“Where are all the other Black travellers in the luxury sailing space?” Travel blogger Ashley Forrester probed this question while on a week-long trip on the Turkish Riviera.
Google “luxury sailing” and you’ll be greeted with images of expensive yachts, commanded by smiling white faces. Google “luxury Black sailing” and you will find vessels with black sails or a stylish black paint job, also commanded by smiling white faces. So where are we? Is there truly no place for Black people on the water?
These are the questions that Ashley, along with 10 other Black content creators and journalists set out to answer on a sailing trip around the Turkish Riviera recently. Read on for highlights of their trip on the Turkish Riviera and the conclusions to his questions.
Turkey is famous for many things, from treasure hunting in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul to watching the visual symphony of hot air balloons colouring the skies of Cappadocia. As popular a destination as it may be for travellers, there is a side of Turkish travel that many may be unaware of: luxury sailing.
Surrounded by clear turquoise waters on each of its three sides, Turkey is one of the best sailing regions in the world. From April to mid-October (the longest sailing season in the Mediterranean), thousands of avid sailors descend on the region to enjoy its perfect waters. However, this type of travel appears to be marketed primarily towards a certain demographic, whilst seemingly being veiled from our own.
“… it was the first time the company had sailed with a group consisting of only Black sailors.”
I recently embarked on a seven-day adventure around the Aegean Sea with top luxury yachting company, ScicSailing. Organised by Eulanda Osagiede – a seasoned traveller, and one half of Hey Dip Your Toes In, it was the first time the company had sailed with a group consisting of only Black sailors. We were determined to show them how luxury is supposed to be done.
Our journey began in Bodrum; a port city famous not only for its sailing and iconic castle, but also for once being the home to the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Each day aboard the yacht brought a new adventure but began the same way; the captain – after unravelling a huge nautical map across the table – would reveal our destination for that day, explaining weather conditions as well as cultural landmarks and their significance.
Our first stop was the historical site of Knidos, an ancient city that was built for the most beautiful goddess, Aphrodite. The ruins of her temple remain there to this day and there is an outstanding panorama on the hill, with some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. From one side you see the Mediterranean Sea, while on the other side you see the Aegean Sea. We then finished the day with a relaxing swim in the secluded Mersincik Bay.
Over the following days – and in between sailing the seven seas – we arrived at many places that gave us a chance to immerse ourselves in the Turkish culture. We visited Oren and its outdoor market, connected with the local community and even received an impromptu pastry making lesson. We sailed to Yediadalar (widely known as “Seven Islands”), docking to explore Cleopatra Island with its private sandy beaches and ancient churches. We were treated to breakfast in Etrim Village, where our hosts explained the importance of tourism in keeping their home safe from gentrification and protecting the legacy of their generations-old Turkish carpet making business.
“… you feel valued and that this is a space in which you authentically belong.”
My favourite excursion overall was our safari with Difference Tour. Highlights from the jeep safari tour include turtle feeding, an olive oil farm, an ancient wishing tree and a visit to Grove Vineyard; a 200 year old family-owned vineyard.
Not every day has to be packed with activities, however. The world-class crew will work around your level of adventure, so if you want to spend the day relaxing in the sun or jumping off the yacht and into the clear blue water, that’s perfectly fine. You are catered to around the clock, served three delicious (and deceptively healthy) meals a day and made to feel like royalty. Most importantly, you feel valued and that this is a space in which you authentically belong.
Most mornings aboard the yacht, I would get up before everyone else and watch the sun rise over the horizon. As I sat there enveloped in waves of gratitude, I found myself thinking the same thing each time: “I wish more of us knew that moments like these existed”.
On my final day in turkey, I found myself in conversation with one of the owners of ScicSailing. After thanking him for such an amazing experience, we began to discuss the reasons behind the lack of Black representation among the sailing tours. Although he had seen quite a few Black tourists around Bodrum, he noticed they were usually just taking in the local sights and would rarely approach the yacht companies. I let him know that, not only should the yacht companies be approaching US, but it is also difficult to find something accessible when you don’t see yourself reflected in its promotion.
Luxury sailing is not only marketed away from the Black community, but the “Black folk don’t do water” stereotype is still actively perpetuated in mainstream media. This has contributed to the fact that only 1.5% of active swimmers in the UK are Black (6.8% in the U.S.), compared to roughly 87% of swimmers who are White (78% in the US). According to a study by MMGY Global, Black travellers from the US and UK spent a combined total of £120 billion (yes, with a ‘B’!) on travel in 2019 alone.
Black people don’t just belong in the luxury travel space, but – when given the chance – we excel and look damn good doing it!