Superyachts have been flocking back to wonderfully exotic (and duty free) Tunisia since the over-cautious travel ban was lifted last year. We were lucky enough to be invited for a visit last month and cant wait to share the beauty of this northern African, French speaking country which is just a 90 minute sail from Sardinia.
Tunisia has several superyacht marinas including Port Yasmine near Hammamet, Bizerte and Port Marina de Gammarth. They have been a popular destination for the Mediterranean superyacht crowd for years due to excellent quality fuel that’s duty free, customs and immigration departments who understand and want superyachts to visit and therefore make any paperwork as easy as possible, and as a provisioning stop to take advantage of Tunisia’s fresh local produce which is world class and a fraction of the cost in other countries.
As well as the advantages of being a non-EU country so close to the Mediterranean, Tunisia is a hub of history and culture and makes a fantastic destination for owners and charter guests keen to explore outside the usual yacht spots. Plus French is Tunisia’s second language and all residents are taught French from a very early age, as well as English in more recent years so there should not be a language barrier with anyone you meet.
Tunisia has a rich cultural heritage having been settled in by the Moors and the Romans. Carthage and its world famous ruins are breathtaking and only 30 minutes or so from popular Hammammet in the north. Hammammet also has fantastic shopping in both traditional souks and new very modern shopping malls with lots of brands names you know and love.
Sidi Bou Said is also very much worth a visit. This is the picture perfect, idyllic village you‘ll see in many depictions of Tunisia. Built on a hill over looking a lovely small leisure marina with stunning mountain ranges visable across the bay, this is the place to experience the Tunisian picture you probably have in your mind. Full of boutique restaurants you will be spoiled for choice and we definitely recommend visiting Café Sidi Chebaane for the best views, a great mint tea and pastries to die for.
Moving south we start to find places made famous in some very recognizable TV and films. Monty Python’s Life of Brian was filmed in Monastir, in and around a Ribat (castle) that was also a monastery at one point. We got a few looks while we were taking a tour and quoting some of the famous lines from the film; ‘He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy’, but it was so worth a visit to this beautiful place whether you are a fan or not!
Moving slightly further south, El Djem and its huge and very well maintained amphitheater has to be on your bucket list. Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 the amphitheater continues to be a cultural centre with theatre, opera and a range of classical and modern music performed there. The Romans seem to know a lot about building practical and beautiful structures and the ambiance and sound quality in this epic architecture will blow your mind.
A little further south again and its back to film sets from one of the most famous films of all times. Check out a place called Tozeur and you will find the film set for parts of the very first, original Star Wars: A New Hope, We are talking the real life Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet and the fictional Tatooine is also named after the real life city Tataouine in Tunisia.
Speaking of Tataouine, it also appeared in The X-Files – in the end of the The X-Files movie as Foum Tataouine, making this a double cult destination!
While you are down south in the start of the Sahara dessert you can experience all sorts of dessert activities. Night camping, camel riding trips and 4×4 motor cross days are very popular and usually come with a team of local residents who cook you tradition foods in stone earth ovens, or can bring your own provisions if that’s how you roll.
The best contacts you can have for Tunisia has to be the amazing team at Yacht Services Tunisia. Founders Kim and Duncan sailed into Tunisia 12 years ago and never left. They know every nook and cranny of Tunisian life and can take care of everything you could possible need during your visit. They also have great taste in wine and food so be sure to take advantage of their recommendations.
YS Tunisia have offices in Port Yasmine, Bizerte and Marina Gammarth, have excellent relationships with customs and immigration and can deal with all the paperwork before you even arrive. Then they can arrange for bunkering, provisioning and organize the most fantastic trips to some of Tunisia’s famous places.
We particularly like the YS Tunisia follow me program for yachts that wish to experience everything Tunisia has to offer. They meet you in the northern tip of Tunisia usually in Bizerte, and then follow your yacht along the coast line meeting up with you along the way to take you and your guests on cultural trips, picturesque viewpoints, shopping in the souks, and out to experience the delectable Tunisian foods at the very best restaurants. The same team follows you for the entire trip and is on call to help with anything you might need at a moments notice.
Talking of food we can’t finish without mentioning the taste sensations on offer. Tunisia doesn’t import very much food at all and are almost self-sufficient. Most foods, herbs and spices are freshly and organically grown in their rich soils. They have excellent, I mean really excellent olive oil and their beef, lamb and chicken is also free range and chemical free. Tunisia is named after the Tuna run (we hadn’t twigged that either) and the Med’s finest tuna skirt the coast and end up on the plates of locals and visitors alike.
We love that pretty much each coastal restaurant has its own little fishing team. Rather than commercial fishermen bringing in the catch of the day, each restaurant goes out in a little boat sand catches the fish they will need. The seas are clean and very well stocked throughout Tunisia, and we enjoyed some of the finest fresh fish we have ever tasted. Yacht chefs regularly come and stock up their freezers with meat and fish and save an absolute fortune whilst buying some of the best produce in the world.
We hope you add Tunisia back into your travel itinerates for 2018 and for anything you need at all, we recommend you contact Kim and Duncan at Yacht Services Tunisia by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling +216 98364875 or visiting their website ys-tunisia.com.