A weekend of snorkeling in the Istria peninsula (Croatia)

Istria peninsula, in north-western Croatia, is very interesting destination for who want to escape the crowd of Italian north Adriatic beaches and find a wondeful torquoise and clear sea in which snorkel or dive, without drive too far from the border.

Places like Rovinj/Rovigno or Pula/Pola can be reached in less than 4 hours of driving through a good motorway from Venice, giving a great option for a couple of days holiday. I spent there a full weekend, at the end of July, visiting a couple of interesting sites: rt Kamenjak/Capo Promontore, not far from Premantura, and Duga Luka/Porto Lungo, nearby Labin/Albona.

The Kamenjak Natural Park should protect, since 1996, the area of the most southern point of Istria, but in the truth I would like to know what was not allowed in that area. People could drive almost everywhere through rough roads, covering all the Mediterranean maquis in white dust, and reach every corner of sea cost, while, when I was snorkeling, I was very surprized in meeting an underwater fisherman with a spear…

Crowd on a rocky beach of the park
Crowd on a rocky beach of the park

However the flora around was still very interesting, with extended maquis of Tree Heath (Erica arborea), Common Myrthle (Myrtus communis) and Cade Juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus)…

Cade Juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus)
Cade Juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus)

…and quite a few plants still blooming, including Amethyst Eringo (Eryngium amethystinum), Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea) and Hairy Rockrose (Cistus creticus eriocephalus)

Hairy Rockrose (Cistus creticus eriocephalus)
Hairy Rockrose (Cistus creticus eriocephalus)

The fauna of the area still include the iconic Monk Seal (that of course I couln’t spot), but even with the hot temperatures above 30°C, I managed to observe: Yellow-legged Gull, Scops Owl, Pallid Swift, Bee-eater, Tawny Pipit, Sardinian Warbler, Golden Oriole, Serin and the very impressive Dalmatian Saddle Bush-cricket (Ephippiger discoidalis).

Dalmatian Saddle Bush-cricket (Ephippiger discoidalis)
Dalmatian Saddle Bush-cricket (Ephippiger discoidalis)

But was the blue sea my first target, so was during snorkeling that I tried once again the nice quality of my very old Nikon Coolpix 5200 with waterproof case.

Variegated shapes of coastline
Variegated shapes of coastline
Underwater view
Underwater view

With the fisherman around there weren’t many big fishes: few Gilt-head Breams (Sparus aurata), but mainly small or medium-sized individuals of Saddled Seabreams (Oblada melanura), Common Two-banded Sea Breams (Diplodus vulgaris), Sargos (Diplodus sargus), Sharp-snout Seabreams (Diplodus puntazzo), Salemas (Sarpa salpa), Bogues (Boops boops), Mullets (Chelon sp.), Surmullets (Mullus surmuletus), East Atlantic Peacock Wrasses (Symphodus tinca), Ocellated Wrasses (Symphodus ocellatus), Pointed-snout Wrasses (Symphodus rostratus) and Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasses (Coris julis).

Saddled Seabreams (Oblada melanura)
Saddled Seabreams (Oblada melanura)
ommon Two-banded Sea Bream (Diplodus vulgaris)
Common Two-banded Sea Bream (Diplodus vulgaris)
Surmullets (Mullus surmuletus)
Surmullets (Mullus surmuletus)
East Atlantic Peacock Wrasses (Symphodus tinca)
East Atlantic Peacock Wrasses (Symphodus tinca)

More “photogenic” was the population of species related to the sandy depth and rocky reefs, so I spotted and often photographed: Painted Comber (Serranus scriba), Mediterranean Chromis (Chromis chromis), Giant Goby (Gobius cobitis), Bucchich’s Goby (Gobius bucchichi), Red-black Triplefin (Tripterygion tripteronotum), Rusty Blenny (Parablennius sanguinolentus), Zvonimir’s Blenny (Parablennius zvonimiri) and Black-headed Blenny (Microlipophrys nigriceps).

Painted Comber (Serranus scriba)
Painted Comber (Serranus scriba)
Giant Goby (Gobius cobitis)
Giant Goby (Gobius cobitis)
Bucchich's Goby (Gobius bucchichi)
Bucchich’s Goby (Gobius bucchichi)
Red-black Triplefin (Tripterygion tripteronotum)
Red-black Triplefin (Tripterygion tripteronotum)
Zvonimir's Blenny (Parablennius zvonimiri)
Zvonimir’s Blenny (Parablennius zvonimiri)

The second day I visited the area of Labin/Albona, a very pretty village with probably more than 2,000 years of history.

Labin
Labin
Labin
Labin
San Marco lion, the sign of Venice Repubblic
San Marco lion, the sign of Venice Repubblic
Labin
Labin
Labin
Labin

Exploring the village, I spotted birds like Common Buzzard, Red-backed Shrike and Golden Oriole, but also buttefly like Large Wall Brown, Holly Blue and the underwing moth Catocala coniuncta.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Minsmere Crimson Underwing (Catocala coniuncta)
Minsmere Crimson Underwing (Catocala coniuncta)

On this day I decided to snorkel in the area of Duga Luka/Porto Lungo, not far from Labin: the place was definitelly less busy than Kanejak and the sea even better.

Duga Luka
Duga Luka
Duga Luka
Duga Luka

Along the coast line Scarce and Common Swallowtails visited some beautiful Amethyst Eryngo and the sea-levender Limonium cancellatum.

Amethyst Eringo (Eryngium amethystinum)
Amethyst Eringo (Eryngium amethystinum)
Limonium cancellatum
Limonium cancellatum

The underwater world was one again not so rich in big fishes (fishing pressure along the Istria coast should be pretty strong), but still with some interesting Gilt-head Breams (Sparus aurata), Saddled Seabreams (Oblada melanura), Common Two-banded Sea Breams (Diplodus vulgaris), Sargos (Diplodus sargus), Salemas (Sarpa salpa), Mullets (Chelon sp.), Big-scale Sand Smelts (Atherina boyeri), East Atlantic Peacock Wrasses (Symphodus tinca), Five-spotted Wrasses (Symphodus roissali), Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasses (Coris julis), Painted Comber (Serranus scriba), Rusty Blenny (Parablennius sanguinolentus) and Red-mouthed Goby (Gobius cruentatus).

Salemas (Sarpa salpa)
Salemas (Sarpa salpa)

Big-scale Sand Smelts (Atherina boyeri)

Big-scale Sand Smelts (Atherina boyeri)

Rusty Blenny (Parablennius sanguinolentus)
Rusty Blenny (Parablennius sanguinolentus)
Red-mouthed Goby (Gobius cruentatus)
Red-mouthed Goby (Gobius cruentatus)

Once again the most colourful species were along the rocky reef side: amazing reddish and orange sponges and algae, but also the attractive Beadlet Anemone (Actinia equina)…

Red Algae
Red Algae
Beadlet Anemone (Actinia equina)
Beadlet Anemone (Actinia equina)

…and a lot of gorgeous rocky species: Bucchich’s Goby (Gobius bucchichi), Red-black Triplefin (Tripterygion tripteronotum), Zvonimir’s Blenny (Parablennius zvonimiri),  Tompot Blenny (Parablennius gattorugine), Caneva’s Blenny (Microlipophrys canevae) and Black-headed Blenny (Microlipophrys nigriceps).

Bucchich's Goby (Gobius bucchichi)
Bucchich’s Goby (Gobius bucchichi)
Zvonimir's Blenny (Parablennius zvonimiri)
Zvonimir’s Blenny (Parablennius zvonimiri)
Tompot Blenny (Parablennius gattorugine)
Tompot Blenny (Parablennius gattorugine)
Caneva's Blenny (Microlipophrys canevae)
Caneva’s Blenny (Microlipophrys canevae)
Black-headed Blenny (Microlipophrys nigriceps)
Black-headed Blenny (Microlipophrys nigriceps)

The last photos of the day were the deep blue and green shots of an afternoon thunderstorm coming, making the Kvarner Gulf  waters even more bright and dramatic: see you soon Croatia.

Duga Luka
Duga Luka
Duga Luka
Duga Luka

Luca Boscain

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