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Guide to Oludeniz, Turkey

Friday 14 February, 2014
High above Olu Deniz beach at sunset. Photo: Markus Zimmermann

High above Olu Deniz beach at sunset. Photo: Markus Zimmermann

Wring the living daylights out of your wing, land on the beach, then do it again.


Set on a Mediterranean cove in the south-west of Turkey, Oludeniz is a beautiful and reliable place to fly. The season starts in April and goes through to November, with July and August being very hot and stable.

Oludeniz is a tourist resort with all the infrastructure, hotels, cheap flights and package deals that go with that, but with the bonus of a 1,900m mountain. Babadag comes straight out of the sea and provides a perfect flying site for every direction. Light winds and cloudbase at 2,500-3,500m are normal during the day, with smooth sunset flying in the evening.

Babadag is very much a mountain and it gets mountain weather – but it feels more benign and coastal because it’s so close to the sea. Some of take-offs have been graded, but be careful of your wing – the surfaces are rough and can damage it if you drag it around. It’s also very rocky and steep around the launches and pilots must make committed and positive take-off runs. You should also keep a close eye on the streamers as the wind can shift and come up both sides at once.

The most commonly used and biggest launch is at 1,700m, where the vans stop first and there are toilets and a cafe. 1,800m is smaller and steeper and faces in the opposite direction. The 1,900m take-off has launches in two directions and toilets. There is also a new 1,200m launch – useful in stronger conditions or when the top clouds over.

The main landing is along the promenade in Olu. Keep a close eye on pedestrians and the tandems coming down the main street.

Once airborne, you’ll find lift above the peaks of the spineback mountain and in the house thermal, which is just to the right of the 1,700m launch. There is also often lift just to the left on the 1,700m. There are often bumpy inversion layers, but once through you can sometimes climb to over 3,000m.

Big XCs are difficult and require at least 3,000m above Babadag. May, June and October are the best months. The most common route is across the Kemer Valley to the north-east of Babadag. A second climb on Mendos, the mountain just north of Babadag, takes you over Kemer town to the NNE, or go more east towards Akdag, an obvious 3,000m peak on the east side of the wide Kemer valley. Once you connect with the other side, soar the ridge north on to the higher plateau and on to Denizli (NNE) or over the mountain range toward Antalya to the east.

Alternatively, head SE across the valley to Palamutköy village (look out for the greenhouses). Top up here and drift to Dumanli Dag. From here, head east in the sea breeze convergence to the port of Kaş. The landing here is tricky, along the harbour.

When attempting cross country for the first time, seek advice from Sky Sports (see below) or another operator first.

The road to the summit of Babadag is now paved and minibuses can do the trip in 30-40 minutes. Tandem operators offer transport for solo pilots, charging 10-20 Turkish lire (Oct 2016). You also need to pay a fee on the way up the mountain. It costs 18 Turkish lire for a solo pilot. You can pay for multiple flights in advance by getting a card from the small office at the east end of the beach in Olu.

April to November. Midsummer is stable and September and October dry and reliable.

Cloudbase: 2,500-3,500m
Launch: 1,900, 1,800 and 1,700m
Landing: On the beach at 0m

Back in the day hang gliders were put on vehicles and taken straight to launch with minimal carrying. There was a rule that the Oludeniz beach was closed to HG in July and August, and pilots were asked to land up on the Hisarano plateau. Nowadays, local pilots struggle to remember when they last saw a hang glider here, and because of increased development and crowds, hang gliders would struggle to land safely in Olu. Check with Sky Sports (see below).

West along the coast: over the lagoon and over the deserted Greek Kayer village beyond. Fly back or land in the many fields on the plateau and get a minibus (dolmus) back.

Butterfly Valley: 7km SE of launch is a narrow gorge with a beach that looks tiny. Don’t worry, it’s big enough. Land at the east end of the beach away from the restaurant, not in the fields behind the beach, otherwise you’ll be fined. Once down, soak up the chilled hippy vibe and enjoy the tranquillity before a 30-minute sea voyage home – there’s no road out, although you can hike out to the road above in a pinch. Watch the pylons running across the very back of the bay.

Further along the coast, you can also land out at the small beach at Kabak, about 10km from launch. There’s a small restaurant and a bus that runs up to the village above, from where you can get transport back to Olu.

No immediate danger zones or airspace, but north of Fethiye is Dalaman CTZ. Take care not to crash into holiday makers on deckchairs when landing. Sand gets everywhere and in everything. If the wind is strong on launch, don’t go in the lee side and don’t follow the tandems blindly. They’re either good or mad.

There are hundreds of hotels for all budgets and tastes. Package deals abound online.

There are many instructors who bring groups from all over the world. If you’re independent, pop into Sky Sports (contact below) or any of the tandem operations and make friends. Sky Sports can also advise on repairs for damaged gliders.

“I’ve been running SIV and XC trips to Oludeniz every May and September since 1991, and have used the scenery and height as a location for all three of my films. It’s a fun place to fly and a great place to combine a flying trip with a family holiday.” Jocky Sanderson

Definitely! Oludeniz is one of Turkey’s premier holiday destinations.

The ancient ruins of Tlos and Saklikent gorge are a good day trip. Also Butterfly Valley and Kayer village, or a daily boat trip around the coast.

The best local knowledge is from Skysports or any other professional operators along the beach.

Dalaman is the nearest airport. From there it’s an hour by airport/hotel transfer. Taxis from the airport are expensive.

Skysports are the most established tandem operators. Skysports (+90 252 617 05 11) is run by Murat Tuzer, a well-respected local pilot who’ll always give sound advice. Most tandem operators will also give helpful advice and lifts up the mountain.


Updated: October 2016

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