Adventures in the Adriatic
I never thought I could sail around the Adriatic Sea islands, but then, I signed up to study abroad. On my study abroad program, Ecology of the Dalmatian Coast and Roots of Croatian Wine Tradition, there was a week-long sailing trip at the very end of our program. This trip would take my peers and me around the islands surrounding Dubrovnik, Croatia (our home base), to learn more about the ecology of Croatia. I was super excited to sail since I had some previous sailing experience, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Talking to my friends about their excitement for the trip calmed some of my nerves about sailing, and the thought of exploring a new place overtook the fear.
Day 1 - Thankfully, on the first day, we met our skippers (the captains). We made our way down to Dubrovnik's marina at about 3 pm with a full backpack and waited with our professor. He introduced us to two very talented skippers accompanying us on the sailboats. Once the boats were ready to sail, we walked over to the docks and saw two well-equipped sailboats. We soon set off and motored out of the marina to our first destination, a very small town named Slano. This 3-hour trip was gorgeous. Not only was I able to look at Dubrovnik from an outside angle, but I was able to finally see how numerous the islands surrounding Dubrovnik were. We arrived in Slano and fell asleep in a nearby hotel, ready for the week of adventure.
View of Slano from our very first hotel, looking out at all the islands in the Adriatic Sea.
Day 2 - The next day, we were on the boats 9 am, and I was ready to sail. While on the boats, the skippers took care of the technical parts of sailing so that we could sit and look around at the surrounding water. After about 4 hours of sailing, we reached the island of Mljet. Our professor brought us into Mljet National Park and took us to a beautiful lake with its own unique ecosystem. We learned about the jellyfish and scallops that only live in that specific lake. I got to go swimming and kayaking on the adjacent lake (I didn’t want to swim with jellyfish), and then our professor took us to a traditional Croatian restaurant where we had dishes that originated in Mljet. The lake and the food made this the most beautiful island I visited.
Day 3 - After Mljet, we headed off to the island of Korčula. This island is nicknamed The Little Dubrovnik because of its almost identical architecture. That day we were left to explore the island and the city on our own. We found a beautiful town full of shops, restaurants, and many historical sites. Most of the town was still the same as it was in the Middle Ages and very well preserved. Looking back, I wish I could have spent more time on this island learning about the history of it, but the next day we were off to another island.
Day 4 – Before arriving at our next stop, our professor informed us that the next island, Latstovo, would not be as glamorous as the last islands. He told us that this island was previously taken over by the former Yugoslavian army and was cut off from the public for decades (making it an almost untouched ecosystem). The hotel we stayed at was probably the oddest building I have ever been in. It had staircases going in every direction with no central layout, the rooms seemed to be straight out of the 1950s, and there were barely any other guests. Thankfully, this made for a great place to learn and explore. My friends and I spent the day exploring the historic hotel discovering new places, and learning about the history of Croatia.
Day 5 - Instead of moving to another island the next day, we spent two days in Lastovo. On the second day, our professor took us to an abandoned submarine docking station where we could swim. On the way there, we hiked through the woods, where we found abandoned buildings and railway tracks that disappeared into caves. With all the untouched land, I saw the most coastal wildlife, such as the bearded fireworm, sea urchins, and octopus. This island seemed to be the strangest place to be, but, in the end, it became my favorite island.
The group swimming near the abandoned submarine docking station in Lastovo.
Day 6 - The next day, we headed back to Mljet and had a long day of sailing. This time the waves were much higher than the past couple of days, and we were on the water for much longer. This trip took us around 5 hours, and the rough water made everything take longer. At first, the waves were a bit scary, but then it became another adventure. My friend and I went to the front of the boat and held on tight while being splashed by the sea. It was the most fun I had on those sailboats.
Day 7 - After saying one last goodbye to Mljet, we returned to the marina in Dubrovnik and said goodbye to our amazing skippers. This was our last full day of the program, and we spent the day reflecting on our sailing trip and talking about how traveling around new islands made us more open to new adventures.
For me, this was one of the best weeks of my life. Island hopping in a brand-new country with my friends was the most incredible experience ever. This trip left me with an openness for an adventure that I don’t think I could have gotten without this trip. I learned so much about the coastal ecosystem and the history of Croatia, which made me appreciate my time in that country even more.
Jasmine Nichols is a Biology major in the College of Science and studied abroad in Croatia in summer of 2022.