The Fake Drunken Boat Ride to Syria

Three British men claimed they ended up in Russian custody nine hours after sailing from Cyprus—but it was an Internet prank.

Tartus, Syria, has been one of many battlegrounds in the Syrian civil war. (AP)

Updated on June 8 at 12:10 p.m. ET

When a story seems too good to be true, it often is: Lewis Ellis, a 25-year-old from Manchester, who said he and his friends who went dolphin-watching while drunk in Cyprus, but ended up in Syria, now says he made it all up.

We initially reported the prank, which we and other news organizations fell for, as the consequences of an all-night bender.

Our original post:

Three young British men working in Cyprus, still intoxicated from an all-night bender, decided to go dolphin-watching early Monday morning in the Mediterranean. Without their wits about them, and without a translator, they got on a boat and set off from the coastal town of Ayia Napa.

After nine hours at sea, “We ended up in some f**king place called Tartus or something and literally had no idea where this f**king place was,” Lewis Ellis, a 25-year-old from Manchester and one of the men on the journey, told

That place just so happens to be in Syria, just over an hour west of Homs, one of the hotspots of the civil war ravaging the country. It’s also the home to a Russian naval base. So, naturally, when they got to shore, they were greeted by Russian military personnel. As Lewis describes:

“They took us away and started questioning us; you know, who were we? What were we doing in Syria? When we explained what happened they realised how ridiculous it was and they thought it was f**king hilarious. They took photos of us, selfies. They were laughing their f**king heads off.

“We were dying for a f**king smoke but the naval base was no smoking so they let us go out onto the rocks outside and we took more pictures. When we got back inside they hooked us up with wi-fi and fed us some kind of stew.”

More than 24 hours after the set off from Cyprus, the Russians arranged for a boat to bring them back to Ayia Napa. They realized how ridiculous their adventure was. As Ellis said, “I mean we went to watch f**king dolphins and we ended up in f**king Syria.”

There is no word on whether Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms will play them in an upcoming movie—or whether the monkey will make another appearance.