Dubrovnik has exploded in popularity over the past few years. To be honest, I’d never really heard of Croatia, much less Dubrovnik, before 2010. Since then of course, the city has been featured in the wildly popular Game of Thrones, as well as some South Korean drama, and soon, Star Wars VIII. So when we arrived in the late afternoon, there were people everywhere. We had to duck the hordes of tourists wearing headphones and sporting stickers stating that they were from some cruise ship or other, listening to their tour guide waving her umbrella at the front of each pack (Happily, the days of tour guides blaring their commentary over loudspeakers is now long past.)
I ventured out just after sunset to try to take some pictures, but even with long exposures, I could still see the blur of people blocking out the view of the charming alleyways of old city Dubrovnik. So I packed up my camera and tripod, and joined the rest in just soaking in the lively and cheery atmosphere.
Jeff and I woke up early the next morning though, before sunrise, to enjoy the city in peace. The streets and plazas were mostly empty, save for the few clean-up crew dousing the cobblestones down with water, the vendors setting up their stalls at the farmers’ market, and a half dozen other photographers parked in front of the main square.
We also got a Dubrovnik card that gave us access to the city walls, as well as a laundry list of museums and discounts at restaurants (it’s well worth it; and restaurants not even on the card gave us discounts when we asked!).
Jeff even tried to go for a swim outside the city walls. He had a dip in at Banje Beach just outside the old city before the sunbathers parked themselves down on the pebbles for the day. But that beach had nothing on the calm and clean waters at Podgora, so I was content to just sit back and listen to the sound of waves gently lapping against the shoreline.
After we disembarked from the Vranjak I at Sukosan, we picked up a rental car at the Zadar airport and proceeded south, winding our way along the beautiful Markashka Rivera.
Our destination for the evening: the tranquil seaside town of Podgora at the foothills of the Biokovo mountain range. S’s dad was taking his annual late summer vacation there, and where he’d gone faithfully for the past 15 years. I can definitely see the appeal. The promenade is lined with tikki huts, where bathers can seek some respite from the sun with some fresh seafood and/or cocktail. Like most Croatian beaches, these were pebble beaches, so most people spread out on padded yoga mats rather than just beach towels. Although they made walking a little more careful, we quickly grew to appreciate the relative cleanliness of the pebbles as opposed to fine sand that gets everywhere.
The main highlight of the beach though, was the absolutely flat and glassy waters. Early the next morning, before the crowds descended onto the beach, claiming territory with their neatly laid mats, we slipped into the waters for a long, languid swim. It was most glorious, and such a treat not having to worry about the undertow, blue bottles, or sharks like in New South Wales waters, and just kick back, relax, and feel the early morning sun on our skin.
We’d only done one other diving liveaboard before this one in Croatia. That was in Belize where we set anchor every night on the edge of the outer reefs. During that entire week, we only went to land once, and it was only because we’d just dove deep into the Blue Hole and needed a longer than usual surface interval, so we visited some red-footed boobies.
Aboard our boat the Vranjak I however, we docked every night at one of the island ports dotting the Adriatic coast. Some were sleepy villages, with just a main street hugging the water front. Others, like Hvar, were party isles, with super yachts lined as many as 6 boats deep to the docks and piers thronging with holiday makers decked in white linen in search of some late summer romance. As much as I enjoyed the diving and dozing in the sun, I looked forward every evening to when we pulled into port and we could throw on our sandals and jump back onto land to explore.
Our favorite island was the port town of Vis on the island Vis. A little more bustling than Komiza, a half forgotten village on the other side of Vis, but more sedate than thumping Hvar, we enjoyed our evening stroll along the promenade, through the cobblestone streets and past stone houses dating from the 17th century when the island was under Venetian rule.
We are just back from a gloriously relaxing holiday in Croatia and Singapore. In Croatia, we spent an entire week aboard the Vranjak I, a thoughtfully and sturdily appointed dive vessel.
Our lives on the boat were unhurried and chill: Wake up at 545am for the sunrise, wait impatiently for the bakeries to open to fill our burek cravings, watch the early morning glow on the island towns as the captain starts the engine and throttle out the port. Enjoy a warm cuppa on the couches on the bow deck of our vessel while soaking up the warmth of the morning rays. Squeeze into our wetsuits and plunge into startling clear waters for our first dive of the day. Lunch and siesta in the sun before the next dive. Dock at the next island, and explore its cobblestone streets and alleys in the golden evening light. Eat on board our boat, snap blue hour pictures, grab a dessert and aperitif on land after. Crash into bed after for a long and deep sleep. Rinse and repeat.
Our divemaster, Tommo, repeatedly stressed that we were blessed with the most beneficent weather. Think flat, glassy waters and blue cloudless days. Apparently, the week before we boarded, the divers had to content with gusty winds and waves 10 feet high. And indeed, the weather the days after we disembarked was alternately windy and stormy too.
The diving itself was novel. We’d only previously dove in warm tropical waters, and so weren’t expecting the brisk 62 F / 16 C waters that greeted us when we first plunged in. Although most of our dives were in deep waters (30-45m), visibility was good, and while we spotted no sharks, rays, or turtles, there were plenty of scorpion fish, sea centipedes, octopuses, lobsters, nudibranches, eels, cat shark eggs, and gigantic gorgonian sea fans to catch our interest. We also dove two wreck dives, the Vassilios (1920 Japanese trading vessel that sunk in 1930), and the Teti (1883 ship that also sunk in 1930).