The deep blue of Kaş

Drift, wall, cave and shipwreck diving—you can do them all in the deep blue waters of Kaş. What’s more, not at different spots but all in a single dive...

The sea seems to have become a fast flowing river. Clinging to the rope dropped by anchor from the boat, I start my dive. But it looks hopeless. I wave back and forth like a flag, trying to hold the rope in one hand and my camera in the other. I know that when I reach bottom, the current will lessen thanks to the barrier formed by the rocks. Meanwhile the barracudas gliding past me weave slowly back and forth, as if aware that I can’t get close enough to take their picture. To get to the bottom as soon as possible, I let the air out of my buoyancy compensator and go into rapid descent. Just as I expected, the current diminishes, but I still struggle to make progress. I know I’m going to have trouble taking photographs, but I’m not complaining about the current. Its presence, like the blood coursing through our veins, carrying nourishment for living creatures, means that the dive is going to be lively and stimulating. My diving adventure in the deep blue of Kaş is off to an exciting start.

The area where I had to battle the current is the point known as ‘Kanyon’ near the island of Besmi at Kaş. After the first few meters, the plateau ends deeper down at a wall gaily adorned with creatures like sponges, coral and anemones. Add to this array of fauna the rainbow wrasse, goby, damselfish and parrotfish, and you get a full spectrum of color. Thinking that in addition to those that appear at first glance, there are probably also other, more shy creatures here, I take a closer look at the wall. The lipsos (Scorpoena porcus) lying on the most brightly colored rocks is so well camouflaged that it would almost certainly be invisible to the untrained eye. When I reach the bottom of the wall, I encounter a magnificent cave. Scattering its rays into the cave mouth, the sun is putting on a laser show spectacular. And the places where the sun cannot reach are, as all over the Mediterranean, even more vibrantly colorful. With their red and white stripes and enormous eyes, programmed to see in little light, the red coat weevers (Sargocentron rubrum) are feeding on plankton. Like them, the cave sweeper (Pempheris vanicolensis), a Red Sea migrant, makes its home in the deepest recesses of the cave. When the powerful beam of my flashlight disturbs them, I leave the cave and swim twenty meters further on. A shipwreck, its upper portion completely disintegrated, its iron hull bent like fine wire, appears before me. This is the Dimitri, which went aground on the rocks one stormy night in 1968 as it was about to approach Meis with bales of cotton from Egypt, and later proved untowable due to its great weight. Plunging 40 meters into the drink so near to its destination must have been a cruel blow. The oldest proof of how treacherous these waters can be for sailors is the Uluburun, the world’s oldest known shipwreck, which sank here in the
14th century B.C.

While activities such as drift diving, wall diving, cave diving and shipwreck diving normally have to be done in different places, at Kanyon you can do them all in one spot. Wondering whether any other place on earth offers such features, I stand even more in awe of Kaş. The locals never sit still for a moment, but are constantly organizing new activities to supplement nature’s existing beauties. Every year, for example, an underwater ceramics festival is held, combining diving with art. And that’s not all. Ships are even sunk on purpose to give visitors a special thrill. I meet up with a very interesting creature on one of these sunken ships. In the sand under the shipwreck a monk crab (Bernardo l’eremita) is fleeing from a grouper that is frantically trying to devour it. As I approach to capture the hunt on film, I realize that the fish I first thought was a grouper is actually a fish of a different species. Nearly black in color with fins resembling those of goldfish, this is a species I have not previously encountered. It has no fear of divers but, quite the contrary, approaches me intrepidly, striking fabulous poses. A brief inquiry turns up that this is the Haifa grouper (Epinephelus haifensis), which is found only in the area around the Israeli port of Haifa. But I suspect that he, like us, is quite taken with Kaş and would prefer living here!

Rather than showing all its cards at once, Kaş saves the best for last: diving into history at Kekova. The island of Kekova, which gives its name to the entire area, extends along an east-west axis directly opposite the ancient city of Simena. The island, and the ancient cities like Aperlai and Simena in the vicinity, were struck by a very powerful earthquake in 240 A.D. The cities of Lycia suffered extensive damage in the quake and many buildings slid into the sea. When the island too sank, the buildings here were left submerged, and the area was appropriately named ‘Batıkşehir’ or ‘Sunken City’. The remains of the rock houses are visible even today below the sea surface, and staircases descending into the water make for dramatic images. As I wander in the depths, a man-made structure catches my eye some ways ahead. When I get a little closer I realize it consists of amphorae. While the wooden portions of sunken ships disappear within a few years as food for marine creatures, the cargoes carried in their holds can resist the sea’s depredations for millennia. The two-handled clay vessels with pointed bottoms known as amphorae served as containers for transporting the cargoes of old. Kekova is world-famous for its rich variety of underwater amphorae, countless examples of which are found in the ‘Sunken City’ especially. The cargo carried in such amphorae has been identified by underwater archaeologists, and the clues obtained yield valuable information for scholars regarding maritime trade in antiquity. But you don’t have to be a diver to view the beauties of Kekova and the Sunken City, because you can also visit the area in the glass-bottomed boats leaving from Kaş that allow you to see under the water. What’s more, you’ll be able to see the deep blue of Kaş and enjoy its gentle sea breeze without getting wet like a diver or having to worry about how much you can see before the oxygen in your tank runs out.