Nature Park Telašćica

Welcome to the place where the steepest white Adriatic cliffs 162 meters high dive into the blue sea.

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Common bottlenose dolphins, the last marine mammals of the Adriatic, have chosen Telašćica as their favorite gathering place, swimming in pods and providing visitors with a splendid photo opportunity on top of what is an unforgettable moment anyway. Just as you watch them, you might miss a peregrine falcon that flew off from the cliff at that very moment. It is impossible to capture the totality of beauty of Croatia’s most beautiful and largest Adriatic bay, Telašćica. Numerous coves, capes and rocks, and the safest harbor for those who sail – that is Telašćica.

It is difficult to decide which view is more impressive, as you find yourself on Stene, the cliffs of Telašćica. Is it the one from above, as you watch the sea directly beneath you from the altitude of 161 meters? Or is it, perhaps, the view from the sea towards the cliff peak? Steadfast stone guardians, these cliffs of Telašćica, have created one of the safest Adriatic harbors, and a place with a truly special view. Yachtsmen know the value of that harbor. If you observe the cliffs from a vessel, approaching from the sea... do turn your engine off. It is quite possible that a bottlenose dolphin will emerge from the sea, that last marine mammal of the Adriatic. The rare animal is threatened by noise pollution created by boat engines. Bottlenose dolphins are frequent visitors to the surrounding waters of the Park.

According to estimates, approximately 220 bottlenose dolphins live in the Adriatic. Other dolphin and whale species rarely visit the local waters.

To many visitors, Telašćica is, beyond dispute, the most beautiful Adriatic bay. The Nature Park was named after it, and it includes local waters with 13 small islands. The bay itself is located on the southeastern part of the island of Dugi otok. It is immersed approximately 8 kilometers into the land, and in its southern, widest part, it is approximately 1.6 kilometers wide. The bay itself is very indented, and it includes 25 coves and capes, and five small islands.

The name Telašćica probably stems from the Latin word “Tilagus”, denoting the appearance of a bay with three lakes. Telašćica consists of three parts mutually separated by narrow passages. These are Tripuljak, Farfarikulac and Telašćica. The coves are, in fact, karst depressions that got submerged and settled below the sea level around ten thousand years ago, during the melting period.

For many, the most impressive location on the external side of the Telašćica Bay are vertical cliffs, the most prominent cliffs on the Adriatic. These are the well-known Stene of the island of Dugi otok. At the locality of Grpašćak, they reach the height of 161 meters, with the maximum sea depth of up to 85 meters. This is where the nesting and initial flights of peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) take place, but Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonore) can also be seen flying over Telašćica. Due to the presence of high number of birds belonging to these two protected species, Telašćica became part of the Important Bird Area (IBA) program.

Corals live on rocks below the sea, including a rather rare occurrence these days: the red coral. The yellow flower of the Dubrovnik knapweed makes its “drawings” on rocks, joined by scattered specimens of tree spurge.

The Mediterranean vegetation is abundant here, with over 500 plant species. The submarine world of Telašćica is marked by sandy bottom, with scattered stone oases and Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows.

Lake Mir is located in a narrow band of land between the bay and the open sea. During high tide, it is easy to see the sources of the incoming sea. The lake is approximately 900 meters long and 300 meters wide, and its maximum depth is 86 meters. The salinity of water in the lake is higher than in the surrounding sea, due to considerable evaporation and closed nature of the lake.

The sea level in the Lake Mir is always roughly equal, because the permeability of cracks connecting the lake with the sea is relatively low. However, when the strong south winds begin blowing, the sea begins to overflow into Lake Mir in the southeastern part of the lake.

In the summertime, the lake is warmer than the sea. In the wintertime, the lake is colder, due to the fact that it is shallow. Due to these extreme conditions, biodiversity in the lake is significantly lower, almost negligible compared to other areas of the Park.

The cove of Mir does have its rather peculiar inhabitants, however. These are Dalmatian or Littoral-Dinaric donkeys, an original and autochthonous Croatian breed. Nowadays protected, donkey has always been a close companion of the Dalmatian man. However, technology eventually interrupted this joint voyage of man and donkey through life. Serving as pack animal in the past, and extraordinarily skillful in the karst terrain, donkey is more of a joy for tourists these days – which is why the locals who no longer needed donkeys for work simply brought their animals to Telašćica.

And so the Nature Park became a refuge of sorts for abandoned donkeys on the island of Dugi otok. No longer forced to carry cargo, donkeys live in pens in this place, making the visitors happy simply by being there.

There is also an unusual small island that makes every visitor curious. Situated in the direction of the Kornati Islands, this particular small island is in fact a small stone plate some sixty meters in diameter, and only three meters high. It looks like a plate, so seafarers referred to it by using the word “tagliero” from the Venetian dialect, eventually resulting in the diminutive Taljurić as the island’s name. In rough weather, this small island is completely immersed in sea foam.

The island of Dugi otok is still an area of research and discovery. Ten years ago, at the bottom of a half-cave on the small island of Garmenjak Veli, on the open-sea side of Dugi otok, in a narrow gap at 24 meters below sea level, a carnivorous sponge species Asbestopluma hypogea (Bakran-Petricioli and Petricioli) was found, feeding itself on shrimp. This is the second finding of the type in the world, and a valuable reminder of the need to conserve this habitat rich in fish species.

The fishermen are a constituent part of living with the sea in this place. The first documents specifically mentioning fishermen from Telašćica date back to the 10th century.

Watching the waves of Telašćica, it is possible, even easy, to imagine the way things looked in the past. The fishermen pulling drift nets with their hands cracked from hard work... Just think of all the turmoil caused by the fish caught in the nets – chub and Atlantic mackerel, striped red mullet, common two-banded seabream... quite an abundance of natural food for dinner tables of Dalmatian families.

And in the coves where the boats are anchored, you can still see the remains of little dry stone wall piers – made by those who knew that the sea is a God-given field that doesn’t have to be sown, but only reasonably reaped.