KAYAKING THE NORTHERN DALMATIAN COAST OF CROATIA: A Dreamy Destination

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Amazed at our dreamy paddling conditions near Molat, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

I’m back from a brief hiatus; a whirlwind of travel, family, friends, and new experiences this past month. It’s been a while since I’ve done any writing. Here’s what I’ve been up to (instead of writing blogs):

  • Wrapped up my 7th season kayak guiding with Anadyr Adventures in Valdez, Alaska. Woohoo!
  • Went sea kayaking and hiking in Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan (on lake Superior) for the first time. Get excited for an upcoming blog about what this adventure-filled area has to offer, highlighting the awesome Keweenaw Adventure Company.
  • Enjoyed some family time (and Asian food) in my hometown of Philadelphia
  • Completed a 3-week exploratory trip to Croatia and Slovenia, including sea kayaking off the Northern Dalmatian coast (read on), hosted by Malik Adventures, with whom I am excited to collaborate to offer a Sea Kayaking & Multisport Trip in Croatia this May (will include biking, hiking, probably SUP & Yoga). More on that at the end of this blog.
  • I’m currently watching 3 dogs and 4 cats in Vermont for a few weeks before I thaw out in . . . PANAMA!

On with the show! Croatia and the dreamy Dalmatian Coast

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The northwestern tip of Dugi otok, Northern Dalmatian coast, Croatia

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We spent a few hours relaxing on the limestone rocks, near Molat, Croatia

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Those sunsets!

It’s hard to put into words such a recent experience that has had a profound impact on me. One word: MESMERIZING. (Which, according to the dictionary means hypnotizing, spellbinding, fascinating. . . yes, yes, and yes!) Everything about sea kayaking in the Adriatic Sea mesmerized me. The intricate design of the limestone, the subtle patterns on the water driven by different winds (yes, there are 8 wind words based on the direction from where it’s coming. . How neat is that?!), walking through fields of rosemary, colorful roses outside of every house, the sight of bees pollinating flowers, and those sunsets, oh my god! those sunsets.  They’re in a whole other league of sunsets. Best part: they happened every single night!

 

Our Trip

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Kayaking with good friends, Croatia

After our first couple days exploring Dubrovnik, my friend and I took a 55-minute ferry from Zadar, which is a beautiful city on the Dalmatian coast (worth a visit), to an island called Molat, where we were warmly welcomed by Marko Mrše. Our guide, new friend, and now collaborator for my upcoming Kayak & Multisport trip Croatia, is the founder of Malik Adventures, a wonderful company that offers multi-day and multi-sport (sea kayaking, SUP, yoga, hiking, biking, & even ski touring in the Slovenian Alps) adventures in the Northern Dalmatia archipelago. Marko is a living representation of Malik’s mission: to discover and get inspired by nature, adventure and culture. And that we did! We spent 6 inspiring and adventure-filled days with Marko; 4 on Molat and 2 hiking in Paklenica National Park. *This blog focuses on kayaking in Molat. Stay tuned for my next blog highlighting the incredibly scenic Paklenica N.P. and the mountain hut where we stayed.*

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Sparkly surroundings near Molat, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

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Hiking in Paklenica National Park, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

As a kayak guide I have not too often had the privilege of going on a guided trip as a client. After this experience, I could get used to it:) Truth be told, I wasn’t a full-on client. The purpose of my Croatian journey this past October was to experience the trip so that I can guide here in the future. Marko regaled us with stories of visiting these islands as a child, invoking our curiosity by painting a picture of how these places have changed.  This was not simply a mundane “paddle from A to B, then from B to C” type of trip. This was a full experience, enriched with the fascinating history of the area, the delicious local foods we got to taste, and the self-discovery that accompanies any true adventure. This is the type of destination that you truly feel each trip is unique, offering to guests what they are seeking, even if that is unknown to them.

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Croatia’s spectacular crystalline coastline (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

 

On Molat we stayed in a lovely apartment owned by a local family (a welcome change from my usual camping and hammocking in Panama and Alaska) and had delicious multi-course meals served to us, using local ingredients for the yummy honeys, jams and fruits at breakfast. Dinner always included a stout aperitif homemade from local herbs. Definitely got the job done of whetting our appetites for the amazing meals showcasing local seafood, such as cuttlefish, squid and octopus (I’ve got a thing for Cephalopods). I must say how impressed I was with this Croatian cuisine, and I have pretty high standards when it comes to local cuisines:) Fun fact: “Molat” comes from the Greek word mellitus, meaning “tastes like honey”, which is also the name of Marko’s wife (& Malik co-owner), Ivana’s line of natural body products (Mellitus) that she was so kind to give us samples of her face cream and lip balm that I am still enjoying. It’s a very fitting name, as honey and honey-scented products are very prominent in Croatia. Bring back those bees!

 

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Falling in love with the Greenland-style paddle and the Croatian coastline, Ist

 

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Fishing boat near Molat, Croatia (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

What was the coolest paddle, you ask?

No need for me to think about this too hard. Paddling into a submarine cave was definitely a highlight, and something that I can’t say I’ve ever done before. Croatia was part of former Yugoslavia, and there exists fascinating relics all over the place as a nod to the country’s military past, some of which Marko introduced us to. The layout of the islands created strategic hiding places to house submarines, tunnels, bunkers, and barracks. What a cool place to kayak!

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Mesmerized by a submarine cave (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

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From our bike ride across Molat

In addition to the dreamy kayaking we also worked our legs biking and hiking. It is a magnificent 9km bike ride from one end of the island to the other. From the community of Molat the road takes you through another community called Brgulje, then on to Zapuntel at the other end. I delighted in passing through these small villages, resplendent in color from flowers and gardens. From there we paddled to another island called Ist, where we hiked up to a beautiful white church to earn spectacular views of the surrounding islands.

Inspired to Join me in Croatia?

Croatia is gaining momentum as a destination to experience adventure, culture and nature. It certainly piqued my senses, with its tastes, scents, history, and culture. As you can see from my photos it also offers world-class paddling and hiking. If this blog has enticed you in any way to add Croatia to your “next up” destination, please consider joining my upcoming all-inclusive 9-day trip and experience the magic (and sunsets) of Croatia for yourself. Along with the exciting collaboration with Malik Adventures, I am also thrilled to team up with another exceptional adventure company called Venture Outside in offering this Croatia trip. Contact me! Also find me on Facebook and Instagram @ileneinakayak

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Stay tuned for my next blog highlighting the hiking in Paklenica National Park       (Photo: Marko Mrše, Malik Adventures)

Upcoming Panama Trip Plug:

Before Croatia calls me back, I will be spending the next 5 months guiding kayaking trips on both the Caribbean (in the San Blas Islands, aka Guna Yala) and the Pacific (Isla Coiba National Park) of Panama. For those yoga and kayaking lovers I am excited to join yoga instructor, Leigh Lubin to offer our second annual unique all-inclusive 9-day Yoga/Kayak Retreat that explores both coasts of Panama. Check it out here for more info. I’m biased. . . but it’s an amazing trip that we’re really excited about! We are now extending the following discount:

  • If you sign up with two other people, you get a 50% discount
  • If you sign up with three other people, you only pay $1,000 (an incredible deal!)

Parting Croatia Pics:

SUNRISE HIKING IN PANAMA: FROM THE BREAST OF “LA INDIA DORMIDA”

*If you’re getting this blog in an e-mail, it is much prettier to view it on my website.*

Hello everybody! I have so many adventures to share with you! Stay tuned for upcoming blogs about the amazing experience of celebrating the 93rd Anniversary of the Guna Revolution, and a wonderful 4-day sea kayaking and snorkeling adventure to Isla Coiba on the Pacific side of Panama. First, I’d like to share my experience in a lovely mountain town called El Valle de Antón, where I recently spent two days adventuring with my friend, Kira.

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Sunrise over El Valle

The hike: La India Dormida (The Sleeping Indian)

The Legend: Luba, who they called “Flor del Aire”, or “Air Flower” was the daughter of Urraca, the most successful Chief in Panama fighting against the Conquistadores. It was her misfortune to fall in love with one of the Spanish soldiers. Yavari, one of the strongest fighters of her tribe, vied for her affection. When she did not return his love, in despair, he jumped to his death from a mountain top before the Princess’ eyes. In sorrow Princess Flor del Aire left her home and never saw the Spaniard again.
She crossed mountains and valleys bitterly weeping over her fate. Above the beaches of the Caribbean she fell dead looking back at the beloved mountains where she had been born. The mountains were so touched by this sad love story they decided to form the shape of the Princess, and that is how the India Dormida arose.

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Our sunrise view-point on the breast of La India Dormida. Can you see her?

 

El Valle de Antón is only a few hours away from Panama City by bus, which is how I got there. It’s inexpensive and easy to get to from the Albrook Transportation Terminal. This was my second visit to El Valle, and this time around I did one of the “quintessential” El Valle hikes, which is not to be missed if you like gorgeous views. Kira, who is one of my favorite adventure friends, is always up for anything! We had planned to do some hiking, so when I suggested that we wake up at 4:30 AM to watch the sunrise from the top of La India Dormida, she was super excited. I admit that one of the main reasons to wake up so early was to beat the heat of mid-day, which is pretty unbearable hiking weather if you ask me. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Morning bliss!

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It was super windy from where we watched the glowing ball of orange rise above the mountains to spread a golden light over the town. To our delight, we ended up watching the sunrise from the breast of La India Dormida:) It was definitely one of the most beautifully inspiring sunrises that I’ve ever seen. It made me think how many opportunities we have to experience this amazing (and FREE!) natural phenomenon. Every single day of our lives the sun rises (I certainly do hope), and watching it no matter where you are is a special experience to take in by oneself, or to share with others.

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Kira doing Sun Salutations to greet the day

I hope that you found some inspiration from this sunrise adventure. Please stay tuned for more from my recent travels in Panama. You don’t want to miss a reenactment of the bloody battle that the Guna fought to gain their autonomy in 1925, nor do you want to miss snorkeling with sea turtles and sharks in one of Panama’s most precious national parks, Isla Coiba. Gracias!