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Ban boosts popularity of 'Cleopatra Beach'
Gökova Bay in southwestern Turkey, among the major yachting areas with a mild Mediterranean climate, is currently undergoing a project to preserve one of the country's most storied beaches.
Though it is famous for long sunny days and attractive resort sites, the present and the future of tourist development in this area is based to a great extent on the availability of freshwater resources, mainly supplied by the Karst aquifer, which is in direct contact with seawater in many places.
The springs of Gökova consist of five spring groups that are discharged from the coastline between Akkaya and Akbuk, situated in the north of Gökova Bay, mainly along fault lines within carbonate rock masses from the Mesozoic age. Apart from the coastal Karst springs, several submarine springs are also located in the area.
This strange formation has created one of the nicest beaches in the world on Sedir (Cedrai) Island. The spring water under the sea comes out by ripping small pieces from the carbonate rocks. Over time, those pieces dwindle to round calcium carbonate particles, "ooids," by the effect of waves on the coast.
Since the island is the site of an ancient Roman resort town, locals tell a legend about this natural wonder. According to the legend, Cleopatra refused to step on any land other than Egypt so Mark Antony imported Egyptian sands to Cedrai so she could visit this small island. This is why the beach has long been called "Cleopatra Beach."
Today, the existing ruins include an enormous amphitheater, a chapel and an old city wall. The legend and the beautiful golden sand have made the beach more popular than the antiquities on the island. Since the 1960s, Cleopatra Beach has been open to mass tourism. Nearly 100,000 local and foreign tourists visit the island in the summer season.
Some time ago authorities devised rules to protect this special beach, hoping to avoid more loss of the sand, which takes a long time to form. Taking sand off of the island and using towels on the sand have been forbidden for many years. The results of recent scientific observation have, however, proven that there has still been a loss of sand on the beach. New serious steps were taken to keep the sands on the beach after the European Union-supported Gökova Integrated Coastal Management Project was put into practice in 2007. The most significant decision of the advisory committee was to ban walking and lying on the island and the beach, which would preserve the sand but reduce the beach's popularity. The local people, most of whom make their living by ferrying tourists to the island by boat, were unhappy with the ban.
One year after ban was imposed, the results have initially been pleasant enough for authorities. The amount of sand on the beach is increasing and some pebbly parts are covered with calcium carbonate sands. The director of Muğla's culture and tourism office, Murat Süslü, described the results of the ban, which has been strictly applied for one year. "We even kindly asked visitors to have a shower by the sea so they would not take sands unconsciously from the sea on their body."
Another encouraging result for the future of tourism was a 10 percent increase in the number of tourists visiting the island after the ban on the beach. Süslü claimed that a special protected beach is now more interesting for many people and predicted that more visitors will come this year. The directorate also compensates sunbathers by supplying free sun chairs and umbrellas -- not on the sand, but on the grass by the beach. What tourists say proves Süslü's assertions. Most said they supported the idea of protecting the sand and the beach, preferring to watch its beauty instead of walking or sunbathing on it.
Professor Atilla Yücel, vice rector of Muğla University, the institution responsible for the Integrated Coastal Management Advisory Committee, said the project would be completed in one year's time. Recalling that the project started two years ago as the first integrated coastal project in Turkey, Yücel underlined that these works would serve to manage the coastal areas under protection.
Cleopatra Beach is now a very clear example of how a protected environment will develop for the benefit of the people.