What is it with Croatia and ‘hidden’ bars? And what is it with my insistence on finding them?
My last time in Croatia saw me circling the famous walls of Dubrovnik looking for the inconspicuous “Cold Drinks” sign that points the way through to the fantastic Buza Bar.
And now I find myself on a bike, in the searing heat, circling the Kap Kamenjak peninsula in search of somewhere called Safari Bar. Apparently a foliage-filled, jungle themed, hippy-style hangout overlooking the Mediterranean.
Finding Dubrovnik’s Buza Bar was undoubtedly worth it, a stylish spot on the rocks outside of the city walls that tumbles down into the water and offers a great sunset. And in truth it was’t that hard to find.
But will Safari Bar be worth it too? Right now I’m not so sure. We’ve cycled for longer than is probably advisable in peak sun, the straps of my bag are chaffing on my shoulders and we’re nearly out of water.
Oh, and I’ve just come across a sign warning me of the Black Widow spiders that call this dusty national park home. Yikes.
The Kap Kamenjak national park juts out at the bottom of Croatia’s Istria region. At about 3.5 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide it feels like an island, and a pretty stark one at that.
With dirt tracks for roads and almost no development this protected area is full of remote beaches and gorgeous rocky coves – the reason people come here to explore. And there’s the odd beach bar of course, Safari being one of them.
At a cooler time of year it would be a delight to cycle around, leisurely following the primitive signs that say either ‘Beach’ or ‘Bar’ and not a lot else. Or just going your own route to find the truly secluded spots for a dip in the sparkling Med.
However, this is the end of July, there aint much shade and after cycling for about an hour from the nearby town of Premantura, where we hired the bikes, we’re getting exhausted. Taking a wrong turn didn’t help. The signs for Safari Bar appear to have well and truly ran out and we contemplate heading back.
But then we’ve come so far, and we must be so close. But we don’t really know that.
All we know is that the bar lies on the peninsula’s southern tip. So heading in what feels like the right direction we decide to pedal around just one more corner. Then over just one more hill. Then up to one more sign in the distance. And the sign says…?
We turn to look in the direction the sign is pointing and there it is, our bar, rising from the tree tops like a bamboo phoenix, wings of reeds spread wide and beckoning us over.
We dump the bikes and delve right in. I say ‘delve’ because entering Safari Bar requires making your way through the surrounding shrubbery. Ducking under branches, sidestepping reeds. Getting in is a whole mini adventure in itself.
And inside it’s just the Robinson Crusoe vibe we’re hoping for. A wooden shack for a bar, driftwood for furniture, tree swings, wooden stumps, bamboo fencing. All under a thick canopy of trees and plants that provide welcome shade.
It’s laid back, yet surprisingly busy. Where were all these people when we were searching for it?
One beer (and lots of water) later and we’re emerging from Safari Bar onto the flat, layered rocks that lead into the sea below. A well deserved sunbathe and swim are in order, and some cliff jumping with the locals if we decide we feel brave enough.
But then where they’re leaping from does look awfully high… and maybe we’ve had enough adventure for one day.
Worth it in the end? Why of course. What a great little find, all the more rewarding for the difficulty in getting here. I guess they don’t call it ‘safari’ bar for nothing.
But don’t let that put you off. It’s probably not that difficult at all. Not if you hire a car to explore Kap Kamenjak rather than a bike in the height of summer.
Which is exactly what we’ll do
when we return.