Cruising the Hidden Waterways of Croatia

Friday the 13th was my lucky day.

Today was a day of discovery for me. Nothing was disclosed ahead of time about where this excursion would be going. My friends have been plotting to surprise me with an outing hosted by diving boat skipper, Emil Lemac. It was finally revealed that our boat trip was to take us into the fjord-like waters near the mouth of the Krka River. What did not come as a surprise was that I was offered a shot of rakija as we started off.

Emil was our skipper back in September for our island boat excursion to Kornati National Park. Summer is when he takes scuba divers to the islands for amazing underwater exploration. Winter, when there is not a commercial diving job, is when Emil and his brother maintain an oyster and mussel farm they just seeded this year.

There are only a few villages clinging to these sheltered shores. The area remains quiet and unspoiled, at least at this time of year. Emil informs me that as many as 800 boats per day cruise in and out of these inland waterways during the summer months including fancy yachts. The townspeople of Skradin seem unduly impressed by the rich and famous celebrities that vacation there, and that, of course, gives the town its appeal. Famous people can escape their busy lives on these inland waterways.

Our cruise takes us to a quiet estuary at the mouth of the Gudića (GOO dee sha) River. No Entry signs are posted in Croatian and English along the shore. When I inquire about the signs, I am told the area is a bird sanctuary. I can see by the reeds crowding the banks that this would indeed be ideal nesting grounds for migratory waterfowl.

This tranquil spot was our lunch stop. Emil and his friend, Boris, readied fresh fish for the frying pan. I helped make a green salad. A fresh loaf of bread and a bottle of wine appeared and we feasted while basking in sunshine and listening to pop music from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson played softly on Emil’s sound system. 

On the return trip Emil led me up a hillside scramble to a bat cave he knew about. It is not visible from the waterway below, so not many people visit this cave. There were plentiful signs of bats which Emil informed me were numbered in the hundreds and were sleeping somewhere another 200 yards deeper into the cave. There were also signs of wild boar which are common in this habitat.

As we headed back to our dock, we meet up with an interesting older gentleman named Zivko. He rents apartments in his modern building near the shoreline. He has created sculptures in his garden which symbolize our galaxy and Earth’s fragile place within it. This site serves as a message to all who visit that we are stewards of this beautiful natural setting, and he warns us we must all tread lightly to keep from destroying the planet for future generations. Having just spent the day in the garden-like setting of this stunning landscape, I also hope this place retains its unspoiled beauty for all the generations of visitors who may pass this way.

Mike Lince