You just reach the water surface and take a deep breath. Looking down again through your snorkel mask at through crystal clear water you see turquoise and lime green-colored rocks. A cliff continues deep underwater, finishing in a black cave. You’ll do another dive – just need to get some air. Up to the right you see the bottom of your touring kayaks pulled up on a rock and your buddies chilling in the shade of a pine tree.
Sea kayak Croatia and you’ll paddle in one of the densest archipelagos in the Mediterranean, with straits, cliffs, islets and more around every bend. Here, kayaking is a platform to explore nature the Mediterranean way. Paddle, swim, climb, snorkel, cliff jump. Perhaps run into your landlord fishing for dinner. Above all, you’ll get a deep perspective on the area from the region’s rich human history.
The ideal starting point for exploration of the archipelago is the island of Molat, a former military base and that hints at its strategic position in the archipelago. The island consists of three villages connected with a 9-km road that allows paddling departures from different parts of the island. The military base also explains why the local life is still unscratched by the influences of tourism. It’s the kind of place where you get to see the best Croatia has to offer. The Mediterranean as it once was: wild, personal and intact. Or the most contemporary take on it: full of life.
Paddling itineraries include island hopping on both uninhabited islands and a collection of small fishing villages. Each village has its distinct set of traditions and habits, from the preparation of food to different produce. One day you may be on Zverinac Island sampling its olive oil, the next day in Molat sampling its honey and local goat cheese, while further north, Ist will offer a large sandy beach with a rewarding 40-minute trek. Paddling here gives a feel for what real Croatia is like – for living with the locals and moving around with your own power.
Distances between islands are perfect for both sea kayaks and stand-up paddling. The closest crossing between islands is just 50 meters, and to reach the two settlements or Zapuntel and Ist takes a 6-km paddle through two very different bays. Perhaps swap a kayak for a SUP for a day?
The paddling area is ideal for both beginner and advanced paddlers. By paddling 15-20 kilometers per day, you get to see most of the highlights: a Roman quarry island, isolated and stunning stone stacks (above and below the sea), sandy beaches and more. For more seasoned paddlers, itineraries can easily extend to the northern islands, some of which are not connected to the mainland.
On the flora side, you’ll experience the area’s rich greenness, including tall pine trees, thick maquis and a number of unique medicinal plants. Juxtaposed with this are historical leftovers of human intervention: be it a Roman quarry, Yugoslav submarine cave or an Italian shipwreck. All of them accessible by sea kayak.
Also, expect a bit of a surprise. The islands look as if the time has stopped here. Things work perfectly in their own rhythm and people are friendly and helpful, even if they reply in perfect Croatian. The islands have their own relaxed pace, and you feel the easygoing vibe as soon as you step off the public catamaran boat along with locals with groceries and supplies from Zadar.
Life here is predominantly local, making it ideal for kayaking exploration of Croatia as it once was: wild, personal and sustainable.
Planning your trip:
Best time to come: April to October.
Airport: Zadar (half an hour drive from the Old Town; alternatively Split (1.5h drive)
Getting to the base: Passenger boats for Molat depart daily from Zadar Old Town
Other activities: SUP, cycling, yoga, beekeeping, cheese sampling events.
Info: Malik Adventures