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Article-Photo: TAHSİN CEYLAN
The crystal clear waters of the North Aegean
Lined with pristine beaches, Saros Bay is an underwater paradise that hosts a myriad of colorful living species.
Saros Bay on the Aegean coast of Thrace is a depression of tectonic origin that extends from the tip of the historic Gallipoli peninsula as far as Enez on the Greek border. Known in antiquity as Melas and Xeros, this bay is one of the least polluted parts of the Aegean owing to an abundance of underwater currents and the total absence of any large settlements or industry.
THE AEGEAN MIRACLE
By virtue of its position in the region and its ecological properties, the Aegean Sea has a special importance in the Mediterranean ecosystem and a structure unique unto itself in terms of its biological characteristics. The northern and southern waters of the Aegean, which forms a basin where the waters of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean meet, exhibit different degrees of temperature and salinity. Although the surface waters can get as hot as 20 C in summer, the temperature of the waters 10 meters below the surface hovers around 15-17 C. Owing to these properties, the area is a meeting place for warm and cold water species. Western Mediterranean life-forms predominate in the North Aegean region, Eastern Mediterranean life-forms in the South. Saros Bay meanwhile is nothing short of a miracle, fed as it is by the waters of the Sea of Marmara and of the Black Sea with its rich nutritive salts. The fact that its waters are so pure compared with those of other seas makes it possible for heat to penetrate to great depths. This in turn results in a relative enrichment of the communities of living things on the sea bed and a proliferation in the deep-water fish that feed on them. It’s not for nothing that Jacques Cousteau dubbed the bay ‘a northern version of the Red Sea’ after diving at Saros in the 1970’s.
DIVING AT SAROS
Saros Bay is also famous for being self-cleaning. The currents produced three times a year in February, April and July by the cold water on the bottom and the hot water at the surface purify the bay of all the refuse and waste matter discharged into it. Thanks to this natural property, Saros is one of the rare seas that has retained its cleanliness and transparency. The warming up of the southern waters in summer and the high ambient temperatures are also a major drawing point for diving buffs. And Saros’s proximity to Istanbul makes it a favorite with divers at every level of experience. As soon as the weather warms up, the nearby underwater educational centers organize daily tours to the area, and underwater sports clubs flock to the bay especially on weekends. With its underwater biological diversity, Saros Bay possesses an awesome ambience. Thanks to its flora and fauna, which are enriched by the oxygen and nutritive salts in its waters, the bay also offers underwater photographers an extensive array of alternatives. And the sunken ships left from the First World War and the hundreds of organisms that thrive on them are the icing on the cake. The Captain Franko at the entrance to the Dardanelles, and the Lundy, which offers a convenient diving environment at a depth of 27 meters in the open waters of the bay, provide an opportunity for capturing not only wide-angle shots of the shipwrecks but also macro images of the organisms that exist on them.
TRUE RESIDENTS OF THE UNDERWATER ENVIRONMENT
The must-see living species of Saros Bay are a focus of interest for underwater enthusiasts from all over. In the underwater environment it is possible to see both the red antler sponges (Aximella polypoides) that are encountered in the depths of the Mediterranean and the Aegean and, on the rocks, the colorful cotton sponges with their pink, red and purple hues. Those who yearn for the diversity of species found in tropical waters should definitely dive at the last rock formation before the Saros Bey empties into the Aegean, the Bebek Kayalıkları, which is covered with yellow sponge anemones (Parazoanthus axinella). Here you can see not only goby (Gobius bucchichi) living among the anemones, but shellfish such as shrimp (Periclimenes aegylios), moray eels (Muraena helena), Conger eels (Conger conger), lobster and crab. The pleasure of observing dozens of fish species all at once can best be had here, where tiny and adorable red black-faced blenny (Tripterygion sp.), camouflage-artist scorpion fish (Scorpaena sp.), goby peeking out from rocky crevices, grouper (Serranus sp.), Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (Epinephelus aeneas) and risso (Seriola dumerili) abound. And Saros’s other diving points harbor in their blue waters beauty as compelling and worth seeing as that of the Bebek Kayalıkları. Kömür Limanı, for instance, with a depth of only 8-10 meters on its western side, is an excellent training ground for those making their first acquaintance with the underwater environment. Large prawns among the rocks and orange coral keep an eye out for underwater photographers. Asker Taşı with its lobsters and dozens of species of the close to 15-cm long purple nudibranch; Toplar Burnu with its sponge-lined caves where scorpions and other curious crayfish nest; İbrice Limanı, tailor-made for night diving; and Minnoş Adası, an island where you might encounter sharks and skate, are just some of the stops for underwater enthusiasts. And Minnoş Island, 150-200 meters off shore in the open waters of Kömür Limanı, is a rocky region eminently suited for wall diving. In short, every inch of Saros is worth exploring. If you’re an underwater buff with a life-long yearning for the deep, then the colors of Saros Bay are definitely going to turn you on as you journey to the Spirit of the Sea.
Stay in the blue...