Playing Away – Diving Adabanko Reef and Barbarossa Reef Kusadasi

Ever since I started diving I have been under the watchful gaze of my instructors at Active Blue (, they’ve trained me, guided me, mentored me and managed my baby flippering. I think they’ve done a good job, I certainly feel happy down there and I’ve taken additional courses above my Open Water cert and I think I’m doing pretty well. But there is this nagging doubt, this little ego whisper; am I good because I’m good or am I good because I’m with them? It’s time to step outside of my home dive sites and dive with other people, just to make sure!

Adabanko Reef and Barbarossa Reef are located between 1 and 1.5 kilometres offshore of Ladies Beach and Nick and I dived them last week with Kiwi Watersports (Kiwi Watersports Facebook Group) who are based on Long Beach, near the Grand Ozcelik hotel, just south of the main town of Kusadasi.

A beautiful October morning at Kiwi Watersports, Long Beach, Kusadasi

We visited first to check the sites and the set up and met Kubilay the engaging and enthusiastic owner. We talked about our certifications and what we were looking for in a dive and made plans to dive together in the near future.

The season here is winding down and the tourists are heading home and those diving now tend to be experienced and the dive masters have more balanced groups to lead and the pace slows and the enjoyment increases. A visiting Dive Master, Jean Luc, a charming and highly experienced French diver had booked some dive days with Kiwi Watersports and so we joined him on Thursday for two deep dives.

A scenic trip along the coast out to the dive site at Adabanko Reef, Kusadasi

As far as I am concerned this turned out to be a textbook dive and it was brilliant and I had a fantastic day. With the pressure of a heavy tourist schedule out of the way kitting up was done at a relaxed pace and there was time for a leisurely dive briefing (love dive briefings…geekiness on max) before boarding the tender to go out to the dive boat for the scenic trip along the coast before turning offshore at Ladies Beach to head out to the dive site.

The underwater battlements of Barbarossa Reef, Kusadasi

Turkey is as dramatic under the sea as it is above it, those mountains dropping down to the sea don’t stop at the beach, they carry on. Below the lazily rippled waters of Kusadasi Bay Barbarossa Reef is a crenulated, carved castle of rock with spires of stone and flanks riddled with crevasses and cornices whose dark holes are inhabited by morays and whose battlements are patrolled by busy bands of bream. Here the predatory Dentex, the mature adults up to a metre long, glittering silver, the immature juveniles, slightly smaller, with their blue fins and liver spots, cruise above the sea grass slopes, taking their pick from the quicksilver whirling clouds of hamsi that shoal around the reef. On a warm October morning diving here is like flying over a fantasy landscape.

Up close and personal on the reef tube worms wave graceful spirals of foliage and the long tentacle of anemone weave enticing patterns in the current. Purple moray eels with psychopath eyes lurk in their caves working on their bad boy reputation whilst ducking shyly for cover if you get too close.

Anemone at Barbarossa Reef, Kusadasi

Adabanko Reef, starting at 8m below the surface just south of the starboard clearway marker buoy that guides the cruise ships into Kusadasi harbour is a multi level dive going down to over 30 metres. Working your way around the flanks of the reef you come to a wall and drop down twenty metres to the site of an ancient wreck. Here a few scattered broken amphora and pottery platters lie in a depression on the rock ridge. I back off from the wall, over the drop, and look up across the ridge to the bright surface far above and I can see what happened, how a ship heading for a safe beach foundered and slid below the waves, sliding down the reef to rest here, teetering for centuries above the final fall.

Swimming through the shoals at Adabanko Reef, Kusadasi

Further down, at thirty metres we come to the anchor block of the clearway marker buoy, a huge concrete block with massive tethering chain, poised lopsided on the reef, its chain cloaked in slowly waving weed, quietly being eaten away by the salt sea. For some reason it’s spookier than the wreck site, that huge, uncompromising chunk of modern man amongst the ancient geology of volcanic wall and centuries old shipwreck. It feels strange, really intrusive.

We turn south, heading back to the dive boat, rising slowly up towards the surface, creeping up the reef with each breath, with the water lightening around us until out of the smoky blue we see the bottles of our spare air hanging at the safety stop.

It really was a beautiful day. Between dives we relaxed and drank hot, sour apple tea, which is amazingly refreshing to a salt seasoned mouth.

Back on shore kit rinsing and stripping down went like clockwork accompanied by many cups of coffee and leisurely chatting.

I think I am amazingly lucky that my first non-home dive went so well and that I have the choice of such great dive centres within fifteen minutes of home.

Off-Season Diving in Turkey

With the resorts closing down and the frantic daily schedules easing but the weather remaining beautiful now is the time of year the dive centres start venturing further afield.

Active Blue has wreck diving trips planned in the coming weeks, particularly early in November –

Kiwi Diving is organising an overnight dive trip to Samos for late October/early November to include accommodation, two days of diving and transfer over to the island by very swish boat – Kiwi Watersports Facebook Group

If you are in Turkey out of season and want to try some of the more adventurous dives contact the dive centres direct to see what they have planned, there is always something going on.