Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Vese Huljic, AndAdventure: Will Travel Industry Be Changed When All is Said and Done?

April 15, 2020 - Reflections from one of Croatia's longest-serving adventure tourism professionals, Vese Huljic from AndAdventure in Split. 

A few weeks ago, before the world changed several times, I contacted one of my favourite people in the Croatian tourism industry - Vese Huljic, from And Adventure in Split. A Jelsa girl, I have known Vese for years, from the start of Total Hvar back in 2011. Her story is very impressive, one of the founding members of a new adventure tourism business back in 2005 - an era when many people in Croatian tourism had no idea what adventure tourism was. 

Years passed, and I realised that not only had adventure tourism in Croatia come on leaps and bounds, but Vese had been at the forefront of that change and progress for 15 years now. I messaged her to see if she would be interested in an interview. 

She replied that things were getting crazy with corona and cancellations and she would get back to me. 

And get back to me she did, this morning, several weeks and several lifetimes later, with THIS, posted on her website.

About a month ago, a dear friend of mine who manages a popular Croatia news blog asked me for my insight, as he was working on a story about AndAdventure. The request came just as the global impacts of COVID-19 began to change our lives–personally and professionally–as we know it. In the travel and tourism industry, no one is being spared from disruption. 

To buy some time, I told him that I need to rethink my career. But realistically, there is not much to rethink, because when you love what you do–when you deeply care about your team, and the suppliers that depend on your business–the only thing to do is focus on preserving what we have, reimagining what we can, adopting to the constant changes, and getting ready to move forward on the other side of this. Every day, new questions arise and in most cases, we don’t have answers; the moment we think we have figured something out, another development resets our course. 

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When will this end? We don’t know. Will the travel industry be changed when all is said and done? Probably, but we don’t know for certain how, though there are many ideas and perspectives circulating that we can consider as we find a path forward. Still, there’s an opportunity in the meantime to take stock of what we do know and what we can observe of Covid-19’s impact on the planet, and adjust accordingly. If anything good is to come out of this, perhaps it’s our chance to do things better.

Nature is healing 

Being an adventure-oriented company, the great outdoors is our sanctuary; respecting and immersing ourselves in all of nature’s glory is where we find our joy. I enjoy seeing positive news stories and social media posts about wildlife reclaiming their territory and reports on less pollution due to a slow down of industrial production and traffic, etc. We can’t wait to get outside again.

Overtourism

Not so long ago, this was one of the biggest challenges of Croatia’s most popular destinations, and there was no clear solution (or, maybe fair to say the associated revenue was a deterrent to consider our options). In today’s climate, “overtourism” has become a long-lost concept; hopefully, gone but not forgotten. Our lessons learned and the negative impacts of overtourism well-documented, we are in a better position than ever to integrate and enforce green, sustainable practices to all we do. As an active and adventure travel business, this is core to our existing ethos; small group tours leaving minimal impact and few traces of our presence in the areas we operate while supporting locally-owned businesses to strengthen community success. Now, we’re looking at how we can innovate further. Let’s hope that with this reset, more key industry players take-up–and follow through with–a better way of doing things so overtourism will be nothing more than a thing of the past.

We were given time 

It’s a precious commodity that most of us missed desperately when business was in full swing; we always needed more of it–time to enjoy with our families, kids; time to finally read that book or finish that online course that’s been on file for years; or even to pair all the Tupperware boxes with matching lids. Now, we have that time. It’s an opportunity to rethink our lives, careers and goals. To reimagine our businesses to be more sustainable and nature-oriented. Indeed, we also have time to be sad; to feel the uncertainty about the future and for stress to numb our creative power. But when you can, choose motivation, optimism and hope–because even the darkest patch can be a beautiful turning point.

I still owe my friend answers to the long set of questions he sent me, not because I feel that timing might be wrong to publish our story – but because I believe this is the time we all need to reinvent ourselves, assess our businesses and our goals, and redirect our creative energy so we could deliver better, greener and more sustainable experiences when we’re finally able to welcome our clients to beautiful Croatia once again. When that time comes, I will be happy to share the journey of AndAdventure, which will be made richer for the experience of overcoming challenges and adapting to a new reality.

In the meantime– to my team and of our suppliers with whom we’ve created so many amazing AndAdvenure experiences, to our partners who are facing the same struggles, and to our precious clients who are supporting us in so many different ways, thank you. We will sail through this storm together. 

You can connect with Vese Huljic and the AndAdventure team through their official website.

For the latest on Croatian tourism, click here

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Lesina to Lesina 2019: Connecting Hvar to Italy by Kayak

October 26, 2019 - Hvar adventure tourism takes to the open seas, as Hvar and Italy are connected by kayak in Lesina 2 Lesina 2019. 

I have a good friend from Hvar called Vese. She is an adrenaline freak and is always up to something crazy. Now the owner of the successful And Adventure active tourism agency, she was one of the pioneers of adventure tourism on Hvar with the first such agency back in 2005. 

Just following her on Facebook made me feel a lot healthier, and her guys were always up to something crazy. 

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Such as time we all awoke on February 4, 2012 to find the entire island of Hvar covered in snow. While most sensible people stayed inside, those guys decided to jog on up to Sveti Nikola, the peak of the island. 

So when I heard of a project to connect Hvar (whose former name was Lesina in Venetian times) with Lesina in Italy, I had a feeling that Vese's agency might be involved. And so it proved - here are details of the planned trip as previously featured on TCN). 

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It was always going to be a challenging trip, even in perfect weather conditions, something hard to guarantee in mid-October, and the trip certainly started brightly enough from Hvar Town, above. 

The Lesina 2 Lesina team posted a daily update of their progress, which I will reproduce below: 

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DAY 1:

We started on Tuesday 15th of October at 8am from Hvar! Weather was good but all the time jugo was increasing so we had to cut the day a bit shorter than planned! We paddled 15Nm all the way to Proizd (near Vela Luka) where we left kayaks and continued on a support boat to Vela Luka for overnight. Successful day! 

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DAY 2:

Second day jugo increased too much for safe kayaking and there was no option for safe mooring for the support boat so we had a hard time to bring a decision to stop kayaking. Final call was to sail to Ubli in Lastovo and spend a night there and the next day get to Sušac. We had to move forward with no delays as the weather forecast was showing changes in upcoming days! 

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DAY 3:

Our skipper started from Ubli around 5am and we were at Sušac ready for what we thought was the longest day! We started paddling from Sušac to Palagruža, about 25Nm and about 7,5 hours. Struggling with waves, some winds but at least it was in a favourable direction. We arrived at Palagruža just before sunset! Perfect time to witness how magnificent it is.. as it is from different world! We found a safe mooring spot for overnight, got in the boat as we had to make plan what to do next... Looking at the weather and keeping on mind safe mooring spots for our support boat we have decided to alter the original plan!

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DAY 4:

This was the longest day! As we had to rush to make sure the weather will still be favorable for our return we decided to cut a day, but that meant that we will skip visiting Lesina. So instead of adding one more night on Tremiti islands (about 23Nm to Pianosa) we have decided to go for 31Nm to Vieste. This was also the most beautiful day! Calm, almost no winds until we came closer to Italy and jugo started to pick up. About 10 hours of the open sea until we finally reached Vieste and connected Hvar with Italy!!

Truly a wonderful journey!

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Participants: andAdventure sea kayaking team: Kristian Marovic, Vedran Medvesek, Veselka Huljic, Anamaria Šparica and Georges Buj from TZ Hvar + AndAdventure support crew on the sailing boat: Capitan Goran Treursic, his beautiful daughter, Tina Treursic, who was making sure our stomach is full and happy, young skipper Filip Biočina.

Sponsors: Visit Hvar, Grad Hvar / Hvar Town, Visit Jelsa, Visit Stari Grad Hvar and Hula Hula Hvar official.

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Congratulations to all. I feel quite exhausted just following it all.

And the good news is that you don't have to go all the way to Italy if you fancy a little kayaking in Dalmatia next summer. Check out the Kayaking with Vese experience in the video below.  

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Adrenaline Hvar: Take the Via Ferrata Challenge with And Adventure or Cliffbase Team

May 9, 2019 - Via Ferrata is open. From wine tasting in a cave to adrenaline views few get to see, discover Hvar beyond the beach.

Are you brave enough?

Hvar beyond the beach and nightlife is an incredible place. an island of culture, with the most UNESCO heritage of any island in the world. And when it comes to adventure...

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Hvar is a sailing, kayaking, cycling and hiking paradise, but if you are into rock climbing, there can be few destinations which offer better views than Sveta Nedelja, especially when you get to combine it with a superb and unique wine tasting in a cave after you have finished.  

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Star addition of 2019 is Via Ferrata, which we introduced a few months ago

Via Ferrata is an Italian meaning 'iron path', a protected challenging trail route built with a steel cable rail fixed to the rock, metal steps, ladders, suspension bridges and zip wires. The via ferrata was used a lot by troops in the First World War, allowing them to make their way through the mountains by using a harness clipped onto the wire. This is also a great way for non-expert climbers to reach high altitudes safely, using minimum equipment.

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Not for the fainthearted, but the views are certainly worth it.  

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 Sveta Nedljelja is famous for its wine, especially the powerful Plavac Mali reds, a grape variety which is related to Zinfandel. The village's steep vineyards and endless southside sun are some of the reasons for the success of this grape variety. And if you want to see what kind of views Hvar grapes enjoy growing up, you really can't beat views like this. 

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The village of Sveta Nedjelja below. 

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And there really is no age limit on those keen to tackle the Villa Ferrata. Here is the 83-year-old Slovakian father of the man behind the Via Ferrata project. 

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The tour with And Adventure takes a leisurely walk back to base, for there is plenty more to explore. There is an incredible church and monastery high above the village which has been built inside a cave.

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It was built in the 15th century and the monks lived in total isolation here until 1787. An incredible spot, and a perfect place to catch your breath and admire this incredible island.

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But you are not finished yet. The same Slovakian climbing enthusiast behind Via Ferrata is also making his own Plavac Mali wine, and very good it is too. So good, in fact, that it beat more established names on the island in a blind tasting recently. And in terms of setting, the wine cellar is pretty hard to beat. Enjoy nibbles and wine tasting inside a waterfront cave, before jumping in for a swim.  

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How about that for an adrenaline day. And some people just stay on the beach...

To learn more about And Adventure climbing tours, visit their official website

Visit the official Cliffbase website and follow Via Ferrata through the summer via Facebook.

To learn more about this magical island, check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page

 

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Hike the Lost Villages of the Island of Hvar

One of the several very nice developments in recent years on Hvar has been the rise in tourism in its inland villages. Located away from the coast (and ironically, the original settlements as locals wanted to avoid the attention of pirates), Hvar's inland villages lost out to the appeal of coastal towns and those gorgeous beaches for many years. 

Things are changing slowly, however, and tourism inland has never been busier. Several high-quality restaurants are bringing diners in from the coast, and activity tourism is showing visitors the heritage and traditions of this magnificent island which are lost to those who stick to the beach. 

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And if you are looking for a hike and chance to explore the nature, history and traditions of Hvar, as well as some quite incredible views and food (the Hvar Mediterranean Diet was inscribed as UNESCO intangible heritage back in 2013), there is no better place to start than with the And Adventure Hike the Lost Villages of Hvar tour. It takes it two of the most magical villages in all Dalmatia. 

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With collection from Hvar Town, the tour starts in the village of Velo Grablje, one of the most fascinating stories of any village in Dalmatia. A hundred years ago, it was the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia, but with emigration and forest fires, the population dropped to just five a decade ago. The village was all but forgotten and abandoned until a group of young enthusiasts with family connections to the village decided to do something about it. 

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They formed the NGO Pjover and set about celebrating the ancient traditions of the lavender village, as well as repairing some of the dry stone walls and buildings. The main event, the annual Lavender Festival in late June has already celebrated its tenth year and is surely the most aromatic festival in all Croatia. EU money has arrived, an (excellent) restaurant has opened called Zbondini, and there is even a fantastic pub in winter, which is VERY popular with the locals from Hvar Town, so much so that buses are laid on at the weekends to transport people. The population has grown from 5 to 14 the last time I checked, but may be more now, and there is a child living in the village for the first time in many years. 

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All this is great news for those hiking, a chance to experience this rebirth close up, as well as hiking ancient trails and learning more about the various herbs and plant life along the way. Come in June or early July and you will see the fabled lavender in full bloom. If it a spectacular sight. 

The route continues downhill to the mysterious village of Malo Grablje, a village full of legends and history, but no inhabitants. During my time in real estate, it was the only village where there was nothing for sale, despite the fact that the whole village had been abandoned in the 1960s, when the entire village moved to the coast in Milna. They even dug up the graves of the ancestors and reburied them in Milna. You can still see the open graves in the small Malo Grablje cemetery. 

One of the curious legends of Malo Grablje surroundings the rather un-Croatian surname which every property owner has - Tudor. This is where Juventus legend, Igor Tudor, was born. But the legend says that the name originates from a bastard son of Henry VIII, who was shipwrecked just off nearby Milna. He met a pretty local girl washing clothes in the sea, they fell in love and founded a small village inland. Fact or fiction? That is for you to decide, but just one more piece in this love exploration of the Hvar countryside.

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There may be nobody living in the village, but there is one outstanding traditional Dalmatian restaurant, one of the most highly rated on the island. The perfect stop for lunch and a closer examination of the natural goodness of this UNESCO Mediterranean Diet. 

After lunch, a walk through the Milna tunnel towards the coast. 

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Few words are needed for this - the popular and gorgeous seaside village of Milna. We recommend you linger a while, go for a swim and build up an appetite for dinner, for the fish served at Milna is among the best on the island. And if you look closely enough, there may be some British royal resemblance in the faces of some of the restaurant owners... 

Alternatively, you can hike back to Hvar Town along another ancient trail. A fabulous day out seeing some of the finest natural Hvar beauty. To learn more about this and other hikes in Dalmatia, check out the And Adventure website

Want to learn more about the island of Hvar? Check out the Total Croatia Hvar in a Page.

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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Hvar Sea Kayaking 2019 Season is Officially Open!

One of the fasting growing water activities in Croatia in recent years has been sea kayaking, and Hvar is arguably the top destination for sea kayaking on the Adriatic. 

I remember talking to one of the founders of AndAdventure back in 2005, and how the locals on the benches and in the cafes watched these crazy young enthusiasts running around in the early morning putting their kayaks into the water.

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How times have changed! Rough Guides included sea kayaking in its 17 unmissable things in Croatia a couple of years ago, and the Hvar sea kayaking story has gone from strength since then. 

It is not perhaps an activity that everyone considers when they come for a beach holiday, but sea kayaking is growing in popularity. With a range of tours, from island hopping to the half-day Pakleni Islands sunset tour (a truly fabulous way to experience Paradise), there is something for everyone. 

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The And Adventure team have almost 15 years of kayaking experience. Safety and sensibility are at the core of everything they do. 

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But so too is exploring off the beaten path, taking you to those hidden covers and magical bays that only local knowledge can find. 

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The And Adventure team last night pronounced the 2019 Hvar Sea Kayaking season open! So why not take a look at Hvar from a very different angle this summer? To learn more, check out the And Adventure website

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Maestralan Hike: A Humanitarian and Educational Action for the Maestral Children's Home

&adventure, one of Croatia’s leading active holiday companies, gives back in a big way with the announcement of the Maestralan Hike.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Sailing in Croatia: 3 – 5 Day Sailing Tours for Groups or Individuals

Want to experience a sailing holiday in Croatia but don’t have a full-week or you aren’t travelling with a large group of friends? AndAdventure has the answer for you.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Discover Dalmatia Close Up: Stunning Sea Kayaking Tours with And Adventure

Want to escape the crowds and discover the real Dalmatia close up? Rough Guides named sea kayaking as one of the 17 unmissable things in Croatia. And if you have not tried it yet, here is what you are missing. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Welcome to the Future of Rock Climbing in Dalmatia. Stunning!

I think it is fair to see that the release of the "& Adventure" adventure tourism trailer yesterday got a reaction, one of the finest promotional videos I have seen for Dalmatia (hint - Romulic and Stojcic really are masters of the game...). If you missed the video yesterday, here it it again.

Now that we have the main video introduction, it is time to look at some of the individual adventure sports on offer. Much more info on the company's programmes in the New Year, but if you are an adrenaline junkie who loves the beach and a vibrant city like Split, why not consider the Dalmatian capital next summer. And if you are a culture and heritage lover, you could even rock climb past churches and fortresses while enjoying unbeatable views of the Adriatic. More coming soon, but take a minute to enjoy Split as 99% of tourists never see... 

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