FINDING BALANCE ON CRES

Looking back, I think that the island of Cres was my favourite location in Croatia. Reached and left by the Jadrolinija car ferry it sits between the Istrian peninsular and Krk island. As the latter is connected to the mainland by a bridge you can island hop to continue your journey through the country.

The north of Cres Island

The north of Cres Island

Disembarking in the wild and sparsely populated north of Cres, I was very soon greeted by a gigantic black creature rearing up above the cliff before me. It was the almost mythical sounding Griffon Vulture which has an incredible 3 metre wingspan and can reach 160 km per hour if pushed. It was a thrilling sight. Cres is one of the few places in Croatia (Europe?) that has a Griffon Vulture population and they particularly like the open scrubland of the north.

Once, there was a perfect balance here. The islanders have farmed sheep for centuries – one can still see traces of ancient stone-walled sheep pens called grimace on the hills. They farmed a breed uniquely adapted to Cres, the half-wild scrappy Tramuntana which were allowed to roam free.   The healthy vulture population fed on sheep carrion which pleased the farmers as they cleaned up the landscape and helped prevent disease. Result : equilibrium for hundreds of years.

Then, as usual, humans intervened. The powerful hunting lobby on Cres gained permission to introduce boar which have decimated the sheep population with thousands of lambs killed every year since. Added to which modern islanders have turned increasingly to other livelihoods. In twenty years the combined effect of man’s behaviour reduced sheep numbers from 100,000 to 15,000.

Now the Griffons do not have enough prey to survive and are fed at special sites by volunteers; native pastureland grasses and wildflowers have been replaced with invasive thorn bushes, reducing biodiversity; and neglected, tumbling down sheep pens no longer prevent soil erosion.

On top of this, tourists on speedboats get too close to nesting sites, scaring young birds to fly too soon so that they fall to the sea and drown – and Griffon Vultures only have one chick (which usually takes five years to become independent).

When I stood by the roadside watching the majestic vulture ride the wind above me I did not know then how threatened its existence was.

Elsewhere, in usually inaccessible areas of Cres waters, there is a resident dolphin pod. Seeing the number of boats selling dolphin-spotting trips I hoped a better balance between nature and tourism was being maintained for the protection of those glorious creatures.

Cres is stunningly beautiful, peaceful and slow. The scrubland of the north gently morphs into woodland and sea-level harbours and coves in the lower-lying south. I stayed in a quiet spot called Martinscica in a simple but friendly villa with a large veranda which had a 180-degree view of the sea and surrounding hills. I watched a fiery sunset on my right as, simultaneously, a full moon rose above the trees on my left. Each evening I leant on my balcony wall as whistling swallows danced around the house and the same fisherman went out to spend the night anchored in the bay, alone in a wide expanse of water.

Taken from my Cres balcony

Taken from my Cres balcony

 

Cres Town

Cres Town

For excursions I visited the adorable unspoilt Cres Town with its multi-coloured portside buildings reflected in the harbour, and mooched around tiny Osor with its series of musical statues.

Osor

Osor

One of Osor's many musical statues

One of Osor’s many musical statues

Osor statue 1

At Osor there is a small bridge connecting Cres to the more tourist ‘developed’ island of Losinj, parts of which I did not like but the quaint harbour of Veli Lovinj was a delight.

Veli Losinj

Veli Losinj

Lovinj 1

Veli Losinj harbour

In the evening I returned to my wide terrace to watch my sunsets, acrobatic swallows, and the crossing of the moon. The balance may have been out of kilter in some of the natural world of Cres but for me in Martinscica the equilibrium was just perfect.

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Comments
4 Responses to “FINDING BALANCE ON CRES”
  1. R & J says:

    Beautiful.

  2. Joannie says:

    What a delightful place! I do enjoy residing about places I may never see now. Thanks

  3. mukul chand says:

    beautiful pictures, lovely island

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