We went to the Sea Garden for a late summer activity holiday on the basis of great first MW holiday in Sardinia in 2011 and good Trip Advisor reviews. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and could find little wrong. This is a BIG resort in 3 parts that nestles in two bays, straddling a peninsula so there is a lot of walking and lots of STEPS! Sea Garden is run by Swiss Timeshare specialist Hapimag. Bodrum Sea Garden Village has one bay and is the timeshare half and the Sea Garden Hotel is used by MW – but is not exclusively. The MW staff really work hard to make your holiday fun and if you cannot find an activity you like in this large resort there is something wrong! The two resorts are linked by Mini Bodrum Village. I have covered what a MW holiday is about - the watersports first!
There is a well equipped, well run and staffed water sports centre. The MW fleet comprises Picos x 13, Laser x 6, Dart x 3 (only 2 rigged), Bahia x 2 (only 1 rigged), Perception Gemini (sadly no backrests) Kayaks x 6, Bug Dinghies x 3 and Funboat x 3. Around 30 boards and Severne and Tushingham rigs. 4 safety boats 2 RIBS and 2 Rigiflex Boats. The MW Team are very enthusiastic and hard working starting to get everything ready at 8am for 9am start and working until gone 6pm clearing up – every day except Saturday changeover day when its closed. You can do the beginner courses for free but have to pay for any RYA courses (190 TL for 3 day-10 hour (am or pm) RYA 1 or 2 – cannot do level 3). Wind was westerly force 2-5 for 2 weeks so got choppy in the afternoon. The sailing area is marked by two big yellow Outer Distance Marks about 1 km offshore so plenty of space to sail in. There is a sunset challenge every night (exc Sat) and the BIG RACE on Friday when you can race in and on anything!
The other bay is east facing so gets lighter winds and is flat most mornings. It has a significantly fancier and well equipped water sports centre with its own pontoons offering water skiing (2 proper ski boats), Hobie Cats, Laser Stratos, kayaks and wind surfing rigs. Waterskiing is 253 TL for 5 tows (about 5mins/2 kms) and a Beginner Course is 124 TL – but they are very patient and seem to take as long as it takes! I had mono ski lessons at 157 TL over three days and it was me who gave up – I think they would have carried on pulling me until I cracked it! It’s a shame MW does not have its own ski boat so that when its flat first thing they could do 1-2 hours of water skiing – the Hotel did try it a couple of season ago using one of the boats from the other side and may try again in 2013.
Breakfast is 7-11am in the beach front Laguna restaurant which also serves lunch and fresh fish dinners on all nights except Tuesday. Breakfast features an extensive buffet but our favourite was the fresh cooked eggs or omelettes outside by the top pool – although its popularity means there is often a queue. The wasps which other reviewers have mentioned seem to be worse at breakfast time especially around the meat selections – we took a “Waspinator” but it did not seem to have any effect! The 2 coffee machines need regular attention and replenishing by the staff.
You eat lunch in Laguna 12-2.30pm (again an extensive hot and cold buffet) or also get American Diner type food (burgers and hot dogs) in the Walk of Fame bar. One day a week a chef fresh cooks meals in the same spot where the omelettes are cooked. Also from around about 2pm behind the Sunset Bar you can get fresh cooked filled savoury pastries called Gözlemes – an acquired taste but worth trying. There is also afternoon tea in the Laguna 4.30-5.30pm.
In the evening you have a wide choice of all inclusive buffet food in the Amphora Restaurant which has a different theme every night, or you can eat in the Laguna (free but you must book and its closed Tues) or you can eat in one of the 4 speciality restaurants (La Cuccina, ChaCha, Wine House or Raki House) free twice a week but you must book. Esma, who speaks good English, takes bookings or you can call her or book at Reception. Monday night is Turkish Night in Mini Bodrum. Be careful not to open or have opened the wine bottle left on the table – you will then get charged and all but Turkish wine is relatively expensive. You can pay for extra a la carte dining vouchers at 39 TL each (folk from the other side pay 77 TL!). See details on A LA CARTE further on – see BARS for details on drinks.
BARS – There does seem a bit of a shortage of watering holes (compared to a typical Caribbean Resort). The best bar is the aptly named Sunset Bar on the beach. During meal times you can get drinks from Laguna and Amphora plus the Walk of Fame from 8am to 11pm and the Merhaba and Agora Bars in Mini Bodrum. Inclusive drinks are limited to soft drinks on tap, Altintepe house white/rose/red wine, Efes Pilsen lager on tap and a few local cocktails. Everything else is chargeable to your room using your room card. You can only rarely get soda or sparkling water.
Sea Garden Hotel comprises a Reception complex and four 3 storey blocks and 285 rooms. Block 4 is closest to reception and Amphora but also furthest from beach. Block 1 and 2 face the beach but very few rooms get an unobstructed sea view. We stayed in Block 2 which has 24 rooms on each floor all with balconies. The room was modern, clean and a decent size of around 28 m2 with a 5 m2 balcony. The bathroom had a separate toilet and a bath with shower overhead. Water pressure and temperature were always very good. You get a 26” flat screen Samsung TV with 28 channels inc BBC World, CNN and Eurosport. The room has very good air conditioning which switches off if you open the balcony door. Room has fridge/mini bar, kettle (buy some milk and coffee), hairdryer digital coded safe, walk-in wardrobe, super king sized bed. The maid keeps it all clean and replenished. Only things you might consider missing are spares pillows, an iron/ironing board and bathrobes. You may get too chilly with the aircon but can ask for an extra duvet! The balcony is too small for sun beds but has a table and 2 chairs. The resort has free wifi but reception is patchy and 2 free Apple Internet PCs in the Walk of Fame.
The Sea Garden and Village are well equipped, which I guess is one of main advantages of the scale of the Hapimag Resorts. Both resorts have small poolside shops for those things you forgot, watersports centres, volley ball courts and swimming pools (Sea Garden has two 1.4m deep pools lower one 11x24m kept at 23oc and Upper one 7x18m at 25oc plus paddling pool). Sea Garden has a fully equipped (inc dive boat) PADI Dive Centre right by the kiddies paddling pool.
The Knidos Beauty and Fitness Spa has a free gym, pool and Jacuzzi plus priced treatments. There is Nightclub opposite Knidos Health Spa called Buddha – no free drinks here.
Mini Bodrum Village has a medical centre, newsagent, shops, Kodak Shop, restaurants, entertainment stage. In Mini Bodrum you will also find mountain bikes, hire cars, tennis and squash. You have to book and pay for the courts but MW guests get the racquets free. There is also an ATM which dispenses cash in TL, Euros and USD. MW provides a toddlers/mini club all day and crèche in the evening.
The Village Resort has a supermarket, laundry, basketball court, 5 a side pitches and Mini Golf. The beach in the Sea Garden is quite small and narrow, more grit and a few stones than fine sand. You wade out a few metres and get to an awkward rocky band and then it gets much deeper to swim – okay for kids but not ideal given prevailing wind/waves. The swimming area is protected by buoys and there are pontoons to swim out to – one of which MW use as the Sailing Race Start. The beach in the Village is much nicer in terms of being bigger, more gently shelving, sheltered and nicer sand. There are a decent number of sun-beds around the pool and on the beach which also has two raised decking areas by the water. Towels are too short and quite thin but you can get two or three and double them up.
STEPS – there are a lot of steps so not for the elderly or infirm. It’s around 5 minutes and a 100 steps depending on route from the beach to reception and a further 85 to Mini Bodrum. There are fewer steps to the other beach, 55 in total, but a long step steep path instead. You can walk beach to beach in 15 minutes or take a Golf Buggy Shuttle.
STAFF – All the MW Staff were good. MW Manager is Darren (seemed nice enough but we did not see much of him) and Elle. Sailing Team led by Owain with instructors Nick, Giddy (replaced in 2 week by Adam), Sam, Jack & Henry plus local girl Esi in charge of the kiosk. Sea Garden Staff who stood out for us were Esma who takes your bookings, Yücel who will cheerfully cook you an omelette, Őzcan in the Walk of Fame, Maitre d Taner in Amphora, Fikriye who keeps you fit and Sabri who will teach you to water ski.
NEGATIVES – not many negatives to report apart from wasps (worst at breakfast), speeding mini vans and golf buggies, some indifferent service/staff, lack of variety of bars/cocktails, limited spa hours (only 9am-6pm) and no waterskiing on MW side. Also MW only sends out the ticket packs quite late in the day only about a week before your flights!
You can use the facilities of the Sea Garden Village albeit you have to pay. Its equivalent to Amphora is the Olive Tree, instead of ChaCha it has Asian, Manzara is equivalent to Laguna and it has the Garden Grill on the beach. The beach also has a big water sports centre and a large number of pedalos. Folk from the “other side” could have a one week all inclusive package for 349 TL or pay 77 TL per night.
Each resort has a daily list of all inclusive fitness activities like pool aerobics, yoga, volley ball, water polo and even Bingo! Unusually for MW the tennis and mountain bikes are provided by the Hotel. Mountain Bikes are 60TL for one day or 180TL for 5 days. Tennis and Squash courts are 20TL per hour. There is a weekly tennis competition.
In late September weather was sunny for 2 weeks, bit of cloud on a couple of days and certainly no rain. Very light winds in the morning which build as the day goes on to force 2-5 by mid afternoon. It only stayed windy one night when towels were blown off the balcony. Air temperature was 30°C and sea temperature 27oc – warmer than the pools.
Chris(tine) from Melbourne runs the tours for Akustik. Excursions half day unless stated. You can visit Bodrum £28, Turkish Village £15, All Day Jeep Safari £35, 2 hour Pony Trek at Farilya Stables £30, Kos by ferry all day £25, all day Gulet Cruise £25 and Ephesus £49 very long and hot day! Avoid pony trekking unless you are a competent and confident rider as the terrain is difficult and ponies can be frisky. You can get a Gulet Ferry into Bodrum from the other side. MW Car Hire is £30/day 2+ days. You can get the Dolmus Minibus into Bodrum for 5TL each way and takes about 20 minutes. It runs about every 20-30 minutes from 8.35am and the return buses run well into the early hours (last one 3am!). A Taxi (Dilek Taksi) into Bodrum is 60TL one way (metered cab is around 75TL). There is another excursion company Neyzen Tours in Mini Bodrum and a car hire shop which charges around £50/day.
Did not see much wildlife in the Resort apart from wasps, two tortoises, tiny lizards and the friendly ginger cat in Laguna. There are marked nature trails that radiate out from the Hotel but it was too hot to explore them!
A LA CARTE
Amphora – is free and open every night. It offers and extensive hot and cold themed buffet. It has a children’s area, a well lit dining area and also a separate more characterful but quite low lit dining area which we preferred as it has nice ambience. Our favourite night was Friday which was fast Eastern Journey with pretty good Indian, Thai and Chinese style dishes. We never failed to get a table and you do get served the wine at your table but help yourself to the food.
Laguna – seems to take on a different more sophisticated and relaxed atmosphere in the evening and has the best stunning views of sunset and the sea. Esma meets, greets, helps you select you fresh fish (choice of about 6 from ice display) and seats you which gets you off to a good start. Be warned they start grilling your fish main course once you have selected so get your buffet salad right away. The staff seemed the most attentive here in terms of being friendly; serving wine at your table and the main course is brought your table. There (like everywhere) is a good choice of desserts I liked the fresh fruit salad, Baklava and Helva doughnuts. Sadly there is no grilled meat alternative if you do not like fish. Laguna was our favourite and apart from Tuesday you could eat here every night as long as you book with Esma.
La Cuccina – Speciality Italian that sits above Laguna near the beach. Not very Italian inside and not overly comfortable with wooden seats. What there was of the food was good (mains are starter sized) but service was indifferent and you end up getting the wine yourself. Menu is limited - salad bar or soup starter, to 7 Spaghetti/Fettuccini pastas and 7 Pizzas plus sweet trolley. La Cuccina is quite small and must be booked - it is closed Sunday and Thursday nights.
ChaCha – Speciality Tex-mex that is adjacent to Walk of Fame near reception. Beware it is in the open which is nice but it can be windy/chilly later in season! Food is very good cooked in sight on a charcoal griddle but again the service is friendly but patchy plus staff look scruffy. Again it’s salad bar starters or spicy soup, Mexican/Brazilian mains and same sweets as found elsewhere. You must book and it’s closed Monday and Wednesday.
Wine House – In Mini Bodrum fixed menu which you will either like or not so check it our first. You sit outside in or overlooking the street. Food was okay (Turkish style) but the service which started well got poorer as the same waiter was also covering tables in the Raki House and Merhaba Turkish restaurant. It must be booked and is closed on Turkish night – Monday - and Thursday.
Raki House – did not try it but it offers similar meze food to the Wine House and Merhaba.
Merhaba – you would have to pay to eat (extensive priced menu I guess meal would be around 100 TL) here apart from Turkish night when the whole Village is taken over for BBQ style Turkish cooking from cooking stations dotted around the street. Turkish is free and highly recommended but you have to get a ticket from reception and then they give you an extra wrist band when you arrive. Recommend you get there by 7pm if you want a good seat. There is a live band and entertainment on stage later on. You can get free ice cream and waffles from around 8pm every night in the square by the Merhaba.
Flights are BA Airbus A320 from T5 so you get treated like a human being. Transfer well organised in nice air conditioned coaches and only takes about 40 minutes.
Block 1 or 2 are best for Beach - not worth paying for sea view as very few rooms get an unobstructe...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.