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The Republic of Croatia (Hrvatska), partof the former Yugoslavia, is acrescent-shaped country lying at thewesternmost end of the Balkans andbordering the clear blue waters of theAdriatic Sea. Whilst tourism here is on theincrease, Croatia is still largelyoverlooked by naturalists; this issurprising, given that it lies on one ofEurope's main bird migration flywaysand at the crossroads of four bio-geographical regions. Indeed, in relationto its size, this small mountainous countryhas one of the most varied ranges ofhabitats and diverse assemblages of birdsand plants of any in Europe. Add to this arich blend of cultures and history,archaeological ruins, superb scenery and apopulation of only 4.5 million people and itis easy to see why Croatia is destined tobecome as popular with the birdwatchersand botanists amongst us as some of itsbetter known neighbours. This original itinerary focuses on the superbnatural history of central Dalmatia, inparticular the karst landscapes that lie justinland from the coast, the beautifulmountains of the Paklenica National Parkand the freshwater wetland of Lake Vrana.Our holiday begins, however, with a flight to Zagreb, an attractive and historic citywhich warrants an extra day or two at theend should you have the time to extendyour tour. From Zagreb we drive to Skradin, our basefor three nights as we explore the KrkaNational Park. Krka offers an impressivelandscape of karstic limestone plateaux,maquis scrub, meadows and broadleavedforests through which the rushing RiverKrka flows. We will explore this beautifularea on foot, strolling past impressivewaterfalls and through towering limestonegorges in search of the abundant wildlifeto be found here. The craggy gorges arehome to Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush,Crag Martin, Alpine Swift and OrtolanBunting, whilst a glance skyward mightreveal a passing raptor - perhaps aGolden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Peregrineor, if fortunate, even a Bonelli's Eagle, arare bird in Croatia. In the spring the areais awash with flowers and the scrubbyhillsides and deciduous woodland can bealive with passerines, amongst them suchspecies as Subalpine Warbler, WoodchatShrike, Sombre Tit, Cirl Bunting andSpanish Sparrow. Rock Partridges call fromthe stony hillsides whilst Balkan GreenLizards and Dalmatian Wall Lizardsscamper over the rocks. We next move to Starigrad Paklenica, ourbase for the final four nights, from whichwe will explore the Paklenica National Park.En route we will visit Lake Vrana, thelargest natural freshwater lake in Croatia,long recognised as an internationallyimportant wetland for migrating andbreeding birds such as the globallyendangered Pygmy Cormorant. The lake isbordered by extensive marshes, reedbedsand meadows, and lies between thewooded Ravni Kotari Hills to the north-eastand the Adriatic Sea just to the west. The north-western portion of the lake isprotected within the 'Park Prirode VranskoJezero' and here we should see the PygmyCormorants, together with Purple Herons,Little Bitterns, Black-winged Stilts,Montagu's Harriers, Garganey, Great Reedand Moustached Warblers, Wrynecks, Bee-eaters, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Black-earedWheatears, plus a host of passage visitors.The flora here is quite different from thatencountered in previous days, being moremaritime and aquatic in nature.Paklenica National Park lies just inlandfrom Vrana, on the southern slopes of theVelebit Mountain range. Here we are ableto enjoy habitats and scenery that rangefrom alpine, to Black Pine forest down tovalleys of oak, lime and beech andlowland Mediterranean maquis scrub. Themountains are cut by dramatic clefts suchas the 400-metre sheer rock-face of AnicaKuk and the limestone gorges of MalaPaklenica and Velika Paklenica. With sucha diverse range of habitats, PaklenicaNational Park holds a great abundanceand variety of bird and plant-life. Birdsinclude Short-toed Eagle, Griffon Vulture,Rock Nuthatch, Black-eared Wheatear,Orphean Warbler, and many more, whilstsuch species asOphrys bertillonii,Campanula fenestrellata,Aquilegiakitaibelii,Erythronium dens-canis,Fritillariaorientalis,Iris illyricusand Degeniavelebiticawill be amongst those sought byour botanists. Reptiles offer an exctingdiversion at all times - perhaps aHermann's Tortoise or Balkan Whip Snake! Our week in Dalmatia ends with a journeyback to Zagreb from where we must,sadly, catch our flight home. We are sure,however, to have encountered a wealth ofhabitats, wildlife, scenery, food and culturein this under-visited corner of Europe and,with both spring and autumn tours onoffer, we suspect that many of you will be keen to return!Krka WaterfallsPygmy CormorantCampanula fenestrellataSPLITSKRADINZAGREBKRKANATIONALPARKPAKLENICANATIONAL PARKLAKEVRANABOSNIASLOVENIAHUNGARYCROATIAADRIATIC SEA44Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Zagreb and transferSkradin.Day 2/3Skradin, Krka NationalPark.Day 4/7Starigrad Paklenica,Paklenica National Park.Day 8Fly London.Accommodation Comfortable 3-star hotels; all roomswith private facilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingA/B. Easy to moderate day walks. FocusBirds, botany and other wildlife.LeadersGerard Gorman (ornithologist) andAlan Outen (botanist).Single room supplement£140.Web quick search: HRV02CroatiaA pioneering 8-day tour to Dalmatia in search of the birds, flowers and other wildlife of this beautiful unspoilt region of Croatia.Friday 12th April - Friday 19th April Cost: £1,495

This unique butterfly tour, to thebeautiful mountains and forests ofCroatia, has been introduced tocomplement our popular spring bird andbotany holiday to the region. An impressivetotal of 190 species of butterfly has beenrecorded in Croatia. Species familiar tothose who have explored southern Europe,including Cleopatra, Camberwell Beauty,Large Tortoiseshell and Southern Festoon,flutter alongside butterflies with a distinctlyeastern flavour such as Little Tiger Blue,Southern Comma, Hungarian Skipper,Balkan Marbled White and Great SootySatyr. A few surprises are also assured, forthis is a region rarely visited by butterflyenthusiasts and we will be exploring areaswhere, even today, few lepidopterists havetrodden! With a leisurely pace, warmAdriatic sunshine, beautiful upland sceneryand mountain panoramas at every turn,this exciting tour has become a popularaddition to our programme of butterflytours. Our holiday begins with a flight toZagreb, the capital of Croatia, fromwhere we drive to our first base in theenchanting Plitvice Lakes NationalPark. Founded in 1949, Plitvice is aUNESCO World Heritage Site, apicturesque forested karstlandscape, fed by the clear waters ofthe River Korana and dotted with lushmeadows and lakes. The centre-piece ofthe park is a series of stunning turquoise-coloured lakes which are set amidstwoodland and stepped one above theother, over which roaring waterfalls tumble.We will explore the park via its network ofmarked trails from which we can expect tosee a range of exciting butterflies,amongst them Southern Festoon, Scarceand Common Swallowtail, EasternDappled White, Ilex Hairstreak, LargeCopper, Osiris, Short-tailed andChapman's Blue, Nettle-tree Butterfly,Purple Emperor, Camberwell Beauty,Cardinal and Great Banded Grayling.Next we will explore the limestone gorgesof the Paklenica National Park, just astone's throw from the blue waters of theAdriatic Sea. Paklenica is drier and morerugged than Plitvice, less wooded, but withsome fine karst scenery. We will spend ourtime here enjoying leisurely walks throughlimestone habitats that often teem withbutterflies. Paklenica is blessed with aselection of typical 'Mediterranean'species, such as Southern Swallowtail,Balkan Green-veined White, Cleopatra,Duke of Burgundy, Eastern Baton Blue,Silver-washed and Dark Green Fritillaryand Eastern Rock Grayling. With a littleluck we may also find a few rarities,perhaps Bright-eyed Ringlet or theendemic Dalmatian Ringlet. As we havelearned from our spring visits, Paklenica isalso superb for birds and we will keep an eye open for Rock Partridge, RockNuthatch and Subalpine Warbler. Reptilessuch as Dalmatian Algyroides, EuropeanGlass Lizard and Dalmatian Wall Lizardalso occur. For our final two nights we will move fromthe Dalmatian coast into the VelebitMountains, in particular into the VelebitNature Park, a UNESCO biospherereserve. The Velebits will provide yetanother contrast to the areas alreadyexplored, being more montane in naturethan both Plitvice and Paklenica. En routewe can also enjoy the impressive viewsover the many islands, of every shape andsize, that dot the waters of the turquoiseAdriatic Sea. The Velebit Mountains arepart of the Dinaric Alps, a mountain chainthat forms the rugged backbone of Croatiafrom the north-west to the south-east. The highest areas(Vaganski Vrh at1,757 metres beingthe highest peak) arealpine in nature with barelimestone and dolomitepeaks, rocky screes and forestedbasins. The fauna and flora here areinfluenced by both Mediterranean andAlpine forces along with the 'Bura', a chillywind that occasionally blows in from thenorthern Adriatic. Over 130 species ofbutterfly have been recorded here,amongst them Silver-spotted Skipper,Clouded Apollo, Mountain Small White, arange of blues (including Large, MountainAlcon, Amanda's and Meleager's), bothTwin-spot and Nickerl's Fritillary and,possibly, the rare Balkan Copper. Herds of Chamois balance on precipitous slopes and even Wolf still live here, though the latter are shy and rarely seen.The herpetologists among us will alsohope to see the attractively markedLeopard Snake or perhaps the endemicHorvath's Rock Lizard.Finally, we must leave the mountains andhead for Zagreb and our flight home,having been spoiled by the impressivemontane and coastal scenery, stunninglandscapes, curious folklore, warmhospitality and diverse habitats that allcombine to make Croatia such a specialbutterfly and wildlife destination. 10% DONATIONTOAdriatic coastlineTwin-spot FritillaryOsiris Blue45Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Zagreb; transferPlitvice National Park.Day 2Plitvice National Park.Day 3/5Paklenica National Park.Day 6/7Velebit Mountains.Day 8Fly London.Accommodation Comfortable hotels, all with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price. GradingGrade A/B. Gentle-paced walks ofbetween 5 and 10 kilometres eachday. FocusButterflies and general naturalhistory. LeadersGerard Gorman and Terry Goble.Single room supplement£140.Web quick search: HRV01SPLITZAGREBPAKLENICANATIONAL PARKVELEBITNATURE PARKPLITVICE LAKESNATIONAL PARKBOSNIASLOVENIAHUNGARYCROATIAADRIATIC SEABook direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationButterflies of CroatiaA unique 8-day butterfly holiday, run in conjunction with Butterfly Conservation, to Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park, Paklenica National Park and the seldom-visited Velebit Mountains.Monday 10th June - Monday 17th June Cost: £1,495