The inaugural music and wellbeing project taught us massages, meditation and music make for a blissful combination.
Last week, i-D headed to the remote Croatian island of Obonjan, a hop, skip and a jump away from Split, followed by a short (and if you're on a speedboat, extremely exhilarating) boat trip from the historic city of Šibenik. The island was recently turned into a 450-capacity destination for festival-minded folk who want to mix a bit of meditation with their music. Though drums and downward dog might not appear to go together, as i-D discovered the two in fact work really, really well. Really well. Formerly a giant playground for the Boy Scouts nicknamed 'the Isle of Youth', the Obonjan Island Project was created earlier this year with minimum disruption to the local ecology, meaning you can expect towering pine trees and natural stone steps carved into rock all surrounded by the most beautifully brilliant blue seas. Once you've arrived, all you need do is immerse yourself in the sounds of Floating Points, Roy Ayers or the Invisible and enjoy an amazing array of classes, talks, workshops and wellbeing. Sleep comes courtesy of luxury tents or lodges, the latter of which are fitted with toilet and shower, while swimming choices include a hilltop-set sea salt pool or the dramatic waters of Dalmatian Coast itself - very refreshing after an early morning forest-set yoga class. Obonjan is our favourite new festival for many reasons. Here are 10 of them…
1. Boy Scouts basically built the Island.
But don't worry, they did a good job. The little lads not only put in stone steps to help scale the hilly mass of rock, they also built an entire amphitheater, where most of the live music takes place. There's not much better in life than sitting on stone, under an incredible night sky, Aperol Spritz in hand, watching live music as the waves crash in and out. A truly magical experience, it's the only way we ever want to experience live music.
2. Before the Project arrived, the island was inhabited solely by one man, and quite literally, his dog.
Both Mirko (the man) and Jimmy (the dog) remain, though who knows what the pair think of a few hundred-odd people turning up to meditate and listen to music. Tbh, they seemed legit into the whole thing.
3. Music and meditation aren't the only awesome things to find on Obonjan.
The idea for a music and wellbeing project came from the people of nearby Šibenik, who were keen to encourage tourists to swap the well-trodden destinations of Hvar and Zagreb for their own historic city and nearby Island. Though the initial plan was for a more traditional festival set-up, when the Project's founders - who are also behind Hideout and Unknown - arrived on Obonjan, they realised something special should be done. Consulting with the Eden Project, they decided to drop David Guetta and his pals in favour of slightly more considered programming. They also wanted to extend beyond music to other creative disciplines; the focus isn't solely on music and massages, but art, sport and crafts too. You can take classes in painting, listen to talks from yoga gurus or take a kayak out to sea. i-D had the pleasure of hosting both a stage with Jessy Lanza and The Invisible as well as a talk with The Invisible's Dave Okumu who discussed how everything from Prince to the sudden death of his mother in 2011 helped shape him as a musician. Later on that night, he played a storming set with his band as the sun set and the moon rose. It doesn't get much better…
4. Obonjan is painted real, real pretty.
A series of artists have been invited to help paint the Isle - from Camille Walala's amazing Tuck Shop wall, to Patternity's super sharp staff t-shirts, the island feels alive with art.
5. They book really, really great acts.
Shouts to booker Alice Lambe who has managed to procure a line-up that is both impressive and interesting. In addition to our own stage, during our four-day stay, we were treated to sets from Floating Points, Auntie Flo, Loyle Carner and Kate Tempest. Coming up over the next few weeks are performances from Anderson .Paak, Shura, DJ Shadow and Saul Williams, and DJ sets from Horsemeat Disco, Gilles Peterson, Matthew Herbert, Erol Alkan and Four Tet.
6. We should all start every day with meditation.
In a pine forest next to the sea with the sound of crickets adding to the vibrations. Ideally.
7. Crickets are loud. Really, really loud.
The one resounding sound you leave the island with - besides that of the crashing waves and occasional crazy winds - is that of the crickets. Maybe the pine trees act as a natural amplifier, but you have never heard a cricket like it. Part of Obonjan's charm is being so constantly close to nature; bedding down in the forest with both the birds and the bees, you can expect to see all sorts of cute creatures around the Island.
8. Sea urchins are twats.
Don't step on them. This being Croatia, Obonjan doesn't have beaches as such - the best way into the sea is to launch yourself from the manmade stone diving boards - that way those buggering sea urchins can't get you. It's really worth investing in some rock shoes before you arrive; that way you can wade all day without fear of standing on the sea equivalent of a hedgehog.
9. Deep tissue massages are the way forward.
It's hard to imagine any other festival where you leave feeling so refreshed, or indeed leave feeling anything but wishing you could crawl under a rock for a full five days. In addition to the pool, three separate restaurants, a tuck shop, a pavilion, the amphitheater and a sea-set bar, three's also a wellness center where you can sign up for free classes such as hypnotherapy and meditation. Outdoor early morning yoga is honestly the best. There are also an array of massages, including the deep tissue one that left us deliciously dazed for a full two days.
10. You can really, truly switch off.
There's something about being on an island that evokes a sense of solitariness - but not in a sad way. As one bellboy, a psychology student from Zagreb put it, 'You come to Obonjan and only Obonjan exists.' Amen to that. You can truly, truly scape from life on the isle. The wifi is great, fret not worker bees, but after day one you won't even care about using your 4G to show off on Insta, let alone checking non-important emails that can easily be ignored for a week. Enjoy Obonjan in the spirit it was intended; as a real opportunity to get away and live in the moment. It's the Obonjan way!
Text Hattie Collins
Photography Stephanie Sian Smith