I had never realised that people could be ejected from a nudist beach for failing to remove their clothing instantaneously upon arrival. This, my friends and I discovered, was the strict rule for nudey-rudey bathing on the island of Lokrum.
Lokrum is a highlight of Croatia’s Dalmatia coast and situated ten minutes by boat from the red-roofed town of Dubrovnik. Lokrum is dually honoured as one of Croatia’s national parks and home to one of the country’s premier nudist beaches. This was a fact that we were initially unaware. I am not a regular nudist bather, nor were my two female companions. However, it can be an irresistible element of the novelty value of travelling in a country with relative anonymity.
Like most of the Dalmatia Coast, Lokrum’s beaches are rocky rather than sandy and back onto groves of pine trees. This lack of sand is more than compensated for by a stunning expanse of water. The Adriatic deepens from the clear shallows to jade green and cobalt colours of the deeper waters. It is an island version of heaven.
Upon disembarking the boat, my companions and I followed our fellow passengers along one of the pine-needle paths. To our puzzlement we saw the people ahead of us returning in our direction. Then we saw the sign.
It loudly proclaimed ‘Nudist Beach’ in angry red letters and four languages. It was difficult to discern whether this was a warning or welcoming notice. Peeking through the bushes we saw a number of bodies strewn across the large grey rocks of the ‘beach’.
Older gentlemen stood at the water’s edge like sun scorched sentinels, their skin tough and brown. A number of pink bodies lay roasting on the rocks. “Brits on holiday?” I wondered. This was a genuine assumption as British holiday-makers are notoriously lax with their application of high factor sunscreen. The rosy red cheeks that lay before us were proof that the dangers of skin cancer had been disregarded in favour of an all-over tan. Sunburnt bottoms aside, it appeared an uncrowded beach and we decided to make our foray into nudist bathing here. Though before this could be undertaken we had to take advantage of the photo opportunity presented by the sign.
As nominated nudist I surreptitiously maneouvered behind the sign as the girls strung my clothes artistically in the surrounding bushes. Potential nude models, please note the hazards presented by spiky, scratchy bushes. They make it difficult to smile ‘naturally’ as a nudist does. It is even more of a challenge to appear nonchalant when middle-aged, fully clothed couples stroll by. One particular couple tried to appear as though the sight of a nude girl cowering strategically behind a sign for the benefit of two giggling photographers was nothing unusual. However, their eyes remained strictly averted.
Cheeky photo session dispensed with and clothing replaced, we headed down to the beach. We decided our plan of action was to jump in fully clothed and then dare to bare after the plunge. To what degree bikinis constitute clothing I am unsure, but even the most scanty material is comforting.
As we dithered about at the water’s edge, debating the chill factor of the water, we were accosted by one of the wrinkly, walnut-brown old men.
“Excuse me! This is a nudist beach!” He shouted from a distance, his hands on his hips. We smiled and waved, indicating we were aware of the fact and had not confused this place with another beach where people wear invisible swim suits.
Again he called out and again we smiled and waved. This continued for a while and his friends began to look over at us, interested in the coming altercation. He did not seem to grasp the meaning of our reply, “Yes, in a moment.”
Before we had the opportunity to fully enter the water, the cranky man stormed over and stated, “This is a nudist beach! It is not for you!” We stared at him with disbelief. We had only been there five minutes. “There are other beaches for you,” he added, pointing along the coast.
We resisted the urge to laugh. Nude old men are always a funny sight. Particularly when they try to be ferocious, such as this cranky Croatian man.
He was determined that we were not going to swim along his section of the beach, let alone sunbathe. Finally we capitulated and disappeared to another part of the island to bathe in peace. Another travel lesson learnt – never cross an angry nudist.