Montenegro bird watching holiday
Description of Montenegro bird watching holiday
On this Montenegro bird watching holiday, you will be based at Lake Skadar National Park, one of Europe's top five sites for migratory birds. Our small group holiday takes place at a magical time of year – the crossover of migration with breeding season. Vast Lake Skadar and its connected Bojana Delta are both Important Bird Areas and stunningly beautiful too. Home to the rare Dalmatian Pelican and the world's second largest colony of Pygmy Cormorant, you will have the chance to see wetland life in all its glory, from Glossy Ibis and Squacco Heron to bitterns, grebes, egrets, terns and more. Over 280 different species of bird are attracted by the variety of habitats at these amazing and extensive wetlands (more than 400 square kilometres in all), including open water, floating vegetation, rocky shores, marshland, rushing rivers and forested hinterland.
Further inland, a visit to UNESCO-protected Durmitor National Park offers up the chance to see alpine species, Nutcracker and Three-toed Woodpecker, while exploring the ancient coniferous forests covering much of this untouched mountainous region.
Your base for the week is a beautifully restored stone farmhouse, Villa Miela, at Lake Skadar National Park - a prime site for bird-watching in its own right. Set high on the hillside above pretty lake village Virpazar, with panoramic views over mountain, valley and water, watch out for birds such as Rock Nuthatch from the terrace and even the occasional eagle! A well-stocked shared kitchen and outside gas BBQ provide self-catering facilities. Accommodation for our overnight at Durmitor is half-board at a small hotel on the edge of Zabljak.
Your expert guide is Andrej Vizi, one of Montenegro’s leading ornithologists. National Biodiversity Research Associate for Ornithology, Curator of the National History Museum of Montenegro and the authority behind the monitoring of winter birds nationwide (IWC and national representative), Andrej takes a special interest in the research of the Dalmatian Pelican breeding areas at Lake Skadar. He’s also a great guy!
PlanetWe want our holidays to be high impact in experience but low impact on the environment! Once you’re at the villa, transport will be mostly on foot, kayak or bike, with car transfers provided to starting points for excursions or restaurants if needed.
Lake Skadar is a National Park and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and your visit and National Park fees will help sustain sensitive tourism and protection for this area. As such, our tour guides will encourage you to behave in an eco-friendly manner at all times by supporting the Leave No Trace principles –travelling where possible along marked water channels, disposing of waste properly, leaving what you find (unless it’s other people’s rubbish!), respecting wildlife and being considerate of other visitors and the local community.
All our tours involve visits to USAid-financed tourist information centres dotted about the lake – a project which is locally managed, locally staffed and aims to educate visitors about the lake’s special ecology and cultural traditions. We are also working with German eco-tourism NGO GIZ and the World Bank funded 'Albania and Montenegro Lake Skadar Joint Eco-systems Project' to identify formal ways for our customers to volunteer and directly benefit the environment during their stay.
The accommodation for this holiday, Villa Miela, has been sensitively restored by its British owners, drawing praise from the local community and visitors for conserving historic architectural features such as the solid stone archway in the "konoba" (ground floor), once used for storing wine and smoking hams and carp, or the tiny original windows which help maintain a naturally cool interior. As the first such renovation in the area, it is hoped that the villa will encourage more regeneration along these lines and deter less scrupulous investors from knocking down such buildings and replacing them with cheaper concrete structures.
With metre-thick stone walls, air-conditioning is neither needed, nor provided, and guests are encouraged to use fans only when necessary and to turn off all electric fans/lights on leaving the room.
Guests are also asked to keep water use to a minimum, especially important during the dry summer months. The village has no mains water connection and while Villa Miela's water reservoir is fed by mountain-spring during winter, this source dries up in the summer.
PeopleWe have built strong links with local communities at Lake Skadar and support their maintenance of threatened traditions – from bee-keeping, fishing and carp-smoking to the making of wine, cheese, olive-oil and flavoured brandies. You can help us raise awareness among the local population of these stunning RAMSAR protected wetlands, and the benefits to be had from conservation of one of the largest natural birding sites in Europe.
Sadly, hunting birds is not taboo in rural Montenegro but by meeting you and our other guests and discussing issues like conservation, bird protection and the potential of birding holidays as a form of tourism which can boost the local economy (with our help to interpret ), members of the local community will learn to value our feathered friends.
Additionally, by visiting home-producers and buying their wares, you will build pride, contribute to the local economy and encourage the development of eco-tourism in an area where tourism needs examples of how to develop sustainably.
You’ll meet local people like Hassan Muratovic and his wife Nada at remote Murici beach and learn about their ethnic Albanian culture and traditional way of fishing. English isn’t widely spoken round the lake, but your guides will be able to translate to make each interaction create a valuable cultural exchange between you and your host community. Your visit really counts in a remote, beautiful and unknown Balkan destination which is still suffering from decades of impoverishment caused by urban migration and the 1990s Yugoslavian war.
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