Outer Islands of Dalmatia: Jabuka, Svetac and Brusnik

I have been to numerous islands, hidden fortresses, unknown caves, crazy places… But these islands: Jabuka, Svetac and Brusnik  I wanted to visit ever since I was a kid!

Jabuka – a volcanic rock in the middle of the Adriatic. Svetac – the stronghold of Illyrian queen Teuta and Brusnik, another volcanic island just like Jabuka.

So, after several weeks of looking for a good weather forecast (and balancing work obligations) – I have finally found the time to call my friend Gajo in Trogir and this Saturday, at 7 AM we left the sleepy shores of Trogir.

Trogir
Trogir

Although we hoped for calm weather and glass-like sea, we got a fairly strong tramontana wind and that made our ride fairly bumpy and slower than expected. After hours at sea, we finally saw it in the distance…

Jabuka!
Jabuka!

Jabuka is a volcanic island (N43o16′; E15o27’13”). It is not like other Dalmatian islands but, just like the nearby Brusnik, it was formed during one ancient volcanic eruption. A strong blast of lava came to the surface, cooled down and became an island. Well, more of a rock. Cold, dark, inhospitable, cursed demon-rock that kills your instruments as the island is made of magnetite rich black volcanic rocks.  So much of it that the airlines avoid flying over it… Compasses are useless here.

Getting closer
Getting closer

As we were approaching, it was clear that actually walking on Jabuka will not be possible. This island is for sea gulls and endemic black Jabuka lizard only. The shores are extremely steep and inhospitable with maybe one spot to leave the passenegers but someone must remain on the boat at all times. Anchoring? Forget about it – over 200 meters till bottom right by the island. So, we just enjoyed this 96 meter high amazing island with cries of the sea gulls.

Kingdom of sea gulls
Kingdom of sea gulls
Endemic plans on the slopes
Endemic plants on the slopes

Jabuka is also known for three endemic plants and fishermen from Komiza were particularly connected to the Jabuka carnation (Dianthus multinervis). The elderly were saying to the young not to pick it for their darlings back in Komiza as, according to the legends, the one who picks it, will die in stormy seas. The carnation was watered by the fairies from Velebit mountain according to another legend. It was also said that once it vanishes, it will be the end of the fishing in Komiza and the carnation truly disappeared by the mid 20th century. Out of several fishing factories in Komiza in those days, none exists today…

So we left Jabuka behind.

Farewell
Farewell

…and we rushed to our next stop:  Sv Adrija Island or Svetac (43°01’ N, 15°44 ’E)

Svetac in the distance
Svetac in the distance

This is another one of the most distant islands of the open seas of Dalmatia. This island, shrouded in legends and history, is also very inhospitable with steep shores and caves, cliffs and treacherous rocks just bellow the surface right where you think it could be safe…

Stunning beauty of the western side of the island
Stunning beauty of the western side of the island
Caves everywhere
Caves everywhere

But this island, unlike Jabuka and Brusnik, used to be inhabited. The last person who lived here died back in 2000 and now only few elderly come once in a while to take care of the vineyards. Svetac was home for only Zanchi family who came from Italy to Komiza some 250 years ago, changed their names to Zanki and some of them moved to Svetac. At one point, there were 70 people living on this island.

The houses of Zanki
The houses of Zanki

We were lucky to meet 4 people there. They warned us that their small harbor is not the safest spot due to big waves from tankers and other ships that sail relatively near by. So we tied our speed boat the best way we knew and decided just to take a short stroll.

We thought it was safe...
We thought it was safe...
A meeting committee
A meeting committee

We went out and chatted with folks about the life as it used to be. Svetac is pretty much a “museum” of hardships and terrible tragedy: back in 1936.  – during a terrible jugo storm – a huge wave killed 6. They heard the wind and waves getting stronger and went to save their falkusa boat although it was some 20 meters from the sea! The wave hit them and dragged them to the sea… That’s when they built that wall making this sweet harbor looking like a fortress.

This man is standing where the 1936 wave hit...
This man is standing where the 1936 wave hit...

I also got to see the endemic black lizard on Svetac!

Black lizard
Black lizard

…and graffiti from some other times.

Death to fascism, freedom to people
Death to fascism, freedom to the people

We chatted a little bit with folks here but they were too busy preparing tools for vineyard works so we did not want to bother them.

Talking bout good old days
Talking bout good old days

We also got a gift! (the lady did not want to take money for it!) – a bottle of spectacular plavac of Svetac! It was regarded, along with the one of Bisevo, to be better than the plavac made on Vis. I don’t think, after these folks are gone, that we will have an opportunity to taste something like that as I simply wonder if anyone will be coming here…
About plavac tasted: Yes! It is exceptionally good and in the hands of proper wine maker and PR, this could beat Peljesac.

Farewell to the last Zankis on Svetac
Farewell to the last Zankis on Svetac

So we went down to the boat enjoying the view.

Beautiful  but dangerous Povla buk
Beautiful but dangerous Povla buk

And then, to our horror, we saw big waves coming in!
We rushed to the boat and held the ropes making them strain as least as possible! Wave after wave came to us raising the boat up and bringing it down. Luckily, we endured and the boat was saved!  But those were very difficult 10 minutes so don’t even think about docking with anything bigger as you can kiss it good bye! The best way is to come with a smaller dinghy or something similar and keep someone on the main boat, or to come with folks from Komiza who know these seas.

Other than the elderly folks and vineyards, Svetac is known for numerous archaeological findings most of important of which are the remains of the stronghold of the last Illyrian queen Teuta where she was banished after loosing her lands to the Romans.

Teuta's castle
Teuta's castle

And then we went to our last stop: another volcanic island – Brusnik.

Least exciting of all three, Brusnik is only about 30 m above the sea level.

Since 1951, the island has been protected as a Natural monument, so rare and exceptional due to its geomorphology, but also because of its flora and fauna of which some species are endemic. The hollow in the middle of the highest part splits the island in two parts. In the hollow, there is a small valley with the underwater parts intersected with channels through which emerges the seawater to the surface. This phenomenon used the fishermen from Komiza as an advantage; they circled with stones some of the parts with the seawater, forming small basins for keeping lobsters, so called “jastozere”. Those jastozere were ideal for keeping the catch for several days and they did not have to return to Komiza during the peak fishing season.

Brusnik
Brusnik

During the strong jugo – southern winds, the valley on the island fills with sea water dividing Brusnik into two islets.
This island offers poor living conditions, but one can find here south endemic plants like Centaurea Ragusina L., Limonium vestitum Salmon subsp. brusnicense Trinajstić, but also few tamarix trees and beautiful bushes of capers. The most interesting is endemic reptile, black lizard of Brusnik (Podarcis melisellensis melisellensis – the Latin name for Brusnik is Melisello); the male has beautiful turquoise spots along his sides. Rabbits could also be found here but due to their adaptation, the colour of their fur makes them simply invisible. And this is also home to numerous seagulls.

Brusnik - strange seascape!
Brusnik - strange seascape!

And then it was time to go back…

Spectacular, amazing, “must return to”…all this was banging in my head while rushing back. Over 80 nautical miles of mythical Adriatic seascape so rarely seen by many. So, we will start offering my friend’s speed boat tour from Trogir and Split area and it is also offered from Vis Island as well by a local agency.

Just one amazing trip!

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9 thoughts on “Outer Islands of Dalmatia: Jabuka, Svetac and Brusnik

  • Great trip, great photos.

    Dad was in ‘the’ NAVY 3 full years around 1960 and was telling me about this “rocks”. Your post reminded me about his stories.

    People – talking about life in isolation.

    Svetac – it would be nice to know how many and what kind of dinosaur bones are hiding those nicely sliced tectonic plates.

    Apple island – there is no Croatian flag on the top(?), one that can be seen from land and Knin and on other side from Colosseum in Rome? 🙂

  • Pijuckam kakao i čitam o ovom vašem putu. Uz prelijepe slike (kao inače), vrlo zanimljiv tekst – nisam ni znao da je Jabuka baš toliko mala, te za njene anti kompas “moći” 😉 Nema bolje stvari nego ovako doći poput vas na otočić poput Sveca, popričati malo sa domaćim ljudima, a vidim i da vam se poklončić dopao…

  • @ Kristijan – 🙂 for the flag!

    @ BK – Fala! Je… najlipše je ić ovako okolo ali ja sve to zamaskiram i kažem da mi je to “research” za posal. A plavac sa Sveca je stvarno bio iznad očekivanja! Pošto je bilo najmanje 17% alkohola, ipak odustali od dužeg uživanja jer valjalo se vratit nazad po onome suncu 😉
    I btw, odličan blog! Odmah ide u linkove!

  • Spectacular photos, excellent writing, great post! Reminds me of why this is one of only two or three CRO blogs that I follow with interest and appreciation. (Is the plavac you mention the one made by Vjera Zanki? Have you tasted the one made by teta Odesa on Bishevo?) Zivio ti meni, care!

  • (The moment after I wrote this I wasn’t sure about the Zanki lady’s first name any more… anyway, she lives right next to Komiza’s outpatient clinic 😉 )

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