Paddling to the Middle of the Adriatic Sea II. – Brusnik Volcano and Biševo Sea Caves

Orkish Portal to Middle Earth

Brusnik is a tiny island just off the coast of Svetac Island. It is 205 m wide, 320 m long and its highest “peak” is 30 m high. What sets Brusnik apart from countless other small piles of rocks in the Adriatic Sea is its volcanic origin. Brusnik is one of the only two volcanic islands in the whole Adriatic Sea (Jabuka being the second). Even without knowing this, when you see it, you can tell this island is different.

brusnik island from air

Brusnik island, a crazy Lord of the Rings looking island next to Svetac would be our next stop.

The island is dark, made out of a mix of dark grey and black rocks that are 150 million years old. It looks like something violent went straight through the middle of the island destroying everything in sight. It looks like something took the island into its mouth and chew on it. It looks like the island is not an island but a meteor crash site. It looks like Brusnik is the island that was bombed during WWII and not Svetac. It looks like Orcs are about to crawl out of Middle Earth right through this island. You get the idea?

Grinder

The name Brusnik could be roughly translated into “grinder”. I have found a couple of theories where the name comes from. The most fun one is that the volcanic rocks on the islands are good for sharpening knives so people collected them and used them as sharpening stones. The other theory is that the jagged rocks thrown up by the volcano were slowly grinded down by the sea so now the small bay on the island is full of huge smooth stones.

These volcanic rocks also have a very high iron content and will play games with passing ships compasses. Actually in the whole Brusnik, Jabuka and Sv. Andrija “triangle”, magnetic disturbances were recorded.

kayaks on the beach

Brusnik kayak parking.

During high tides and strong winter southern winds the sea gets so high that it fills the small gorge that runs through the middle of the island and the island is split in two. Beneath the island there are underwater channels that end in small lakes in the middle of the island.

Lobster Hunting and a String of Ponds in the Middle of the Island

The surrounding sea used to be teeming with fish and especially lobsters. Lobsters were a good source of income for poor fishermen that hunted and shipped these tasty crustaceans to the tables of rich Europeans. Fishermen would spend days at a time on the island fishing and catching lobsters. They used the round stones to build simple shelters on the edge of the beach. You can still see the walls that remained from those times.

Different fishing teams would divide the before mentioned pool in the middle of the island with rocks to make separate ponds. They then used them to store their catch and keep their lobsters alive until it was time to head back to Vis Island or to the mainland. Since these ponds can get too hot in the summer for the lobsters to survive in them, lobster hunting was mostly done in the colder part of the year.

Stepping on to the Brusnik Island

Contrary to the forecast, the wind the next day was stronger than the day before so it was a wild two mile paddle from the Svetac Island to Brusnik Island. As soon as we moved out of the shadow of Brusnik, waves picked up and started throwing us around. Nothing we couldn’t handle, but it did look like landing on the jagged rocky island will be sketchy. Getting in and out of the kayak while waves are crashing into you and moving your kayak all over the place is not easy, especially if you want to keep the sea out of your kayaks cockpit. Fortunately the small beach was pretty friendly, lined with smooth stones so we landed without much trouble.

shelter from the wind

Fishermen built these walls for shelter from the wind and weather.

The further you go from the beach the bigger these volcanic round stones are. It looks like the beach is a dam made out of huge marbles that makes a barrier between the sea and the inside of the island. Once we stepped over the “dam” we entered the heart of the island.

souvenirs from brusnik

Picking up a souvenir round volcanic stone from the Brusnik beach.

Here is where a narrow ravine starts and meanders through the island all the way to the other side. The ravine is surrounded by walls of dark volcanic rock. Walking through the island you go past the lobster ponds that still wait for the fishermen from the past to return. I kept checking the black cliffs for secret passage and expecting an Orc head to appear from it. It really feels like you are stepping into another world. Since we had a long way to go and the weather didn’t look that great, we couldn’t stay long and soon it was time to point our kayaks towards Biševo Island.

Biševo

The sea was still wild but getting calmer and the wind was blowing almost into our backs, so the paddle didn’t feel as long as when we were arriving. Still it was late afternoon when we reached Biševo Island. We pulled our kayaks high onto some not the most kayak friendly rocks and made our way through the thick Mediterranean bush to the bay where a small restaurant was.

I could smell the tasty food I was about to order and could taste the cold beer I was about to have. Well, no such luck. The last ferry that runs between Vis and the island has already departed, daily dose of rare October visitors was already gone and the restaurants kitchen was closed. We ordered beers but they also didn’t taste that great as it was getting really cold and windy. We made the trek back to our kayaks and put up our tent under another out of this world October sunset that painted the sky and the land in hues of red and violet.

Sea Caves of Biševo Island

Next day the moody windy cloudy weather was a thing of a past. Full on sun and no wind made us feel like summer is still here. We slowly paddled along the coast of Biševo looking for sea caves marked on the map we found online. Nothing really impressive until we made it around the Gatula peninsula and to the Medvidina špilja cave.

medvidina spilja

Entrance to Medvidina špilja cave.

Medvidina Špilja

Damn! The cave is named after Mediterranean monk seal that used to live on the beach inside the cave. Imagine this setup. Cave entrance is this big crack in the cliff. You paddle into the dark and enter a huge underground hall. You paddle further and there is another hall with barely any light left from the entrance. The cave then continues into a long low and narrow tunnel and at the end of the tunnel there is a small sandy beach where the monk seals used to be. This little beach is already 160 meters away from the cave entrance, deep inside the island.

Paddling into the island:

Modra Špilja – Blue Cave

Almost making it around the island we arrived to the other famous cave on Biševo, the Modra špilja (Blue cave). This is THE most famous cave in the Adriatic sea and one of the most famous blue caves in the whole Mediterranean. Natural entrance to this cave is a submerged opening that allows the sunlight to get into the cave. Light passing through water before entering the cave creates an iridescent blue glowing effect all around the cave. Depending on the sun position and weather the color of the cave changes, but no matter the time, it is quite a sight to see.

modra spilja bisevo

Inside the Blue cave.

Making it Back to Vis Island

Leaving Modra špilja behind, the last stretch of our expedition was in front us and we made it back to Vis late in the afternoon. End of the trip always leaves mixed feelings, you are happy you made it but at the same time sad it’s over. We unpacked our kayaks and threw everything into the car. Right when we made it to the main road, high above the beach where we landed, it was time for another out of this world sunset. It felt like every day the sunset was even sicker than the day before. People were stopping their cars and taking photos. Far away in the middle of orange purplish sky and sea we could see the dark shape of Svetac Island.

submarine bunker

Old submarine bunker on Vis island.

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