Side Underwater Museum welcomes 50,000 visitors
The museum, which was built in the southern province of Antalya’s Manavgat district by the Istanbul and Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean, Black Sea Regions Chamber of Shipping (IMEAK) Antalya branch, was opened on Oct. 31, 2015. Since the day it was opened, 50,000 people have visited the museum by diving underwater.
The museum is located nearly 1.5 miles off Side, 11, 18 and 24 meters in depth.
One of the founders of the Side Underwater Museum, retired SAS commando Ahmet Gülaydın spoke to state-run Anadolu Agency about the museum.
How did the idea come up to establish this museum?
Side is very untouched in terms of underwater wealth. At the end of the 2008 season, we sank the Coast Guard ship here. Our goal is to contribute to the underwater population. Nearly 5 million tourists come to Side every year from different countries of the world. We decided to develop a project for them. We prepared a project with İnanç Kendiroğlu, President of the Chamber of Shipping, and presented it to the Western Mediterranean Development Agency (BAKA and BAKA agreed it. BAKA supported a part of the project. Some of the sculptors came from Istanbul and some from Gaziantep. We made a total of 117 sculptures.
How did you choose the sculptures?
What can boast about Turkey, we thought. We said that our priority should be Çanakkale and the War of Independence and there should be a military theme. A soldier in a trench, soldier standing, cannon cart, cannonball; we thought about such a composition. For the second composition, we thought about our Rumi. At a depth of 12 meters, we put nearly 30 statues of Rumi and whirling dervishes.
In the past, sesame and wheat were carried to Ankara from Side on camels. So, we built a camel caravan at a depth of 18 meters. At 24 meters, there is the War of Independence and Poseidon. Next is the map of Turkey and a Turkish flag.
We made a flower garden in memory of the children who lost their lives at sea while fleeing the war in Syria. Thus, after the underwater museum of 400 sculptures in Mexico, we took second place in the world with 117 sculptures.
What are the contributions of the museum to diving tourism?
Nearly 10,000 local and foreign tourists came between six and seven months of the year. There are 3 million certified divers traveling around the world. They usually go to the Maldives, Egypt, Bali, Thailand or Mexico. Our aim is to attract some of these certified divers to Turkey. This was our main goal, but we could not promote enough.
Although it has such a museum, why is Side a little-known diving spot in Turkey?
Our divers know Kaş only. Kaş is a very beautiful place in terms of underwater richness, but you can see more marine creatures in Side than in Kaş. There is a very good visibility in Kaş; it is Turkey’s number one place in this sense.
What are the sculptures divers are most influenced by?
Certified divers generally like Poseidon. It is our biggest statue; it is 3.5 meters in height and 5 tons in weight. But amateur divers can only see the Rumi group from the top.
What do you think is the most important sculpture in the museum?
It is Mermaid. I am a soldier. While on duty, I got my friends’ wives to dive, too, but could not get my wife to dive. Because she has underwater phobia. I thought maybe she would dive if I put her sculpture there. After having the statue of a mermaid resembling my wife, she dove into the water for the first time.
What do you say about the current state of the seas as a person who has spent most of his life underwater?
We slowly pollute our seas and robber fish began to come. We lose our groupers and saddled sea breams. Maybe our children will see fish only in the aquarium. This is why we need to take precautions.
I am also the president of the Fisheries Cooperative, I have expressed this issue to the ministry before; I said that the robber, invasive fish should be prevented urgently. They started to bite people right now. They complain to tourists and hotel management. The fish bite people’s feet on the beach. For this, the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry should allocate funds. The fishermen must give a symbolic charge per tail or coordinate the divers and hunt the lionfish or the balloon fish with harpoon in certain periods. Because they really kill the nature at the bottom.