There has been much hype about Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast being the new Riviera, a playground for the fabulously wealthy to parade their yachts and Lecoste uniforms. It’s true, which is good news if you happen to have an enormous yacht, and a fondness for alligator logos. If not, it can be punishing for both your budget and your options.
After the unfortunate Balkans war that saw the gorgeous city of Dubrovnik under fire, the Croatian government has pumped millions into their tourist infrastructure with obvious success. Amongst their investments is a peninsular opposite the Serbia-Montenegrin border called Prevlaka Park. Originally a quiet village, Prevlaka was invaded and occupied by the Serbs who turned it into a military base. When NATO moved in, they kicked out the Serbs and handed it to the UN. Three years ago, the UN handed it back to the Croats, and today you can go shoot your buddies up with paintballs, ride an ATV and free-climb the walls of the old HQ. Paintballing in authentic Croatian army togs is not for everyone, but it is a welcome distraction from the expensive bars and coffee shops providing entertainment for the Alligator crowd.
Arriving in the Adventure Park, it appeared as if the Tourism Board had given up on adventure travellers – the place was practically deserted. Later this would please me as I sprayed bullets in every direction in a fit of Jackson Pollock-inspired carnage. Paintballs have a tendency to bruise, especially when shot at close range, but the only real casualty of the day was a Belgian who passed out from heat exhaustion under the thickness of the army togs. There is something eerily disturbing about crouching in a thorny field with a gun, in used army uniforms on a military base within view of a former conquering army. “The Serbs destroyed everything,” explained our whip-smart 16-year-old guide Pero. Then he showed me his customized gas-powered rifle and we really got into the topic of destruction. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, with a better understanding about the region’s conflict, and why Belgians make horrendous warriors.
Kayaking to Lokrum Island
Next I joined a kayaking adventure run by the models at Adria Adventures. The Adriatic on the Dalmatian Coast is sparkling clean and pool blue. Kayaking in and around the islands of Dubrovnik has become a popular activity, ranging from short day trips to five-day camping expeditions. My destination was Lokrum Island, which lies just off the Old Town. My guide, a 6ft 3 water polo hunk named Matko, explained about the island’s dubious history, but the girls in our small group weren’t listening because they were too busy staring at Matko. We paddled amongst caves, facing the stunning views of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, the surrounding, burnt-out hills and the cruise ships depositing their payload.
On returning a few hours later, the Adria boys, none of whom would look out of place on a ramp in Milan, packed away the gear. The girls took turn posing between them, big smiles all round, while the guys tried their best not to stare at Ivana, Adria’s friendly manager who is a former Miss Croatia, with cheekbones to carve a turkey. Paintballing, kayaking, ATV’s, and beautiful people. My faith was suitably redeemed in Croatia’s appeal to those with big hearts, small budgets, and no love for alligators.
Rooftops of Dubrovnik
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.