How the loggerhead turtle saved Dalyan

Dalyan river port

Image source: Wiki Commons

Dalyan, a small town 30 minutes drive from Dalaman, is world famous as a mating site for Caretta Caretta loggerhead turtles. It stands out from the many other resorts on Turquoise coast for its lack of high rise hotels and its quieter pace of life. Things could have been quite different for Dalyan though.


As international tourism rose Turkey sought to attract and cater for growing crowds. The country’s natural charms such as the hot weather, sandy beaches and azure blue sea were an immediate draw. The vast selection of archaeological sites also made Turkey appealing.

However, tourism demanded development too. Restaurants and hotels sprung up, promising to accommodate Turkey’s visitors in plush surroundings. Developers recognised Dalyan’s appeal. The Lycian tombs and the ruins of ancient Kaunos made Dalyan an obvious choice to promote to foreign tourists.

Lycian tombs, Dalyan

Image source: Wiki Commons

Although Dalayan town isn’t directly on the sea front the town does boast a beautiful beach in the form of Iztuzu, a sad bar running in front of the river delta. This is where, in the 1980s, a hotel developer saw the opportunity of situating a grand hotel.

Iztuzu beach, Dalyan, Turkey

Image source: Wikipedia

At around the same time British traveller June Haimoff was staying in Dalyan. She walked Iztuzu beach and noticed the tracks of the loggerhead turtles who had come to lay they their eggs. Locals were already catering to the sun worshippers on the beach by building huts. Haimoff saw that as the beach got busier the turtles were suffering. Their nesting grounds were being disturbed. She called for better protection for the turtles as the threat of development grew ever greater.

Caretta Caretta Loggerhead sea turtle

Image source: Wikipedia

The international community and the World Wildlife Fund joined Haimoff in putting pressure on the Turkish government to deny the developers their planning permission. Still construction got underway in April 1987. Panicked, Haimoff, the WWF and other environmentalists asked the Turkish Prime Minister, Turgut Ozal, to halt the building work and allow them to carry out an environmental impact assessment. Work on the hotel stopped and finally in 1988 it was called off altogether and Iztuzu beach granted Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA) status.

The lack of big hotels in the area hasn’t put off tourists. In fact Dalyan attracts loyal fans who return year after year. Mud baths, Turkish spa, islands, great food, warm people and of course the Caretta Caretta turtles make Dalyan a must-see destination. Instead of hampering Dalyan’s chance of becoming a destination resort the Caretta Caretta turtles, in stopping a big hotel, actually preserved Dalyan’s quiet beauty.