As perhaps the premier Mediterranean destination for diving, Kaş, located on the south coast of Turkey, frequently mesmerises first-time visitors. It seems to have a magical quality that people return to again and again. This is particularly true for scuba divers and snorkelers, who discover in Kaş’s waters its unusual shore formations, ancient and modern wrecks, reefs, canyons and large caves.
In fact, the Turkish diver community has declared the nearby rocky reefs to be the country’s best. In the waters of Kaş, lucky divers can thrill to a swim alongside a gentle giant sea turtle or the rare Mediterranean monk seal, both carefully protected. Schools of dolphins sometimes race a dive boat out of the Kaş marina. Groupers appear on almost every dive, along with schools of calamari and small barracuda.
Taking Responsible Diving Seriously
Kaş is small in size but big in promise. It has not undergone the development explosion frequently associated with Mediterranean coastal destinations, and both the local and the foreign ex-pat populations have been comparatively slow growing. You never feel the crush of a crowd, especially if you are awake in the early morning, when you may find the silence and nearly empty streets a bit disconcerting. Even in the busiest months, there is seldom a congested tourist activity.
Nevertheless, there are 14 active dive centres in Kaş, each with its own boat. They’re clustered here, because the Mediterranean Sea is well protected and the diving truly superb. Visitors from around the world frequently comment that Kaş is the cleanest dive destination they’ve experienced on the Mediterranean. There is no industrial activity in Kaş that would create big-city air or sea pollutants. Kaş also has a modern municipal sewage treatment facility and dumping into the sea from boats or from land is both strictly forbidden and enforced. Consequently visibility in the water around Kaş – arguably better than anywhere on the Mediterranean – is so good that it has to be experienced to be believed.
Boats too, whether used for diving or other passenger needs, must meet quality standards for both equipment and crew or they face stiff fines and can be stopped from operating. Enforcement is carefully policed by an active Coast Guard (Sahil Güvenlik), also responsible for environmental protection (spot checks of dive boats for safety compliance are common) and as first responder in emergencies.
The Kaş diving centres themselves are well known in Turkey for their responsible practices, sometimes a surprise to visitors. All staff are trained in first aid and emergency underwater and boat procedures. Everyone is also particularly aware of the fragility of the underwater environment. “Take only photographs and leave only bubbles” is a popular expression used on dive boats. To protect sea habitats and protected marine animals from any harm, divers are told not to touch any aquatic life, found objects or the sea floor and boats are forbidden to drop anchor – they must use surface tie-ups adjacent to dive sites. Below and above the water line, dive centres work hard to mitigate the pollution that traditional tourism brings. Finally, Kaş dive centres train and employ local talent so visitors can enjoy the best of authentic Turkish hospitality.
Finding Underwater History
Because of the ancient historical significance of Anatolia (Asia Minor), diving in Kaş is full of the potential for discovery. For example, in 1984, a 3,400-year-old Bronze-Age boat, the oldest yet unearthed, was discovered and excavated by the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) near Ulu Burun promontory, just a few kilometres from Kaş. The original boat is now located in the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
In 2006, as part of a cooperative effort between the 360Derece (Degree) Research Group and the INA, an exact reproduction of the original ancient Uluburun boat was constructed in Kaş, sailed to the Chicken Bay dive site close to Kaş and deliberately sunk. For sheer fun and historical excitement this ‘artificial’ Uluburun Wreck dive is a must.
Kaş and the surrounding area have other equally exciting and interesting dive sites, including:
- the Canyon, where a shallow 10-metre descent from the boat leads to a breathtaking drop into the deep blue of the canyon, which has a small cave at the bottom and a nearby steel shipwreck;
- the Lighthouse, where a sunken WWII C-47 Dakota aircraft lies in less than 20 metres of water;
- the extremely clear water around Besme Adasi (Island), a great playground for an abundance of sea life;
- Flying Fish reef, where the remains of an Italian WWII bomber aircraft at 60 metres (beyond the reach of sport divers) can be viewed from above when diving to 30 metres;
- the Dakarya shipwreck near Kalkan, otherwise known as the Duchess of York, a steamer built in the UK in 1893; and
- a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of Kekova, which sank during a storm in 2002.
In addition, there are many caverns, caves and tunnels.
Diving Instruction and Dive Tours
Dive courses in Kaş run from the very popular Discover scuba dive (one-on-one help from a dive instructor during a first and thrilling experience of a dive) for the curious and uninitiated to CMAS and PADI certifications at all levels – Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver and Divemaster. There are also specialty courses for the experienced divers and daily or weekly dive “packs”. For travel to dive sites beyond Kaş, day boat tours for groups can be arranged in advance.
The water temperatures in Kaş range from 19°C in January to almost 29°C in August. Visitors can – and do! – dive all year round, although the normal season runs from early April until the end of November. During the rest of the year (the winter season), two or three boats are still almost always available.