One of the most noticeable differences highlighted to us by our guests is the tranquillity of island life on Vis, Croatia. With a lack of aeroplanes flying over and only a small number of cars on the few island roads, you often find yourself at peace with the crashing waves and buzzing cicadas. Within the stillness I find it easier to discover the island’s rich biodiversity, a small rustle in the leaf litter becomes clearer to pinpoint the Dalmatian Wall Lizard basking in the sunlight.
Coming from a scientific background, I’ve realised that there have been few biological surveys and studies conducted on Vis, making it all the more exciting (and challenging) to identify the island’s species. I’ll often be flicking through all the Mediterranean wildlife books trying to find and identify one of the 40 colourful species of butterfly on this island I spotted on a crowded lavender bush or a vibrant fish inquisitively investigating a piece of seaweed. My recent identification discoveries include the Scarce Swallowtail (not so scarce on Vis) and the Ornate Wrasse. Despite a lack of research, one thing that we do know is how well intact the natural environment is here, making it one of the ten best preserved islands in the Mediterranean classed by the World Organisation for Environmental Protection.
One species I could only dream of seeing is the island’s breeding pair of Eleonora’s Falcons. With long sharp wings and a squared off tail, these birds have two morphs, one with a universal dark plumage and the other with white cheeks and a chestnut belly streaked with black. Vis and a few other surrounding islands are the only places in Croatia to be chosen as nesting sites for 80 breeding pairs of these beautiful birds. These birds can be considered a conservation success story as they were classified as rare at European level in 1994 but currently hold a least of concern status, with population numbers increasing.
Being on the doorstep of the Adriatic Sea also brings with it vast marine biodiversity. With low anthropogenic disturbance, the Adriatic hosts the third highest number of fish species in the region and is an important breeding site for marine life. Our surrounding waters on Vis have provided a home and nursing ground for resident bottlenose dolphins, with groups of over 40 individuals. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot these majestic mammals gliding through the water from your kayak, alongside European Shags and Mediterranean Flying Fish.
Submerging yourself in the warm sea with a mask and snorkel allows you to experience a whole new underwater world we often forget about. Each rock crevasse, pool and underwater cave provides cover for a different form of life, from bright red Starfish to chilled Moray Eels and busy Rock Gobies. You might even see an octopus but be sure to keep its whereabouts a secret! It is also important to remember to bring your beach shoes along as the population of sea urchins are thriving.
I feel very lucky to be able to call Vis my home for the summer. Each day I am surrounded by the beauty of this biodiverse island and am reminded of how colourful, vibrant, and unique our natural world is. I feel fortunate to share this land with our wildlife and to be able to observe them in their natural habitat.
Verovnik, Rudi. (2011). Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera) of the Croatian islands: An update on published records and new surveys of Pašman and Ugljan. Entomologist's Gazette. 62. 251-263.