We decided to splash out on a boat trip whilst in Üçağiz, we are not normally fans of boat trips, especially organised tours. The thought of loud music on the boat, excessive drinking, the party boat booze cruise, and the rest tends to make us shudder with horror. From our pension we were offered an opportunity to charter a boat to take us out for the day, from 10am until 6pm, which of course is more expensive. We got lucky and were joined by a very pleasant French couple who were staying in the same pension, effectively halving the cost for us, which made it much more affordable. We chatted beforehand and agreed on what we wanted to do, like us they did not want music, did want to see ruins and archaeology, and were ok with swimming stops. Even so we were still a bit dubious about the whole thing, fearing it might turn out to be an expensive waste of money.
It turned out to be anything but.
We started with a slow cruise along the waterfront of Kaleköy, enough to convince us that making time to visit Kaleköy later from Üçağiz was worth doing. The Captain offered us a stop there but we decided to proceed across the water to Kekova. The boat had a glass bottom so we could see much of the stuff on the seabed. There were lots of amphorae and other items of pottery, walls, stones which had obviously been cut, much of which seemed to be pretty well preserved. Swimming is forbidden in this area and the speed limit for boats seems to be respected. It was fascinating to see, but hard to make a lot of sense of the site. Seen through a glass bottom and plenty of water, it’s impossible to tell the age of pottery. It could have been ancient and it could have been as modern as the abandoned tires we also saw… Parts of Kekova remain on land, it was easy to pick out parts of buildings, steps, and numerous tombs, and of course a lot easier to photograph.
Next stop was a small bay, there were some tombs on the beach, but this stop was mostly for swimming. We were provided with snorkels and masks from the boat, not the best quality in the world but functional. There was a fair amount of pottery on the sea bed. Some of it probably was old, but it is hard to tell. The same pots are made these days as were two thousand years ago, the same style, the same clay, the same firing process. As an archaeologist friend said to us, pottery is non-biodegradable, the plastic of the ancient world.
After another swimming stop in some fantastic clear water, we headed for Aperlae, leaving the regular tour boats behind. This involved a shot and dusty trek from a jetty, past a couple of restaurants, to a nearby bay. There were just the four of us finding our way along a footpath, but it was not hard to find. Aperlae is another city which seems to have at least in part tumbled into the sea. We were able to swim over what was probably part of the city but there was little to see, some pottery, not a lot else, but swimming after the hot and dusty walk was really pleasant. We managed to explore part of the city on land, probably Byzantine stuff, a mill and the remains of a church. There was an olive tree growing where the altar would once have been.
Back on the boat, we decided that we did not want to stay and eat at the restaurants which had become busy with the arrival of people on a sea kayak tour, so we headed off again. We had watermelon, peaches, apricots and grapes on the boat, provided as part of the service, so we were not going to go hungry.
There was some wonderful snorkeling in secluded and quiet bays, with a vast array of fish. Shoals of small sardine like fish, sea bass and sea bream large enough for the table, and colourful wrasse which we have since been told have spread through Suez from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean. Whether this is right or not, they were colourful and wonderful to watch. There was all manner of other fish, we are now thinking of getting some sort of book to help us identify them. There was also all manner of plants and invertebrates, some of which were equally fascinating.
At another stop we got a shock. The water was really cold. Well some of it was. This is a place where springs well up from the seabed, icy cold mountain water (which hardly tastes salty at all) starting to mix with the warmer salty water. Where we jumped in the water seemed to be warm and cold in stripes. You could swim across the temperatures. Which was interesting. There are a lot of tour boats there in the mornings but we arrived late deliberately and had the place almost to ourselves.
One final swimming stop in the warm seawater, loads more fish to see, and then we headed back to Üçağiz. It really was a fantastic day out. The scenery both above and below the water was stunning. We even managed not to get burnt by the sun. We were lucky, for our trip we had almost mirror smooth sea, near perfect conditions, the following day the wind got up, the sea turned choppy and many tours were curtailed or cancelled – such we guess is the nature of the sea.