“ Sightseeing Type: Tours „
All excursion boards claim the 12 Island Tour of Gocek is the most popular excursion, and based on the fact these tours are offered by almost every single tour operator on a daily basis this claim cannot be disputed.
****Format of the day****
The day commences with a bus journey (transfers are included from your hotel) from Dalyan to Gocek harbour, which is approximately half an hour away. Once in the harbour you are shown to the boat and introduced to Sammi, the captain, and his assistant.
Whilst the assistant carries out all the relevant checks etc. the captain serves traditional Turkish tea (you can choose from normal, apple or strawberry) and some Turkish wafers (not dissimilar to those available in England in taste or texture).
Once all the checks are complete the anchor is raised and the boat sets off around the bay and all the twelve islands appearing in the bay.
During the morning the boat stops for three swimming stops. At the first stop off point there is an island where you can purchase pancakes (absolutely gorgeous and a bargain at around £1.50 each). The water near the island is too shallow for the boat (apparently it's keel is too large) but as soon as you moor up, a small motor-boat arrives offering to take you (free of charge) to the island whilst Captain Sammi waits.
The second stop is in a disused ship building yard/bay. The remains of the yard have been submersed in water and now provide a great location for lots of fish and marine life. This is an excellent place for snorkelling, although you do need to be careful of the urchins.
At the third stop there is a lighthouse that has fallen in to the water. Once again, this is a haven for fish and other marine life and is another superb snorkelling place. In addition, you can actually stand on the top of the lighthouse (which is about 3 feet under the water) which a really surreal feeling. After a bit of swimming lunch is served.
After lunch and a bit more motoring (and sailing) a fourth stop is made on the edge of another island. Once again there is sufficient time for swimming and snorkelling. There is the opportunity to go in a ring, paragliding or if there is enough interest, on a banana boat. These water sports are not included in the price but if you want to participate Sammi makes a quick phone call and the speedboat arrives to whisk you away.
The fourth stop is the furthest island from the harbour, so once the swimming has stopped the boat makes its way back, and stops for one last swimming and snorkelling stop.
On arrival in the harbour you are met by your tour operator who drives you back to your hotel.
There are many different boats that run the 12 Island Cruise and the type of boat will depend on the tour operator you book the excursion through. The boats range from cheap and nasty looking double-decker plastic type boats to "old style" wooden sailing boats to ultra modern sleek sports boats. We had previously been on a double-decker plastic boat and fancied a wooden sailing boat, therefore we booked our trip through Kaunos Tours, a company which has their own wooden sailing gullet.
The boat is fantastic. At there front there is a sun deck, complete with sun loungers, enabling all those on board to enjoy the scenery whilst soaking up the sun. The back of the boat has a tarpaulin cover over it providing shade for the ultra fierce midday sun, or those that prefer to be out of the sun but still able to enjoy the experience. There are also seats in the top cabin, again, in the shade. Below deck is a fully functioning toilet, a large galley and 5 bedrooms. We only had access to the toilet and galley during our time of the boat, so I didn't get to have a look at the state of the sleeping quarters, which was a bit of a shame.
Some of the children on board were keen and experienced sailors who wanted the opportunity to sail around the bay as opposed to just motoring around. Luckily for us Sammi was more than accommodating and the children got their wish as the sails were hauled up and the engine turned off. I have never sailed before and I absolutely loved it. I didn't get involved in the manual side, after all I was on holiday and I didn't want to take anything away from the children on board, but just laying there watching the sails fill with wind was just awesome. I now believe it is something everyone should experience at some point in their lives as it just so peaceful.
****Lunch and drinks****
As previously mentioned lunch was included in the price. Lunch consisted of plenty of bread (as much as you could eat), green salad, tomatoes, garlic, onions, meze, meatballs, pasta, rice and a chicken stew. Like lunch on all these excursions it was made out of fresh ingredients that were very tasty. Sammi and his assistant did a fantastic job, especially given it was done on board, and I really can't fault their cooking in any way.
After lunch melon, water melon and figs are served as a desert. I admit I have never been a fan of melon but I openly confess I devoured lots of this. Maybe it was because I was on holiday and got caught up in the moment, and am looking at it through rose tinted glasses but it tasted so good nonetheless.
The boat has an icebox containing loads of soft and alcoholic drinks. These are an additional cost and not included in the price. That said, the price of the drinks is the same as you would pay in any café, bar or restaurant. Once again, the Turks are not exploiting the tourist, which is very admirable.
This is one of the most popular excursions and there are many tour operators, and the "middle men agents" that can sort out a trip for you. The price tends to vary greatly but then this is one trip where you get what you pay for and, believe me, it is not always best to go for the cheapest option.
We did the 12 islands cruise during our first visit to Turkey and we did not appreciate the difference between the trips. Whilst the format is exactly the same and all tours include transfers to and from the hotel (Gocek is a half an hour bus journey from Dalyan), the boat trip and lunch. In addition, the locations and bays you stop at are the same regardless of the boat you are on or the tour operator you used. The difference lies in the type of boat, quality of lunch and overall experience. On our first trip I admit that we were very naïve, as well as tight, and searched for the cheapest price. With so many places offering the same tour I thought all organisers would be under-cutting each other and the consumer had the upper hand. I was totally wrong. Whilst searching around the first time I noticed the prices ranged from 85YTL (approximately £33) to 15YTL (approximately £7) per person.
Whilst we enjoyed our first 12 Island Cruise, I thought I would push the boat out (no pun intended) and go for the most expensive trip this time around, and I am so glad I did. We shared the boat with two families with a total of five children (the children were teenagers so no screaming and whinging kids here!) and a pair of older ladies, resulting in a total of 12 people (excluding the captain and his assistant) on board. The amount of people was perfect and we all got on very well. The kids were a really good crack (the diving/belly flopping/cannon ball competitions were a really good laugh), the parents were very friendly and gave us some great tips as well as information on good places to eat/other tours etc. and the two older ladies had some great (and far fetched) stories to tell. What made it even better was that everyone enjoyed their own space and time (reading, sun bathing or whatever) as well as socialising so you didn't have any of those annoying people that would shadow your every movement and get in the way.
The food was top class and much better than on our previous trip. The meatballs were cooked to perfection, the salad was freshly made and contained the perfect amount of dressing, the hotpot was gorgeous and the bread was just so soft. In addition there was loads to go around and we didn't have to compete against any greedy Germans, or "Walton families" (please refer to my Sea fishing trip review for an explanation) to get some food. Being such a small group meant we all sat around the same table chatting, eating and having a good laugh. It was a comfortable affair that even included a 'mother' figure that was constantly topping up your salad, offering more meatballs or passing you more bread etc.
The size of the group also meant that everyone could have their own sun-lounger and their own spot in the shade. There was no battling with any sun worshippers to get a spot in the sun, nor were there any battles with shade seekers in getting a spot under the cover when the fierce afternoon sun set in.
Sammi, and his assistant (who was only referred to as "boy") were top class and really made us feel welcome. By the broken English it was apparent that neither were fluent but both tried very hard and told us all about the Islands, those important people (and other celebrities) that had their private yachts moored around bay and the owners of the smaller Islands. A lot of it made no sense, but then it didn't really matter as we were all there fir the views, the sun and the sea. The history was a nice touch but not necessary, even though both were very charismatic and had that "something" about them that made everyone warm to them. During our swimming stops Sammi joined in with our jumping/diving etc. competitions (the boy had to look after the boat) making him a part of the group. For those of us that can't dive to the bottom and open our eyes under water (I am one of those people that seem to float in both freshwater and sea water) he went down and got us some trinkets and souvenirs (shells and dead urchins) to take home.
Getting the chance to get the sails up and turn the engine off was great and I consider myself very fortunate that the children knew had to sail and had an appetite to assist Sammi. I realise there are many gullet trips where the boat simply motors around the bay, which is a shame since sailing is just something else. Looking at the state of the sails and other sailing kit it was clear that the gullet we were on seldom sails and Sammi was so happy when the children pestered him to get the sails up.
The water sports is very expensive. We could not drum up enough support to get the banana boat out so it was the rings or nothing. Getting a ride out in the rings consists of Sammi making a quick phone call (you've got to love this mobile phone revolution) and a boat arrives. You hand over the money, get heaved in to a very tight fitting life jacket, chucked in a rubber ring and then towed around the bay. It is great fun, and provides great amusement, but it is very expensive with a 10 minute blast costing 50 YTL (approx £20).
At every stop we were pestered by mobile ice-cream boats. I admit these are a great idea, especially given the fierce sun we experienced, but I should note that the ice cream is very, very expensive. For example, a Magnum was 8 YTL (approx £3.33) and these can be bough in a supermarket for 2 YTL. These boats really exploit the tourist so it is like being back in the UK. I was a bit disappointed in this, especially since everything else on these excursions were so reasonably priced.
This is a relaxing trip but I must admit that at the end of the day I was absolutely shattered but it was well worth it. I always find the sea air takes it out of me (it always used to when I sat sea fishing on the Norfolk Coast many years ago) and being in the sun adds to it. I can't and I won't complain at feeling tired since it really was a cracking day out.
The 12 Islands Tour is an excursion that I cannot recommend highly enough and it is a must do if you go to this area of Turkey. The scenery is great, the water is crystal clear and it is a great day out. The best thing about this tour is that it suits all budgets. If you are on a shoe-string budget then you can do a plastic double-decker "stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap" trip with loads of people or you can opt for the more expensive gullet style trip. Whatever trip you decide on you are going to see the same views, stop at the same bays and get to swim/snorkel in exactly the same areas. Having done the cheapest and the most expensive I would say go for the gullet trip as the experience is more personal, quieter and much better although I appreciate that many people have families and not the same level of disposable income. I would quite happily forgo another different excursion to make sure I went on the gullet though.
Whatever trip you go on the value for money is excellent and I can't say anything negative. After all, how much would a similar type of trip cost in the UK? I am guessing much, much more.
(This review has been posted on other sites under the name of Yackers1)
A sea trip on a gullet around the 12 Islands of Gocek, Turkey