Alan Mandić founded Secret Dalmatia in 2005 and has been revealing Dalmatia’s best kept secrets ever since. He hasn’t stopped there though; steadily, Alan and his hand picked team have explored, researched and collaborated further afield to provide fascinating and unique tours of the real Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro, and sometimes even further away.
1. You did your University Degree in Boston, America. What took you there, what drew you back and did your experience abroad help develop the direction of your business?
I was always interested in going abroad for my university degree as well as experiencing living in a different country, coming from Yugoslavia. When the opportunity occurred, I left and lived with my cousin’s family in Boston benefiting both from living abroad and going to college there. I decided to return because of the way of life in Croatia and the availability of more opportunities at the end of 1990s.
2. You specialise in a niche area of tourism in Croatia – could you tell us about some of the challenges were when you were starting off?
The biggest challenges were the general lack of infrastructure and lack of understanding of what top quality service involved. Some of these challenges still exist.
3.Where in the world do your clients mostly come from and how do they get on with the Croatian Language?!
Most of my clients are from US and Canada. They do not generally speak any Croatian and don’t really need to as all the Croatians working with us are fluent in English. However the locals really appreciate it if they make an effort to say a few words in Croatian.
4. Could you tell us a little about how the pandemic has affected you professionally and personally and how you are adapting?
It has cut the number of arrivals by 70% but we had some work and it was on the highest level. We have several new projects coming up for post-covid world.
5. You have a fantastic English Language blog in which you already share many secrets – could you point us towards some of your favourite posts and have you ever thought of writing a book?
A book is not yet in the works but the nature of the blog will be changing and switching to video soon. My favorite post so far is the one on the Bulls and Wells of Svilaja [see link at the end of this post].
6. Does your family share your passion for Croatia’s heritage? And are you able to get away from work sometimes or do you have to go a long way away on holiday?!
I rarely take holidays and, lately, I have been exploring the world more. Mostly unusual travel destinations.
I am trying to get my kids interested in our heritage and it works. So far.
Only the off the beaten track places! The Beaches of Olib, Dugi Otok, Bukovica region…
8. You must have made some unique and special discoveries as you have built up the business; could you give us a couple of examples please?
My main goal for the future is to continue with donations to local archaeologists to help them continue discovering great spots that are still hidden. One discovery I am really proud of is the underwater settlement near Ricul dating back 3500 years with a discovery of the oldest olive pits on the Croatian soil. [see link at the end of this post].
In my view it has changed for the worse; catering to the masses and not protecting our greatest resources: local people and the environment. Croatia MUST protect its coastline and heritage and become a boutique travel destination for people looking for special experiences.
10. Where can we find out more?
Everything is listed on our web site: www.secretdalmatia.com
Thanks also to Alan for most of the photos – go to his blog (link on the main website) to find out more of what they are about. The feature photo shows Alan, far right, checking out Modrić Cave, about an hour’s drive from Zadar.
Below are links to the two blog postings referred to above.
…and here’s a link to a video clip of the Ricul excavation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qp-EsxCtt2U&feature=youtu.be
...and a clip of Alan’s of the Drniš Pršut Festival