Sailing in the Adriatic (Part Two): Zapuntel and the island of Molat

As we made our way southward down the Adriatic in late June of 2020 on our second sailing journey of the year, we passed so many beautiful islands that I stopped counting. Seriously, there are hundreds of them (the truer number is over 1,000), and it’s impossible to see them all. But we could try.

A Sailor’s Dream and Birder’s Paradise

My husband Mike is in sailing heaven today as there is a steady 16-knot breeze that is pushing us effortlessly through the water. Our sailboat RITA sails an even 6-7 knots in these stiff winds and pushes us swiftly towards the three national parks we will visit on this particular trip: Telašćica, Kornati and Krka. The soothing sounds as the boat cuts through the water add to the blissful experience of this journey through the Adriatic islands.

Many of the smaller islands we pass today are inhabited only by birds. Some of the larger islands off Croatia’s coast are populated by both humans and endangered birds like the Griffon vultures, who live on the island of Cres located more easterly than we are traveling this trip. But on one of the islands we pass on this day I spy a large flock of at least 50 or so European shags (a type of cormorant) swimming closely together two by two near the shore looking like a little bird water parade. Huddled so closely together, it is a strange sight to see and I wonder if they are young birds as we see even a larger colony of them on the land nearby.

Other tiny islands we pass today are covered in small gull-like terns diving for fish. According to the Croatia Birding website,  the area around the island of Molat, (today’s destination), “being rich with shallow seas and numerous islets, is a favorable breeding area for seabirds that feed on fish.”

In the center of this territory, on the reefs off the Island of Silba, an island we visited last trip, is the most important nesting area of these shag in Croatia, says the site. “Little tern colonies are also found on several islets here, hence it is this species’ biggest Croatian maritime breeding site.” The birds definitely rule these places and look comfortable swimming or flying around them.

Our first stop this trip after tying up to a mooring ball in the Uvala Krivica on Mali Lošinj, which I described in detail on a previous trip ( Biking at Telašćica National Park, Wimping Out and A Rainbow at the End ) was the small town of Zapuntel on the island of Molat.

A gorgeous cove in Zapuntel on the island of Molat.

We had visited Molat last trip on the other side of the island, but decided to visit the town of Zapuntel this time. It was a beautiful little harbor with only three mooring spots and just two restaurants. Both were closed due to the coronavirus even in late June, much to our dismay and that of the group of 6 Slovenian gentlemen on the boat next to us. I have since heard the places opened up in July and August, so they did have an abbreviated tourist season.

Mike stands happily in front of the two signs that show the restaurants on Zapuntel before we realized they were both closed because of Covid-19.

Without a restaurant I decided to cook some pork chops on board and as we ate dinner up on deck, we watched an incredibly beautiful sunset in the distance. I kept thinking that if we had gone to a restaurant, it’s possible we wouldn’t have witnessed such a beautiful sight. So it’s all good.

A good lesson when life closes doors (or restaurants) to us. Something beautiful might just be waiting in the wings.

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Wow, what a sunset from the harbor of Zapuntel in Molat.

Earlier in Zapuntel we walked along the coast and found some incredible rock formations made up of karst. Karst is “a topography formed from the erosion of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum,” but in this area, it’s the erosion of limestone predominantly. The formations are so beautiful that they look like artistic sculptures.

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Pretty amazing rock formations on the island of Molat.

Karst is very prevalent on the Croatian landscape, both on the islands and the coastlines as well as the mountains in Croatia. The whole history of karst formation is very interesting, and if you would like to read more about it, here is a link to an article that explains its existence in Croatia. (https://www.absolute-croatia.com/travel-magazine/travel-inspiration/eco-adventure/item/croatian-limestone-the-karst.)

Another gorgeous cove in Zapuntel, a peaceful town on the island of Molat.

Croatia is basically a geologist’s dream (and a history buff’s and archeologist’s one as well), and I wish constantly I had more knowledge about the landscapes we see here. I try to research as I go along, but it’s a challenge when you don’t have a background in geology.

Sitting by the dock of the cove, the fishermen’s nets are a work of art in themselves.

Well-Connected to the City of Zadar

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Another interesting fact about Molat is that only about 100 people live on this small island. But the residents definitely have connections. On our first trip to the other side of Molat in May we were amazed as we sat onboard in the empty harbor when a giant Jadrolina ferry pulled up to the dock and began emptying all sorts of heavy equipment for construction and tractors, etc. onto the island. It formed a small procession off the boat and down the tiny road that lead into the town.  Then at the end of the day, sure enough, the little parade of tractors filled the ferry back up with equipment and went on its way.

The car ferry wasn’t the only ferry to arrive either. A large catamaran ferry arrived later and dropped off resident day-trippers with their rolling shopping bags full of goods they had purchased in the city of Zadar. So even though the area seems remote, it definitely has connections to the mainland.

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The history on all of these islands is amazing. This building is from the early 1800s, although the island’s history goes back much further.
Hollyhock grows wild on Molat and the bees are fat and happy here.

History Towering Above

Besides just the incredible rock formations, these islands are also an archeologist and history goldmine, too, and as we sail onwards to the island of Iz, which will be our mooring for the third night of our trip,  I spy something way up on the top of a mountain on the opposite side of the island of Iz on Uglijan Island.

Looking through binoculars, it looks like a broken-down castle and seems very intriguing and imposing sitting up so high on the landscape. I do some research and find it is the abandoned fortress of St. Michael that dates back to the 6th century AD, when it was an observation post. The fortress operated throughout the Venetian times, when its strategic position at 265 meters (869 feet) above sea level made it an excellent observation post for controlling these important sea routes. On the other side of Uglijan sits the beautiful coastal city of Zadar, the historical city the fortress was helping to protect. 

The fortress is broken and abandoned now sitting high up majestically overlooking the sea. A truly imposing sight with a history just as remarkable. As we head into the harbor at Veli Iz, the fortress is a bleak reminder that even great civilizations are blips on the timeline of history and even the most robust can crumble and be defeated by time and the elements.  

As we head into harbor the fortress is a bleak reminder that even great civilizations are blips on the timeline of history and even the most robust can crumble and be defeated by time and the elements.  

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