Today we decided to something we have never done on one of our holidays before and go on an organised excursion. We definitely prefer travelling independently whenever possible, but today's trip was to somewhere which we couldn't have got to on our own: the Kornati National Park. The Kornati National Park is one of Croatia's stranger attractions, being an archipelago of islands distinguished by the fact that they are almost barren and devoid of life. Entry to the national park, which lies a couple of hours' sailing off the coast of Zadar, is only possible if you are on a registered boat with a permit. Unless you happen to have your own boat and obtain a permit, the only real option therefore is to join an organised excursion.
We suspected that organised excursions would not really be our cup of tea, so it was with some trepidation that we left our apartment for nearby Borik Marina at 07.15. The advertised departure time of the boat we were booked on was 8am and we were worried about being late as we struggled to locate the meeting point. We needn't have worried, however, as it was about 08.15 before the boat even arrived at the harbour and gone 08.30 before it showed any inclination of departure.
It was a big boat, which was good, because there were a lot of people on the excursion. We managed to get a seat at the side, which gave us fantastic views as we pulled away from the old town of Zadar...
...and made our way towards the islands.
The tourist brochure had promised breakfast on the boat but, luckily, we had opted to have our own breakfast prior to leaving, because it transpired that this consisted of a shot of rakija (a Croatian spirit) and a small biscuit. You could buy coffee on board though, which cheered me up after our early start.
The boat had interesting commentary in five languages as passed points of interest on route. It was fun to listen to the information first of all in Croatian (and understand a little bit of it), then in German and English to see how much I had understood and what I had missed. In between the commentary, we had atmospheric Croatian folk music to listen to.
There was some beautiful scenery as we sailed into the national park.
After approximately three hours on the boat, we arrived at our destination; an island where we would have two hours of free time to explore and swim before being served lunch and transported back to Zadar. After so long sitting down, we were eager to get back on dry land and investigate the island, but it turned out to be more difficult than we had anticipated.
The Kornati islands are extremely rocky and one of our guidebooks had described them as a "moonscape". We could see what the author had meant when we started trying to climb across our island to get a view to the sea on the other side. There was no path to speak of and we were picking our way across large boulders, trying not to accidentally slip and end up in gorse bushes.
It was worth it for the amazing views like this one though
The island was so small that we'd seen most of it within twenty minutes and decided to head back down to the beach for a swim. We were suitably prepared with swimming costumes and a towel but one thing we hadn't anticipated was how rocky the seabed would be. I knew, of course, that Croatia isn't renowned for sandy beaches, so was expecting a beach with the consistency of gravel. Instead we found a beach which was more like a rockery, and once you approached the sea in the area where the stones began to get wet, they were covered in a green mossy substance which was extremely slippery. I took about two steps before ascertaining that paddling would be akin to walking on an ice rink... without iceskates! I decided to sit and enjoy the view instead...
Tim was a bit braver though and (somehow!) managed to edge himself into the water and out again without breaking any bones.
Once we'd recovered from the beach it was time for lunch, which was served on board the boat. Our hearts sank as we saw other people in the room being served plates of a rather dubious-looking fish, accompanied by some even more dubious-looking salad. Fortunately there was a second option of chicken or we might have gone very hungry indeed. There was an overriding smell of fish in the dining area for quite some time, so we had to make use of the unlimited free wine to block it out.
After another few hours of sailing, we were back in Zadar by 5pm. It was an interesting day and the islands were definitely worth seeing, but I think it reinforced something which we already knew; organised excursions are not our thing! Tomorrow we are planning to go to another Croatian national park, but this time on our own by bus!