This was a family trip and contained cultural visits to Dubrovnik, Trogir and Solona at the Croatian coast as well as visits to national parks as Sutjeska in Bosnia and Paklenica and Plitvize in Croatia. We flew from Copenhagen to Sarajevo in Bosnia where we rented a car and drove south to Sutjeska NP and then to Dubrovnik at the coast. We then continued north along the coast to Paklenica NP and inland to Plitvize NP. From here we returned back along the coast and took the main road back to Sarajevo through Mostar.
This is a quite unknown national park but with marvelous forests and the highest peak in Bosnia, Maglic, at 2386 meters. This is close to the border to Montenegro and the national park Durmitor to the east. The national park does not have any arrangement for helping tourists. Here are very few trails and no signs in English (everything is in Cyrillic!). The hotels were closed but we asked and found a motel by the road 5 km south of the park. The beech trees had opened the leaves at the lower slopes and were mixed with white dots of cherry trees. On the rocky sides there were growing the endemic Munika black pine. We followed the small road opposite the gasoline station in Tjentiste climbing up the mountain to Perucica primeval forest. The road was in bad condition after the snow melting and covered with big stones and branches that we had to remove during our climbing tour. At the end the road was covered with deep snow and we had to walk the last 1 km to the wonderful viewpoint. For wildlife and bird watching this is a wonderful landscape. I just managed to see Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) and Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) but here are many others to look out for. Probably even Vipera ursinii can be found here and in the mountains to the south.
On the way down to Dubrovnik we made some stops and I saw Dalmatin Wall Lizard (Podarcis melisellensis) and Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis).
Our friends, Lasse and Tommi, from club100 had Sharp-snouted Rock Lizard (Dalmatolacerta oxycephala) on the stone walls in the harbor (in May last year) but I did not manage to see any on this visit.
Paklenica is one of the oldest and most famous national parks in Croatia. It is situated on the coast, just north of Zadar, and consists of a deep gorge in the Velebit mountains. The mountains raises steep from the coast to over 1700 meters and the sides of the gorge has vertical cliffs of more than 400 meters. This is a very popular site for rock climbing. We started out in the wonderful morning at 8 a'clock when the gates opened and started to walk up the canyon. Along the creeks were dense deciduous forests but on the more exposed sides of the valley were Mediterranean vegetation with bushes and some low trees. We climbed the north side up to a cave, at 560 meter above sea level, witch was open this day. On the well used path we took it easy and had good observations of several Dalmatian Wall Lizards (Podarcis melisellensis), Green lizards (Lacerta viridis), Balkan Green Lizards (Lacerta trilineata), Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus), Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) and the most exiting: Dahl's Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum) and Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis) just beside the path. The cave was also a nice visit with halls up to 20 meters high and 40 meters deep crowded with stalactites and stalagmites.
After the climb we continued on the track in the valley up to a house where drinks and sausages were served. We saw a very nice colored Common Toad (Bufo bufo) and were told that “green watersnakes” were often seen here. The man in the snack bar also recommended us to look out for European Glass Lizards (Pseudopus apodus) in the meadows between the park and the town of Staligrad at the sea. He said: “There are hundreds of them!”
On the way down we made a stop and just after five minutes I hade seen three adults and started to follow the third to get some photos. They were not easy to photograph in the high grass but very interesting to study. Finally I managed to get some photos. On the walls in Staligrad were a lot of Dalmatian Wall Lizards (Podarcis melisellensis) and also some Italian Wall Lizards (Podarcis siculus). It was strange that at on the same wall I counted 20 one evening and the next evening, at the same time, I couldn’t see anyone! (The weather and temperature were the same).
The most famous national park in the old Yugoslavia is the Plitvize lakes and it is really a beauty. On the carst terraces are 16 lakes situated with wonderful waterfalls between each. Thanks to algae are shelves build up with limestone that makes a long edge at the same level in the lake. Many hundreds of thousands of tourists come here every year and it is very well arranged with hotels run by the park administration, bus-trains and boats taking visitors out to the trails etc. More than 5 kilometers of wooden trails are built over the wetlands and along the waterfalls between and along the lakes.
Unfortunately we had cold (10 degree Celsius) and rain all the time but the good thing was that the Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) were all out walking. During 30 minutes we saw four individuals on the very well used path and there must have been thousands of them out walking in the wet beech forest. Coming down to the lower lakes the sides of the valley is becoming steeper and more dramatic. Here it is possible to se Horvath's Rock Lizard but in the rain we did not see any. In one of the central lakes we heard Marsh Frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus).
On the evening before, the Dalmatian coast was hit by a storm that brought heavy winds from the mountains of Biokovo above the Riviera of Makarska. Garden chairs were flying around and I was really worried to continue driving next morning. But just 30 minutes drive south the coast the weather became really nice and the wind almost died away. We made two stops along the road and at the first site I saw an adult European Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus) at a rocky and stony slope, 50 meters above the sea level (the man in Paklenica said they just live in meadows and pastures with high grass and some bushes). At the next stop with more rocky slopes down towards the sea I saw a middle sized Hermann's Tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni). I was very disappointed not to see a single lizard during one hours search.
The next stop was just over the Bosnian-Herzegovinian border at the important wetland and bird lake, Hutovo Blato. It is situated on a small flatland surrounded by mountains just 3 km east of the main road to Mostar and Sarajevo. We made a stop but there was no information in English and just a small nature trail for schools. There is a motel and boat trips are arranged out on the canals and into the lake. We just walked along the canals and wetland looking for frogs and snakes. There were of course lots of Water Frogs whitch sounded much like Edible Frog (should not be here?). We also saw three snakes, two small ones and one big one and all were probably Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) but strangely coloured; bright brown with two even brighter stripes along the body and no bright spots on the back of the head. We also saw Dalmatian Wall Lizards (Podarcis melisellensis) and probably Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) (not easy to catch). A man came and said that I was not allowed to take photos! I guess they want to earn money from photo safaris. I got quite upset and left the place.
Around Mostar are high mountains and plateaus with shepherds living in the old traditional way. Just 20 minutes east of Mostar we found the very nice hotel; Sunce in Smajkici, one of 13 villages at the Podvelezje plateau at 750 meters above sea level. Here is a carst landscape with bush forest, extended pastures and high mountains in the background. The weather is harsh with cold winters and hot summers and strong winds coming and bending the trees to the ground. But we had very nice weather and made a walk north of the village up towards the higher mountains. Some 200 meters north of the village are some rocks and stone walls where we found many Sharp-snouted Rock Lizards (Dalmatolacerta oxycephala). On the more flat areas we only found Dalmatian Wall Lizard (Podarcis melisellensis). Also a Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) with a very nice blue chin was found. I hoped for Mosor Rock Lizard (Dinarolacerta mosorensis) and some vipers but could not find any. The owner of the hotel told that there are quite a lot of snakes in the area. The hotel was very nice and the owners gave us the best treatment. We also talked a lot about the situation in the country and what had happened during the war.
The next day we visited Mostar and continued to Sarajevo and the flight back to Copenhagen and over the bridge to Sweden.
During the trip I saw 16 ../species among witch five was new.
12 May 2005 /Per Blomberg
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