I love animals. Darrell does. My parents do. Infact, my mum likes all other animals more than humans and I understand why. This has rubbed off on most of our children (Phoenix squashes woodlice and is berated by Indi; Eti was an insect fiddler but it is almost over it). I love that William’s ambition is to work at Durrell conversation park in Jersey. But as I relaxed into a nature spectator in Croatia last week, the idea of caged animals started to sit really uncomfortably with me. But I want to keep this blog post positive as it was such a positive experience to observe species I had never seen in their ‘normal’ habitat, what ever normal might be after millions of years of evolution, and unhelpful human intervention.
We began to make daily notes with the boys about the animals that we saw.
Swallows are everywhere, and deserve their appearance on one of the smaller denominations of Kuna coin. I loved watching them dip into the the pools at the end of the day.
Sunsets are beautiful in Croatia, and the long days meant that Indi could be in the sea, watching the fish and sea cucumbers and crabs until 9pm. One night we were in Kamanjak, in the southernmost tip of Istria, and I was snapping Indi in the calm waters of the Adriatic. Suddenly, in the distance we watched five dolphins dance in and out of the water. It was magical. It was a bit treacherous walking to the bay, with baby and baby gubbins in tow, but worth it for the unspoilt rugged nature of this peninsula.
We visited an aquarium based with in an old fort, which was fascinating, and the turtle rescue centre was just lovely. This sea is teeming with loggerhead turtles, and they are often injured due to fishing nets, so to see the amount of turtles the place had rehabilitated was heart warming. Despite this, both Darrell and I left with the same uneasy feeling about these contained fish. Was this because we were seeing beautiful creatures out in the ocean, and all of a sudden the idea of them being in a tank seemed wrong?
Other notable creatures observed included a black squirrel and a huge hare outside our holiday home, and brightly coloured lizards everywhere.
We visited Rovinj, a fishing town in Croatia with an Italian flavour (we got used to this mix as the week progressed; what a lovely union of cultures!), and saw, amongst many beautiful fish, and shoals of sardines (another fish that features on the coins) a billowing cuttlefish minding its own business, and a beautiful jelly that had passed away.
On returning home, we starting doing some detective work, and the national park we had avoided going to will be somewhere to head to on our next visit, as it has bears (yes, on a coin too)!
It was a fabulous place to visit, and we were so lucky to do it on such a budget.
I highly recommend Skyscanner for an overview of flights to a particular destination over a month. One day a flight can be £32, and another day it can be £278! If you are able to be flexible, and avoid the school holiday trap, then you can make such a saving. We left during the half term holiday and came back once schools were back in service. For the five of us to travel, it was £280, there and back. As long as your airport is the same, it doesn’t matter if you have two different operators. We flew out with Jet2 and returned with Ryanair. We also made savings by avoiding hold luggage. This means travelling very light, but this can be so liberating. The only downside is that your large cabin luggage all needs to go through the x-ray machines, and the liquids, all under 100ml but the MANY bags of them, all have to be separated and checked. You may be lucky enough to get your bags put into the hold for free, we did!
Car hire made things easier for exploring, and is very cheap in Croatia (£70 for week, plus £30 insurance). DO take your child car seats though. They will be put into the hold for free, but if you were to hire them along with the car they were £50 each – madness!
Pula has some great Roman relics, including a colosseum, and you can get a Fast cat from the city to Venice! It cost about £140 for us all to travel there and back for the day, which seemed like an opportunity not to be missed. It took three hours to get there, and bizarrely, due to the early start, we slept most of the way, and watched Mr Bean most of the way back!
You could stay in a self-catering house or apartment in Pula from as little as £200 for the week! We paid a little more to stay within a ‘village’, which gave us access to three different pools, a private beach and some other activities. It was just under £400. The place was called Bivillage, and we found it cheaper to book through ‘Allcamps’. Our accommodation was brand new too!
Surf shoes are a must in Croatia as there are no sandy beaches. However, I enjoyed the fact that my towels felt cleaner, and the oceans were so clear due to the light pebbles! Thankfully we were all well-equipped. I would love to write more, but as always time is pressed and the next adventure awaits! But we all fell in love with Croatia, my children were free and so happy, and we didn’t watch a television, or play on a computer game for a week. Pace of life was slower and sweeter, and we are left craving more. Where next? Time to check Skyscanner…