Discovering Croatia's Elaphiti Islands

17/10/2018

Discovering Croatia's Elaphiti Islands

“When I was offered the opportunity to try out our Adventure Sailing and Activity holiday in Croatia, I jumped at the chance.  I’ve been to Croatia a couple of times before and always enjoyed it, Just flying into Dubrovnik is an experience, offering a bird’s eye view of the 1,200 islands nestled in the Adriatic Sea below. This trip gave me the chance to discover some of these islands, sailing between them and stopping in hidden coves to try stand up paddleboarding and enjoy swimming in the clear waters.

My home for the trip was a Nautitech Open 46 catamaran, ably skippered by Patrick. There are four double cabins with en-suite toilet and Jack and Jill showers. One of the cabins can also able to be used as a twin or triple. There was plenty of space on board with two double sunloungers and inside seating in the cockpit lounge and saloon. The cabins have loads of storage space for your belongings – more than enough for a 3 night stay. Kayaks and paddleboards are stored on the top of the boat, ready for any stops.

Day 1

As our trip was in a slightly different order to the standard itinerary I was able to spend some time exploring the Old Town of Dubrovnik before meeting with the rest of the group. I have visited Dubrovnik before and walked the city walls so spent my time on this visit exploring the cobbled back streets of the town,  and climbing up and down the steps, discovering the little alleyways with a variety of restaurants for all tastes and budgets, jewellery shops, artists studios and the hidden away Ethnographic Museum before heading just outside the city walls to Fort Lovrijenac (aka the Red Keep in King’s Landing for all you Game of Thrones fans) for a great view over the Old Town.

After meeting with the rest of the group and our guide, Iva, we headed out of Dubrovnik to be greeted by our skipper and board the catamaran. After a safety instruction and a quick tour of the boat we headed out to sea, en route to our overnight stop of Sipanska Luka in Sipan island, one of the 13 Elaphiti islands. Dinner was at a local restaurant which specialised in meat and fish dishes, where we enjoyed smoked tuna salad, octopus cakes (a sort of cross between fishcakes and meatballs), and seafood pasta, delicious!

Day 2

We woke to a beautiful morning and collected our bikes from the local representative, Una. After having our bikes fitted we set off across the island to the harbour at Sudurad, where the ferry from Dubrovnik docks. Our route took us on a quiet road past vineyards and vegetable plots and past the church-fortress Sv. Duha. This ride isn’t on the Adventure Sailing tour but it does feature as part of our Dubrovnik Islands Multisport and Sipan Island Microadventure holidays. There was a bit of a hill at the start to get the legs going, but this meant a nice freewheel back down to Sipanska Luka at the end of our ride.

Back on board the catamaran we left Sipan Island to go to our next overnight stop at Broce, on the Peljesac Peninsula.  On the way we stopped in an idyllic cove and jumped into the sea.  I’d not tried stand up paddleboarding before so was eager to give it a go, so after a little swim I grabbed a board, and in a very ungainly manner tried to clamber on it. Some helpful instruction from Patrick and Iva meant that on my 3rd attempt I actually managed to stand up without falling straight off again and paddled round the boat before promptly falling off again – at least the water was a reasonable 20°C!

On reaching the small village of Broce we collected more bikes for the short ride to Ston; a walled town equally well known for its oysters and mussels and salt production as the walls. Our route took us along the water and past salt pans, spotting lots of birdlife on our way.  After lunch and a stroll around the town we headed back to the boat.  In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant beside our mooring where fresh fish was cooked for us on an open fire.

Day 3

Another glorious day dawned and after breakfast on board (a selection of cereals, bread, cold meats, cheese, fruit and yoghurt) we headed back out onto the water towards Mljet island where we were to visit the National Park.  On the way we were lucky enough to spot a small pod of dolphins (binoculars on board) and then stopped in a quiet bay for another try of stand up paddleboarding. After an initial fall straight back off, I mastered it (sort of) and was able to paddle around the bay quite happily. Being on a paddleboard gives a different perspective of what is going on in the water to if you were swimming, or even kayaking.  After our break we continued to Polace, within Mljet National Park. We disembarked here and our skipper, Patrick, told us some of the history of the Roman remains before we collected our bikes (e-bikes this time!) for a circuit around the 2 saltwater lakes, Veliko (Great) and Malo (Small) Jezero (Lake). There is an island on the southern part of Great Lake with a 12th Century Monastery which it is possible to reach by boat. It’s also possible to enjoy swimming and kayaking here.  It was a great ride with an almost constant view of the lakes, with lots of butterflies and the delicious scent of the pine trees to accompany us.

After our ride we headed back to the boat and sailed back to the Peljesac Peninsula to Zuljana. Here we were treated to a great meal provided in the home of a local family. They had prepared a salad for us, followed by a Peka – a dish made in a pot with meat and potatoes and then set to cook on the embers of a fire. Everything in our meal was home grown, including the wine and the satsumas and pomegranates we had for dessert. We were very kindly offered some more of the fruit to take for our breakfast the next day.

Day 4

Today was a day I had particularly been looking forward to – sea kayaking!  I have done some sea kayaking before but had always been slightly nervous of venturing too far out so it was great to be with a guide who was familiar with the area, allowing me to go a bit further than I normally would have done.

Our paddle ended back at Zuljana with time for a little swim before getting back on board ready to return to the Elaphiti Islands. We disembarked at Lopud island, which was by far the busiest place we’d been to since leaving Dubrovnik, although still relatively quiet. After getting an ice cream we walked across the island to Sunj beach. There were a few other holiday makers taking this same trip across the island, either by bike, on foot or in golf-carts but mostly going the opposite way to us so when we arrived at the beach it was virtually deserted. Patrick had brought the catamaran around the island whilst we were walking so after another quick dip (it was our last chance after all!) we got back on board for a cruise around Kolocep Island before our last night’s mooring.

Overall it was a fantastic trip with so many activities packed in, but with plenty of time to relax on board between stops. No previous experience of any of the activities is needed as long as at some point you’ve learnt to ride a bike and swim! Sailing wasn’t always possible due to the wind, but where it wasn’t possible the motor was used instead which didn’t detract from the experience.  Both our skipper and guide were knowledgeable about the region and its history and nature which added to the enjoyment of the trip.”

This trip is available from April to October with departures on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and is suitable for anyone over the age of 8, but if you’d prefer an Adult Only departure just let us know as this can be arranged, subject to availability.