I love boats. Anything involving boats is a perfect vacation activity. Crimea understands that well.
At least half of sightseeing excursions involve boats, whether you’re heading out to swim in a secluded lagoon, to taste the finest Massandra wines, or to visit the summer palaces of Yalta.
If you’re in the mood for a less conventional water adventure, you can go sea fishing for tiny silver stavridka, rent a kayak, a jet ski or a catamaran, learn how to water ski and parasail, or ride the Big Banana – two inflated tubes that seat 8 each and are pulled and spun around at ungodly speeds by a motorboat.
An eternal adventurer that I am, it was only appropriate that for my first Crimean boat ride I pick a “pirate schooner” named Gulyona. The name is charming, adorable and utterly untranslatable. It can be somewhat described as “a little bit adventurous girl who likes to walk around and doesn’t like to come home.” In essence, my spirit animal.
Twice a day Gulyona leaves Novy Svet and takes her passengers (captives?) on a two-hour journey along the south-eastern coast of the peninsula. Hugging the shores from Sudak to Tsar’s Beach, Gulyona passes pine-covered mountains, Shalyapin Grotto and Pirate Beach along the Golitsyn Trail, and the 14th century Genoese fortress. It drops anchor around a 200 meters off of the elusive, exclusive Tsar’s Beach, and you can go diving right off the deck. Another reminder that I’m not in America anymore: nobody asks me to sign a liability waiver before I cannon-ball 3 meters down. Clear, warm waters feels amazing. Clear, jelly-like “sea cucumbers”* swimming around me seem to agree (*that’s what the locals call them but I think they’re off a bit).
Gulyona is also a favorite with dolphins, especially at sunset. As soon as it leaves the calm waters of Novy Svet’s Green Bay and enters the mildly rougher open waters of the Black Sea, it is joined on its voyage by a school of white-bellied dolphins. It’s breathtaking to watch, and takes a lot of self-restraint to not jump into the sea in the hope that the friendliest of the bunch might want to befriend me, Flipper-style. I have never swam with dolphins but it seems like a life-changing experience.
In short, if you’re ever in Crimea, talk a sea walk with Gulyona. You won’t want to come home either.
Also, I can’t wait to ride the big Banana.
UPDATE: I rode the Banana. It was awesome!