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DALYAN

Home of the loggerhead turtle                       Population: 3,000

DaltombsMarket day: Saturday

Picture a limpid blue-green river wending its languid way through whispering reed beds to a long stretch of unspoiled sand. On one side a craggy mountain soars up beside it. Cut into it are what look like picturesque miniature temples with pillared facades.

Not temples at all, they are, in fact, the tombs of the Carian princes who ruled this corner of Turkey in the remote fourth century B.C.

This is Dalyan, a small resort in the southwest of the country that achieved international fame in the 1980s when local conservationists led by a British woman nicknamed Kaptan June struggled to prevent a huge beachfront hotel development destroying one of the last nesting sites of the loggerhead turtle. 

In the turtle sense Dalyan is an environmental success story. However, that is only part of the picture, because what was once a pretty fishing village of stone-built, tiled-roofed houses has metamorphosed over time into another disappointing betonville (concrete town) of hotels, pensions, restaurants and bars thrown up with little thought for overall appearance.

Around town

Of old Dalyan, virtually no trace now remains. Even the fine old mosque in the central square is obscured from view behind a modern extension and a huge toilet block. It's easier to get close to the kitsch statue of a mother turtle seemingly flying over her youngsters although even this was looking a little the worse for wear on my most recent visit (2013).

The famous temple-tombs are not actually accessible, although they are clearly visible from the breakfast terraces of many local hotels and look especially magnificent when floodlit at night. While built by the Carians, they mirror a style usually thought of as Lycian, which can also be seen in nearby Fethiye.

More typical of the Carians themselves are less prominent (and much less photographed) cave-like tombs cut into the rock and then closed with stone lids. 

dalyanboatsBoat trips

While in Dalyan the most obvious thing to do is to take a boat ride down the reed-lined Dalyan Çayı (river) to the 5km-long İztuzu Beach, the famous nesting place of the Caretta caretta (loggerhead) turtles, and closed to visitors on summer nights to protect them. 

The same boat trips also ply upstream to the mud baths at Ilıca/Sultaniye, just before the river joins the vast Köyceğiz Gölü (Lake Köyceğiz). This is the place to come if you fancy plastering yourself with supposedly health-giving mud and then washing it off again in steamy, sulphurous baths whose water bubbles up at a blistering 39 degrees Celsius.

They also call in at the Kaunos ruins although those with a serious interest in the ruins might prefer to visit on a separate trip when more time will be available to explore what is a large site.

Many, many boats are moored at the quay in Dalyan and their owners will tout for your service determinedly. Prices are standard and competitive so it's just a question of picking the boat that takes your fancy. Most slip their moorings at around 10 am daily in summer and return in late afternoon.

Recently the Kaptan June Foundation has launched an iniative to have the boat propellers covered to protect the loggerhead turtles from cuts. Look for a boat displaying the symbol that indicates that they have fitted a cover although in June 2013 only 60 out of a fleet of around 500 boats had done this. dalyanpropeler

A growing number of places are now offering crab-fishing trips. Inevitably, this is having a disastrous impact on the number of crabs in the area. In my opinion, it would be better to resist the temptation to sign up for any such tour as well as any purporting to offer the chance to see the turtles. 

The loggerhead turtles

turtlesLoggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta, or in Turkish deniz kaplumbağa) are huge creatures, weighing more than a human being, who crawl ashore in summer to lay ping pong ball-sized eggs in the sand before retreating back to the sea, leaving distinctive track marks on the ground.

Sixty days later the eggs hatch out. Those that have matured at below 30 degrees Celsius produce males; those that matured at above 30 degrees produce females; those that mature at a constant 30 degrees produce half males and half females.

The baby turtles then make their way to the sea, guided by the moonlight shimmering on the water. Had a hotel been built on the beach, the youngsters might have followed its lights up the sand to certain death. Luckily, with the development seen off, the young turtles continue to make their way safely out to sea. 

Sleeping

Aydos Club

Dalyan Dostları Evi

Dalyan Garden Pension

Lindos Pension. Tel: 0252-284 2005, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Asur Oteli

Happy Caretta. Tel: 0252-284 2109 

Hotel Metin

Sultan Palace

Eating

When it comes to eating options, Dalyan doesn't have a great deal to say for itself. There are the usual fish restaurants that you would expect of a seaside resort, and many places offering the sort of mix-and-match cuisine its largely foreign clientele seem to want. English breakfasts complete with pork products are widely touted about town. 

Transport info

There are flights to nearby Dalaman Airport from Istanbul as well as from overseas.

The transport hub for the area is actually Ortaca. Dolmuşes from Ortaca regularly connect Dalyan with Dalaman, Fethiye, Köyceğiz and Muğla. 

A fleet of excursion boats are moored at the Dalyan quay, waiting to set off at about 10am every day for all the local attractions. If you just want to visit the ruins of Kaunos rowing boats depart from near the Çınar Sahil Hotel as and when you want them. 

Dolmuşes run back and forth to İztuzu beach every half-hour or hour in high season. Check the timetable for return times carefully. Only return tickets are sold. 

Day trip destinations

You can visit the mud baths, the ruins of Kaunos and İstuzu beach in one rushed day using an organized excursion boat out of Dalyan, and this is certainly the cheapest way to see all the sights. However, if you want to have control over your own time, you will need to negotiate a private rental with a boat owner.

Dalaman

Ekincik

Kaunos

Köyceğiz

Marmaris

Ortaca

Sultaniye

Read more: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-317747-turtle-story-looking-at-dalyan-and-beyond.html

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