Diving within the Kornati National Park is an unforgettable experience. The geography of the underwater environment combined with abundant marine life make for exciting and unique dive sites. Unfortunately, diving in the Kornati National Park means adhering to strict guidelines set out by the Croatian government. A handful of dive operators are allowed within the park, most of which are located in Murter. In addition, all the dive sites of the Kornati Islands are only accessible by boat.
The underwater topography in the Kornati archipelago is as varied under the surface as it is above. Divers will delight in the caves, tunnels, crevices, sheer walls, cliffs and reefs. The boulders are covered in colorful soft corals and red gorgonians while plentiful small to medium marine life creates fascinating diversions. Because of its history and position, there are also a number of wrecks to explore surrounding the islands. Of these, the Francesca Wreck is the most popular as it is currently covered in soft corals but still very much recognizable for its former glory. As an added benefit to the adventurers among us, much of Kornati’s underwater environment has yet to be explored. It is known that there are shipwrecks hidden in the depths but dive masters are still searching for these potential new dive sites.
Diving in Croatia is possible year-round. However, it does get significantly chillier during the winter months. Average water temperatures in winter are 57 to 59°F (14 to 15°C) while in summer, water temperatures reach about 73°F (22.8°C). With that said, summer is the high season, so expect dive shops to be busier during this time. Whatever your level, you are sure to find a great dive site to explore during your trip to the Kornati Islands.
The marine life in the Kornati Islands is as diverse as you will find in the Adriatic Sea. While there is a chance of seeing pelagic species, you are far more likely to find an abundance of medium to small life. Crabs, lobsters, starfish, sea urchins and colorful nudibranchs are all common. Wrasse, bennies and colorful fish swim among the gorgeous red gorgonians, sponges, tunicates and corals. You might also catch a glimpse of one of the many, but shy, octopuses and scorpionfish that live among the rock crevices. After a dive in the Kornati Islands, you are sure to look back at your log book and wonder why you didn't explore the underwater Adriatic sooner.
For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.
The Kornati Islands, also known as the Stomorski islands, are located off the coast of Croatia, south of Zadar and west of Šibenik. This archipelago of islands is made up of 147 islands stretching 22 miles (35 kilometers) in length to cover an area of 124 square miles (320 square kilometers). The karst-limestone islands make up the densest archipelago of the Mediterranean Sea and are named after the largest island of the group, Kornat.
There is evidence of human presence on the islands from the Neolithic Age. The area came to prominence during the Roman period when many of the archaeological sites still found on the large islands were built. During the long Venetian occupation, the islands were used as a resupply stop for the Venetian fleet. It was at this time that the topography of the landscape was abused by the overgrazing of sheep and goats. Following the subsequent erosion and degradation of the soil, the islands were abandoned and finally purchased by the residents of Murter in the 19th Century. Today, the archipelago is still uninhabited although portions of the larger islands are cultivated by their owners.
In 1980, the country of Croatia declared the archipelago a national park, namely the Nacionalni Park Kornati. 109 islands, centered around the island of Kornat, are included in the national park which is managed from the town of Murter. Interestingly, the country has not renamed many of the islands which feature vulgarities such as Babina Guzica and Kurba Vela. These names were first introduced when Austrian cartographers visited the area. Their local guides wished to mock them by making up rude names. These have unfortunately stuck. To learn the extent of the translations, you will have to visit and ask your local dive guide.
The Kornati archipelago is ideal for watersports. In addition to scuba diving, visitors can enjoy boating, snorkeling and swimming. There are also plentiful hiking trails around the islands’ natural landscape and reaching vantage points with mile-wide views is not difficult. Bird watching is also a favorite activities among visitors. Those who are interested in history might also wish to seek out the archaeological ruins left by former Roman occupants. Unfortunately, there are no hotels on the Kornati Islands. It is best to stay in the town of Murter in order to have access to the best activities in the area.
The closest international airport is in Split (SPU). Unfortunately, there is no way to access the Kornati Islands via public transportation. Visitors with their own boat can dock in one of the many protected coves. Visitors without their own water transportation will have to access the islands with a local dive shop from Murter or on an excursion from Zadar, Sibenik or Split.