Conservation volunteering in Estonia
Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.
How Conservation volunteering in Estonia makes a difference
Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve - The floodplain complex is the second largest in Estonia and one of the largest still open floodplain complexes surviving in the whole of Europe. The cease in traditional management activities that have been practiced for centuries on the floodplain meadows - haymaking and grazing - threatens the reserves unique natural values.
This is critical habitat protection work - preserving the meadow which is an important feeding area for migratory birds and other wildlife; and establishing and improving conditions for management and restoration of semi-natural habitats. A significant aspect of the work is the linkage between human activities and nature: ensuring traditional beneficial landscape management, abandoned during Soviet times, is started again.
Laelatu Wooded Meadow - Formed over hundreds of years, it takes less than ten for the characteristic species composition and diversity to be lost from wooded meadows, unless traditional management is maintained. These unique and sensitive habitats have been lost at terrifying rates - from 8.5 million ha at the beginning of the 20th century, to less than 1000 ha now. This reflects changes in farming practices, and to some extent, the impact of farm collectivisation during the Soviet era. In Estonia however, the decline has not been so comprehensive as elsewhere in Europe, and these remaining pockets are of increasing national, European and global importance.
Wooded meadows represent a number of natural and cultural values. They distinguish form other agricultural landscapes because of the unusually high plant species richness at both ecosystem and micro-community levels. For this reason they are of great interest to many scientists. These natural communities are habitats for many rare and endangered species. Wooded meadows have a remarkable aesthetic expressed in the diverse flora and fauna as well as in the characteristic heterogeneous appearance of half-opened landscape. Wooded meadows encompass the set of ancient agricultural traditions including former working methods, tools and celebrations related to agricultural activities. They serve an example of respectful, sustainable and wise attitudes towards nature.
Our work on the ground is directly recreating these traditions and helping to preserve and restore this unique, valuable and threatened landscape.
Alam-Pedja Nature Reserve - Our accommodation is in the village of Palupõhja by the River Emajõgi. Palupõhja, with a population of 12 is the only proper village in the nature reserve and lies amid acres of floodplains, swamp forests, bogs and a network of rivers.
We'll be self-catering as a group and in fine weather much of this we hope to do by campfire.
This holiday takes place in a remote and wild area, so the nightlife is what you make it - this is one for those who really want to get away from it all. However, as well as some fantastic bird and wildlife watching, several other optional activities are included in the holiday:
- boat-trip and canoeing on the Emajõgi river - see beavers and other fantastic wildlife;
- a hiking tour of the Laeva peat-bog;
- a night walk to hear the wolves (wolves permitting!);
- a day off with sight-seeing and exploring in Tartu and southern Estonia - seeking out local cultural events.
Laelatu Wooded Meadow - We'll be staying in the remote former Karuse railway station - an 80 year old traditional building just a 50m dash from sauna.
The house itself, owned by a dynamic young adventurer is being renovated in a sustainable way and constitutes part of the old railway station now partly turned into a hostel. It's a work in progress - an interesting renovation ongoing - but the guesthouse functions to meet modest needs with a cozy atmosphere and a lot of character.
This holiday takes place in a remote and wild area, so the nightlife is mainly owls and bats - this is one for those who really want to get away from it all. However, as well as some fantastic bird and wildlife watching, several other optional activities are included in the holiday:
These will include:
- a day trip to nearby Matsalu National Park;
- plenty of opportunities to swim in the sea;
- evening camp fires;
- an Estonian speaking workshop;
- some evening visits and talks from experts;
- and more saunas than you can shake a birch twig at.
Conservation volunteering in Estonia