My first trip here, I was astounded at how good the kayak was, truly, I was not expecting Turkey to have such incredible rivers (my previous blog post here). Or should I say ‘rivers left’ as most of Turkey’s rivers are destroyed by hyrdo projects. A small pocket of gold still remains in the south of the country.
To get there fly into Antalya airport. We flew with Sun Express who asked no questions about the kayaks. From there, the Dacia Duster is the transport of choice but any hire car with clearance and roof rails will do. We fly with two pieces of wood and plenty of extra straps to make a quick roof rack system at the airport (hashtag efficient).
We typically crash at Mike Krutansky’s place where he runs guided trips from. This is just a short drive from the city of Manavgat and from here you have easy access to three fantastic rivers and many pieces of them to pick off.
The Köprüçay in my opinion is the Turkish equivalent of the Soča river. Lots of easier sections up top with a deep, powerful cataract at the bottom. The water is usually crystal clear and the moves are all really nice and clean with the highlight being a must-run tight canyon as the last rapid. We had some wrestling matches here at high water but with fair flows, it’s fast and smooth through there. Almost none of the rapids are portageable on this one though, or at least not the big ones. Drop in with confidence!
The Alara is a great river in its own right but it’s short and simply not as special as the other two rivers we session in this region. Tight class four moves lead you through a series of micro gorges before opening up and turning into class three to the takeout.
The crown jewel in this region is the Manavgat river. We have picked off several pieces of this river but the best section is called The Great Gorge.
The Great Gorge section of the Manavgat river is hands down one of the best class 4/5 runs in the world. I really like what Palm’s Joe Rea-Dickins did with the Megalaya Rivers guide book, grading the exposure of the river as well as the difficulty. This is why the Manavgat is class 4/5. I would say most of the moves are class 4 but a few of them are guarded by gnarly rock formations and all out there in remote wilderness. A crew of very good kayakers have already had to spend a cold night in the gorge. Don’t let those details put you off one of the best rivers in the world, but don’t take it lightly either.
A first lap of this river takes on average four hours. Start the day at a reasonable time so you have daylight to work with if anything happens in there and always take a comprehensive safety kit, spare paddles and possibly a group shelter. On our high water descent, I had the Palm group shelter in the back of my half-slice kayak, which by the way is the weapon of choice for the Manavgat river. There might be a couple of rapids you wished you had a bigger kayak but most of the time you are going to be having the best time of your life, surfing, splatting, kickflipping and cruising through the gorge.
Put in at the restaurant, look for the concrete slab on river left, if it’s just covered and waters flowing over it you have prime flows. If the slab is dry it’s still a great time in there but not quite as good as it could be, on our high water descent the concrete slab was basically gone but the river handled the extra water incredibly well!
I have a river co-pilot episode dedicated to the river here –
And you can of course check the Whitewater.guide app and pins to the put in and takeout locations.
Which brings me to my top five gear recommendations for a trip to Turkey.
1) Atom drysuit
The days can be really warm but the water is fresh and the remoteness of the Manavgat is real. I typically wore a set of Arun leggings and a Tsangpo top and that struck a good balance between the temperature of the water and the temperature of the sun.
You know what I’m talking about, all the stuff you don’t need until you do. First aid kit, a set of breakdown paddles is a must, a tarp is great but I am personally a big fan of Palm’s shelters and bivvy bags, neatly packed up into a drybag for you already. Snacks and water.
3) Sun cream
It’s hot, sunny and the days on the water can be long. I like this zinc stick by Life Jacket.
4) Extra straps for your roof rack
If you have two sticks of wood and some extra straps it’s a smooth process from the airport to the river. I enjoy having different lengths or roof rack straps from Palm. Short ones to tie the racks on and long ones for all the kayaks.
5) A spot device
As always with these devices, I hope you never need it but it’s always worth carrying one between your group. Garmin InReach and Spot are two popular options.
Other recommendations include baklava, the OBA restaurant in Manavgat after a long day on the river and hiring our mate Geo as your driver. He knows all the locations and even has photos of various groups putting on so you can check the river level before you go. I cannot recommend this location for a kayaking trip enough. Cheap and sick (the two things I am looking for in a kayaking trip).
See you on the water! Bren