Dugi Otok is the seventh largest island in the Adriatic Sea, part of Croatia. It is located off the Dalmatian coast, west of Zadar. It is the largest and easternmost of the Zadarian Islands, and derives its name from its distinctive shape (it is 45 km (28 miles) long by 5 km (3 miles) wide with an area of 114 square kilometres (44 sq mi)). Its elevation reaches 300 m; and many of its higher portions contain stands of Maritime Pine.
The western coast is tall and rugged, and many of the towns are clustered on the eastern side, including Sali, the largest, Božava, Dragove, Soline, Brbinj, Luka, Polje, Verona, Savar, Veli Rat, Zaglav, and Žman. A nature park, Telašćica, covers the southern part of the island and is adjacent to Kornati Islands National Park.
Telašćica bay is situated in the central part of the eastern Adriatic coast, in the SE part of the island of Dugi otok. Thanks to its extreme beauty, richness and importance, this bay surrounded by 13 islands and islets, together with 6 islets inside the bay of Telašćica itself, was proclaimed a Nature Park in 1988. Thanks to its exceptionally valuable plant and animal life, geological and geomorphologic phenomena, valuable colonies of the sea bottom and interesting archaeological heritage this area became protected in 1980.
The area of “Telašćica” Nature Park is distinctly contrasted area with quiet and peaceful beaches and laid down coastline on one side and wild and rough cliffs on the other. It is the area of the Aleppo pine-trees and holly oak woods on one side and bare rocky grounds on the other. It is the area of cultivated fields of vineyards and olive-trees, as well as the area of degraded forms of the flora covering dry habitats.
Three basic phenomena are certainly the main characteristics of the Nature Park: the unique bay of Telašćica as one of the safest, the most beautiful and the largest havens on the Adriatic that includes 25 small bays and 69 km of the well-indented coastline, the cliffs of the island of Dugi otok or so-called «Stene», rising up to 161 m above the sea level and falling down vertically up to 90 m below the sea level, and finally the salt lake called «Mir» with its curative characteristics. The island of Katina must be mentioned as one of the most picturesque islands in the Adriatic, but the most unusual is certainly the island of Taljurić. The total surface of the Nature Park is 70, 50 km2 of which 25, 95 km2 on Dugi otok and the neighbouring islands and 44, 55 km2 on sea. Beautifully cultivated meadows and hillsides are rich with Mediterranean vegetation with more than 300 species of flora and equally rich fauna. The undersea world has more than 300 plant and 300 animal species.
The characteristics of the climate of this region are more than 2500 hours of sunshine a year; the average temperature in January is higher than 7 ° C and annual average higher than 16 °C. In winter, the sea has a temperature around 13 ° C and in summer about 23 °C. Telašćica has been inhabited since ancient times, as can be seen from Roman remains in Mala Proversa and numerous pre-Romanesque churches. The oldest document about fishing trade dates from the end of the 10th century and it shows that the fishing trade in Croatia began on these coasts. In the Nature Park it is possible to dive on a few attractive locations next to the cliffs, walk along the paths and visit interesting places and the panoramic view from the belvedere Grpašćak is something that must not be missed. This and so much more is what has attracted and still attracts visitors to the Telašćica bay, which as a Nature Park of the Republic of Croatia belongs to a high category of protected parts of nature. Near the Nature Park Telašćica, there are other three Croatian national parks: the National Park Kornati, the National Park Paklenica and the National Park Krka, as well as two nature parks, the Nature Park Vransko jezero and the Nature Park Velebit.
The Telašćica bay, after which the whole Nature Park got the name, is situated on the south-eastern part of the island Dugi otok. It is retracted into the land about 8 km and on its south side is the widest part of about 1.6 km. That part of the bay which is turned towards the south-east, is open towards the neighbouring Kornati islands. The bay itself is very indented with 25 bays, capes and 5 islands. Thanks to its position it is protected from the blows of the north-eastern wind from the mainland and the south wind from the open sea. Because of these features, Telašćica is one of the largest and best protected natural harbours on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. The name „Telaščica“ probably derives from the Latin name of “tre lagus” which means “three lakes”. It consists of three parts which are separated by constriction. These three parts are Tripuljak, Farfarikulac and Telašćica. These three bays are actually morphogenetic Karst sinkholes, which ended up under the sea some 10 000 years ago after the last de-icing period called glacial Würm.
The bottom of the bay is mostly covered with communities of sea-flowering plants and habitats extremely rich on animal life and very important for the reproduction of many fish species.
SALT LAKE “MIR”
Lake “Mir” is located in the south-western part of the Nature Park Telašćica. The lake is situated in a narrow area of land between the bay Telašćica and the open sea. After the last Ice Age the sea level rose to approximately 120 meters when the karsts depression met the sea, which it penetrates through numerous underground cracks, particularly numerous on the north side. The sources of the sea are easy to recognize during the tide. The length of the lake is approximately 900 m and it is of 300 m. The maximum depth is 6 m. The lake is salty because its underground channels are connected with the sea. Salinity of the lake is generally higher than the surrounding sea due to evaporation and restrictedness of the lake. In the lake Mir very small changes in water levels have been found since the cracks which connect the lake with the sea area are of low porosity. On the south-eastern part of the lake, the sea tends to spill over into the lake during storms. The shores of the lake are mostly low and rocky, with numerous depressions, while only in the extreme north-western part less accumulation of sand may be perceived.The lake bottom in shallow areas is rocky and in deeper it is covered with clay and on a part of south-east it is covered with fine grey silt (curative mud).
Temperature amplitudes of the lake are very prominent (in summer to 33 º C and winter to 5 º C). Because of that, the lake is warmer than the coastal sea in the summer and colder in winter due to the shallowness of the lake. The salinity of the lake is over average due to evaporation. These extreme conditions are the cause of biological poverty of the lake. Apart from the plankton, there are only a few species of marine organisms. These include: algae, goby, mullets, sea-bass, several species of shellfish, snails, crabs and a special type of eel (called “kajman” or “bižat” by the locals) which can grow up to 3 kg.