It is experiences in life that count. They make you richer and make memories that stay with you forever. Like this one. Scanning through the footage and photos we took on this tour more than half a year ago made my instantly drift away in reminiscence. To all those distant places, the views, the scents, the sounds, the laughs and the stories. An amazing eight days out of this world, an inspiring memory that explains why I love doing what I do.
So, here is a peek of our adventure, of a great company of four sharing the fascination by pure nature and the elements, and enjoying paddling challenges in all conditions. Supping from island to island through the amazing scenery of the Kornati and Krka National Parks, every evening stopping at konobas (local restaurants) on the islands to collect our daily rewards – the delicious freshly-caught seafood dinners with a glass or two of good local wine. The sailboat was our billion-star hotel every night and the springboard over the turquoise-water infinity pool every morning.
Find out more about this tour in a photo journal below. And you are most welcome to join us on our next SUP&Sail tours in Croatia.
Saturday afternoon. It is sunny and hot when I pick up my guests, a father and son, at Zadar. They have flown in from London to Zadar airport the day before and spent the night in a picturesque Old Town of Zadar, one of the prettiest historic towns on Croatian coast. On a 40 minute drive along the coast to the Biograd na moru, the inviting views of the sea and the nearby islands are building up the anticipation of the adventure ahead.
At the marina we meet our skipper, a local guy, his obvious sun tan shows that the sea is his life. We get our paddleboarding gear and supplies on the boat and depart from the marina. Soon we leave the mainland in the distance. The salty air, the sound of waves and the sunset accompany us to a little bay on the Vrgada island.
Sunday. Early morning, clear skies and flat turqoise water. After a big fruity breakfast we inflate our paddleaboards and set on our first long distance paddle.
The oily surface paddles smoothly, from time to time a breeze crosses our path and the air feels cooler for a while. For the first time we can admire the scenery from our sups – islands and rocks, large and small, scattered all around, many of them abundantly covered with green pine trees. When paddling close to shore you can hear the crickets loudly calling.
The sailboat is keeping us within sight and approaches when we stop for water and cold snacks from the fridge. After 17 km and about 4 hours of paddling we reach Kaprije island where we dock for the night. We take it easy until the evening and fancy a delicious dinner at the local konoba.
Monday. Sunny skies and calm seas. We can feel the past day’s workout in our arms but our enthusiasm and anticipation are much stronger. We set our course towards the Krka river channel that cuts deep into the mainland all the way to the Krka National Park, our today’s destination. We reach the channel by sailboat then get on our boards.
In the distance we can spot the outline of the historic city of Šibenik, the oldest city inhabited by Croats. We save the visit for the next day when we’ll return the same way. The channel is relatively narrow and the water gets quite choppy due to the many boats passing us in both directions. We progress slowly but surely. The shade on the sailboat looks inviting, but we need to catch some tan anyway.
Further up in the channel, just past the town of Šibenik, we find ourselves paddling along the oyster and mussel farms, each with its simple floating shop offering a fresh catch of the day. Our skipper recommends the best one and we give it a try. A friendly guy pulls over with a net full of oysters and skilfully crushes the stony and razor sharp shells.
Tasty desserts power us up for the paddling ahead. We have about 10 kilometres to go and the sun shows no mercy today. Luckily the sea temperature is pleasantly cool, about 24 degrees C, just enough to refresh every here and then.
The landscape changed dramatically since we entered the channel. We are still paddling on the sea which feels like a river, narrow and curvy, with steep stony slopes rising on each side. But then it suddenly widens into a giant lake. Thanks to the many boats going the same way as we, it is possible to find the river mouth on the other side of the lake, which leads to a tiny old town of Skradin, where we dock in the marina for the night. 17 kilometres in our hands, we are pleasantly tired and looking forward to hot showers in the marina.
Tuesday. Early morning. We catch the first boat to the Krka National Park. After a short ride up the glassy green river we spot the majestic Krka waterfalls at the entrance of the park. We have about an hour before the boat returns which turns out to be just enough to hike a round-route through the spectacular cascades, streams and the green nature awaking from the morning mist.
We agreed on the early start so we have enough time to visit the historic town of Šibenik before we sail out towards the islands. We reach Šibenik by boat and continue our sight-seeing morning wandering the narrow stone-built streets. It is getting hot and ice cream sounds like a very good idea. We top our water supplies at the nearest store and wave Šibenik goodbye.
When we reach the Zlarin island we throw the anchor. It is lunch time and today our skipper is the chef. He prepares tasty mussels with white wine (“dagnje na belo” as they call it in Dalmatia). It is the cheapest but could as well be the most delicious meal you can have around here. Consequently, we all eat too much of it so we decide to ride on the boat for some time and save paddling for later in the afternoon.
When we reach the outer islands we hit the water with our paddles. It feels good to be on the water again. We enjoy the views of the Žirje island and play with a moderate head/side wind for some time. We reach our bay just before the sunset. We’ve heard there is a good restaurant on the shore so we check it out. No regrets.
Wednesday. Sunny skies, some breeze. This is the big day. We have all seen the Kornati islands on the photos. Now we are here, right at the doorstep of the Kornati National Park. A group of dolphins accompanies us on a short boat ride towards the park to share our enthusiasm and lead the way. The views are simply amazing. The colours, the contrasts, the patterns … We throw our sup boards overboard.
Today we set to paddle 20 kilometres, the longest so far. We chose not to paddle the shortest route to our destination, but the most picturesque. It leads us through the most spectacular view points and passages between the islands. Our bodies can feel the miles from the past days but there is energy in the air that makes the paddling so easy.
We reach the Levrnaka island in the late afternoon. Some of us still have energy to play on the water, the rest of the crew takes it easy, chilling around and sipping cold beer. Before the sun sets we take a short hike up to the hill just above our bay, which happens to be the highest point in the Kornati National Park. The views from the top make worth every step.
Thursday. A wake-up paddle on the glassy water.
After breakfast we grab our towels and take a short hike through the olive trees to the beach on the other side of the island. It is said to be the most beautiful one in the Kornati. Tourquise water, sandy floor … then a horde of tourists pour down the hill invading the place. We’ve had our swim, it is time to go – paddling.
We set on a 17 kilometre route north through the Kornati archipelago. A quiet picturesque paddle through the narrow passages between the islands becomes quite a challenge in the last few kilometres when we reach the Dugi otok and face a moderate west wind trying to blow us off course. With some extra effort we reach the town of Sali in late afternoon, where we dock for the night.
Friday. Our last day at sea. Some of us take an early morning sup around the bay before breakfast. We check the forecast, it looks our wishes for the downwinder for the last day are coming true. The north-western maestral wind should pick up to 15-20 knots around noon, making a tailwind for the last 10 km of our way. It is still early, so we decide to warm up for the paddling with a sup wake behind the boat.
There is a light breeze when we set on a paddle north-east towards the passage between the Ugljan and Pašman islands for the long-awaiting downwinder on the other side. But the wind starts picking up early from the side, making the 5 kilometre strip one of the hardest sessions on the trip.
Exhausted we reach the passage under the Ugljan-Pašman bridge. The lighter wind and flatter water make us persist on our boards for another few kilometres to the other side.
The wind keeps its promise. About 15 knots blows straight towards our final destination. After a short refreshing break on the boat we get back on the sups. The sea is tricky, when you feel like you are never going to catch a wave, it sends you one, just big enough for the taste of the sweet sensation.
Before reaching the marina at Biograd na moru we open our sails and finally get some real sailing. For the whole trip the wind has been keeping low, making the best possible scenarios for paddling. But for a change it feels good gliding over the water without moving.
Saturday. Departure day. We rise early into the quiet morning at the marina. We pack our gear and take a drive to the Zadar airport. We all feel a bit tired but also excited from the impressive adventure. For a week we got ‘lost’ among the islands, where time stops, where you can hear the wind, the sea, and most importantly, yourself. It was active, relaxing, indulging, exploratory, educative, even spiritual experience. A salty breeze in our hair from dawn till dusk, what else one could wish for. Good luck my friends, and see you soon somewhere!
– Marko, Sup Slovenia Discovery
More information on SUP&Sail Croatia’s Islands Tour.