Seeking loggerhead turtles & fragrant mud baths
After a busy week of exploring the historical sites of Turkey’s West coast we were keen take things a little slower today so we headed down to the small town of Köyceğiz to explore the Daylan River delta and İztuzu Beach – often referred to as “Turtle Beach” due to the population of loggerhead turtles that breed there. The weather here has been magnificent so we even got to go for a swim with the turtles. Very cool!
Köyceğiz is a fishing and tourist town built along the Daylan River delta. Judging by all the hotels, restaurants and water taxis in town, Köyceğiz must be bustling during the summer when British, Russian and German tourists descend in their millions to take advantage of Turkey’s beautiful beaches. At this time of year though things were very quiet, with many establishments already shut down for the season. Ah the joys of travelling off-peak! Most visitors, like us, use Köyceğiz as a base for visiting the Köyceğiz-Dalyan Environmental Protection Area (which includes İztuzu Beach), a local mud bath and the tombs of Kaunos.
İztuzu Beach is a narrow, 5km stretch of beach which forms a natural barrier between the fresh water delta of the Dalyan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the main breeding grounds for loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean region and has been a protected area since 1988. The turtles lay their eggs here throughout the Northern summer; during these months much of the beach is off-limits to protect the nests and give the hatchlings the best chance of surviving. At this time of year, however, the entire beach is open for professional bums like us to enjoy.
We caught one of small water taxis from Köyceğiz out through the river delta to the sea shore. Along the way we saw lots of fish and even a few turtles swimming in the delta – the water was so clean and clear that we could see them all from inside the boat. It was so peaceful gliding through the reeds on our little boat, with the sun shining on our faces and a gentle breeze keeping us cool.
The water taxi dropped us off at İztuzu Beach where we rented a couple of day beds and an umbrella for shade and set up camp for the day. They had a little beach shack there too so we could have lunch and a drink in between dips in the water. A very nice way to spend a few hours….
Once we’d soaked up enough rays, we caught another water taxi back to Köyceğiz for the afternoon. I was keen to try one of the local mud baths, but Shane wouldn’t go near the place. Not that I blame him – it stank! The area around Köyceğiz is full of sulphorous thermal hot springs and the mud you slather yourself in is very stinky (think rotten eggs but squishy and muddy). The process basically involved me wading into a warm pool of stinky mud and covering myself in the stuff, then climbing out looking (and smelling) like some kind of swamp monster. After lieing in the sun for half an hour or so, the mud was completely dry and started to itch and sting a bit. At this point the attendants escorted me to the showers where I got to wash all the mud off with sulphorous water. A dip in a hot pool of stinky sulphorous water then completed the ritual. After 15 minutes in the hot sulphorous water I was broiled and had had my fill of the stinky waters. The mud baths are great for your skin and will take 10 years off your appearance apparently. I’m not so sure about that, but it was certainly an invigorating and stinky experience!
Whilst I was smothering myself in foetid mud, Shane went off to see the tombs of Kaunos. These tombs, carved out of the mountain, date back to 900BC and were the burial sites of Lycian kings. The Lycian* people inhabited this area from the early Bronze Age until the 7th century AD, when Arab raiders swept across the region. They entombed their kings high up in the mountains to ensure they were as close to the heavens as possible.
*Lycia was an independent kingdom that existed alongside Troy and Pergamon, but later became part of the Roman Empire.
All in all not a very exciting day, but a good one. Now we’re back here in our hotel, a little sunburnt but very relaxed and keen to go out on the town to find ourselves some awesome Turkish food for dinner….