Obonjan is a 1.5 km long island on the Dalmatian coast, about 6 km before Šibenik. Originally conceived as an „island of youth“ for boy scouts, the island is very beautiful and really serves all clichés of the Adriatic: turquoise-blue water, pine and olive trees, beaches and the obligatory background sound system for cicadas. With a small ferryboat you can reach the island about one hour from Šibenik harbour. In the 1950s, the scouts left behind a complete infrastructure of ports, houses and streets. All beautifully ingrown and a little wild. In 2016 the island was renovated by a Croatian/English event agency, partly rebuilt and put back into operation.
On the island there are tents for about 500 guests, divided into two categories. The tents are new and of high quality, equipped with AirCon and in the category „Forest Lodge“ even with refrigerator, toilet and shower. For the tents of the „Bell Tent“ category there are sanitary facilities available as on a camping site. All the public buildings we saw were in order, some of them new or renovated and clean.
Obonjan offers two restaurants and three food stalls (pizza, burgers, curry) for catering. In the big restaurant „The Kitchen“ on the highest point of the island there is a breakfast buffet and a large seawater pool. The small restaurant „BOK“ at the harbour opens at noon and serves mainly seafood. And then there is a small „Green Bar“ which offers tea, smoothies and allegedly veggie / veganes food, but during our one-week visit the bar was mostly empty.
At the harbour there is a bar all day long which is played by DJs in the afternoon and in the evening. At events, parties or concerts there are more bars at the amphitheatre and at the open-air club. Then there is the „Zen-Den“, a wellness, massage and yoga temple and a pavilion for all kinds of events.
The seasonal programme is dedicated and of high quality. Every week a label, publisher, promoter, agency or other organisation takes care of the work. The curator brings together bands, DJs, performers, artists, trainers, coaches, etc. and brings the associated followers to the island. An interesting concept that reads itself thrillingly and holds many surprises and discoveries ready.
Gilles Peterson and Worldwide FM, Wanderlust, Electric Elephant, The Numinous, Late Night Tales, Hunger, The Hoxton, Unit 44, Supersoul, Fashion Revolution, Visual Fodder, Wildfitness, R&S Records , Ernest Journal, Secret Yoga Club, Gottwood, SHE, Phonica, She’s Lost Control, Soul & Surf, Creative Social, Refinery, Switch On, Serenebook, East of Eden, Yogarise, Your Space Berlin, and Yoga Hero.
Daniel Avery, Dave Maclean (Django Django), Flamingods, Garden City Movement, Gerd Janson, Gilles Peterson, Hercules and Love Affair, Horse Meat Disco, Jack Savidge (Friendly Fires), Jordan Rakei, Josefin Öhrn, Justin Robertson, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Khraungbin, Low Life (Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton), Man Power, Midland, Mister Saturday Night, Norman Jay MBE, Phaeleh, Prosumer, Ray Mang, Roy Ayers, and Sean Johnston.
Daniel Pinchbeck, Patternity, Laraaji, John Higgs, Lisa Luxx, Anthony Peake, Sam Bompas, David Bramwell, The Wild Swimming Brothers, Nick Jankel, Kto Wong, Loba Diaries, MA-TT-ER, and Super Human Earth.
Jasmine Hemsley and Sound Sebastien, Patrick Broome, Meghan Currie, Seb Eubank, Ruby Warrington, Michael James Wong, Lani Rocillo, Steffy White, Alexandra Roxo, Toby Huntington-Whiteley, Swim Dem Crew, Susan Rozo, Chloe Brotheridge, Wolf Sister, Pip Roberts, Run Pack Berlin, Paula Andreewitch, Charlotte Welfare, Carlos Romero, Pandora Paloma, Jessica Skye, Bess Shipside, Gail Schock, and Kate Taylor.
And after a short acclimatization period you can get really busy. Here’s a typical Obonjan day.
07:30 am Early Morning Yoga – Breakfast 10:30 Meditation – Session – Lunchtime Beach Life, swim and/or swim and / or hang out at the harbour 14:30 Readings, workshops, coachings, etc. 17:00 enjoy the view on the tent veranda and sip the first glass of wine 19:30 Sunset Yoga – Dinner – In the evening a concert, a party or a film on big screen?
Great! An Eco-Hipster-Art-Professional-Chiller-Paradise.
But on closer inspection we were really disturbed by some points, which we don’t want to share here as an offending online review and experience report, but as a call to guests, media and organizers.
If you look at the Obonjan SocialMedia and website and read through the programme, you will get the impression of a committed, sustainable, organic & eco-resort. Unfortunately, this is not the reality.
Disposable dishes, plastic cups, plastic cutlery, plastic straws, coffee to go paper cups even at the breakfast buffet. Not a single solar panel all over the island, no grey water recycling, no waste separation, delivery vans and cars on the island are normal petrol, no call to recycle or any other recognisable spirit for a sustainable island life. And the air-conditioning systems in the tents are not really necessary either.
The team, the employees on Obonjan seem to be recruited partly from unpaid volunteers, who are mostly gastro beginners and also by the bank only minimal-friendly. But the organisation worked out well for us – but good mood feels different.
Vegetarian or even vegan dishes are scarce. In the restaurants and stalls there are hardly any meatless or vegan options (or the veggie paddies at the Burger Grill or the summer rolls at the Green Bar are just randomly off…). If you are not into meat, fish and cheese, you should bring enough food from the mainland, otherwise it could get cramped. Anyway – Basically the food was good to OK everywhere.
At some bars, menus and drinks disappear inexplicably and drinks seem to be charged according to a kind of daily rate; especially the later the evening, the more volatile the prices can become. And watch out for the Beer/Lemonade Mix Shandy – then you will soon have two drinks on your bill: a small beer and a lemonade = 2 x 36 kuna / 9,80 € – without tip: -) Tricky is the payment even if you haven’t brought enough kuna. But it gets complicated when you pay in € and get Kuna change back. Then it becomes expensive and here too there are different, suboptimal exchange rates.
In the little shop with limited, completely commercial offer and prices like at the bar there is a ban on photos. On demand: why? … there’s the answer „Because my boss said so.“ Which, by the way, is something you get more often as a curious guest.
The prices are not cheap all over the island.
Beer 0,3l = 35 Kuna / 4,70 € Beer 0,5l = 52 Kuna / 7 € Corona 48 Kuna / 6,50 € Cuba Libre 85 Kuna / 11,50 € Burger 65 Kuna / 8,80 € Pizza 85 Kuna / 11,50 € Curry 90 Kuna / 12 € Breakfast buffet 100 Kuna / 13,50 € Small Water 20 Kuna / 2,70 €
But hey – it’s an island and not the mainland, every can of beer is brought by ship.
All this is not dramatic and doesn’t deserve a rip-off stamp.
The somewhat „Mediterranean“ gastronomy practise has to be taken sporty and nobody can be really good and friendly all the time. But the impression transported by the Obonjan communication of an Eco Village, which is operated only by yogis, gurus, hedonists, vegans and mindful eco guerrillas, we see then nevertheless as genuine label fraud.
The people we met in Obonjan were just as amazed and disappointed about all the mentioned non-ecological points. Obonjan manages to bring a great, open, interesting and mixed audience to the island and then disappoints on the spot with small and big failures, which leave a more than bland aftertaste. Obonjan could be so much more.
Obonjan could be a lighthouse for the entire tourism industry of the Adriatic Sea. The advertising for this has already been placed, and the appropriate guests have already arrived.
„The spirits I called…“
Many of the Obonjan visitors we spoke to agreed that there will be a lot of feedback when you bring such an environmentally conscious target group to the island and then do not fulfill expectations. The pressure on the organizers must be big. The complaints, concerns and comments must take on alarming proportions. All curators have to be asked whether they will continue to support this or demand changes.
You can’t have a wellness / ecological festival, throwing around with disposable dishes and hardly offering veggie food without an echo of the guests?
Actually we are Obonjan fans. But just disappointed Obonjan fans.
As a real eco island, the 2018 season might be fully booked already – think about it. The Obonjan project is a respectable feat of strength, the organisation, the infrastructure, the booking, all this is not stomped out of the ground in one season. We realize that. In the second year the shop seems to be running a little more smoothly, but in many areas there is still room to move upwards.
We could imagine going back to Obonjan again. But next time we’ll ask what has changed. And whether the eco awareness yoga meditation marketing show has perhaps even become a reality by now. We wish the whole Obonjan team much success for the third and many more years.
Tips for the Obonjan trip: Bring: Eye mask (the tents are bright), Ohropax (the tent walls are thin: -). Food/Beverage: a bottle of wine, a few beers, some snacks and a couple of water bottles are allowed and useful. Of course, the organizers also have to earn money, but you can also bring along what you consume in the tent. Enough Kuna: the exchange rates on the island can become crazy. Except in the two restaurants, cash is used everywhere. There is an ATM on the island, but we didn’t try it. Internet / W-Lan: There is top free wifi almost everywhere on the island. Water: The tab water is drinkable. Children: Obonjan is not really meant for families / children. Guests: The promoters come from the UK, so most of the guests are british but we’ve met people from all over the world. Arrival with your own car / parking lot in Sibenik: We drove with our own car from Munich to Sibenik and after 8 hours of driving we stayed for one night in Hotel Jure **** / Solaris Beach Resort (170 € double room incl. breakfast). The resort has a large, guarded parking lot and we have parked the car there for a week (7 € / day) Taxi / Bus: From the resort there is a bus for 17 Kuna p. P. to Sibenik. With Uber the trip from Sibenik Harbour to the hotel costs 45 kuna, taxis in the city wanted three times as much for the same trip – they just haven’t heard the gong and keep trying to advantage from tourists.