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Green Spaces: Dalyan, Turkey | The Times

Reproduced from an article by Annie Gatti Sunday Times
Published at 9:39PM, December 2 2008

Category winner: Best Open Space (Europe)
Iztuzu beach in Dalyan is that rare thing in the Mediterranean: a 4.5km arc of golden sand stretching from the base of a pine-clad mountain to a river delta, with not a single house, shop or hotel in sight.

During the day people swim, walk, lie in the sun to the sound of the crashing waves but at night a barrier comes down and the beach is claimed back by nature, in particular by hundreds of loggerhead turtles, one of the oldest surviving species in the world, which lay their eggs there from May to September.

Iztuzu is the second most important site for endangered loggerheads in Turkey, and with its hinterland of briny lakes and reed-fringed river channels, arguably its most beautiful beach. But when I first visited it in 1990 I was chilled by the sight of a great slab of concrete – the foundations, I later discovered, of a government-approved1800-bed holiday village.

The story of how a handful of Turkish and European conservationists, galvanized by English ‘Turtle Lady’ June Haimoff, saved Iztuzu from development is remarkable.

For several summers Haimoff had lived in a wooden hut on the beach, alongside families from the town, and had watched the huge females digging their nests (even saving one from a knife-wielding local man who wanted its shell for a cradle) and had rescued hatchlings that were disorientated by the artificial lights and noise from the settlement.

Eventually the huts were dismantled but, unknown to the conservationists, permission was given for the much more damaging holiday complex instead. When bulldozers arrived on the beach Haimoff sent a frantic telegram to the WWF. Prince Philip, as president of the WWF, asked the Turkish Prime Minister to delay the project, to allow an environmental impact study to be carried out.

This was done, the Prime Minister acted, and in the summer of 1988 the beach, along with the area’s red pine and sweet gum forests and marshlands, was given SPA (Special Environmental Protection Area) status and the building project cancelled.
News of Dalyan and its turtles spread fast and soon the town became a tourist hot spot. I myself have been back many times, usually in non-peak times, but until I was asked to assess it for an Open Spaces award I had no idea that the beach was so heavily visited – up to 5000 people in a single day in the high season.

Many of these are day trippers who arrived on large boats, are transferred to river boats to visit the various sites around Dalyan, and finish off with a swim on Iztuzu.
But despite this influx, the protection, which includes a demarcated nesting zone where digging, using umbrellas, or lying is forbidden and a 1-mile exclusion zone for speedboats and jet skis, is working: a 21-year monitoring programme of the turtles, currently being undertaken by a team from the University of Pamukkale, shows that the population is stable and that the number of nests is slightly increasing. The students locate the nests, put metal cages over them to prevent foxes or dogs digging them up, and are on hand when the hatchlings emerge.

The tourist facilities at either end of the beach are sympathetically designed to minimize environmental impact. The cafes, cabins, sunbeds (which are nearing their permitted maximum of 850) and boardwalks are made of wood, the roofs from reeds; brackish water is used for the showers, toilets and cafes, and the waste water is removed daily.

There are plenty of litter bins, with separate containers for recycling waste at the delta end; and the Belediye, (Municipality) which manages the facilities, uses the revenue from the sun beds, beach entry fees and cafes to clean the shore daily, to provide jobs for local people and for services in the town.

The greenest way to reach the beach is by bike, and it’s an exhilarating climb through the resinous mountain road, with panoramic views of the beach and the lakes from a number of roadside pancake houses.

There’s a co-operatively run dolmus (minibus) service too, which takes the same route, and a fleet of co-op river taxis which travel at 5mph down through the reed beds. This gentle pace is the official speed limit for the delta, but patrols are rare and conservationists are concerned that the reedbeds are degrading, especially at the mouth of the river, partly because of the wash from powerful, fast-moving boats.

On the beach, however, the 24-hour patrols by SPA officials ensure that the demands of mass tourism and of the Caretta caretta turtles, which have become Dalyan’s unofficial logo, remain in balance.

‘It’s not perfect’, says June Haimoff, who would like to see many more signs, fewer sun beds and an environmental tax levied on day trippers, ‘but it is a magnificent beach and we are very lucky that we have protection for the turtles.’

Turtle population monitored annually; beach closed to the public at night, all year, so dune flora preserved from activities such as camping. Some concern that non-native palms have been planted at the road end, but these are few in number and so not, in my view, a problem
The beach is protected nationally since 1988 as part of the Koycegiz – Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area (SPA) by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Terms of the protection were influenced by June Haimoff’s proposal for national park status and by campaigning by other conservationists, including the Turkish NGO DHKD.

Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) are on the IUCN Red list of endangered species. Protection of the beach is excellent due to 24-hour patrolling by Ministry officials and annual monitoring by university ecologists. The same level of protection of the reed beds at the mouth of the river, which are becoming degraded, is a priority but this area is inland of the beach and therefore not counted for the purposes of this award)
Natural materials are used for the beach facilities, including the umbrellas and sun beds (which are made locally); three cafes in total, but all are small, three showers at one end, one at the other, and a small number of changing cabins at each end; no speed boats or jet skis)

Daily cleaning of beach, with plenty of bins at both ends for visitors, including pots filled with sand for cigarette butts; evidence of some rubbish on river bank at the back of the beach so patrols there may be less frequent.

Separate bins for recycling at one end of the beach but not the other; waste water from cafes, toilets and showers removed daily, by boat and road, to the town’s new sewerage plant.
Water management – one-mile zone free of speed boats and jet skis helps to keep sea clean; use of briny water from lake behind the beach for the caf?, showers and toilets ensures that fresh water is not added to the fragile coastal ecosystem however there is concern that the water quality in the river, which flows into the sea at the delta end, is not being monitored and that the increase in numbers in boats is detrimental to the cleanliness)

Most Dalyan residents recognize that Iztuzu beach is one of their strongest tourist draws and so understand the need to conserve it but in the town itself, there is very little evidence of green activities or policies. One tour operator, Kardak Tourism, has given financial support for turtle protection activities, but they also take tourists in their boats to look for turtles, and try to attract them with food – this verges on exploitation. This year Dalyan Dermek, a small charitable group of Turkish and English residents, has been helping the university volunteers on the beach.

Bike rental available and both bus and boat access are run by co-operatives. But no green energy being used for these, and diesel pollution of the river is a concern with the increase in number of boats permitted.

Food is very limited: sandwich snacks, using local tomatoes and bread, and a range of bottled and canned drinks, including foreign beer, and there is a separate stall where pancakes are made in the traditional way by local ladies

NOMINATED BY I have just returned from Dalyan In Turkey which is a World heritage site due to the 5km beach being the breeding ground of the Giant Loggerhead turtle, the Carretta Carretta. Two thing swere absolutely sublime, taking a solar powered boat silently out onto the lake and watching the shooting stars in the sky as you listened to the cacophony of sounds from the wildlife. The second experience was to cycle to the beach past unspoiled vistas, swim int he warm waters and stop on the way back to have a Gozleme pancake with views to die for of the local mountains, rivers lakes and beaches. Definitely one of the last unspoilt wildernesses of the world – Charles Bentley, Sunderland

Need to know
Dalaman International Airport, which is served by Turkish Airlines for flights to other Turkish cities and by charter airlines and Cyprus Turkish Airlines for flights from the UK, is 25 minutes from Dalyan. There is a regular bus service to Ortaca where national buses can be picked up.

There are a wide range of hotels, pensions and rental villas. Small family-run pensions often offer an evening meal as well, and use locally-grown food. See (which also gives details of activities in and around Dalyan) and

Travel to the beach is by river taxi (look for the fixed-price co-operative boats) and by dolmus (minibus). Journey price includes entry to the beach.
For environmental information see;; Kaptan June and the Dalyan Turtles by June Haimoff (published by Hardinge Simpole)

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