the “unknown wreck”. Altug said that the 15m-long boat had originally been built as an insurance scam, and was not a “real” boat.
There was no engine or prop, just a bare hull and metal framework inside. Altug said he had drilled holes in the bottom of the hull, when it was originally sunk as a diver attraction.
This time we did see bull rays, and I used up the rest of my air chasing them around trying to get a picture.Kas still retains a lot of its original charm, and as yet it has avoided mass tourism. The cobbled streets are lined with boutiques, bars, restaurants and overhanging trees. This was the perfect atmosphere for early-evening strolls and pre-dinner cocktails.
Most of the action was focused along the harbour front, with its good range of restaurants to suit everyone’s tastes and pocket size, from kebabs to a la carte.
Alison and Tony gave me a full tour of the town, including the special Friday market, where I could buy anything from fake designer clothing to 50 different flavours of Turkish delight.
Ancient tombs seemed to be scattered all over the place. I spotted them built into the rock-face, by the marketplace and even hiding behind a restaurant.

THE NEXT MORNING, I woke up to strong winds and dull skies. I looked down onto the bay from my apartment window and could see plenty of white horses mixed up with the aqua-blue sea.
Altug assessed the conditions, and decided to pan all diving activities until the afternoon. This gave me an opportunity to drive up the steep mountainside and check out the viewpoints overlooking the town.
I could see the five small islands way off in the distance. This was where most of the diving activities took place. Belma had said that they were in the early stages of making the whole area a protected marine/archaeological park.
Altug had planned a wreck dive for the afternoon. At a site called Canyon were the broken remains of a freighter known as the Dimitri. He told me that the ship had foundered on the rocks during a storm back in 1968, and dynamite had been used to break it up.
I jumped in to find pieces of wreckage scattered all around the shallows. The large bow section was lying in 4m.
I followed Altug through a deep V-canyon down onto the main wreck site. The stern was the only distinguishable part left. The propshaft, minus propeller, was sitting at around 41m. Apparently the prop had been salvaged by a local diver a few years ago. I found one nice swim-through, but had no time for any further exploration.
After a spot of lunch, Altug took me to another wreck called the Oasis. This was an old wooden dive-boat that had caught fire at the end of the season and sank in 27m.
The wreck was quite broken up, but there was still a hatchway, engine and rudder to explore. A number of resident grouper were milling about, and we got within a metre of one specimen.
My tour continued with another amphora site at Besmi Island. This time I saw huge, round, dumpy Palestinian-style amphora dating back to Roman times. There were also a number of anchors that had most probably been part of the wreck’s cargo.
After a soup stop at one of the local restaurants, we headed along the coastline to explore a big cave at a site called Tunnel. The most striking feature for me was a bright orange coral lying in the sand at 37m.
I was totally amphora’ed-out by the time we reached the replica Uluburun wreck. The original 14th century BC ship, discovered by a local sponge diver, was excavated between 1984 and 1994 – 11 dive seasons and more than 22,000 dives. It is claimed to be the oldest shipwreck ever found.
The 20 tons of cargo included Egyptian gold and silver jewellery, and hundreds of copper ingots. he replica of the 16m-long ship was sunk for research purposes in 2006. Tony said he could still remember it sitting upright on the bottom, sails billowing in the current, but by the time I got there all I could see was a pile of planks. The cargo of amphora had been moved to a shallower site, and gridlines ran all over the place.
It was nice to see that specimens of local marine life had made homes in the pots. I managed to get my fin-strap caught on one line, but got free without wrecking too much of the set-up.

KAS EXPLORERS IS RUN by Belma and Altug. In high season they take on other instructors to help out if overloaded.
Most of the 50 dive-sites on offer are boat dives. Shore dives are mainly for training. Belma said that they dealt mostly with beginners, intermediates or family divers, though I thought that some of the dives were quite deep, and at times challenging.
The dive-boat Palet is shared with another dive centre, though there never seemed to be any overcrowding. The 21m boat is licensed to hold up to 40 people, and steering clear of the peak months definitely has its benefits.
Belma reckoned the best time to visit was around September/October.
Normally Palet would leave at around 9am for a morning dive, return for lunch and then go out again for an afternoon dive. Maximum journey time to and from the dive sites was about two hours.
Surprisingly, there are 16 dive centres in Kas, mostly Turkish-owned. The majority close in November and reopen only in March, and in the closed season only one or two boats operate, mainly for local divers. The nearest hyperbaric chamber is at Antalya, with average reaction/transfer times by the helicopter around an hour, according to Belma.
My Turkey shoot turned out to be a relaxing diving holiday, and not at all hardcore diving. I liked the fact that every dive was either some kind of wreck or cave mixed with spontaneous marine-life sightings, so there was never a dull moment, and plenty to see or explore.
I was pleasantly surprised to find loggerhead turtles, barracuda, jack and big bull rays swimming around among the small-fish shoals. At times, when the weather played up, I might see three or four other dive-boats converge on the same protected spot, but otherwise we had every site to ourselves.
The only downside I noticed was a huge marina complex being built near town. The main construction had been completed, though there was no sign of secondary building work at that stage.
And dare I mention the Savoia-Marchetti bomber again I guess there will always be another opportunity.

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Stuart flew with Monarch to Dalaman. Easyjet, Thomas Cook and Thompson also have regular flights. Atalaya is also an option, but this is a three- rather than two-hour transfer. Car hire with Olympica costs about £25 a day..
DIVING : Kas Explorers, www.kasexplorers.com
ACCOMMODATION: Dolphin View Apartments can cater comfortably for up to eight divers, email: alijoure@hotmail.com or call 07721 432845
WHEN TO GO: Papua is a malaria area. Malarone is recommended. The nearest hyperbaric facilities are a long airflight away, at Manado. No deco diving.
FOOD & DRINK: Nur Beach Restaurant, Seckin (kebabs), De Ja Vu (bar), The Hideaway (bar).
PRICES: Group prices for September through Kas Explorers are 565 euro for 10 dives, accommodation in a 4* all-inclusive hotel and transfers, www.kasexplorers.com
FURTHER INFORMATION: www.gototurkey.co.uk