Nature’s blessing

The rivers that arise on the slopes of the Taurus Mountains and yearn for the Mediterranean are transformed into pure natural wonders in the waterfalls of Antalya.

I can’t remember exactly how many hours I’ve been here. I’m so overcome by the tranquility that I’ve lost track of time. It must be way past noon; the sunlight filtering through the dense branches that obscure the waterfall is less bright than it was a few hours earlier. The camera atop the tripod that I set up about an hour ago is slightly wet now with spray from the waterfall several meters away. I wipe away the droplets of water that cling to the filter and press the shutter. It’s going to be a long time exposure, and the Kurşunlu Waterfall is going to be caught in the frame like a veil of fine tulle. The water pouring down from ten or twelve meters above slaps the rocks explosively. Tossed back up by the rocks, moss-covered under the endless flow of water, the droplets form a rainbow before my eyes, and I can’t get enough of its clearly distinguishable seven hues. Rushing as if it will never stop, this waterfall, with its plant cover of dark green where iridescent winged dragonflies flit languorously, is a corner of paradise in every sense of the word.

It’s May, in other words the season when the water in the waterfalls is most plentiful. And the season in which there are fewer visitors than in the hot summer months. After viewing it for fifteen or twenty minutes, they leave to climb the steps up to the picnic area. Pitched among the pines, it is already thronging with people; from picnickers cooking meat on a grill to guys playing soccer in teams of three or four.I can’t tear myself away from the waterfall. Kurşunlu Waterfall in this season is so beautiful and full of life that it transports a person to another world, as if to purge his soul.

I cross the wooden bridge to the other side of the small lake formed by the waterfall to get a few more shots from other angles. Below the bridge the turtles catch my eye. There are probably few animals in this world happier than they. Languid swimmers, they crawl onto land every now and then to bathe in the sun. Viewed from the opposite shore, the landscape is even more irresistible. The idea of getting time off and camping here for a week crosses my mind, but then I realize it wouldn’t be as easy as I thought. Declared a nature park by the Department of National Parks in 1991, Kurşunlu Waterfall is only open to day visitors. With a picnic area added by the Ministry of Forestry, it’s ideal for a cool getaway on a hot summer day. I set up my camera to get a few more shots and, just when I’m fully concentrated, am startled by the voice of the guard: “Visiting hours are over. We’re closing.” It’s then that I realize I’m the only one left here. Everyone else has gone. Unwillingly I pack up my stuff and head back down the steps that are concealed among the branches. I go directly to Antalya, from undisturbed natural beauty to the urban rat race. The minute I wake up the next morning, I set out for another beautiful spot. My destination this time Düden Waterfall.

Arising from two springs, Kırkgözler and Pınarbaşı, that eventually join together, the river goes underground at Bıyıklı Düden. Taking its name here as well, it flows for fourteen kilometers under the earth before resurfacing in the Varsak waterhole. Flowing briefly on the surface, it dives underground again two kilometers later to form what we know as Düden Waterfall at a place called Düdenbaşı. The current here, which feeds the Kepez Hydroelectric Plant, is stronger than that of Kurşunlu Waterfall. The water flows so vigorously in spring that people can hardly hear each other over the roar.

The area around the waterfall, which falls from a height of ten meters, is covered in dense vines. You feel as if you are in a rain forest. Declared a protected site in 1992, the environs of Düden boast scattered picnic areas, as at Kurşunlu. Wooden bridges over the narrow branches of the river lead up to terraces with wooden tables. The steps going down next to the waterfall pass through a cave. When you take the narrow path through the cave, you come out behind the veil of mist created by the cascading water and you can watch the flow of the waterfall through a narrow aperture. Descending the steps, I come to the edge of the lake, soaked to the skin by the dense spray. A few mischievous boys keep an eye out, and when the guard isn’t around plunge into the Düden’s cool waters and then paddle with all their might to reach the shore amidst the water’s din. Crossing one of the narrow bridges, I make my way to the exit down a cool path shaded by trees. It’s time to go because I have one more beautiful spot to visit before day’s end: Manavgat Waterfall.

Eighty kilometers from Antalya on the road to Alanya, Manavgat Waterfall takes its name from Manavgat township. Better known than either Kurşunlu or Düden, it is also much more crowded. Parallel with the crowds, you can also find anything you want, from restaurants and cafes to souvenir shops and ice cream vendors, inside the park.

There’s a family having a picnic under almost every tree. A perfect carnival atmosphere. But the wishing pool, where Cleopatra is said to have bathed, is the place most popular with visitors. I’m getting impatient to see the source of the increasingly deafening roar I’ve been hearing ever since I entered the park. Approaching the water’s edge, I see the waterfall on my left. Perhaps it doesn’t fall from a great height like Kurşunlu and Düdenli, but its strength is nonetheless worthy of its fame. Almost 40 meters in width, it pours down furiously from a height of two meters. Unlike the other two waterfalls, it gets more sun, too, offering a virtual rainbow of color from indigo to bottle green in the brilliant sunlight.
Taking the narrow path down to the waterfall, I find myself an empty chair at a cafe over the water and lose myself in the exuberant flow. It was well worth coming here, I say. Because there’s an ebullience, an energy, a springtime atmosphere at these waterfalls, where the water flows noisily with a relentless power. In short, there is life here in the true sense of the word...