With golden beaches, pine-clad shores and a brand new Six Senses resort, Kaplankaya is poised to draw the superyacht set back to Turkey. Holly Overton hops on shore to discover its allure.
With brilliant blue waters and shores dotted with secluded bays, it’s no surprise that the Turkish coastline is a hub of yachting activity. Traditional gulets are a familiar sight, shuttling sightseers to hidden coves and ancient ruins, while superyachts can be spotted heading to Yalikavak Marina, offering berths up to 135 metres, and currently home to 58 metre Illusion V and 60 metre Kaiser.
But, while the Mediterranean has long been the go-to for superyacht owners, Turkey’s recent political instability has seen some superyachts lured away by Greece’s whitewashed houses and party hubs. Kaplankaya is an ambitious plan to attract the jet set crowd back to this unspoiled slice of the Turkish Riviera.
Nestled on a hillside, just a 30-minute journey across the water from Bodrum, sits a 400-hectare reserve – an undiscovered sanctuary in the South Aegean. Unlike its provincial centre, Kaplankaya offers an escape from the summer crowds. With six kilometres of golden coastline, and hills flanked with olive trees and hedges of oleander blooming in pink hues, it’s the perfect setting to recover from a summer of overindulgence.
I step aboard a 16-metre Turkish-made Alen yacht, our transfer to Kaplankaya. Sitting aft, I enjoy the light mist of sea spray as we power across from Bodrum. Six Senses is the first hotel to open its doors here. Carved into giant rock formations, this exclusive hillside retreat is the latest addition to the Six Senses’ Med portfolio, offering guests a bespoke wellness experience against the backdrop of the natural beauty of the South Aegean coast.
Arrivals by sea can drop anchor in Çivit Koyu (Indigo Bay) and tender into the floating dock, or land on the shoreside helipad, where friendly staff free you of your luggage and chauffer you up the hillside. Stepping into the sky-lit lobby, I’m greeted with a chilled lemon, honey and lavender tea – quaffed in seconds. The hotel combines modern architecture with a Turkish twist; from traditional flat weave rugs and handcrafted tables made from local olive wood, to authentic ornaments dating back to the Ottoman era. Floor to ceiling windows offer panoramic views across the Aegean while green-covered roofs seamlessly blend the buildings into their rugged surroundings.
With wellbeing at the core of the Six Senses ethos, the hotel offers state-of-art fitness facilities, high-tech wellness assessments and a kitted-out spa. For a serious health kick guests can opt for focused integrative packages, or, like me, can dip in and out for a little bit of everything. The ability to combine a holiday with a health and fitness overhaul is increasingly becoming a necessity for attracting luxury guests. “In the current competitive world, people are ambitious about their careers and that brings a lot of stress on people’s lives,” says Dr Ranjan Kapoor, area director for spa and wellness. “The world is starting to become more health conscious and this is why wellness vacations are such a trend at the moment.”
Starting with good intentions I head to the fitness centre for a morning workout with Erkan Günes, director of exercise and physiology, who had been in the gym for an hour and half already. With a long list of qualifications in body movement, massage and even Jiu-Jitsu, he’s more than your average personal trainer. “I take a holistic approach to health and fitness,” he explains. I’m like a detective when it comes to uncovering the root cause of physical ailments and deficiencies. I won't just treat a symptom, I'll look at the big picture to improve a client's total fitness.” The session starts with a warm-up followed by a TRX blast. It was bootcamp in style but instead of a militaresque trainer barking orders we were treated to Erkan’s American charm.
Despite his approach and sympathetic tones my muscles still ache after the work out so I seek recovery in the in the 10,000 square metre spa. Spread over two floors, the spa offers traditional amenities with holistic twists; the steam room features a sparkling slab of quartz in the centre said to cleanse the soul by absorbing negative energy.
Wrapped in a fluffy robe I head for a signature holistic massage with uplifting jojoba oil, locally sourced and concocted by an in-house alchemist. The hour-long medium pressure treatment uses a combination of flowing and rhythmical strokes - perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up.
There is plenty to keep you occupied in the hotel, but the local area is begging to be explored by boat, with seven secluded bays offering quiet anchorages. A ten-minute transfer takes us along the coastline to Anhinga, a boho beach club dotted with palm trees and king-sized sun loungers sheltered by canvas canopies. It’s a great place to spend a lazy afternoon sipping on summery cocktails and joining small sparkling fish for a refreshing dip. For adventures further afield, those visiting by yacht can take a trip to the neighbouring Greek islands of Patmos, Leros and Lipsi, or head into Bodrum for some retail therapy in the bazaar. Culture vultures can visit the Temple of Artemis or the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Aside from fitness and relaxation, the experience would not be complete without sampling the region's culinary delights. Back at the hotel, a golf buggy whisks me down through the flora to Mezze By The Sea, a rustic al fresco restaurant lit by festoon lights hanging from small trees and the warm orange glow of the sun as it sets into the Aegean.
There’s no menu – the chef whips up fresh Mediterranean dishes from the ingredients brought back from the local market or handpicked from the organic garden. Twenty or so small and colourful dishes fill the table, and, in true mezze style, I help myself to a spoonful of each. We were talked through each of the dishes, from aubergine salad, samphire tossed in olive oil from nearby groves, tabbouleh, calamari and an assortment of yoghurt dips. The main event was a large octopus tentacle caught that day in the sea that I was now sat looking out over.
To finish the meal I am offered a glass of raki, the Turk’s answer to Greek ouzo, and given a lesson in raki etiquette. “Rakı is not only our national drink it is a beverage which has been a subject to poets and writers throughout Turkish history,” explains director of food and beverage Recep Akar, “Rakı should not to be drunk alone, it should be consumed with good company and good conversation.” I don’t disagree.
With so many treats – both on land and at sea – this pristine corner of the Aegean already has plenty to attract superyachts. However, it is set to expand its offerings with rumours that the Six Senses will soon by joined by a Ritz-Carlton and Cheval Blanc, plus plans are underway for a chichi new yacht club and the addition of quirky hillside villas for those seeking a more private experience. With the continuing development you wouldn’t want to bet against Kaplankaya putting Turkey back on the superyacht map.