Geological trail on Rab Island in Croatia
ProGEO Croatia – Opening of Geology Trails on Rab Island
For those who do not know the island, Rab lies in the southern part of the Gulf of Kvarner, Croatia, to its east the Velebit Mountains and to its north the island of Krk. Widely known as a holiday destination, with its sandy beaches, caravan parks and numerous small family hotels, the island now boasts a new attraction – a series of geo-trails in the first Croatian geo-park in a non-protected area.
During OUGS Mainland Europe’s trip to Croatia in June 2007, we had the good fortune to be accompanied by scientists from the University of Zagreb. One of our hosts, Tihomir Marjanac, was instrumental in initiating the concept for the geo-trails. He and his wife, Ljerka had the first idea in 2001 and wrote the programme, which contractually involved local municipalities. Now, as proGEO-Croatia, together with student Ana Marija Tomsa and retired geologist Jelisava Molnar-Susic, the work is almost completed and the dream has become reality. During a second visit in November 2007, 25 km of trails were already finished, the first phase of the 70 km planned to cover the entire island.
During the November visit, which coincidentally fell during the week that the official opening was to take place, Tihomir, Ljerka, Ana-Marija and Mrs. Molnar-Susic were all on the island for the preparations and staying in the same hotel, which gave me an opportunity to hike one of the trails, together with the experts.
After one of Simona’s (our hotel proprietress) huge breakfasts that generally would not be conducive to strenuous exercise, but delicious nevertheless, we set off on the local bus to Lopar, a community in the north of the island, which gives its name to the wooded peninsula bounded by cliffs and sandy beaches, to tackle Premuziceva 1, a cliff trail with several options for shorter or longer hikes. A walk through the caravan park brings visitors to the start, where, in November, locals were in the process of building a small stone shelter, which was to be the entry point for this location. In the meantime it has been completed. Lopar tourist office also decided to reconstruct the Chapel of St. Roko, near the trail. At the bus turnaround in Lopar-St. Marino, an information centre is under construction which, on completion, will hold all the prepared information such as flyers (available this year).
The trail climbs gently up and along the cliffs on a well-prepared path which is not only suitable for experienced ramblers but also for children with accomanying adults as well as elderly hikers.
At points of geological interest, concrete pillars display information boards in four languages (Croatian, German, Italian, English, as required by the tourist authorities), with photos.
The variety of geological features will satisfy any geology-interested visitor: foraminifera and rudists, old bauxite mines, solution pans etc. and, for those whose interests include flora and fauna, parts of the trails follow existing nature paths. At the top of the cliffs we reach pine forest, a cool spot for the midday picnic before hiking further to an area of extreme erosion, where trees just manage to cling to sandy outcrops, roots exposed to the air. From this part of the trail several options are open and we chose to hike back to Lopar through the forest on a steeper trail. Time passed so quickly, the information was good, the exposures varied and it was hard to imagine that we had walked 6 km.
The park was officially opened with a reception in Rab Town Hall gallery on 23 November 2007. Many local dignitaries attended as well as the Director of the State Institute for Nature Protection, Mr. Davorin Markovic, representatives from tourism-related organisations, e.g. Rab and Lopar tourist boards and the Director of the ferry company. From the beginning the local authorities and the general public have been involved in this endeavour and there is great interest and a feeling of it being ‘their’ park.
The park and its trails are open all year round. As well as offering activities for amateur geologists, there is also possibility for scientists to undertake research, for students to further their knowledge, with planned workshops, for school classes to learn of their environment, i.e. the park offers something for everyone. Tours guided by local people are planned. It is to be a place of life-long learning, which includes the local population, that the inhabitants of Rab learn about their island and its uniqueness and so retain their interest and willingness to look after it.
At the time of my visit, a second trail on the Califront peninsula, Premuziceva 2, was also already open and further trails are scheduled to be ready in 2008.
My thanks to Ljerka, Tihomir, Ana-Marija and Mrs. Molnar-Susic for giving me the possibility to explore their living vision and for allowing me to share their unlimited enthusiasm for geology in general and Rab Island in particular.
proGEO CROATIA has a new website: www.progeo-croatia.hr presently in Croatian, but the English version is already under construction.
By plane or car to Krk and ferry to Lopar, Rab Island or by car to Jablanac on the coast road and ferry to Misnjak, Rab Island. For visitors and locals opting for the Lopar ferry, the Imperial Hotels of Rab offer a shuttleservice from Lopar to Rab City.
In June a new ferry connection from Valbiska (Krk) to Rab will be operational, running all year.
photos:Tihomirand Ljerka Marjanac