The most popular boat trips on Skadar Lake are a combination of pelican spotting and visiting medieval monasteries. We have explored Skadar Lake by boat many times and I thought that I had seen all interesting places around the Lake, including lots of pelicans and other birds.
But this weekend we were invited by Jelena from Skadar Lake Boat Milica to join a new boat cruise that comprises everything you would like to see (and taste) on Skadar Lake: a mix of pelican spotting, local gastronomic specialties, swimming (if the weather allows, of course), abandoned fishermen’s villages, impressive natural beauties, heron colonies and the prison island of Grmožur. A great tour indeed!
The first goal of our tour was the green Morača river delta and “Manastirska Tapija”, a bird reserve that offers a good opportunity to see pelicans and other birds. Did you know that there are, at the moment, 178 pelicans living on the Lake? They obviously got used to people, as this time we could come quite close!
It took our skipper Andrija about half an hour to cross the Lake to the romantic village of Krnjice. Approaching the village, we could see the ruins of many old stone houses, but some of them were obviously renovated and inhabited. Although the population of this village was 330 in 1948, there were only 26 inhabitants according to the census in 2003 – all of them older than 60! But fortunately, things are changing. The villagers are coming back, new houses are built, and one local family has started to prepare local specialties for tourists.
This was the right place to make a stop: a beautiful terrace (still under construction), situated above the shore, offered a spectacular view of the Lake. Lunch consisted of a delicious fish soup, various fish dishes and salads. Everything fresh and directly from the Lake. There was home-made “rakija”, fruit liquors, juices made of sage and wild fruits, and of course, wine from the Crmnica region. From the sunny terrace we saw cormorants and herons resting on a half sunken traditional fishing boat. Swallows were flying low above the water surface and a big concrete “ponta” (platform) at the end of the village invited for a jump and a swim.
On our way back, moving along the steep and mountainous shoreline, we saw several colonies of white, gray and purple herons, resting on the rocks. Soon we reached the bay of Raduš, in which the so-called “Eye of Raduš” is located. Although the average depth of the Lake is around 6 meters, this “eye” is the deepest spot of the Lake. Divers have come to the conclusion that the Lake is at least 60 meters deep here, and maybe even deeper, as the “eye” has the form of a funnel, which makes diving very scary… Due to the constant temperature of underground water springs, this is an ideal place for the spawning of bleak (Alburnus alburnus), a small fish that is smoked and served as a specialty of this area.
Further on, we passed the totally abandoned fishing village of Seoca, a picturesque place where the ruins of old houses are already overgrown with vegetation. Flocks of birds flew up from the water and we saw a couple of pelicans quietly fishing, accompanied by cormorants and seagulls… a real bird paradise!
Soon we arrived at Grmožur, the stony island that was once infamous as a prison during King Nikola’s reign. The story goes that no one who was able to swim could be locked up here. And if somebody did succeed in escaping, his custodian was condemned to serve out the prisoner’s sentence. It is told that only two prisoners made it, using a prison door as a raft.
However, it was quite a surprise for me to see that all vegetation on the island had disappeared. As I was informed, this was ordered by the National Park. I really don’t know the reason, but honestly speaking, I liked it better overgrown with vegetation. And what about the birds? Where will they build their nests? It was also obvious that, in the meantime, many stones have been taken away from the island. By whom and why? What a pity!
The boat cruise that had lasted around 5 hours came to an end in Virpazar. The boat tour to Krnjice is an experience “off the beaten track” and I would recommend it to everybody who wants to get a complete picture of Skadar Lake!