The KORNATI Archipelago of Croatia, also known as the STOMORSKI Islands, is located in the northern part of DALMATIA, south from ZADAR, and west from SIBENIK, in the SIBENIK – KNIN county. With 35km length and 140 islands —– some large, some small —– in a sea area of about 320sq.km, the KORNATI are the densest archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. The Archipelago is the plural form of the name of the largest island called KORNAT.
There are no permanent settlements in KORNATI. Simple houses in well-protected coves such as VRULJE, KRAVJACICA, LAVSA and others are used by mainland landowners as temporary shelters. Most of the landowners are from the island of MURTER & DUGI OTOK. Geographically, the KORNATI islands can be divided into main groups : the GORNJI KORNATI or UPPER KORNATI, closer to the mainland, and the DONJI KORNATI or LOWER KORNATI, which are mostly facing the open sea in the southwest. The islands known as GORNJI KORNATI include the northernmost island of SIT and the surrounding islets, divided by a channel from ZUT and its surrounding islets to the south. ZUT is the largest and most indented of these islands.
In 1980, the 89 northernmost of the 140-odd islands, islets and reefs of the KORNATI Archipelago were declared a National Park (NACIONALNI PARK KORNATI), protecting the islands and their marine surroundings. The area covered by the National Park mostly coincides with the DONJI KRONATI, which includes the island of KORNAT and the surrounding islets, separated with a channel from the island of PISKERA and the surrounding islets.
The National Park includes 109 islands, of which 76 are less than 1hectare in size of the total land surface area of KORNATI (62 sq.kms), 85% is stony and only 5% has been cultivated.
The most important places on the KORNATI islands are : the shallow channel MALA PROVERSA, the oval-shape TALJURIC island, SPINUTA bay, STIVINA bay, the 4th largest island LEVRNAKA, the 2nd largest KRAST rock area TARAC SVRSATA VELA island, MANA island, PISKERA island, PANITULA VELA island, the picturesque LAVSA bay, the resort island RAVNI ZAKAN, SMOKVICA VELA island, the OPAT Peninsula, SAMOGRAD island, the PURARA Reserve for marine life, VRGADA & GANGAROL islands.
Most of the terrain in the KORNATI islands is KARST- limestone which, in the distant geological past, arose from sediment from the sea. In the stone on the islands, there are numerous fossils of crustaceans and fish. In the area, there are examples of all typical forms of KARST : bizarre shapes formed by the atmosphere, unexplored caves, areas of flat rock and, above all, cliffs. KARST rock is porous, rapidly draining and dry, and so therefore are the KORNATI islands. Numerous cisterns supply water for people and animals.
Human presence on the KORNATI islands appear to extend back to the Neolithic Age. The presence of wealthy Romans is attested by the mosaic floors of Roman Villas and the KORNATI island has a small TORETA (tower), that was probably built in the 6th century AD. The island of PISKERA was also inhabited during the Middle Ages and served as a storage point for fish. Archaeological sites in STRAZISCE & TARAC and on LEVRNAKA & LAVSA provide evidence that, during the Roman Era, life on KORNATI was very active. There are many buildings and it is known that there were also stone quarries.
Deforestation and subsequent erosion and overgrazing by sheep and goats, for whose benefit the scrub was periodically burnt, impoverished the fauna and depopulated the islands, which were purchased by citizens of MURTER during the late 19th century.
Apart from seagulls, which are the most numerous animals, there are some lizards and ring-snakes, and 69 varieties of butterfly, some amphibians and rodents. As regards marine life, the KORNATI islands are typical of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, but, due to the underwater relief, streams and special characteristics of the sea in this labyrinth, there are also some peculiarities : algae, coral and sponges. At one time, the sea was the richest, in the Adriatic, for sponge hunters. The rare mollusc PINNA NOBILIS, lives in the KORNATI and is protected by law.
Not only the land, but also the sea, is within the protection of the National Park. Fishing is limited in order to allow the regeneration of fish shoals that had been severely over-fished.
Vegetation on the islands is very sparse. There have been 200 known varieties of Mediterranean plants, but they have degenerated. The most common plant is a tough variety of grass, but there are many scented and medicinal herbs : sage, feather grass and XERANTHEMUM, and these provide the best forage for bees. Olive trees account for about 80% of the land under cultivation, followed by vineyards, figs, orchards and vegetable gardens. It is thought that the KORNATI islands were once covered with forests of Mediterranean Holm oaks, QUERCUS ILEX, but as open fires demanded a great deal of wood, the forests were slowly destroyed.