Dinosaurs have been a topic of interest for eons now, tickling the human imagination with their enormous size and mysterious disappearance. Their traces can be found everywhere around the world and one of such locations is the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. Thanks to this, Istria now looks like a canvas where an artistic group of reptiles decided to express their fondness of creative expression. All jokes aside, the dinosaur traces all over the Istrian peninsula can tell us many things about appearance, movement and habits of these creatures.
There are five distinctive sets of prints found in various locations throughout the peninsula, and they belong to five different types of dinosaurs; small and large theropod, small and large sauropod and ornithopod. Unfortunately in the past many of these areas weren't appropriately protected, and there was even one recorded case of theft at such locations. Fortunately the security and protection of these places is being improved each year. In some cases there has also been talk about moving the rocks with footprints to paleontological museums so they can be safe from environmental dangers and human influence. Even though this will ensure the protection of the findings, it also means you might run out of chances to see some of them in their original environment. Many of these findings are located in seaside rock formations and they are convenient locations to visit on your naval adventure. In addition to these little portals to the past, Istria offers an enchanting coastline, perfect for a yacht chartering trip. Each of the following seaside locations offers a specific angle into the story of these prehistoric inhabitants of Istria but some also have specific conditions for visitors.
Archipelago of Brijuni
The first discovery of these prehistoric traces happened in 1925 at the Archipelago of Brijuni. There are altogether four sites with 200 dinosaur footprints. Recent research indicates that the prints belong to large and small theropods and ornithopods from the late Cretacious period. In other words, the archipelago was once a holiday hotspot for carnivorous and herbivorous reptiles of all sizes. Today, Brijuni is a well known national park and as such it forbids mooring in the surrounding area in order to protect the biodiversity of the sea bottom. However there are two designated locations where docking and mooring is charged for a 24 hour period: the official port of the National Park Brijuni and St. Nicolas Bay on the island Mali Brijuni. In case the berth rental fee is to pricy for your taste you can use a more standardized method of visiting this archipelago, such as traveling via daily boat service from the town of Fažana.
Besides being well-known for providing quality rock material, quarry Kirmenjak is also famous for its dinosaur prints. Research shows that during early Jurassic period this area was a frequent traveling route for sauropod species of dinosaurs. Sauropods are large, four-legged herbivore species that often traveled in herds as indicated in this location. Kirmenjak isn't really a seaside area but it is located near the seaside town of Poreč and it can be a convenient location to visit if you're already touring around the town.
Cape Gustinja is located around 7 kilometers from the city of Rovinj and it is a perfect location you can visit by boat. It is hard to reach by land and that is why its sparkling sea and jagged white rocks create a beautiful untouched atmosphere. In addition to that, this is also a site containing many footprints belonging to sauropod dinosaurs. This finding is specific because it is a heavily dinoturbated area. In other words the dinosaur prints in this location are numerous and they imply a lot of ground trampling. It is interesting to find out that such an isolated haven was once a meeting place of gigantic herbivore dinosaurs.
Zlatne Stijene (Golden Cliffs)
Located near the city of Pula, 'Zlatne Stijene' is a popular summer location and due to that it can sometimes get crowded. If you're planning to visit Pula and its numerous antique architectural sites you can also include this location in your trip. During the peak of the Cretaceous period this site was a playground for small carnivorous theropods. However there's no threat of becoming someone's lunch today, since the only remains of these lively hunters are their footsteps in the rocks. In case you want to avoid the crowd it would be advisable to visit this area in spring or early summer.
This small island is located just off the coast of Cape Kamenjak. In the early Cretaceous period it was a threading ground for sauropods and small theropods but now it is a protected area because the surrounding reefs are a home to numerous sea flora and fauna. One of the most precious members of sea flora in the area are the underwater fields of Posidonia seaweed. This location is also important for being a frequent holiday spot for the illusive and endangered Mediterranean monk seal. Even though mooring is forbidden in this location, if you're sailing around and you’re interested in the biodiversity of the area you can drop your anchor in nearby coves of Cape Kamenjak, and take the organized boat trip to this little portal to the past.
When it comes to Mesozoic locations this isn't all Istria has to offer, so if you're ever sailing in the area let your inner adventurer run free and seek out other hidden prehistoric locations. Who knows, maybe you're the next person to discover a new interesting dinosaur trading route.