|KAS, SITUATED ON TURKEYS MEDITERRANEAN COASTLINE, is some 100 miles midway between Dalaman airport in the north and Antalya airport to the south. It is no large, modern, hotel-fronted town, but a sleepy, picturesque fishing village that has changed little over the years. This is how the Med was before the tourism. |
The biggest change to overtake Kas (pronounced cash) has been diving. Some 12 certified dive-boats work out of the small harbour, taking divers to sites along a typically Turkish stretch of coastline dotted with inshore islands and reefs. Over the centuries, these have taken their toll on shipping.
Vast swathes of the Turkish coastline which were for a long time prohibited areas have now been opened up for diving. This allows divers to explore magnificent wrecks off Kas and the Kalkan area 12 miles north.
There are six well-known wrecks in the area, though one, a German U-boat in 30m, cannot be dived without special permission. It lies across the entrance to the harbour of Meis, a Greek-owned island only two miles from the Turkish mainland!
But off Gulvercin Adasi, about 15 minutes by hardboat from Kas, a 55ft wooden sailing/motorised gulet lies in 25m of water. There are two contrasting stories about how this boat came to grief.
The first is that it was scuttled to attract fish life and divers, though this area of Turkey hardly seems to need an artificial reef. The story I would rather believe is that the owner, the worse for alcohol, sailed the gulet straight into the reef adjoining Gulvercin island. A gaping hole near the bow on the port side gives some credence to this story.
Anchoring off the island in the shallows allows trainee and try-it divers a chance to do their thing. For the more experienced, the wreck can be found on the sand resting on its keel and port side at an angle of about 45.
It was 38C and I was glad of my shortie as BT Divings instructor Denis (pronounced Denise), Ben and I kitted up before entering the calm, clear blue sea. We hit boulders at 4m and glided over the shallows towards, whats this. a carved marble statue of a shark Ben posed astride the 2.5m fish as Denis floated in the background.
Boulders gave way to eelgrass over sand in 15m then, at 24m, the eelgrass grew sparse. At the limit of the 25m visibility I could see a dark shape, which had to be the wreck. I signalled to Denis who, not understanding, set off in the opposite direction and disappeared into the gloom.
Ben and I stayed put. We would give Denis three minutes. Three minutes later there was no sign of her. One more minute, then up!
Denis appeared, looking bewildered, I pointed, then extended my hands as if to say: Ive found it for you, where have you been As we headed for the wreck, I felt smug.
The feeling wouldnt last. A few days later I led a dive to the same site and failed to find the wreck at all!
Between midships port-side and the bow, a shoal of two-banded bream cruised in the vicinity of a 2.5m hole in the hull. I ventured inside its soft, rotting timber to take a shot of another shoal of bream hovering motionless between decks.
Outside again, I settled onto the sand before the bow, beckoning to Denis to fin into shot above the foredeck. Then there was time to shoot a few pictures around the rudder and prop before a slow ascent.
The gulet is a film-set wreck, photographically perfect. Other than large shoals of bream over the wreck site, no other species of consequence were seen over a featureless bottom, but for the wreck enthusiast or underwater photographer there is plenty to enjoy.
How often can one dive a wreck that predates our own Mary Rose by several hundred years and is in a similar state of preservation In Kas Bay an Ottoman wreck was inspected by Turkish government archaeologists some years ago and left for visiting divers to enjoy!
The wreck site takes 10 minutes to reach on BTs hardboat. It lies in 22m just out from the base of Fener Reef and its lighthouse, on a muddy-silt seabed.
On the reef the visibility averaged 20m, dropping to around 5m then improving to 10m on the wreck itself - due, no doubt, to the soft bottom strata.
At 10m the reef of boulders and rock gave way to a soft silt seabed covered in large patches of eelgrass. Five minutes into the dive, Denis indicated an ugly-looking seahare supported gently in her hand. Its big brother sat close by.
At 20m it was getting noticeably darker because of the suspended silt in the water. It seemed to take an exceedingly long time to locate the wreck, but it could not have been more than five minutes before the boredom of cruising over acres of silt was sharply cut short.
I could barely contain my excitement at the sight of the ancient wreck. Here were intact amphora and, contained within the oval shape of the hull, artefacts, pots, pans and many unrecognisable items from this antique ship.
The curved wooden ribs pointed skywards from the seabed to a height of some 2m from bow through midships to stern. In places, some of the remaining hull planking joined a number of the ribs together. Here, in 22m of water, was something I could spend many hours exploring and filming!
Denis left me to my own devices while she kept an eye on the rest of the party. Every so often I would beckon her in to pose over the wreck.
Just forward of midships, a large intact Ottoman pot stood proud from the seabed. Atop it was a small goldblotch grouper, which I expected to beat a hasty retreat, but it stood its ground and posed.
The others in the group started to move away from the site, and I followed. At 10m, at the foot of the reef, I broke the third golden rule of underwater photographers. I switched off the flash, folded down the arm and applied the shutter-lock with unexposed film left in the camera, just as a large triggerfish appeared in front of me. Still, I rated this a 10-star dive.
Canyon Reef lies about 2.5 miles out from Kas harbour, and is signified by four rocks rising from the shallow reef below. The entrance to the underwater canyon lies just beyond the smaller two rocks, with anchorage for the boat on the reef plateau about 25m before you reach them.
With Atila, one of the instructors, I finned on the surface the short distance to the rocks and submerged as the canyon fissure came into view. Viz was no more than 20m, and 10m down I wondered if we were at the right site. I could see nothing of what was meant to be the wreck of a large freighter.
As we approached 15m, however, on the limit of visibility the faint, dark-blue outline of jagged and twisted metal appeared. I remembered being told that the Turkish Navy had blown off the wrecks bow to just forward of the bridge some time after she sank in 1960, as it posed a danger to local shipping.
The navys work had still left more than 40m of what is known as the Canyon Wreck intact. With the viz improving, the entire midships section to the stern appeared not only in clear view but very much intact.
The steeply sloping reef was covered in a jumble of steel hawser, deck plates, twisted girder and hand-rail.
We descended to 40m, levelling at the stern handrail above the large propellers and rudder some 19m below. I asked Atila to fin over the wreck in the background as I framed a shot of the stern looking towards the canyon and surface. Shoals of chromis and damsels with large grouper among them cruised the wreck as we slowly ascended towards the midships section.
Atila entered a tween-decks compartment at 25m, but the jumble of cable and metal made me reluctant to follow with the camera.
Leaving the wreck, we ventured into a cave at the base of the canyon, its walls festooned with multi-coloured soft corals and sponges. Above us at the cave entrance glided a shoal of 30 or more barracuda; I would see such shoals on nearly every dive.
Five minutes out of Kas harbour lies the Likya, the wreck of a 40ft wooden motorised boat. It started life as a fishing vessel, was converted to a dive boat for one of the local diving centres and towards the end of its useful life was scuttled in 27m at the base of Limanagzi Wall.
Even before BTs hardboat Falcon had left Kas, the dive guide Bikem had asked me to kit up, as she wanted us to be first in. Anchoring just under the cliff face we entered the dark, flat water - it would be about 10 minutes before the suns rays reached this area .
The wall of multi-holed, knotty rock formations resembled nothing I had seen before. It was eerie, made the more so by the absence of marine life, like a deserted graveyard by night!
Less than a minute into the dive, a lighter shade of blue indicated sand extending from the base of the wall. Levelling off above the sand at 25m, I saw a few pieces of wreck debris strewn before us, while a dark outline indicated the Likyas stern.
Deepest point first: down at the bow I shot Bikem cruising across the wreck about 4m away before two divers approached along the starboard side, the sun just showing on the surface 28m above. I glided across the deck to settle behind the remains of the wheelhouse for more shots.
By now there were about 10 divers over, in and around the Likya, plus six or more peering into the nooks and crannies of the shady wall. I noticed a diver with his head buried in a hole, his outstretched arm beckoning to his buddy. Intrigued, I homed in, trying to see what they were looking at and saw - absolutely nothing.
We headed up - it was getting busy down there. Later, with a glass of hot apple tea beside me I relaxed on the top deck. I must have closed my eyes before being brought to consciousness by a large Dutchman verbally abusing my brain.
Dave, didnt you see it
That tiger moray down on the reef. I got the wife to give it a nudge so it would come out of its hole for you to get a picture. It must have been 2m long, a great fat devil. You didnt seem interested. Had you already taken a picture of it earlier
I had to lie, but I inwardly kicked myself for not paying attention. I felt better after I had rebuked my dive guide for not showing me the moray. After all, I had a reputation to keep up!
All this was soon forgotten as shouts of Dave, bring your camera! brought me to the starboard side of the dive boat. One of the instructors was busy hauling in metres of discarded fishing line, and whatever was attached to the end was very much alive and thrashing.
Carefully, the last 2m of line were collected and scissors applied to the knot above the rusted and deeply embedded hook in the mouth of a metre-long eagle ray,
Saved from a slow death, it soared away. The hook would rust away and drop out within a short while. We all felt good!
We dived the recognisable wrecks in the Kas area. Many others are dived by BT Diving, but being more than 2000 years old they are marked only by the remains of cargo left on the seabed - piles of amphorae and anchors.
New discoveries are made regularly along the coast. Turkey is very much virgin diving territory.
There is also superb reef and wall diving around Kas and Kalkan. I photographed more than 40 very large grouper moving together off Oglu Sigligi Reef at Kalkan, something I have never witnessed before, and you can find barracuda, dolphin, tuna, amberjack, bonito, triggerfish, large sting rays and Spanish dancers, especially during the off-season from October through April, when the viz gets up to 50m and the shoals venture inshore.
The only sour note to report is that while many of the dive centres in Kas and Kalkan may appear to sport the banners of the familiar training agencies, they are not necessarily, it seems, known or authorised by these bodies.
My advice would be to check with the relevant organisation before leaving home, or ask to see some documentation at the dive centre.
If you book through a reputable tour operator which recommends a certain dive centre in its brochure, it should already have checked out its certification, suitability and accredited status. Remember, your life is in its hands!
|The stern rail of the Canyon Wreck |
|outbound from Kas aboard Falcon |
|carved shark near the gulet wreck site |
|Aboard the gulet wreck |
|a small goldblotch grouper guards an intact Ottoman amphora |
|two divers explore the Likya |
|Divers examine an ancient anchor |
GETTING THERE A few UK tour operators cover this area of Turkey from May to October. At other times scheduled Turkish Airlines flights are the only way to reach the area.
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION:David Oldale dived with BT Diving, 0090 242 836 3737 (Kas) or 0090 242 844 2757 (Kalkan), www.bougainville-turkey.com. He stayed at the comfortable Hotel Korsan in Kas and a Tapestry villa in Kalkan.
WHEN TO GO: From May to October its very warm and sunny, and a 3mm shortie is adequate for diving. In winter a 5-7mm wetsuit will be needed.
LANGUAGE: Turkish, but English is understood and spoken.
MONEY: Turkish Lira but sterling is welcomed.
COST:Tapestry (0208 235 7777) or Dive Tours (01244 401177) can arrange flights, transfers and accommodation at a hotel like the Korsan or self-catering apartments from around£525 for seven nights and£650 for 14 nights. A 10-dive package costs around£150.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Turkish Tourist Office, 0207 355 4207, www.gototurkey.co.uk