The Visitor Centre and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures is located in the picturesque village of Beli in the forested Tramuntana area in the northern part of the island of Cres.
Tramuntana attests to a millennia-long relationship between man and nature, which has resulted in a striking landscape, preserved local traditions, kilometres-long gromače dry stone walls, as well as numerous ancient shepherds’ dwellings and settlements. The pristine beauty of the landscape can also be seen in the preserved flora and fauna, which is another distinctive feature of this wild and magical countryside.
The forests of giant oaks and sweet chestnuts are more than a hundred years old and include centuries-old trees that are over 30 metres tall and 5 metres in circumference. Old ox paths, created by old artisans, bear witness to the coexistence of people and nature. Today’s walking trails follow these ancient ox paths. The network of trails includes seven labyrinths and twenty-one stone sculptures by the sculptor Ljubo de Karina. The sculptures have verses by Andro Vid Mihičić carved on them, a 19th-century poet from Beli who loved Tramuntana.
There are two spacious but significantly different forest complexes on the island of Cres. The one in the south is an evergreen eumediterranean forest of predominantly holm oak in the Punta Križa area, while the other is located in the north of the island in the Tramuntana area. Unlike the forest in Punta Križa, this is a sub-Mediterranean deciduous forest with diverse deciduous types of oak, maple and hornbeam trees as the predominant species. Botanists usually point out that four types of oak, two types of maple, two types of hornbeam, various tree and shrub species, as well as a few ‘continental’ representatives of forest flora such as holly and wood spurge are what make Tramuntana Forest so interesting. With regard to animal species, Tramuntana is home to a relict population of wall lizards and moles, which can be found only on Cres out of all the Kvarner islands. The biodiversity of the Tramuntana Forest complex is additionally amplified by its varied relief with numerous sinkholes in which deep red soil has accumulated, while the elevations of the Sis-Gorice mountain ridges has made it possible for a high-elevation forest vegetation zone to develop here. In the lower areas, there are downy oak and oriental hornbeam forests, and downy oak and hop-hornbeam forests in the higher areas.
One of the most distinguished downy oak trees is the protected centuries-old oak in the small village of Sveti Petar. Because of its age, its appearance and the huge cavity in its trunk, this tree has inspired various stories and legends which you can hear from local people or during your visit to the Beli Visitor Centre. Those who had the chance to see this tree before it was damaged by the several storms that broke most of its branches and the tip of its crown in the last few decades will probably be disappointed by its current appearance. However, the tree, with its wide trunk, still looks quite impressive and will probably continue to resist bad weather conditions and other challenges for a long time.
In the Tramuntana area, there are seven hiking trails, seven tourist trails, and three cycling trails, which are all marked and extend for a total length of approximately 100 km.