We love Bodrum peninsula, right before Aegean Sea greets Mediterranean Sea. We have visited there many times, mostly in summer months. Last January while we were visiting Bodrum, our first visit during winter months, we were incredibly surprised to see pink flamingos on our way to Bodrum airport. We had no idea that there are flamingos in Bodrum! Our necks were stretching out all the way to see more so that we can be sure that we were not dreaming. They were beautiful. Since then it is stuck in our heads to find out where they are and how we can come close to their habitat to see them up-close.
So, this January, we are determined to find them. We kind of know their location but still don’t know how to reach there. Although the Google map does not tell what this location is called, we heard locals calling it Tuzla Golu (Tuzla Lake). And it is between the Mandalya Bay and the Gulluk Bay on the Bodrum Peninsula close to the Bodrum airport.
On our way, we need a bathroom break and stop at Durum Acil (literal translation: Wrap Emergency) roadside restaurant. They make delicious durums (wraps) filled with meat or chicken or liver. We order meat durums. I also order kunefe (hot shredded dough, syrupy dessert filled with molten cheese). Of course, we have glasses of Turkish tea to wash it down.
I ask the owner how we can reach the area where the pink flamingos are.
“Easy” he says, “just pass the Milas Carpet store and you come to a bridge and turn left”.
We drive a long time and there is no sign of this Milas Carpet store and there is no bridge. Later we find out that the bridge is so small that you cannot not even notice that there is a bridge. We are almost at the airport. We are sure we’ve passed the potential side road to take us to the flamingos. We see a sign for Gulluk, another town of Bodrum Peninsula. We have never been to Gulluk and decide to explore.
We take the road to Gulluk and realize that this is the industrial section of Bodrum. Giant trucks carrying all sorts of material, factories on the left and the right side of the road. Suicidal drivers are zigzagging between the trucks. This is really scary. Gulluk is a cute town, but the road scares us so much that I do not even think about taking pictures. Maybe, we will go back another day.
We ask three cafes at Gulluk how we can find the pink flamingos.
One replies “Oh! Last year there were so many shootings of ducks and geese in the area. Flamingos are upset and they are not coming anymore.”
This didn’t make sense to us; if we are talking about human beings, it might. But, birds have flight patterns and navigation systems and those are engraved in their genes. How can they change their hundreds of years of habits so suddenly because they are pissed off at some insensitive hunters?
The person at the next cafe tells me that he has never heard of the flamingos. We tell him we see them even from the main road, he shakes his head and says “sorry!”.
The third one enthusiastically describes to me a location that does not make any sense, and I pressure him to find out that he is talking about a Dolphin Park. I have no idea what the relationship is between the dolphins and the flamingos.
So we are on our own. we literally go back and forth on the main highway like mad people. What I mean by “back and fort” is driving several miles in each direction, several times. If it is not for those beautiful flamingos, we would have given up on our first try. Finally, we find a small winding road. On this newly discovered road, we see a village woman and ask her.
She says “you are on the wrong road”. But, finally, someone knows what she is talking about.
She knew exactly what we are looking for, and tells us how to get there.
Finally we see the sign for a small road going to a town called “Bogazici” next to a tiny bridge. This little cute fishing village is at the opening of a deep inlet that goes in all the way to the main road where the sea water mixes in with the wetlands.
We see the first sighting of the pink flamingos. These are the type called Greater Flamingos. They are a bit far. Since I have my boots on, I decide to tread in the marshes a bit and come closer to them. But, I sink immediately. Those boots are taking a lot of beating.
We take some pictures of the first group of flamingos and keep driving towards Bogazici. We see some flamingos flying. Those beautiful soft pink flamingos have a fire-red color under their wings. What a sight in the evening sunshine. What a great name given for a bird this beautiful. The word flamingo comes from the Latin word ‘flamma’ for flame.
We then see a group of flamingos very close to the road. I finally have my wish come true. Freezing in the cold weather, I keep taking pictures of these beautiful elegant creatures. Their bodies are reflected on the still shallow waters. With their heads in the mud, necks twisting and dancing around to find food, they look like moving flexible sticks. Most of them move in pairs. I can spend hours here. They look mesmerizing and they really do not get bothered by the presence of the awestruck people. We once heard that flamingos stink. We do not smell anything bad. Maybe, we are still far away from them. Their babies are mostly grey colored and fluffier. Later, I learn that their pink color comes from the beta carotene in their diet.
There are other birds here besides flamingos. This place is literally a heaven for the birds. We see, from a distance, two white pelicans with orange beaks floating in the water. Later, I learn that there are white storks, mallards, other ducks, swallows, egrets, herons, terns, cormorants, Mediterranean seagulls, spoonbills, sandpipers, booted eagles, falcons and little owls called kukumavs and many more bird species and butterflies.
Locals tell us that the flamingos migrate to these wetlands and stay there between October and April. They say it is even more beautiful in March and April when the array of wild flowers emerge from every corner and paint the wetlands with their beautiful colors. Olive groves, tamarisk and pine trees dot the hills enveloping the wetlands. This entire area has been a nature reserve under international protection since 1994.
After an hour of picture taking in the freezing wind, we enter the village of Bogazici, and see that almost every place is named after the flamingos such as Flamingo Real Estate, Flamingo Pension, Flamingo Country Club. This cute village of Bogazici deserves its own post.
We go home and I am on the internet reading about flamingos . They are fascinating. The more I learn, the more I want to get to observe them more. I hope you respect these beautiful beings as I do:
- Flamingos feed upon insects, worms, brine shrimp, blue-green and red algae,plankton, mollusks, and small fish. As they get older, their color change from gray to pink due to the high beta carotene in their diet.
- They stick their heads upside down in the mud and sweep their upper bills through shallow water picking up food. They pump the excess water out of their beak with their tongue.
- They rest on one leg when they are not feeding. It might be due to minimizing the loss of body heat to cold water. But, there is no proof for this.
- Their habitats are mostly saline or alkaline lakes in Africa, Asia, North America, Central America, South America, and Europe, and Middle East. They are highly adaptable birds and can live in hot volcanic or in icy lakes.
- They are great swimmers. Since they feed in shallow waters, we usually do not witness their swim.
- Female flamingos lay only one precious egg a year. Both parents are equally responsible in parenting including building a nest and incubating. They both feed the baby chick by regurgitating food.
- Their lifespan is about 20-30 years.
- There are six species of flamingos: Greater Flamingo (these are the ones in Bodrum), Lesser Flamingo, James’s Flamingo, Andean Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo, and Caribbean Flamingo.
- Greater Flamingos are the largest of them all and can grow up to 5 feet tall.
- In South America, Flamingo fat is considered to be a treatment option for tuberculosis.
- They have good eyesight and color perception (nice to have when you are surrounded by such beauty), but have a poor sense of smell and taste (nice to have if they really do stink and their food probably tastes horrible).
- The Ancient Egyptians related a flamingo to the god Ra, and Ancient Romans considered the bird’s tongue as a delicacy (do Romans have a good sense of smell and taste?)
For more reading about the flamingos, please visit Buzzle.
Now, I am happy that I can visit the flamingos in Bodrum anytime between October and April. And I know how to get there.
Note: If you wish the explore this area, and if you do not have a car, there is a dolmus (minibus) from Bodrum downtown to Bogazici.