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Safari in Dalmatia

Trip with ActivTour: Safari in northern Dalmatia

Safari in Dalmatia

In the next episode of the trips with ActivTour cycle, we are heading to Croatia, we will embark the Agramer and we will dive in the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea. Let’s start our dive safari in Dalmatia!

Our adventure with Croatia began on Saturday in Zadar, the port city, from where we would set off to safari. Life in Zadar flows in a special kind of way. The city combines the benefits of the history and the usability and needs of today’s residents and tourists. Surrounded by thousands-year-old churches and ancient ruins, local pubs, restaurants and cafes blend in the environment.

On Sunday morning, we left the port and headed toward the South. The first day of diving, was rather more about preparation and getting used to the new place and thus a different diving environment. We did two dives near the island of Žut in the Babuljaši reef – in two of its various parts. It was a gentle introduction to the adventure that awaited us in the following days. In the evening, we anchored at the Dugi Otok island, in Luka town. Dinner, prepared by Chef, was a real show-off of Mediterranean cuisine. A large bowl with superbly cooked and the freshest of mussels. The very thought makes my mouth water up to this day.

Dugi Otok in Croatia
Dugi Otok in Croatia

The second day of Safari in northern Dalmatia, and particularly the second diving, surprised us very positively. We got to the wreck of a fishing vessel at the foot of the island of Sestrunj. The unit sank a little over 20 years ago was in pretty good shape. The depth at which it rested was up to 30 m and gave us the opportunity to watch it along and across. An interesting point were the cages to store caught fish and seafood resting on the right side of the wreck. Because they are at a depth of approximately 15 m and a lot of light reaches there, they are home to many species of fish and life goes on there with quite of pace.

Two consecutive days offered us a lot of experience. It started with the first dive of the morning at the foot of the islets of Vodńijak, near the islands of Skarda and Ist. We approached its coast and dived into the water. Initially, we got into a strong current, but after descending below 15 meters, the water pressure calmed down. A wall descending for about 60 ft, richly decorated with fans of red gorgonians and red coral bushes appeared before our eyes. For a moment the view took our breath away. I probably have never seen such a lush of reef grown on a slope before. In addition, we were observed by octopus and crawfish from the corners of rock formations. You cannot forge such picture! The second diving provided us with great experience too. We dived at the foot of the island of Skarda in northern Dalmatia. Never before have I seen so large crayfish. The first, which we came across at a depth of approximately 38 metres, was looking out at us out from the closet- bunkered in the slit of the reef. A meter long protruding mustache, which unfortunately it was not able to hide from us, gave it away. It was really big – we captured it in a commemorative photo.

We spent the night on the island of Olib, in the town of the same name. It stands out for its very carefree atmosphere. Cheerful residents use quads to go about the narrow concrete streets. All vehicles, as you would expect from a truly intimate island, do not have license plates. The island and its inhabitants tend to be rather wealthy – you can see it in their new homes and well paved streets everywhere. The captain of our boat, Sasa, told us that many families living in this island have improved their status thanks to working in the United States. After returning to the motherland, they have invested in the reconstruction and expansion of their homes. Currently, residents’ main income is cultivation and export of oak wood. The badges of sawn oak prepared for transport are stored on the waterfront next to the Marina, so it is easy to notice them.

The next day we reached the foremost to the north end of our trip. The island of Premuda and its famous dive spot, Bucht/Uvaca Siroka, with incredibly fanciful system of canals and tunnels. The most recognizable spot is the so called Cathedral. After two dives we concluded that we could easily do some more underwater escapades here. The nature and arrangement of the bottom, an abundance of underwater tunnels and canals, countless lives, schools of fish attracted us into the deep with every breath we took. A few dozen meters long corridor has led us to the underwater room with a bottom at a depth of about 26 feet. The ceiling of the Chamber had many gaps and the rays of light passing through the top spread in a variety of colours over our heads. The highlight was a meeting with a lobster hidden in the gap at the foot of the wall. This funny creature, which in 40% seemed to be built of pliers, provided me with a lot of positive emotions, because you do not have chance to meet such a singular shellfish every day. We spent the night at anchor in a secluded bay off the coast of the island of Dugi Otok.

The fifth day of dive safari in Croatia, began slowly to reminds us of the end of our journey. The next day, in the afternoon we would return to the port in Zadar and we will spend the last night in the Croatian town. But before that happens, let’s focus again on what is most enjoyable – that is diving. On that day, our target were the outer reefs of the island of Dugi Otok. We did the first dive on the reef of Mežanj. For an hour, we moved to a fairy-tale land scenery reminding of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. We were hanging in blue and green depth on a slope of the reef at about 60 meters which was adorned with the remains of fishing nets and torn ropes. The second descent was an attraction which I had been waiting a long time for. We continued to penetrate the outside of the coast of the Dugi Otok island, a place called Lopata. Amazing tongue-shaped plateau descending to a depth of 80 or more meters. Diving in this location is so attractive that you could easily do three or four dives here. It started out with interestingly shaped wall cut through by slots, rifts and sandy clearings here and there. On one of them, we found a piece of amphorae, a trace of ancient people living in the local Islands.  And so for an hour long we admired the unique characteristics of the Lopata spot – worthy to be recommended even the most picky!

Cozy picturesque town of Zadar, Croatia.
Cozy picturesque town of Zadar, Croatia.

Full with experience and enchanted by the Lopata, we headed out towards the North and 30 minutes before the anchor we went on the waters of the Kornati National Park. The Kornati is an extremely picturesque archipelago of 147 more or less rocky islets piled over the blue depth which since 1980 has been protected by a statute of the Marine Park. The visibility of water has changed here into crystal clear and there is no developed settlements here. The landscape of the islets is decorated with small shrines, pastures and grazing sheep, the ruins of churches and old abandoned homesteads. In the evening, we came to a small village with a stone bridge called Levrnaka. On the waterfront, we saw a single granite house, whose owner ran a komase, i.e. a tavern in its part.

We decided to do night diving as the conditions were ideal for it. Close to the place where our boat anchored, there was a secluded bay, with a depth of less than 15 m. After sunset, while waiting for dinner, we were surprised by windy storm which is typical for Croatia. Gusty wind called BORA picks up very rapidly, it blows with large force and it is feared among the sailors. However, it was not too disturbing for divers, so we took our plan into action. We came across cuttlefish, a large crab which chose to carry a 30-inch polyp as its house and a large Octopus. So the result was quite satisfactory as for diving by the light of the moon.

Sea view on Kornati
Sea view on Kornati

The last day of diving involved two farewell dives in the heart of the Kornati National Park: on the reefs of Kamičič and Borovnič. Here, for the first time in my life I came across an interesting eel-shaped fish – conger. It is a predatory sea eel reminding of moray, but with a different snout. Its head shape resembles a dog sniff, it has big, blue-gray, glassy eyes, which you would see first in the reef, where it hides. Kornati is the underwater wealth of many varieties of snails, echinoderms and anemones of the huge variety of colors, shapes and sizes. In addition with crystal clear water as is expected from a true national park – it is a place in 100% worth recommending.

The seven days spent on a boat touring the most interesting diving spots of the Adriatic, this time around the islands of the northern Dalmatia, made a very positive impression on me. For residents of continental Europe, Croatia is relatively close. Travel by car gives us extraordinary freedom, flexibility in planning routes and probably what many of you will love the most, the possibility to pack the entire diving equipment that you might desire to take, without unnecessary explanations, unpleasantness and outrageously high charges for excess baggage at the airport. Depending on the place of residence, the drive to Zadar port, where the Agramer boat departs from most often, should not take you more than 10-14 hours.

Croatia is an extremely friendly place, I dare say, such where everyone can feel at home there. It is not a problem when you do not know foreign languages – you will be able to hold a conversation with its citizens by using our native tongue.  You are most cordially welcome to Croatia. See for yourself that it is worth it.

Katarzyna Cieślawska, activtour.pl

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