We had seen a lot of pictures on Pinterest of idyllic beaches and paradise coves, of underwater caves and big blue seas.We'd seen a lot of pretty amazing things in Croatia, but we wanted to see this. Pinterest was pointing us toward Kamenjak National Park just south of Pula.
Kamenjak is Istria's most southern point, it is protected and you have to pay to spend the day there with opening and closing times, not your ordinary part of the country. The fee to enter (which can be reduced if you buy a season ticket) is cheaper than some of the car parking fees I've come across in the UK's national parks, I'm looking at you Lake District. I didn't feel disgruntled by the fee as I knew that the fee was being used to maintain the national park, plus it was only 30 kuna, about 3 quid.
With 30km of coast line and a barely developed landscape, it feels natural, it feels wild, it feels secluded. It's a popular place but you can distance yourself from crowds, who am I kidding there are no crowds, just small groups of people, anyway you can distance yourself from them quite easily by walking a little bit further and finding a secluded cover or rock to perch your bottom on.
There are dirt tracks, no roads, and the closer you get to the coast the rockier these get. Our poor little rental car fared well off roading but a four by four would have been more suitable!
A map wasn't handed to us when we arrived but there is one downloadable from the internets here. There are places marked as family friendly, ie no nuddy people. There was a lot of nuddy people around Kamenjak. I didn't know where to look half the time, apart from one guy who we nicknamed 'The Adonis' (or maybe that was just me) who D and I couldn't stop staring at. Google Adonis and you'll see examples of what I mean... you'd be staring too.
We arrived in Kamenjak on the hottest day of our holiday, there was very little shade and we we're scorching. We needed food and I quickly googled the best beach bar to go to in Kamenjak, the results were safari bar. We wandered down to the coast, back up the coast, went up the look out point and still didn't spot the bar. We managed to walk all around it drive off and then drive back before we found it. Nestled within the shrubbery and tall bamboo was Safari Bar.
Surrounding the bar is a range a playground rides, swings, roundabouts and slides amongst other things which kids and adults enjoy alike...
Safari bar is pretty popular, there were always places to sit but it's also where we found most of the people in the park. The bar serves a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with it being so hot and the middle of the day we opted for the homemade iced tea and lemonade which is served from a tap on the bar. Most refreshing.
The menu in terms of food mainly consists of fish, including calamari and grilled fish. We opted for the meat options, served in sandwiches. Ready in a precise 9 minutes...
D's sandwich was a Cevapcic, we both struggled to pronounce this and the girl behind the bar didn't look impressed by our efforts (slight understatement she looked thoroughly pissed off at our feeble attempts). Similar to the 'sausages' D had at Konoba Daniela cevapcici is like kofte. The sauce being the generic tangy sauce available throughout Croatia, it has a rather distinct taste that I can't quite describe. There was also a ton of onions.
I opted for the Gyros, a minced pork of sorts slightly flavoured. I definitely preferred mine to D's despite his looking a tad more appealing. Again served with a ton of onions.
Lunch came to 90 kuna, approximately £9, above average for Croatia but you're paying to eat in a prime location.
Following a day of sunbathing and snorkeling we returned to Safari bar at the end of the day so that we could grab a drink and a cheeky pot of olives to watch the sunset with.
A medium pot of olives was a lot bigger than expected, the punch wasn't as strong as expected but it all felt pretty perfect as we perched on a 70 foot cliff watching the sun go down and crazy people cliff dive in to the cove below.
It was perfect, I never wanted to leave.
So we returned the next day... for more snorkeling, go pro-rental and kayaking around the coves. There is so much to do in Kamenjak you could easily spend a week here and not get bored, I certainly wouldn't. If I was a more experience rower, or perhaps a little stronger in the arm I would definitely consider one of the kayak day trips where you travel around the cove, dive in to the underwater caves and lunch with the group. The night time trips also sound intriguing, I can imagine how peaceful it would be to travel across the water by moonlight and see stars from horizon to horizon. Bliss.
We returned to Safari bar for lunch and this time tried to avoid the bread (there is SO much bread in Croatia) and ordered the Cevapcici served alone... but it unbeknownst to us, it came with a side of bread. I didn't eat the bread.
It was all a bit too meaty for me and I could have coped with less meat and perhaps some more salad but I guess they won't have too much refrigeration capacity out in the wild national park to keep salad fresh.
The bill was slightly more than the previous day (despite still ordering two meals and two drinks) and came in at 120 kuna, about £12, again we wouldn't blink an eyelid in the UK but we had evening meals with booze that came close or just a little more than the bill for Safari bar. We weren't phased, the food was reasonable quality and we were in the most beautiful place, our glasses were well and truly tinted.