Croatia Online - Caves And Caving
Croatia is one of those beautifully frustrating places where you feel that, no matter how long you spend exploring it, you will only ever scratch the surface.
Today, thanks to our friends in Secret Dalmatia, a passing invitation to "go and have a look at a cave", turned into a very memorable experience which rendered us mostly speechless - a rare occurrence in itself!
Modrić Cave (Modrić Špilja) lies between Rovinsjka and the village of Modrić, about an hour's drive from Zadar. It was discovered in 1985 and, though there are several caves in the area, this one is special enough to deserve legal protection. Not only is it spectacular in its own geological right, but there are a number of archaeological and other finds that have yet to be fully researched.For someone that has only been caving once before, it's an experience not to forget.
The trip was made very easy and pleasurable by Marijan Buzov, an expert in speleogy who manages tours of the cave - due to its significance and safety factors, you can only visit it by arrangement (any time of year).The tour lasts about two hours but allow an extra half an hour for getting kitted out and a safety briefing - you'll get overalls to protect your clothes, an indestructible but lightweight helmet, complete with lamp and the small cannister that supplies the gas and water mixture to the lamp. You should wear comfortable clothes and a good pair of trainers/walking shoes. Inside the cave it's a constant and pleasant temperature of 17-19 degrees Celsius but it can be a little damp underfoot so you need some grip on your shoes.
It's a 10 minute walk from the cafe rendezvous to get to the cave and you can leave your bags at the entrance - you won't want to be carrying anything more than a camera with you.You don't need to be super fit and you will be helped all the way if you need it - there are a couple of smallish holes to get through but we're told a 120 kilo man made it through the smallest one.
The rest of the exploration just involves occasional head ducking and mild gradients, with plenty of foot and hand holds if you want some extra stability - but you won't be climbing in the true sense of the word - just walking with the very occasional easy "manoeuvre" that Marijan will painstakingly explain to you. Nearly all of it is big open spaces so those with a touch of claustrophobia needn’t worry either. Even the smallish holes are just that and not tunnels, with plenty of headspace at either end. Your lamps are so bright, and the vista so spectacular, that you just feel like your walking in the Santa's grotto of your childhood dreams, though without all the tacky presents!
Every now and then Marijan stops and tells you a little bit more about the formations and the history of the cave. For me, the biggest worry was seeing a "baby" stalagtite, a couple of inches long, that had "only" taken a few hundred years to form. You wouldn't want to be the one to wipe out a 2,000 year old one but there's no pressure there either.
The tour costs 180kn per person including all the kit. Children over 7 and under 10 have to be accompanied by a parent. It's a steal and a very unique morning or afternoon out! For more information go to Marijan's webite, Zara Adventure. Also on the menu are rafting, trekking and climbing.
Thanks to Alan Mandić at Secret Dalmatia for facilitating the experience - just one of the many special treats that he can organise for his clients - and a very warm thanks to Marijan for his care, patience, knowledge, generosity and enlightenment. You know you're going to be in safe and expert hands as soon as you meet him, and that gives you the confidence to get the best out of the experience and want to go back for more.