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Turkish delight

Uncover the magic of a gulet getaway along the sparkling Turkish coastline

Salamander Voyages is a specialist family-owned luxury gulet and yacht charter company in the Mediterranean – Sailawaze sampled the coastline of Turkey onboard its signature boat with a little one in tow.

Words by Harriet Mallinson

Children are not for everyone but within moments it’s clear the staff of our luxury gulet love kids. Our tot is whisked off by the hand on a tour of the classic wooden boat (our home for the next few days), presented with some juice and… cooed over for the entirety of the trip.

A family holiday with a twist, a gulet getaway in the Aegean serves up ample opportunity for escapism and adventure as stress is lifted off parents’ shoulders like an unwanted coat at a dinner party by a travel company that knows its stuff.

Whether you want to laze atop sun-drenched loungers on the front deck while sipping a glass of something refreshing brought to you by friendly staff or soak up (in all senses of the word) the beauty of the limpid waters lapping the Turkish shores, this nomadic way of holidaying will suit you nicely.

Indeed water is something charter brand Salamander Voyages does very well. Our stylish, traditional boat is awash with aquatic toys, from a paddling pool that can be erected on deck to kayaks that passengers of all ages can take out on the big blue when at anchor.

One afternoon on our sailing from Bodrum we motor over to a little deserted bay and frolic in the salty, translucent waters before trying our hand at paddleboarding. Another day we opt for snorkeling, lured in by the tempting turquoise of the deep. The visibility is superb: reeds sway in unison and fish dart silently, iridescent slivers striated by ethereal sun rays, unperturbed by the giant, masked bipeds looming over them.

Looking to learn a new skill while you’re away? Salamander, Salamander Voyages’ signature luxury vessel, is the only charter gulet in Bodrum equipped with RS Zest sailing dinghies. Plus, as of May 2023, Salamander comes with exclusive access to complimentary private dinghy sailing lessons with the experienced Captain Zeki.

The pro will be on hand for guidance and to coach everything from the basics to mastering a bowline, tacking, gybing and righting the inevitable capsize (don’t worry the gulet is fully stocked with life jackets) making for a gentle introduction that allows both children and adults to sample sailing in a relaxed environment without the pressure (or expense) of a formal lesson. Swallows and Amazons but with less rain.

Of course, you don’t actually have to leave Salamander at all to experience the thrill of sailing. At our request the crew of four switches from engine power to sail – and it’s glorious to see the huge white sheets blooming forth, ropes clinking on the masts with gusto as we submit to the will of the wind.

Oh yes, there’s no denying the romanticism of being out at sea on a tall ship. By day the boat carves its way under the blue of the heavens, passing rocky islands, pretty towns and sprawling resorts while at night slumbering sailors are gently rocked in their berths as stars speckle the sky, nature’s own Google Maps.

In fact, a big perk of chartering your own private gulet is taking navigation into your own hands. The captain spreads out the nautical map and explains the pros and cons of where one could head next – guests just take their pick. Columbus in trunks, if you will. Don’t fancy where you end up? Not a problem, the captain will simply redirect the vessel to somewhere that does the job.

Salamander Voyages’ indulgence of every whim becomes a theme of our sojourn, which is perfect for meeting the demands of tricky children. Impromptu sandwiches are rustled up, safety netting installed at the front of the yacht, and post-dinner distractions provided when we adults settle into our third glass of wine.

Our senior deckhand in particular proves an utter marvel. He spends hours entertaining our little girl, whether that’s carrying her around the boat pointing out amusements or playing endless games with impressive patience. Can he come home with us?

The crew’s commitment is further evidenced following concerns our progeny is poorly. A quick ring around to nearby boats identifies a thermometer next door, and in a flash our deckhand is in the dingy to retrieve it. The itinerary is even changed last minute so we can pick up some medicine from a pharmacy. And, if that wasn’t enough, the guys are happy to babysit when we later pop out for a swim – magnificent mannies of the Med, you might say.

Our private chef also deserves kudos. A seven-night sailing includes daily breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and five dinners onboard and our cook whisks up breakfast – think breads and spreads, cheeses, fresh fruit, omelets and more – before immediately starting on lunch which we eat al fresco on a large wooden dining table feeling very VIP indeed.

Food is both healthy and tasty – lots of veggies and salads as well as fresh fish and meat cooked on the BBQ at the front of the ship – with the option to register dietary requirements ahead of the holiday to please those picky eaters. I have a feeling I’ll miss the siren call of the dinner bell when I return home and am faced with my own stove.

As for accommodation, Salamander Voyages’ gulets sleep 12 guests – although that might be a bit of a squeeze in the six cabins. Entirely wooden, the rooms – some double, some twin – are really quite charming and the beds comfortable.

If you’ve got tiny kids, cots and bedside barriers can even be provided (top tip, it might be worth packing an eye mask to beat the early morning light). Cabins are all en-suite and the showers are so powerful they rival those of many a fancy hotel. If this is what running away to sea is like, we could be tempted!

Factoring in safety and activities available, a holiday with Salamander Voyages would best suit children aged six and up – particularly those who crave adventure or are enthused by watersports. Parents may well appreciate the fuss-free, educational element, too as you explore the world from a different angle and visit multiple Mediterranean destinations – including lesser-known corners accessible only by boat – without ever unpacking more than once.

Taking to the seas with children might come with its unique challenges but our Turkish trip proves, well, a delight.

Set Sail

Salamander Voyages offers 7-night private charters.

Price includes daily breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, five dinners onboard and all house drinks, crew, four sailing lessons, full use of water toys on board (paddle boards, snorkeling equipment and canoes, etc.), local airport transfers, harbor dues, fuel and water.

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Published 06.17.23