Experience the beauty of the turquoise waters and bays of Bodrum, Turkey, on a modern yacht or traditional gulet. And, like our writer, enjoy a true maritime romance
A typically tangerine sunset glows and throbs behind me as our boat, so varnished and sleek looking as to make one think that the Aegean waters have given it a professional buff and shine, slurps and sloshes amid the lazily undulating waves.
Yachting along the Bodrum coastline
Ahead of us lies a trio of deserted, slowly crumbling Byzantine churches and a single turquoise minaret, all perched amid the folds of crenulated rock and greenery on Apostle Island.
A member of the crew hands me a glistening, perfectly ripe, heavy slab of melon. Biting into it, the fresh juices run down my chin as the gulet continues its zigzagging journey across the pellucid waters.
A traditional Turkish boat, the wooden gulet is an integral part of local seafaring legends. Originally used by sponge divers, it was Turkish writers of the early 20th century such as Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı (the Fisherman of Halicarnassus) who first told the outside world of the charm of spending time on these vessels.
‘Don’t you dare to hope that you will leave as you came,’ Kabaağaçlı wrote. ‘Like many others before you have done. They all have left while their minds stayed in Bodrum.’
The Aegean Sea from Bodrum Castle
It was during the early days that the term ‘Blue Cruise’ came into existence to describe these somnambulant tours around the coast from Bodrum. Now, guests at the beautiful Mandarin Oriental resort, near the same ancient city, can indulge in catered daytime and sunset cruises around these sublime waters on either motor or sailing yachts and, of course, gulets.
My evening cruise takes in not just the ruined churches of Apostle Island, but also the bays of Demir, Hattat and Cennet, all of which boast crystalline waters which, even in the evening cool, look gentle and demure enough to swim in. The bays possess burnt-orange coloured sands with towering pine-covered cliffs beyond. The feeling in these deserted coves is of being lured into a succession of pirates’ lairs from centuries past.
With acres of stars above me and the gentle lapping of the waves seemingly ushering us into these secluded bays, it isn’t hard to imagine the verity in the story of Cleopatra hiding in these parts from the Romans and taking fresh mineral baths each day, while Antony imported enough sand from Africa for her to work up a presumably impressive tan.
Bodrum’s ubiquitous bougainvillea
As some delicate morsels of typical Turkish mezze get passed around the passengers, I spot crabs scuttling across the sand as the shadows lengthen; and, as we gently cruise back over the smooth, now inky dark waters to Bodrum, with its ancient fortress and more distinctly urban delights, it puts me in mind of another famous line from Kabaağaçlı, one that resonates still with the swell, ebb and flow of the ceaseless tides.
‘I have travelled the whole world but found nothing in heaven or earth as beautiful as the Aegean.’