Travel to Krapanj Island, Croatia: the Island of Sponge Divers

The Krapanj island, certainly is not one of well-known Croatia’s islands like Hvar or Brac but it has something particular regarding its inhabitants’ activity.

It is an island where males were the sponge divers and female were doing all farming work and fishing. I still remember my father’s words each time we saw their boats near Hvar island collecting sea sponges: ‘They are famous sponge divers from the small sponge fishermen village near Sibenik’.

This island is only 300 meters from the mainland, in front of small village, Brodarica in Sibenik county. It is the smallest inhabited island of the Adriatic Sea covering 0.36 km². It is also the most inhabited island (per square meter) and has the lowest elevation of 1.5 meter above sea level. Check its position on this earth map!

The history of sponge diving
on Krapanj island

The men of Krapanj have been diving for sponges for over 300 years, introduced by Antun Greek from Crete. Soon, this activity has become the main occupation of the male population of the island. While husbands, sons and fathers daily dived using at the beginning primitive tools like harpoons and diving without any equipment, the female population was engaged in all other activities.

The women of the island were field laborers, fishermen, housewives and mothers. Can you imagine, women rowing with heavy oars to go fishing, even though they did not know how to swim.

At the end of the 19th century, a Krapanj diving crew consisted of 8 people. Only two or three were divers, two were rowers, two were in charge of the air pump, and one or two had to press, wash and dry the sponges.

In 1893, the islanders founded an association that was later donated diving equipment by the local authorities. At the end of the 19th century, there were 14 diving crews in the association. In 1940, the association had over 20 sets of diving equipment and 20 diving crews. At that time, nearly 400 people on Krapanj lived only off of sponge diving.

Do you know what are sponges?

You might be surprised by the fact that sea sponges are not plants but animals that belong to the first multi-cellular creatures on Earth.

Sponges live of plankton in warm, calm and clear waters, on rough and rocky seabed up to the depth of 200 m. It takes 2 to 4 years for sponges to grow approximately 15 cm in diameter.

Sponges obtain plankton by filtering sea water and an average sponge can filter almost 2000 liters of sea water per day!

In the Adriatic sea, there is an excellent rounded species of sea sponges, the so-called Dalmata Fina, that can grow up to 40 cm in diameter. It has considerable market value due to its fine structure. Today 1 kg of unrefined sponge has the price at about $ 70. Divers from Krapanj island usually harvest this sponge species.

Besides Dalmata Fina, there is also one more type of sponge in the Adriatic, Elephant’s Ear sponge, known for its unusual form and tremendous firmness. Even though it can grow up to 1 meter in diameter, it is not as valued as Dalmata Fina.

How to get to Krpanj Island?

Being only 300 meter from the mainland, there is a daily ferry line (only passengers) that leaves from Brodarica almost every hour to Trpanj. The trip takes only 5 minutes and after arrival and disembarkation at Trpanj, the ferry returns immediately back to Brodarica.

This ferry is not run by Jadrolinija Croatia’s state maritime company but by a small Sibenik town company.

Where to stay and what to do on
Krapanj island?

I am surprised that the whole riviera, including Bradarica littoral and Krpanj village, offers more then 1900 beds in private apartments and rooms, villas, 4 stars hotel Spongiola on the island, three-star Villa Daniela or three-star guesthouse Zlatna Ribica (Golden Fish), both in Brodarica.

Don’t miss to visit:

  • The Monastery of St. Cross – The most valuable exhibits are the ‘Last Supper’ (16th century) and the Black Madonna on the Throne (Renaissance). The monastery has a small museum that contains a collection of sponges, corals, amphorae and ancient tableware.
  • Museum-oil factory of St.Laurent 1584 on the island Krapanj
  • Sponge gallery and souvenir shop Zitak on the island

If you are wondering what to do or to see around this island than beside the swimming and sunbathing on the beautiful beaches, you are practically in the middle between the two most beautiful national parks.

  • National park Krka is 15 km away while a Kornati National park is 18 km away from Brodarica.

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