Captivating Croatia

Croatia
I’ve already clocked up a serious amount of miles on this global tour – especially for a gecko. And the latest part of my journey landed me in Croatia.

Gorgeous beaches, epic forests, quiet fishing villages, buzzing towns for a night of partying… I completely fell in love with this country. Picking my favourite things to do here was pretty tough, but here’s the best of what I got up to!

Epic Island Hopping

Epic island hopping
I read that Croatia has over 1,000 islands sprinkled along its coastline, and each one has its own unique character. So, if you want to sunbathe on a beautiful beach, trek through forests, or wander around historic towns and fishing villages, you can find an island to match your mood! And you don’t have to stay on just one of them – loads of people go “island hopping” to see lots of different places in one trip.

Geckos aren’t very good at hopping (we generally scuttle), but I didn’t let that hold me back. I sunbathed on the golden beaches of Brač, cycled through the countryside on the sleepy island of Šolta, and tried amazing seafood in a family-run tavern on Vis (a seafood eating gecko — another first, surely?)

But one of my favourite places was Olib. They don’t let any cars on the island so you can walk around in the fresh air and never get caught in a traffic jam. Oh, and the cheese, wine and olive oil on Olib is so good. Think I could happily live there forever!

White Truffle Hunting in Istria

White truffle hunting in Istria
Apparently, truffles are one of the world’s most expensive ingredients, and you can book a truffle hunting tour in Croatia’s Istrian forests to go looking for them. One of the biggest truffles ever found came from this part of the world, so I couldn’t wait to get going!

After driving through the hills, we reached the forest and began hunting for white truffles (they’re the really expensive ones), and a few specially trained dogs were brought along to help sniff them out.

Now, obviously, geckos have a fantastic sense of sight and smell, so I could have found all the truffles by myself. But I let the dogs do all the hard work. Hey, I’m on holiday right?

We then headed back to the truffle hunter’s house and got to taste lots of lovely truffle speciality dishes with wine and cheese – delicious. Although, after this yummy experience, it’s going to be hard going back to my insect-restricted diet!

Stunning National Parks

Stunninf National Parks
I soon realised that a huge amount of mainland Croatia is covered in forests, mountains and crystal-clear lakes. And there are 8 different national parks full of the most incredible scenery.

You can hike through forests, dive in crystal clear waters, go mountain climbing, or even enjoy an evening of stargazing. As a gecko who loves the great outdoors, I was in heaven!

Everyone said I had to visit The Northern Velebit National Park. Although, when I first heard about all the wildlife there, I was pretty anxious. Wolves, bears, lynx, birds of prey… that’s an intimidating line-up for a timid little gecko. But what an unforgettable place!

But for me, the highlight was Plitvice Lakes National Park. My guidebook said it was a “UNESCO World Heritage site” and totally worth checking out. As well as lush green forests, the park has 16 turquoise lakes that all spill into each other by the most amazing series of waterfalls. Everyone can walk around the lakes on a giant wooden walkway, which means you can practically feel the spray of the waterfalls against your face – nice!

Awe-inspiring Caves

Awe-inspiring caves
Turns out, Croatia has this whole other underground world going on, which is made up of caves, caverns and grottos – pretty cool!

Some are filled with glittering lakes, others have carvings in the rock from hundreds of years ago, and some are so deep hardly anyone’s explored them. Maybe they’re scared of what they’ll find down there?

Now, as a gecko, I spend a lot of time in the sun and like my freedom to roam, so the thought of spending time in a small, dark cave? Waaaay out my comfort zone! But this trip is all about trying something new, and lots of caves have tour guides to show you around. So, I plucked up the courage and visited a cave called Manita Pec in Paklenica National Park.

Wow – it was like visiting a completely different planet! The cave goes on for 175 metres, which makes you feel tiny – although I am only 3ft tall, so kind of goes with the territory.

There were also these weird but beautiful rocks called “stalagmites” and “stalactites”. I wanted to climb one to get a better look, but our guide said they’d been there for eighty thousand years and I’m pretty sure there are rules about climbing on things that old.

Still, another fantastic experience! Croatia has been a blast from start to finish! But my bag’s packed and I’m ready to move on – next stop, Dubai!

Published 26th January 2016

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