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Discovering Dalyan - Saving The Environment

Dalyan Environment

Anybody who has ventured to the beautiful town of Dalyan will know that its beauty is in what surrounds it. From the stunning 4.5 km long and narrow spit of land, Iztuzu Beach, more fondly known internationally as Turtle Beach, to the fresh, cool waters of mountainous Yuvarlakçay and the towering ancient city of Kaunos, there is an incredible environment to look at, experience and enjoy in every direction. The town of Dalyan is adorable in itself, but it really owes its touristic success to the natural environment in which it sits, so it seems incredulous to think that there are people in this world who want to ruin it. Sadly, these people do exist.

Iztuzu Beach, the Site of Many Protests Against Privatisation Over the Years

Fortunately for the town and its future, there are many people who continue to fight for the conservation of the local area. Yücel Okutur, owner of the Dalyan Resort Hotel, hoteliers association DOKTOB’s president and nature enthusiast continues his fight for the town to retain its traditional and natural charm, while working tirelessly at projects that will save the environment in the long term. One such project involves the transformation of every boat in Dalyan to electric power, thus expelling the existence of oil and petrol run engines which continuously pollute the river and Köyceğiz Lake.

Dalyan Resort Hotel

The First Boat to be Converted to Electric Power - The Dalyan Resort Hotel

Murat Demirci is a long serving environmental soldier and activist who has made a huge difference in the area, winning many battles against the privatisation of Iztuzu Beach and the building of a power plant in the mountain region of Yuvarlakçay, alongside huge local support. Murat has worked closely with Kaptan June, founder of Dalyan’s fantastic Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation, which was created following the success in overthrowing an attempt to build a hotel on Iztuzu Beach, endangering the nesting ground of loggerhead turtles in the 1980s.


Murat Demirci and Local Villagers Save Yuvarlakçay (

These are just three names that are worthy of a mention when it comes to the great efforts to save Dalyan’s local environment. Of course much credit needs to be given to the hundreds of local residents and expats who have taken it upon themselves to protest these horrific attempts and who work tirelessly week upon week to try and preserve the local area for future generations.

Kaptan June and Iztuzu Beach - Where It All Began

Born in Essex into a family of travellers thanks to her father’s career as a petroleum engineer, June Haimoff first visited Dalyan in 1975, long before the region had succumbed to the tourism trade. She visited regularly for a number of years on her sailing boat, the Bouboulina, so much so that the locals began to call her Kaptan Bouboulina, which later became Kaptan June, a name that she still goes by today. June eventually settled in Dalyan and lived in her own beach hut on Iztuzu Beach. One day, June came across tracks and a turtle laying eggs and nesting on Iztuzu Beach and it became clear that the sandy stretch of land was a naturally chosen nesting ground for hundreds of local caretta caretta, loggerhead turtles.

Caretta Caretta

Dalyan's Caretta Caretta

In 1984, there had been rumours about a plan for development on the delta side of Iztuzu, including an 1800 room resort on the beach and a marina. By 1987, the rumour had become a reality. June took it upon herself to write to Prince Philip, head of the World Wildlife Fund. She was consequently put in touch with conservationists such as David Bellamy who alongside Günther Peter, Nergis Yazgan, and Keith Corbett launched a international campaign against the developers to save the beach and the turtle’s nesting habitat, backed by organisations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Greenpeace and WWF.

Kaptan June

Kaptan June Haimoff - Photo by Maria Jonker at Wikipedia

Prince Philip himself asked the Turkish Prime Minister for a moratorium while awaiting an environmental impact assessment, which was granted. Finally in July 1998, the Turkish government decided against the development and Iztuzu Beach was given Special Environmental Protection Area status. As a result, Kaptan June managed to implement some changes to the usage of the beach which have protected the turtles ever since. The beach is only open between the hours of 8am and 8pm during the summer season, vehicles and animals are not permitted to enter the beach and sun loungers are forbidden in the marked nesting zones. Speed boats are also banned within a 1 mile zone from the beach and in the Dalyan delta and river.

Iztuzu Beach

Much Fought Over Land That Still Belongs to the People

Further Attempts at Privatisation

When Pamukkale University were in control of the management of Iztuzu Beach, they too planned to privatise the beach and intended to erect an 8 metre high building in the shape of a turtle. Comparisons were made of this intended feature to a Disneyland attraction and local environmentalists saw the potential for the area to be turned into a sort of theme park should the ball be allowed to start rolling. Because of the protection order which had been placed on the beach thanks to June Haimoff’s efforts, no building was allowed on the beach and so the local community took the developers to court while locals began hefty protests on the beach. Eventually the ministry of environment and urbanisation who were going to fund the development withdrew.

Turtle Hospital Dalyan

Iztuzu's Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Managed by Muğla University

In 2009 however, the ministry allowed Pammukale University to use the land to build a rehabilitation centre for injured turtles. Any buildings were supposed to be 50 metres away from the water, otherwise there is a risk of pollution running into the lake. Unfortunately, the centre has been built too close to the water, but has been a popular attraction with tourists and ultimately is there for a good cause. During the breeding season, students and volunteers monitor the turtles. They locate and count the nests each year, ensuring that they are protected with cages to prevent predators from getting to the,. Injured turtles found on the beach or in the delta are brought in for treatment and rehabilitation. The centre attracts hundreds of visitors each year and is one of the top things that tourists want to see in Dalyan.

In 2012, the Iztuzu Kumsalını Kurtama Platform (IKUP) was formed as an organisation for protecting and rescuing the beach from privatisation. Once again there was an attempt at privatisation in 2014. The management rights of the beach were up for grabs and local organisation DALÇEV of Oruç brothers, tourism agency property development company bid for the rights. The bid was corrupt and deemed unlawful, with full belief that the Oruç brothers would build on the land and so once again Iztuzu Beach became the scene of protests among the locals, led by Murat Demirci, Kaptan June and IKUP. Thanks to these demonstrations, the court overruled the decision to hand the rights over to DALÇEV and instead the Environment and City Planning Ministry and the Muğla Environment Protection Agency granted the rights to Muğla University in 2015.

Mugla University

Vice Rector, Professor Doctor Yusef Ziya Erdil - Muğla University

This has been proved to be a good move. Not only does the University benefit from being able to study marine life and caretta caretta, IKUP also has fantastic communication with the university and two of its professors who work at the Ortaca campus. For now if there are any problems, there is an immediate reaction and very little struggle for help. Sadly, yet again in May 2016, DALÇEV and the Oruç brothers laid claim to the beach, believing that the rights were theirs, and raided the university’s storage huts, removing their belongings and replacing them with their own. Charges were placed against DALÇEV and a stand off between the offending organisation, the local people and the jandarma lasted for days. Finally the will of the people won out and DALÇEV was ordered to leave the beach within seven days.

Kaptan June’s Turtle Foundation

In 2009, June Haimoff took the exam to obtain Turkish citizenship with the sole intention of creating a foundation dedicated to the protection and conservation of the loggerhead turtle and its nesting habitat on Iztuzu Beach. The Katpan June Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation was officially established in February 2011. The hut that she used to live in on the beach, which had been moved to her back garden in Dalyan, was restructured at the land end of the beach where the foundation’s information centre and museum now resides. The beach hut overlooks the piece of land that is now used as a car park which was once flattened and stoned ready to be built upon.

Captain June Turtle Foundation

Kaptan June's Hut at Iztuzu Beach

While the protection of the loggerhead turtles has been extremely successful thanks to Kaptan June’s efforts, tourism continues to take its toll on the sea turtles as they have become an attraction in themselves. Tour boats actively look for the turtles and allow tourists to feed them. The bread that they are fed affect the turtles’ buoyancy and the search for these majestic creatures puts them in danger of being injured by propellors. Fishing nets are also continuously being thrown overboard leading to entrapment.

River Bums

Hessian Sacks and Fishing Lines Which Trap the Turtles

Kaptan June’s foundation is committed to providing the boats of Dalyan with propellor guards. Producer Türk Loydu tested three sizes of boats with the propellor guards attached to compare efficiency, speed and petrol usage. They found that there was a negligible change, yet boat owners still seem against the idea of having them fitted, especially as the foundation was set up to cover the costs. Any boat in Dalyan that promotes the Kaptan June Foundation logo has been fitted with a guard, though you might want to just double check as captains have been known to remove them after validation.

Kaptan June

The Logo Promoted on Turtle Friendly Boats in Dalyan

Both the British and Turkish governments donated a total of £10,000 to June’s foundation to help set up the business. This money was used for printing, advertising, literature and merchandising. The foundation has twenty local volunteers and the hut always has two on duty in addition to Mohammad, the only member of staff who is paid. The hut has a small exhibition detailing the history of June’s work and a shop selling her books and merchandise, proceeds from which go straight to the foundation. Inside you will also find the work of local artist Gülay Çolak from Okçular, who was disabled by an accident and turned to art in her time of recovery. Half of the proceeds from this art work is donated to the foundation.

Turtle Foundation

Merchandise at Kaptan June's Hut

The Kaptan June Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation focuses on the protection of the beach, the implementation of propellor guards and the education of the future generation. The hut sadly doesn’t get many Turkish visitors other than local primary schools, but 93 year old June Haimoff has lectured in Ortaca and Fethiye and was awarded an MBE in 2011. If you would like to know any more about June, you will have to read her books, a strong message from Kaptan June herself! Still, it is a delight to promote her cause.

Kaptan June

The Impressive and Formidable June Haimoff, a Social Butterfly at 93 Years Old

Her books are only available as a paperback at the moment, so you will have to travel to her hut to get one, or search on eBay. However, you can find more information about how to donate to her wonderful cause at her website should you wish to.

Dalyanlı and the River Bums

Environment Dalyan

An example of the Rubbish Found on the Shores of the River

Dalyanlı is a fantastic initiative founded by expat Maria Jonker, creating a platform for volunteers, associations and local businesses to get involved with the preservation of Dalyan’s natural environment. Some of the issues that they attempt to deal with are the damage to the local environment due to littering, the lack of awareness about recycling and the exploitation of the area’s wildlife, including the loggerhead and nile turtles.

Environment Dalyan

The Work of the Dalyanlı River Bums

The members of Dalyanlı also have close ties with the local dog shelter, Dalyan Animals.

One of the most fantastic programmes that the organisation runs is the “River Bums”. Each week a team of volunteers take to the river and attempt to clean as much of the rubbish that is caught up in the reeds and under the jetties as they can.

River Bums Dalyan

Just a Few Hours of Work

Mostly expats and occasionally Turkish locals, a boat leaves from the Dalyan Tea Garden every Thursday at 10am and the team spends as long as they can fishing out plastic bottles, plastic bags, fishing lines and anything else that they can find. Each week can find them hauling out ten or so big black bin liners of rubbish.

Please watch our short film about the River Bums and see the good work that they do!

Murat Demirci and Yuvarlakçay

Yuvarlakçay is a beautiful area set high up in the mountains between Dalyan and Köyceğiz, where a crystal clear river gushes down into Köyceğiz Lake. An area of natural wonder, the clear mineral rich waters are used for salmon fishing, but has long been a favourite spot for locals and tourists to escape the summer heat. With its cooler temperatures and ice cold mountain spring water, several restaurants have popped up around the river with traditional Turkish köşks that hang over the river and plenty of dares from staff to jump into the ice cold water from their swings.


The Famous Yuvarlakçay Swing

In 2009 however, the Turkish government gave permission for a power plant to built there. The tree cutting was literally about to begin as the protestors, Muract Demirci and his activist friends and local villagers, arrived. Although they managed to stop the construction that day, soon after the workers cut down some of the officially designated monumental trees, which of course inspired outrage. This action led to the protestors camping out at the waters of Yuvarlakçay for 11 months, but they were finally successful and the plans for the power plant were scrapped.


Yuvarlakçay, Still Beautiful Today Thanks to Local Protestors

Murat Demirci, Dalyan Dernek and the ECO Trails

Murat first walked the Lycian Way, which starts in Fethiye and ends in Geyikbayırı, 20 km from Antalya, in 2000 and kept a record of everywhere he went, creating his own map of walking routes. In 2007, alongside the Dalyan Association for Tourism, Culture and Environmental Protection (Dalyan Dernek) and created a walking group who helped him come up with the idea of the ECO Trails. The premise is to create long distance way-marked hiking and cycling routes which connect the Carian Trail which begins at Akaya in Marmaris Bay and winds up through the Datça Peninsula north past Bodrum. This would create a route connecting Fethiye with Akaya, with 350km of walking routes and 500km of cycling routes.

ECO Trail Dalyan

Connecting the Carian Trail and the Lycian Way

Government funding body, the Southern Asian Region Development Association (GEKA), who readily fund development projects in the area, are the main investors in Murat and Dernek’s project and have contributed 300,000 Turkish Lira to the cause, accounting for 75% of the received funding. GEKA called for projects in tourism in this subject in 2014, but Murat’s time was taken by the unforeseen protests against the privatisation of Iztuzu Beach as mentioned above. The proposal was eventually submitted by Dalyan Dernek in may 2015 with the support of many partners, including Dalaman and Ortaca municipalities, the Muğla Chamber of Commerce and the Ortaca Department of Muğla University. Local walking and cycling groups also showed their support and while the local municipalities will eventually be responsible for maintaining the routes in their areas, it is the walking and cycling groups who will run tours when the project is up and running.

ECO Trail Dalyan

Waymarking on the Lycian Trail

The route designation is complete, but it hasn’t yet all been walked or cycled. Murat believes that some changes will be needed on the mountain side, north of Dalyan. However, they are asking local villagers to mark out the route using goat tracks for walking and cycling and where available, existing dirt tracks and tarmac. This means that there will be no construction in the making of the trail, keeping the project environmentally friendly. Murat and Dalyan Derek needed the permission of 11 government organisations, such as the ministry of forestries and the local municipalities, for this project to go ahead. The applications for approval went out in January and so far ten have given permission. At the moment however, 100km of the new ECO Trails are missing, from Köyceğiz through to Akaya as the Köyceğiz municipality rejected the proposal.

ECO Trail Dalyan

The ECO Trail Will Pass Through the Mountains That Surround Dalyan

However, they are hoping that the route will be open by September 2017, possibly earlier. They are now looking to create a guide book in Turkish and English with a map of the trail, limiting printing to 2000 copies, with the introduction of an app for tourists to download. The Turkish government is currently attempting to implement a strategy to have tourism in the Mediterranean region for 12 months of the year. Murat and Dernek are hoping that the ECO Trails will promote tourism in the area for the early spring time and late autumn.

There are many ways that you as a tourist can help to save Dalyan's beautiful natural environment. If you are unable to donate to the good causes that are already set up in the area, such as Kaptan June's Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation and Murat Demirci's ECO Trail, perhaps consider joining Dalyanlı's "River Bums"for a few hours if you happen to be visiting. Otherwise, prepare yourself to be a responsible tourist. Throw your rubbish away in one of the many provided bins around town which are collected each day, recycle as much as possible and encourage others to do the same. If you are lucky enough to enjoy the natural wonders that the area around Dalyan has, help to keen them wonderful!

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