As we climbed the steps to the small blue hut June brushed past us apologising that she had an urgent appointment at the beach but she’d be back soon. Just five minutes. We knew who she was immediately as a couple of English tourists had pointed her out with excitement when we were at the Dalyan shops the day before.
We were welcomed onto the porch by a volunteer who explained how June Haimoff with support from environmentalists like David Bellamy saved the Iztuzu beach from hotel investors in the 1980s to retain it as a safe nesting spot for turtles. Apparently Prince Philip even rang the Turkish prime minister of the day which led to a protective law.
Besides the information in June’s hut about her foundation’s mission to protect the local wildlife, there’s also a university research and rescue centre among the trees where injured or sick turtles are treated and returned to the water. A handful of infants paddled in one basin, while lone adult turtles, one aged in her 70s, recovered in a series of other large tubs. Most of the turtles were there because of “buoyancy problems”. One with a towel on its back was hit by a boat propeller.
Back at the hut we read about a campaign urging boat owners to use propeller shields or switch to electric motors. Everyday dozens of fast boats ferry tourists around Dalyan. Another poster warned that handfeeding the turtles was changing their behaviour and natural diet. It’s hard to tell if the campaigns are working but the turtles certainly attract plenty of visitors.
June, now 95, became known as Kaptan June for her boatlife on the Turkish coast in the early 1980s before she made the beach her home. She returned to the hut as we were leaving. We can only guess what the urgent trip to the beach was for but wonder after all these years how a composting toilet hasn’t been installed near the hut. We thanked her for her work, and I complimented her on her glam orange fingernails possibly fresh from the trip to town.
“A lady must always look her best,” she declared before posing with Laressa for the photo below.