The Adriatic Sea provides the heart shaped province of Istria, Croatia with an almost endless coastline of reefs, cliffs, beaches and medieval villages that sit upon ancient hill tops. On this week-long experience you will not only fall in love with the region for its culture and you will also fall in love with conservation. The bottle nosed dolphins of northern Croatia are endangered, but we still have hope. The hope comes from people like you who want to enjoy and explore while giving back. Truffle hunting, visiting artists in residence, centuries old olive groves, delicious local wines and dolphin conservation make this an unforgettable trip.
Dolphins are the largest predators in the northern Adriatic sea but they are steadily declining around the world due to human activities. Volunteering doesn’t only help in real world tangible ways, it also makes you into a dolphin ambassador. For the rest of your life you won’t just remember your time in Croatia, you will value and treasure your time here learning and conserving an ancient way of living, being inspired by the ocean, sipping olive oil and wine for what ails you and living in reciprocity with the nature world.
Istria is known for its delectable olive oil and is recognized as having some of the very best in the world. We would be silly not to go on an olive oil tasting! To understand the deep history of this liquid gold we must visit and learn from someone who is passionate. Even if you don’t consider yourself a truffle fan, once you visit this Istrian truffle farm to participate in a hunt with the well trained dogs, you’ll become a truffle lover. Our guides (women-only) will be revealing to us an exceptional history that is as rich as the tastes we’ll find in the region!
Our 7 days off the beaten track in Istria will allow us time to learn about this gastronomically impressive region, the history of its small charming fishing villages and experience hands on volunteering with marine biologists who have dedicated their lives to the endangered dolphins of the Adriatic Sea. Mornings will be on the boat doing important and much needed behavior monitoring with our biologists and the evenings we will be toasting our good work by tasting local truffles, olive oil and honey. Visiting small cities like Umag you will fall in love with the quiet lifestyle of the region often often overlooked by those looking to visit neighboring Italy.
June 21st – Tuesday Day One
We will arrive to Pula International Airport and shuttle you to the city of Umag where cocktails, a pool and sunset view overlooking the Adriatic Sea await you. Look carefully and you might see dolphins on the horizon. Here you will meet the whole team, conservation biologists from Vivamar, an ethical travel specialist Nora Livingstone from Animal Experience International and your GG2P host for this tour. Based on your arrival time, you might want to book a relaxing treatment at our 4-star hotel spa and wellness center. Dinner tonight will be enjoyed at the restaurant on the property.
June 22nd – Wednesday Day Two
Today you will be introduced to Vivamar and Animal Experience International the partner organizations who are bringing this dolphin experience to us. Vivamar is a local dolphin conservation group that is responsible for the first ever published and peer reviewed papers about dolphin conservation. The work they do is critical to saving the more than 100 dolphins that live in the area. In the morning we will be learning more about the history of Vivamar, the biology and behavior of dolphins and exactly how we will be volunteering with them.
After a light and delicious lunch facing the sea we will be we will be visiting a Croatian winery for a tour and tasting.
Your afternoon is free. Perhaps you want to grab a bike from our hotel and tour around a bit, relax on the beach or spend time in their wellness spa.
Dinner tonight will be prepared by a female chef in the Michelin recommended Konoba Buscina. A rustic simple authentic dining room that specializes in local delights.
June 23rd – Thursday Day Three
Today we get down to business and spend some time on the Vivamar research boat. The boat is small it’s important to use this one because the dolphins know it’s a friendly boat and they may even invite us to play. Of course we don’t swim with them or interact with the animals but they will likely dive under the boat and surf our wake and waves. We will split up into two groups so the boat doesn’t get too crowded. The work to be done is population surveys and behavior monitoring. In order of us to protect these animals we must understand how many are there and where they go throughout the day.
Endless coastline leads to a seemingly endless horizon so you will not only see adult dolphins fishing and hunting but also socializing, playing and bringing up their young. The first population surveys our conservation partners took showed us 100 individual dolphins in the area. Since those early days we have seen a promising amount of infant babies learning to hunt with their mothers and being taken care of by their aunties (just one of the behaviors you will learn about in our daily dolphin classes).
Nothing compares to the exhilarating feeling of seeing a dolphin swim around your boat, asking you to play or watching them jump the waves of your vessel. Citizen science can take your breath away.
Bring a bathing suit, while there is no swimming with dolphins, there is plenty of time to dive into the sea, cool off and feel like a dolphin.
The afternoon we will be visiting the most romantic city in the Mediterranean: Rovinj. Here we’ll enjoy a historical walking tour, grab a coffee or tea in a charming cafes and ogle at the vision of Venetian architecture against the back drop of aquamarine seas which have been inspiring artists for centuries.
We’ll have an early dinner in Rovinji at one of the most beloved places in town before heading back to our seaside escape.
June 24th Friday Day Four
Today we will visit the hilltop Celtic settlement once used to fortify the ancient olive groves of the valleys. Now used by artists, musicians and culinary geniuses. Groznjan is an inspiring town that will leave you with no questions as to why Game of Thrones was filmed on the coast of Croatia. Lunch and local wine will be provided as we snake our way through the circular streets that show views of the rolling countryside and the sea.
In the afternoon get ready to be blown away by an olive oil tasting and truffle hunting. We will be meet with the bold women who are putting Istria on the truffle map. Truffles were only found in this region 80 years ago but already chefs around the world are asking for the delicate taste of Croatian truffles. With the help of some trusty and energetic dogs, we will be finding our own truffles. But finding is just the start! We will be enjoying a whole spread of truffle infused delicacies. Local truffles, honey and olive oil makes this meal one a local extravaganza you won’t soon forget.
June 25th Saturday Day Five
This is our last morning of volunteering. We will get a further taste of citizen science by going through our photos and successfully ID’ing the dolphins we were able to observe in the previous days. We will also be stepping into the lab and taking part in some a deep understanding and analysis of what we have seen in the water during our week of dolphin conservation.
What is a day on the Croatian coast without a sailing adventure? After spending time with our hands in the soil looking for truffles and walking through olive groves, we are surely in need of feeling the wind in our hair. Pack up your things this morning because we will be heading to the outrageously beautiful island hotel of Katarina. Today’s lunch will be on the go.
Upon arrival at our Island hotel, we’ll check in and have time to relax and take a dip in the sea or the pool overlooking the sea. Why not have an ice cream as you soak in the sun?
Tonight we’ll eat at the hotel while we share our special Dolphin moments.
Stay: Hotel Katarina
June 26th Sunday – Day Six
Today you’ll have an opportunity to see all the islands of the Brijuni National Park from a traditional Croatian boat. Enjoy lunch and unlimited drinks onboard as you learn about the history of this pristine park from our local guide. Try to spot wild animals in the park- don’t worry your guides will be there to answer questions and point them out. You’ll have a chance to swim in the water at St. Jerolim Island.
In the afternoon we will visit historical Pula to tour the famous amphitheater, the largest Roman Coliseum in the world!
You’ll have time to wander and shop central Pula before we enjoy our last farewell meal together at one of the top restaurants in Pula for authentic local food including fresh fish and steaks.
Stay: Hotel Katarina
June 27th Monday – Day Seven
All good things must come to an end. Pack up your olive oil, Croatian treasures and dolphin mementos as we enjoy one more coffee on the patio and then head off to Pula International Airport for departures back home.
Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free options are always available
All domestic animals are kept in the very highest standards of animal welfare
All wild animals are interacted with under the European Union Standards of animal welfare and conservation.
There is absolutely no swimming or handling of wildlife, including dolphins.
Weather may change activities during the day or the time of the day they take place.
GG2P always reserves the right to alter the itinerary based on weather or availability as well as exciting opportunities that might crop up!
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If you’d like to come, press the Reserve Now button above. You will be prompted to complete a form with your pertinent details, put down a refundable $250 deposit, and schedule a time to speak with a GG2P representative. We like to speak with everyone before they embark on their first trip with Girls’ Guide to Paris & Beyond. This allows you to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have. These are intimate, small group trips; a quick yet personal conversation allows you to get to know how our trips work and make sure it’s right for you. If it’s not, we’ll immediately refund your $250 deposit.
If it’s a Go! after your call, we’ll bill you for a non-refundable deposit, usually 35% of the trip’s cost (less the $250 place-holder deposit, if you already paid it) and your place is reserved. At this point, you’re committed to the trip, so we recommend that you purchase Travel Insurance to protect you in case your plans change unexpectedly. The balance will be due approximately 2 months before the trip.
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