There are travellers, and then there are people like Orhan Kural.
The Istanbul-born professor brought a group of seven visitors to Cayman – his 227th country visited – for a four-day visit this February as part of a special excursion with The Travellers Club of Turkiye, which he heads up.
“I was excited to see the Cayman Islands as I have never been before,” Professor Kural told the Compass. “We had heard that there was a rich Turkish businessman here but we couldn’t find him. We saw the blowholes, which were very interesting; I’ve never seen anything like that. We also went to the Wreck of Ten Sails. The beaches here are very calm, not crowded. We were very happy at the beach and went to Stingray City, too.
“I also gave a talk at East End Primary School,” he added.
A man of many hats, Mr. Kural is also an environmental campaigner and has clocked up some 4,000 presentations at conferences throughout the world, speaking to audiences in 47 countries including the mysterious, closed-off North Korea. Travel is vital to a better world, explained the 63-year old, who has presented a popular television show in his home country for 14 years.
“The show is called Luften +1, which means ‘Please plus one.’ That is, if you can get one other person to help the environment for example and we all do it, that makes a huge difference.
“I truly believe that when people travel it promotes mutual understanding and ensures peace on the earth. Wars will finish; wars are caused only by politicians, not people,” he said.
Victims of consumerism
Professor Kural is also Honorary Consul to the Benin, Africa.
“I have visited all 54 African countries and seen so much. I was helping to hand out food in Somalia; a lady came, I put food in her bag and she said she needed meat. I dug down and we found some; she put it in her bag. I cried.
“Around 22,000 people are dying from hunger each day and yet we throw so much away. In Turkey now although we are one of 10 growing economies, I do not see the future is very good.
“We are starting to consume a lot. Yes, we are growing but we are consuming more luxury stuff. I buy second-hand clothes only. It is the spirit, not the clothing, that makes a man,” he said.
The environmentalist was also instrumental in bringing in new tobacco laws in Turkey, a notoriously smoking-friendly culture.
“It was not easy,” he added. “It took a long time to get the law made and passed.” A popular play – Turk Don Kisot (Turkish Don Quixote) has been performed extensively, based on the life of a man that counts the President of Turkey and actress Brigitte Bardot among his friends. So where does he get his energy?
“I do not smoke, never married and only sleep three hours a night as I am so busy,” he said. “I try and lead a good life. It is important to leave a good name when your time comes.”
As for Cayman, the experience was a great one, he said, and will certainly inform his writing when he includes the Cayman Islands in his new travel book (he has published more than 20). However, he concludes, some logistics could be streamlined.
“Why does it take three weeks to get a visa for the Cayman Islands? It put a few potential travellers in our group off coming here. I am a diplomat and can get a visa for the UK in one day, so why three weeks here? You need to solve the problem.”
And with that, the traveller took his leave. There was a plane to catch to Aalborg, Denmark. Not for long, though; Chile and Easter Island trips are already booked.