A Robinson Crusoe Experience: Catch, Clean, Cook Your Own Lunch with Brač Excursions

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On Saturday 4th November 2017, we had an extraordinary day of genuine food and wine experiences on islands Brač and Šolta, proving, once again, the potential for gourmet tourism and extending the tourist season.

From the 18th – 21st October a B2B took place in Split with a focus on promoting Croatia as a gourmet destination, local agents and agencies came together to showcase the best of what Croatia has to offer and international guests were left well and truly impressed (read more about the Split B2B here). I spoke about the potential for Croatia as a gastronomic destination from the perspective of an ex-restaurateur and having worked in luxury tourism in Croatia.

It was a brilliant event and if everyone who attended meant every word they said, then tourism in Croatia will move in the right direction. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with small, boutique agencies who also share a passion, not only for food and wine but creating authentic experiences for guests. Two such people were Antonija Maretić and Dijana Ribar from Brač Excursions who enthusiastically shared their vision for unique tours and guest experiences with myself and Robyn Vulinovich; so, when they invited us to come spend a day with them, there was zero hesitation.

Brač Excursions core business is the island-hopping tours on speedboats and ribs, likes of the Blue Cave tours and 6-islands-1-day style tours. Now, this may not be for everyone but a large number of tourists visit Split and do not have a week to explore all of the islands, so these kinds of tours are a great way to at least get a ‘taste’ of life at sea and the islands (check out the video below).

However, it wasn’t this that stood out to me once the ladies got talking, it was the individualised tours with unique experiences that captured my imagination – particularly when they mentioned diving with seabream and seabass, catching, then cooking your own lunch! They said this is something they have done for customised tours and intend on creating a more ‘Robinson Crusoe’ style gastro-tour for next year, including experiences like this.

Considering I have sailed up and down the coast now for five years and have never heard of this being offered, they had me hooked (pun intended).

On Saturday 4th November, note – not summer! Robyn and I met on the Riva at 9 am and we were met by the Brač Excursions team (Maksi, Siniša, Dijana and Antonija), Vedran France and Igor Bedalov from the fish farm on Šolta (which I will talk more about soon). I thought we would be on a Rib and while I am all for adventure and adrenaline, I was very happy to see a much more comfortable ride awaiting us – the new Colnago 35. The team welcomed us onboard in the best manner possible – with shots of local liqueurs!

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It was so nice to be on the water again and the Colnago provided the perfect ride!

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Our first stop was Maslinica on the island Šolta which recently just won the “Best Coastal Destination in Croatia” and for good reason. Stepping off the boat, I was once again reminded why I love Šolta so much. The impressive Martinis Marchi Heritage Hotel first meets the eye but the whole setting is completed by the gorgeous stone buildings, splashes of colour and crystalline, green waters in the bay. One glance around and the first thought that came to mind was – “tourists really don’t know what they are missing in ‘off-season’.”

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A day in Croatia must always begin with a coffee, so we found the ONE open café in Maslinica and enjoyed sitting in the early morning November sun. Dijana and Antonija explained to us that this is the atmosphere they try to create in their tours; while some have a full itinerary, they still try allow ample time to just sit and relax…

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Next, we boarded the Colnago again but only for a brief 5-minutes as we ducked around the corner to Šešula bay, where our lunch awaited…

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This is where I introduce Igor and Vedran; Igor owns a small fish farm in Šešula bay, where he farms seabream and seabass. Igor explained that he feeds the fish less, over a longer period of time, rather than trying to fatten them as fast as possible (which produces more fat); so, his fish are lean. He also pointed out that he has no intention of expanding beyond what he has, one look around the bay and it is obvious that it is in harmony with the environment as the waters are still crystal clear.

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We were shown around his private land and he also explained emphatically that he is NOT a restaurant. First and foremost, he owns a fish farm which provides to local restaurants and private buyers but he has also started hosting private groups for lunch; Vedran helps manage and he also cooperates with his neighbour Alex (a Croat from Perth who returned a few years ago). Cooperation and collaboration say everything about a person or company.

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The experience?

Guests arrive by boat (no rocking up, this is privately booked) and can see the fish, feed them, catch them and the braver ones can even go diving with them! 

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Then, after being cleaned, those fish immediately go on the grill; lunch was as follows: fish, olive oil, bread, local wine or beer; to je to! Igor joked: “if guests want salad or dessert, they get another plate of seabream!”

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The ‘non-restaurant’ has one table; an old wooden table beneath fish netting, I believe the modern description of this would be ‘rustic dining’.

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We all helped to set the table and pour drinks before the main course arrived or was this the entrée?…

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The very definition of “od mora do stola” (from the sea to the table); we saw, caught, killed, cleaned, grilled and now here it was in front of us. It was on the cooler side, so no diving for us this time but I learned to scale and gut a fish for the first time – talk about a ‘hands-on’ experience!

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The fish was divine, I can honestly say I have not had better this year. It was cooked to perfection – salty and crispy on the outside, succulent (or moist?) on the inside; smothered in olive oil (Igor’s fresh pressed olive oil), mopped up with warm bread from the grill and washed down with a glass of domestic Dobričić red wine (indigenous to Šolta) … can it get any better? Yes, the metaphorical cherry on the cake (because remember, no dessert) was sitting in such a relaxed atmosphere, getting rosy in the cheeks, laughing and chatting with our new friends.

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THIS, this is exactly what we were all talking about at the B2B; while this may seem like a normal day out to most Croatians, it makes it easy to take for granted because the fact is, moments like these are so lacking in the modern world. These simple pleasures, accompanied by great food and wine are exactly what Croatia has to offer and thankfully there are people like Igor and the team from Brač Excursions, who also understand this.

After a long, lazy lunch in the late-Autumn sun, we made our way back to the boat but not before we made a new friend…

Now, there was more to this day than Šolta, next up was island Brač, however… I will save that for Part II because there is just too much to write about; plus, a good experience always leaves you wanting to come back for more right?

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To see more from Brač Excursions, visit their official page here.


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