THERE comes a point in life when you just have to jump.
I’m on a cliff edge, staring at the 2,000metre (6,500ft) drop, braced for my first paragliding experience. I’ve got on a harness, a helmet and the parachute is laid out on the ground.
Next comes the stomach churching moment when the pilot shouts: “Run!”
I take a deep breath and in less than a second the ground falls away and we are walking in the air.
I scream “woohoo” as we leave behind the brown Babadağ mountain and look down on the sunbathers holidaying along the Turquoise Coast in southwest Turkey.
In the hands of just the wind and the experienced pilot on my tandem flight, we gently fly out over the sea.
“Did it, liked it, loved it”
I am having the time of my life spotting the Blue Lagoon, the Butterfly Valley and even, in the far distance, the Greek island Rhodes.
In half an hour we land safely on the beachfront in Ölüdeniz, the world famous centre for paragliding.
I wanted to come to this small laid-back village resort in Fethiye, Muğla province, as it has become one of the most photographed beaches in the Mediterranean thanks in part to the piercing green-blue colour of the sea, which reaches a welcoming 28C (82F) in the summer.
With the typical Med climate of hot and dry, it has also become a popular spot for Brits wanting to lie under the bright sun, eat ice cream and drink Efes Turkish lager.
It became James Bond country too with Daniel Craig arriving to shoot scenes for the latest 007 film Skyfall (released in Oct 2012).
There are hundreds of hotels and apartments in Ölüdeniz with most visitors arriving on two-week package holidays. And many have made it their second home, returning year after year.
I stayed in the Alize Hotel just up the road from the beach. This is an all-inclusive hotel where you can sit around the pool all day eating and drinking while watching the few energetic guests doing pool-aerobics from your sun-lounger.
The great thing about Ölüdeniz is that it shuffles the deck on beach holidays.
You can lie dormant under the sun, take a dip in the pool and stroll around the shops or you can opt for a heart pounding experience and launch yourself off a rockface, take a jeep safari, and travel down rapids in an inflatable rubber ring.
For me, to come here to flop in the sun would feel like I’d left half a glass of wine.
The best way to see the surrounding area is on a popular jeep safari. Passengers are actively encouraged to bring along pump action water guns to spray each other during the hot afternoon. It’s not for everyone and, to be honest, after my second drenching it was enough already and it wasn’t even lunchtime.
This is a full day trip, which starts out with a “soaking wet” drive to see ruins. This is followed by a walk through the clear cold waters of Europe‘s second largest canyon known as the Hidden City. Next on the itinerary I paddle down the shallow Saklikent river in an inflatable tube and lastly I get to sit in a mud bath for half an hour to refresh my skin. Despite the soakings, the outing is good fun especially when you get your own back and I start throwing around buckets of water.
The ghost town in Kayaköy is also worth seeing and more civilised. The abandoned Greek village with 3,500 broken stone houses has been uninhabited since 1923 leaving a sadness hanging over it.
Sitting on a hillside, much of it has crumbled away after numerous earthquakes.
The derelict site became the inspiration for Louis de Bernières 2004 book Birds Without Wings.
Stay for lunch at Cinbal – the oldest restaurant in the area which serves Turkish style barbecue in a garden where bunches of low-hanging grapes reach down to touch you. You don’t sit at a conventional table but lie on bed-like furniture while meze dishes of smoky aubergine, chillies covered in yogurt and the tastiest lamb are delivered. Finish with Baklava – a sweet pastry filled with nuts and oozing with honey.
Too soon the evening has come round and if you’re used to going out and drinking in Britain then you’ll be able to do the same in Ölüdeniz except because the weather’s hot, you can sit outside watching paragliders and it won’t break the bank. There are bars with British names and English speaking waiters who make ordering a doddle.
The nightlife is very restaurant-based where you settle in for the night, have drinks after the meal and either watch the world go by or join in the karaoke or belly dancing.
For a stunning sunset get to Bella Mamma’s Italian restaurant at Delta Hotel in Calış Beach – another popular resort nearby. It’s right on the seafront among dozens of other restaurants but the food is superb with huge servings.
Another highlight for dinner is Hilmi in the Fish Market in Fethiye harbour where you handpick what to eat from the day’s catch and they cook it for you. Every Tuesday, this town also has a huge market with hundreds of stall sellers offering jewellery, souvenirs, handcrafts, leather, plates, and clothes.
Back in Ölüdeniz, after dinner means a wander down the main street Çarşı Caddesi. Many of the shops proudly advertise their fake branded clothes and watches. It might not be Harrods but I went in Harools, Jeff Harvey Nicks, Next boutique and shoes, and a BHS, which stands for Bridget’s Home Stores.
I bought a t-shirt to remember how I turned my lazy beach holiday into an action-packed trip of a lifetime.
It says: “Did it, liked it, loved it”.
Flights are available to Dalaman from Luton Airport with Monarch. To book go to www.monarch.co.uk
A double room at the Alize Hotel. To book visit www.alizeotel.com
Tandem paragliding with Gravity. For more information visit www.flyoludeniz.com
Jeep safari with Evergreen travel agency. Visit www.evergreenturkey.com