It is just seven in the morning, and the sky is a bright, clear blue as I swim out from the beach at Sutorišće, the water as smooth as glass. A few yachts are anchored further out on the shallow seabed, and beyond the neighbouring island of Olib, the Velebit mountains away to the east on the mainland rise up in a pinkish grey wall.
This is Silba, a small, delightfully traffic-free island on the Croatian Adriatic. Part of the Zadar archipelago, it lies roughly midway between the islands of Premuda and Olib — just 80 minutes by catamaran from Zadar, or much longer on the Bartol Kašić, the old ferry which chugs all the way from Zadar’s Gaženica port to the island of Lošinj, stopping off at a medley of island communities along the way.
I spend a week or so with my family on Silba each year, a blissful stretch of summer which always seems to end far too soon. It has become my favourite spot in Croatia, after some twenty years of visiting the country. And it’s the only place in Croatia where I actually switch off and have a genuine holiday, since there really isn’t anything to do apart from swim, eat and snooze (punctuated by a few espressos by the waterfront). The temptation to use the opportunity to photograph, visit or write about this or that is, for the most part, conveniently removed.
The island is only around eight kilometres long, stretching roughly north to south. The village of Silba — the island’s only real settlement — is in the centre of the island, at a point where it is pinched so narrow that it takes just five minutes to walk from the parish church down to Žalić or Mul, the small harbours on either side of the island.