We manoeuvre our kayaks from the choppy waters of the island’s rocky coastline into a dark hole hewn from the cliff face. The channel narrows and there is barely enough space to paddle. We pull ourselves along the rocks and through a tiny gap, marginally wider than our kayaks. It opens into a dark cathedral-like cavern, an inky stillness settling over us. Beyond, rays of light skip across the water and purple stained rocks tower above us as we head deeper into the passageway. The only sound is the splash of our paddles as our kayak glides over the surface. The light, rock shapes and the vivid water colours on this Zadar kayak adventure are mesmerising.
Finally, we come to a halt, in an inner chamber, where shapes dance and shimmer on the turquoise waters. This secret chamber is far from the madding crowds and only our guide Filip includes this destination on his kayak tours. We dangle our feet serenely in the cool waters of the cave as we watch the hypnotic movement of the crystal clear water. Silver shimmering bats flitter above their wings flapping frantically.
Caves of Dugi Otok
Filip knows of other caves along the coast but sadly we don’t have time to explore further. Instead, we slip clumsily into the water and swim through the cavern, mesmerised by the kaleidoscope of colours twinkling through skylights in the cave. One section is in virtual darkness, almost womblike but beyond the sparkling azure sea beckons. That, and the challenge of cliff jumping…Yes, this is the sublime adventure that awaits you should you book an Adrenaline Hunter sea kayaking tour in Zadar.
Sea Kayaking in Zadar
Our tour is operated by Kayak Adventure, a small local company that we found through Adrenaline Hunter. Filip is our guide and he explains that he likes to take small groups to unspoiled areas of Dugi Otok, an island off Zadar which lacks the crowds of the city. His aim is to ensure his guests enjoy their day visiting uncrowded beaches with stunning scenery. With this in mind, he tailors each tour to the wishes of the guests on that day.
Half day kayak tour
We selected the Adrenaline Hunter half day kayak tour which starts with a local ferry from Gazenica port. The ferry putters unhurriedly between islands offering passengers glimpses of quaint hamlets, pristine islands and gorgeous turquoise sea. You purchase tickets in the large modern terminal by the cruise ship port and they cost 60kn (£8 approx) for a return ticket. Filip meets you by the ferry port of Brbinj with a friendly handshake and paddles at the ready.
Beach Veli Zal
As we head to our first beach, we can appreciate how untouched the island is. Just three roads connect the small hamlets and beaches and many beaches can only be reached by kayak or boat. The rest of the island is scrub and forest and as the road winds through the landscape, we spot glimpses of deserted coves. One narrow road leads to a small pebbly beach where we hoist our kayaks to the water’s edge and into the shallows.
Filip has thoughtfully provided seats with back support, which make the world of difference to our comfort as we paddle out to a tiny island. It’s little more than a rocky outcrop and is home to thousands of protective nesting seagulls. We slowly circumnavigate its shore and listen to Filip who likens the seagulls behaviour to the birds in the Hitchcock movie. I’m not sure whether he’s exaggerating as we scrunch onto the beach for a paddle in the fresh waters. On our journey back to shore we try to surf the larger waves which roll through the channel (not with much joy, I might add!).
By now we have worked up an appetite for lunch. Although you can bring your own food, we opt to buy food from the café bar on the beach. It’s a little shack but boy their food is fabulous. They serve drinks including alcohol, chips, tuna burgers and a selection of other burgers. The tuna steak burger is absolutely mouth watering!
Time for a change of scenery
After lunch we take a short drive to the second beach of the day, a small cove where tiny fishing boats rock in the shallows. A few people laze on towels on the pebbly beach but otherwise it is quiet. Again we push the kayaks that await us into the shallow waters and hop in eager to explore. Our paddles dip and dive in the water pulling us towards the highlight of our day, the hidden cavern.
After we exit the cave we swim to some rocky ledges and hoist ourselves onto the uneven ledges. I opt for a modest jump from the lower ledges, hollering en route (not recommended unless you enjoy drinking sea water!). The boys edge higher and launch themselves from a more ambitious ledge. I can’t even bare to watch!
But all too soon the time for our return ferry approaches and we head back to the port to catch the last ferry of the day. We bid farewell to Filip thanking him for a fab day, and secretly grateful that we didn’t capsize! As the sun lowers in the sky, and the ferry pulls smoothly out to sea, we head to the bar for a cold beer…after all, we deserve it after all the day’s action.
The tour costs £60 per head for a half day tour and £87 per head for a full day tour. Note the half day actually leaves Gazenica at 10am and you return at 7pm. Although you may only be sea kayaking for a half day, you will be away from your base all day long.
Kayak adventure and Adrenaline Hunter hosted us for the day, however as always are thoughts are our own and unedited. We loved this Zadar kayak adventure as it really did take us off the beaten track into stunning scenery. I would highly recommend this trip as a means to escape the bustle.