Travel

Boating Around The Adriatic

I woke up early and headed out onto the barren early morning streets of Hvar – a stark contrast to the bustling crowded market streets later in the day and the partying streets by night. I had been told by a Scottish friend I met a few days earlier that I had to do “the blue and green cave tour”. Upon googling I found one that I thought would be great and a full 8 hours of adventures boating around the Adriatic and the islands of Vis and Biševo.

I boarded a little speed boat and made new friends with three other girls from North America. Even the view of Hvar as we left was stunning (the feature photo on the article). I knew the day would provide quite an amazing adventure and some beautiful photos. Despite the packed itinerary I really had no idea then just how amazing it would be. It ended up being one of the best days of my life and the happiest.

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As we got further out from the harbour we came upon our first stop which was actually an unplanned surprise. We were greeted by a family of dolphins which our skipper told us were often around. It was the second time in my life seeing dolphins so close. They stayed around for awhile and we all sat and admired them. Once they had gone we sped off to Vis to see the Green Cave.

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The Green Cave seemed like a popular spot.DCIM101GOPROG0741892. Despite it being earlier in the morning there were still quite a few boats around waiting their turn to head inside. Once we got into the cave we learned more about it and got the chance to jump in and explore. Our skipper offered some goggles but I definitely recommend bringing your own snorkelling gear to be able to really see these caves for all of their beauty without worrying to wait your turn.

We were a bit early for the full green cave glow – which happens from the sun hitting the bottom of the cave and illuminating the colour of the ocean floor below. But as you can see from the picture here it would be quite a sight to behold when it’s fully lit up.

The task of getting back into the boat itself was hilarious and provided many laughs for the group itself. At times the skipper had to help lift people back in. Putting one leg and the opposite arm on the side of the boat we had to try to lift our body weight up and in. After a few tries of it you start to get the handle of it.

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We all got back in safely and headed on our way to our next stop. We weaved our way through many different geologically fascinating places while being told the history of the area. He pointed out holes in the mountain side which were from World War II and told us about the intricate tunnel system that was created through the island. We learned about the local vegetation that thrives in the area and about the Croatian culture on the islands we were experiencing.

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Our education part of our tour led us to our second stop at the edge of a cliff where we were shown sun pools. If you’ve never seen these or heard of them they are little naturally occurring round pool spots where the ocean waves wash up into them. When the tide is low it gives the sun time to warm them up. When we stopped here we were given the time to explore and relax in the pools or we could also do some small cliff jumping. I love cliff jumping and although this wasn’t anything huge I thought it was a great addition. It is a safe jump and one that is easier and more welcoming for a beginner.

After we had our fun in the sun we went into our second cave of the day which was a giant vertical slit in the side of the island. It was a dark one, with light only streaming in from the opening. It offered a huge contrast to the rest of the caves we would get to experience that day. Not just from the lighting and the shape but also because of the experience inside. It was easy to notice how the temperature changed much cooler in it’s dark depths. This was just one example of the many caves that lay along the islands on the coast and are waiting to be explored responsibily.

Next we were taken out to a piece of rock that comes so close to the surface that you can take pictures as if you’re walking on water. For mine I didn’t get exactly onto the spot

adriatic-7closest to the surface. But if you do it looks like your feet are standing on the surface of water. This was an awesome unexpected addition to the day. It was great to be able to be in what looks like the middle of the ocean and to be standing like you’re on the shore. This part was slippery and provided entertainment for everyone as we watched people try to catch their balance. Many of us, including me fell over a few times trying to stand up. Water shoes would definitely help you with this one as it definitely was tricky.adriatic-8 You also have to dodge the sea urchins (as you’ll become aware swimming anywhere along the Croatian coast). These are black spiky sea creatures and I was forewarned by an Aussie friend that it hurts a lot to step on one.

Surprisingly as little effort as the adventures seemed, when it was announced we were headed for lunch I was excited and starving! Our skipper told us we were going to Biševo, an island with a population of 8 people, with a small local restaurant on its shores. I was so excited to experience this small communities way of connecting with those wanting to visit their beautiful shores. It was fascinating to imagine what life is like for the local people running the restaurant. And I am sure they meet many amazing people with interesting travel stories stopping in for a bite to eat while off on their explorations.

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I smiled as we docked the boat and walked along the path toward the little wooden “Restoran” sign. Me and my new friends took a seat to relax at the restaurant. I ended up ordering their special for the day which was calamari. I had been so use to the deep fried cut up pieces at home I was slightly surprised when two full squids were on the plate in front of me. But I am always up for experiencing different things and it ended up being delicious.

I enjoyed my wine and meal, with some chats with my new friends, and then I went off to admire the beach and to see the surrounding area. This beach was the clearest water I had seen anywhere and I spent quite awhile admiring it. I also spent some time taking in the small community they had built in this part of the island. I day dreamed about hiking to different areas of the island and wondered what it looked like beyond the hills. I have to admit I could have relaxed there all day. When I return to Croatia I would love to come back here with a book and just relax in the sun or go hiking on the island.

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It was one of those places where although there were lots of tourists it didn’t feel packed or overwhelming. Everyone was off doing their own thing. Some were enjoying their meals with a view and others were out in the water or on it’s shores. The stop helped to recuperate at just the right time. I think we were all feeling we needed it because it gave us the energy boost for our next stop – the main event which I think most people book the tour for: the Blue Cave.

IMG_3906This stop took up a chunk of time because we had to dock, line up and get tickets, and board another boat that was with a specific cave tour (I don’t believe they allow outside boats inside). This cave was spectacular and unlike anything I had ever seen before but the boat went through it so fast you didn’t really get time to enjoy it.

If you go to this particular one (yes there are more than one of these caves in the world), remember that it goes by quickly so forget about taking photos – your phone or camera won’t focus properly anyway. Sit and enjoy the amazing natural feature of the deep blue glow in the pitch black cave.

To be honest, as amazing as the Blue Cave was, it was probably my least favourite of all the stops. It took out a big chunk of the day due to switching boats that could have been better used elsewhere and I think it would have been more spectacular to swim within it versus doing a quick float through. That being said our skipper did get us there at a quiet time so there were no line ups. But I personally would have rather have just taken a boat to see the cave on a different day or saved the experience for another one of these caves in the world where I could swim.

Afterward we continued on and got shown some more interesting geological features of the type of rock style in the surrounding area. While this type of thing may be boring for some people it was immensely fascinating to me. I think even people with no interest would find it unlike anything they’ve seen before. The whole coastal scenery was stunning. He educated us on the natural processes at play and got us to interact by guessing what we thought was natural or manmade.

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Our next stop was getting to see the harbour city of Komiža on the island of Vis. Just like Hvar, I was blown away by it’s beauty as we came in. A little church stood out from all of it sitting higher up from the rest of the buildings on the side of the island. I could have sworn I took pictures of this but when I looked back I couldn’t find any which shows me that it was so beautiful I was too busy admiring it to remember to pick up my camera.

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We only had 45 minutes here which I felt wasn’t enough time. It was a small community but there was still so much that I wanted to explore and I would have loved to go see the small church at the top of the hill. Most of us used this as a rest stop because of the shorter span of time. Per the skippers recommendation I went to a restaurant and tried their local island wine called “Vugava”. I loved that the day contained so many opportunities to experience island culture. And before getting back on the boat we cooled off with some gelato.

After departing this beautiful small community we headed off to see our last cave of the day which we were told was one that no other tour does as they don’t know where it is. Sure enough there were no other boats in sight and we had this awesome place to ourselves. Our skipper took our boat close to the island rock face and most of us were confused as to where the cave was. He then explained that to get into the cave we need to swim under the water, through an opening subtly hidden by the height of the water. When he told us this all my adventure senses were tingling.

I didn’t have goggles with me and others were using the few the boat had to offer. So with one hand plugging my nose and the other hand above me to feel the top of the cave opening I closed my eyes, dunked down, and swam fast. When I no longer felt rock on my hand I popped into this beautiful little cave which I feel was the true “green cave” of the trip.

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I think this little cave stop was a overall favourite of the day – which is hard to say since it was all so much fun. There is so much I love about Croatia and it’s coastal scenery. These experiences were unparalleled to anything else in my life. Even just being able to swim in such clear and beautiful water was an experience I cherished. The adventurer and earth science nerd in me absolutely adored what we got to see and experience.

When we left the cave all of us swam around in the ocean for a little while just enjoying the beautiful area and trading off goggles so we could all take a look around. But even without them the water is so clear you can see pretty well anyway. This area would be a divers paradise.

After this we were exhausted despite the time we got to rest while visiting Komiža. We knew we only had one stop left which was Stiniva Beach; voted the best beach in the world for 2016. It’s exclusivity is what brings a draw. No motored boats are allowed in past that rocky edges protecting this beach. You’re only option is to anchor and swim (or paddle a smaller boat) in or to hike from the other side. Those of us who wanted to decided to swim in. I would love to return some day to hike into it as the pictures looking down to the beach are stunning.

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The beach was a great end to the adventures for the day. I didn’t check out the cafe there on the beach but I think if you were to hike in it would be a great area to relax for the day. We just sat on the shores, took pictures, and chatted with our skipper. We ended up learning that he learned how to speak English (which was very well spoken) simply from watching shows and movies in English until he knew the language. It is quite amazing story to hear and all of us were extremely impressed. Once the sun no longer touched the area we swam or were paddled back in a little boat.

We headed back on the speed boat to Hvar exhausted in the best way possible. We were all silent admiring the beauty and I knew that it was one of the most epic days of my life. There was so much packed into those 8 hours that were unbelievable and just trying to explain the day doesn’t do it justice. The tour itself was an amazing combination of information, rest spots, and adventure and all of it was optional whether you got off the boat or simply enjoyed the views. I usually don’t like to take tours but as tours go this is by far my favourite that I’ve done and so well worth the cheap price! (And this isn’t sponsored – I am saying this because I was genuinely given one of the best days)

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Since this visit and my time spent on the coast the Adriatic Sea is now my favourite body of water in the world and Croatia is my favourite country. Spending the day jetting around the Dalmatian Coast, experiencing Vis and Biševo, was such an amazing gift. Something spontaneous that I happened upon but which became of the best days of my life. I am so glad that my friend had recommended it and that I had chosen the specific tour that I did. I will absolutely never forget this day. It was the perfect mix of everything I love and the experiences I had were ones I would have never had the chance to do otherwise.

I know that I will be back to experience some of the same places in a different way in the future. Some of it will be spending a day on the shores relaxing, to fully exploring Komiža and hiking into Stiniva. I also can’t wait to explore more of the islands along Croatia’s coast. It’s called the Dalmatian Coast for a reason because of the spots created by the various islands. I would recommend Croatia to anyone because of the enormously friendly people, the amazing natural and architectural beauty, and the safety!

Bonus Travel Tips

Want to do this same tour? Support this local Croatian company (which you can find near the main market in Hvar if you’d rather book in person).

• You can also do the same tour from Split – just plan for a longer day. And it looks like they offer many other island tours as well. It’s totally worth giving yourself a few days in Hvar which is a cheap ferry ride away from Split and you save yourself some time while also getting to experience another amazing place in Croatia.

• If you’ve got any sort of back issues I highly recommend boarding the boat first and sitting in the very back. The back has a full bench to sit on where as the other seats need to be straddled like riding a horse which can be painful on the lower back when you’re doing it for a full day.

• I highly recommend bringing snorkel gear. You can buy this anywhere at the little market stands in Hvar (as I am sure you can also do so in Split). It’s cheap and well worth it to be able to really see the ocean floor and sea life! After this trip I learned my lesson and got myself a pair of goggles.

• Swimming shoes are also a great option to help yourself grip climbing up the rocky sides and also to protect your feet from sea urchins.

• Almost all of these stops require cash! Although most travellers don’t like to carry cash Croatia is one of those places (especially in the smaller communities) where cash comes in handy!

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