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Luxury holiday at Bluesun Hotel Berulia

Velebit Photo Jeep Safari – The Ultimate Off-Road Adventure


You can’t be in Starigrad Paklenica and not be captivated by the Velebit Mountains – it’s commanding. To appreciate the mountains you need to get up close and personal, so we got up close and boarded a Landrover Defender and headed up, up and up into the mountains for a thrilling off-road adventure.
Thanks to the hard working efforts of the men under orders of the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph, who painstakingly created the roads through the Karst landscape, we were able to spend 5 hours up in the Velebit Mountains. We stopped every 20-30 mins for photo opportunities and stood in awe, breathing in the crisp mountain air.

One of the stops we made early on was overlooking the town of Starigrad Paklenica, where our hosts provided morning tea of freshly made fritule (Croatian fried dough with icing sugar) and a Croatian liquor made from grape skins, known as rakija.

At 20 months old, the baby donkey sat in his car seat mesmerised by the beauty before him. Normally unhappy in the car, he loved every minute of the off road adventure.

Driving slowly by necessity means you have plenty of time to peer out your window into the distance and imagine just how tough life in the mountains was those hundreds of years ago when the roads were being cleared for those who called the mountain home.

About an hour into the journey we could see a valley down below us where the rocky view changed to a luscious green pasture. With my window rolled down to take a photo, I noticed some movement in the far corner of the pasture. Our guide said the area was known for wild horses and that owners of properties also kept a few cattle here. As we wound slowly down the road, it became clear that the black and brown blurs were in fact a herd of galloping horses.

I frantically began clicking on my camera, but with the jeep bumping around, I was unable to get a clear shot. We continued and came to a stop just metres from the herd. Out of the corner of our eyes, we saw a striking black stallion chasing a much smaller brown colt. Click, click, click went my camera, but I had the wrong lens on the camera, which I needed to change. As I did the stallion circled our Jeep in laps, nipping and biting at the colt. Our guide said in his years of doing the photo safari he has never seen such an impressive sight.

We were enthralled by the horse display for five spine-tingling minutes before the stallion managed to chase the herd away. The black victor trotted back looking very pleased with himself before biting a cow on his way to nibble on his patch of grass. Being out in the wide open, surrounded by the Velebit Mountains and the wild horses putting on a fabulous show for us is a moment I soon won’t forget.

The safari continued, but sadly the clouds obscured so much of the views and then it began to rain. Not just a little, quite a lot! We came across the charming St. Franjo’s Church built in the classical style made from stone. With the rain pouring down we raced under its protective awning and enjoying a pre prepared lunch of cheese, meats and wine.

Along the ride we saw several shrines set up in honour of those who had lost their lives in the Velebit Mountain in the 90′s during the Homeland war. Our driver pointed out several areas where land mines had not yet been removed. The mines are costly to remove and for now are just marked with warning signs.

I have also added to that list to go back to Paklenica in the summer to enjoy the photo jeep safari again, because it’s during those warm sunny days that a pit stop is made to enjoy a refreshing swim in the Zrmanja River.
Tips for your trip
Pack tissues for your photo jeep safari, there are no toilets in the Velebit, and so you’ll need to use natures toilet behind a big rock.
Bring a pillow or cushion from your hotel or apartment if you have a dodgy back. Those jeeps are far from comfortable for 5+ hours.
The day can start with blue skies and it can end with the bura wind blowing a gale and rain like it did for us, so bring a jacket to be safe.
Wear closed in shoes as all of the photo stops are along rocky roads and ledges.
Bonus: This tour is kid friendly! Our jeep was pre-fitted with a child restraint, or you can supply your own.

Beautiful landscape
Across Croatia, the landscape is varied, and on safari was no different. Just for fun, we drove from the Dalmatian side of the mountains, dry arid like conditions and a short distance later reached the Lika side of the Velebit. On the Lika side there were neon like green trees and moss which stretched along the roadside.
Nothing like that of the stoney, grey side just two turns back. We didnt have time to explore the Lika side of the mountains however I did take a mental note, to add Lika to our list of places to visit… you know that same list that never stops growing.

Chasing the Donkey is the #1 Croatian travel blog, an award-winning project authored by an Australian expat and her Croatian husband who live in the Croatian countryside.


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