Obonjan Island, Croatia
18 - 21 July
Everything starts with the sea in Obonjan. The Adriatic winks at you from wooden cabanas where you sit on deckchairs, watching the water. Women sit on bathing platforms and talk in reverential tones about the breathing exercises they had in class earlier that day. An enormous tuna fish is hauled onto land by staff as holidaymakers gape in awe. “Is that a… small whale?” one woman asks.
I’m here to see Jonny Nash perform on the Crack stage, but first Obonjan island itself deserves a mention. It’s undeniably, ridiculously beautiful. Set up by a consortium of British and Croatian partners in 2016, Obonjan – accessible by ferry from the small town of Šibenik, near Split – is on a 50-year lease from the Croatian government. After issues with electricity and water supply caused Obonjan’s launch to be delayed last year, to understandable consternation from holidaymakers already en route to the island, Obonjan is busy making amends.
Most people stay in tents or wooden cabanas, which are amazing: even the most basic tents have air conditioning, and you’re rarely more than a few metres from the sea. Obonjan has marketed itself as a wellness destination by day, and party spot by evening, so there’s something to appeal to both groups.
All classes on the island are free, from outdoor yoga to morning HIIT to mediation classes and a programme of talks. As they’re free, you tend to do things you’d never normally try – and as most instructors are flown in from London, the quality is high. I’m allergic to exercise, but Patternity’s mindful marbling class was excellent, even if I was covered in paint for days afterwards.
A negative note: health and safety on the island needs refocusing. The water underneath the main beach diving board is dangerously low when the tide is out (I grazed myself, as did others) and there are no signs warning of the sea urchins that plague the island (I stepped on one and it fucking hurt). Food and drink is also very expensive and service can be patchy (although it’s worth pointing out that prices should be going down soon in response to criticism, and that the high cost subsidises the free programme of classes and entertainment).
It’s rare to find yourself in a beach destination with decent music, but Obonjan hits that sweet spot. There is classy disco and house at the East Harbour beach bar during the day – no lazy dialling in a set ending with Keep That Fire Burning here. And Jonny Nash’s Friday night Crack-presented performance in Obonjan’s Amphitheatre was a real highlight. Playing completely live, the Melody As Truth producer created lush, layered ambient soundscapes that somehow reflected the island’s sounds and textures.
Obonjan Island isn’t perfect, but I can’t think of another place you’ll see world-class electronic music, sleep like a baby, then arise for a morning of restorative yoga, all in one place. It’s a sedate corrective to the all out hedonism that often plagues the Croatian festival music scene, and a welcome one.