The tectonic lakes of Ohrid and Prespa are some of the oldest lakes in the world, and form an area of extraordinary beauty and biodiversity. Surrounded by high mountain peaks and centuries-old juniper forests, the region is home to several species found nowhere else in the world, while the surrounding wetlands and reedbeds provide habitats for hundreds of thousands of wintering water birds.
Our tour includes a boat trip on Great Prespa Lake to the island of Maligrad Island, keeping watch along the way for the lake’s most famous residents, the rare Dalmatian pelicans, as well as hundreds of pygmy cormorants.
We will spend three nights in the mountain village of Voskopojë, an important cultural centre during its mid 18th century heyday. At its zenith, the city was bigger than Athens and housed a university and a printing press – the second in the Ottomon Empire after that of Constantinople.
Voskopojë will be our base for local forest walks, looking out for varied birdlife including goshawk, red-backed shrike, and hawfinch amongst the pine, fir, beech and oak.
Our tour will then transfer to the coastal town of Vlorë, surrounded by mountains and overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The ‘Albanian Riviera’ is a patchwork of different habitats, from the forested mountains of Llogara National Park to the lagoons of Orikum, Narta and Karavasta. Here, we will look out for wetland birdlife including flamingos, great white egret, avocet and spoonbill, as well as numerous migrating waders from Russia and northeastern Europe.
We will stay at three-star hotels throughout.
Maximum group size is 15. Our tour will include gentle local walks of up to five miles. Participants should be comfortable walking over sometimes rugged terrain, and a good level of fitness is required for this tour.
Top Five Birds
- Pygmy Cormorant
- Dalmatian Pelican
- Greater Flamingo
- Alpine Swift
- Ferruginous Duck
At Terra Incognita we support tours that do good in the world. They must help to conserve the environment, support local people, and educate their guests. Here’s what Kevin Hand from ACE Foundation said to us…
What conservation activities do you support through the tour, and your wider operations?
ACE Tour Director Kevin Hand introduces his new project to help save Albania’s wild vulture population. We have also supported major conservation projects linked to tours in for example Madagascar, Ecuador and South Africa.
For 30 years I had wanted to visit Albania and in 2015 my dream came true. The country was undeveloped, had wonderful wildlife and some of the friendliest people in Europe. As a previously closed Communist country, Albania had escaped many of the agricultural developments which have changed our own landscape.
I was delighted to find that the government had responded to negative criticism about killing of migrant birds by making all shooting illegal, a ban that has now been in place for 3 years. As I planned out my first ACE tour there, I approached the young and enthusiastic members of PPNEA – a wildlife charity set up immediately after the fall of the previous regime – and asked how the ACE Foundation might be able to help.
PPNEA explained that very little was known about the wildlife of the remoter parts of the country, particularly the birds of prey and vultures. Three of the four European vultures may no longer breed, with the last known griffon vulture dying after hitting power lines in 2016, much to the sadness of the local villagers who had been feeding and caring for it. There were just 8 known nests of Egyptian vultures remaining.
Together we formulated a plan to support them in their work, by sending over a small team of UK volunteer to join others from Albania, Bulgaria and Greece to help monitor nests. Some members of my first tour to Albania are going back with me this summer to help!
We set up a Crowdfunder page (link below) to raise the funds need and ACE Cultural Tours has agreed to match what we raise. A strong secondary aim was to raise awareness of the beauty and value of Albanian wildlife, both within the country and with potential visitors from the UK and elsewhere.
The first ACE tour went really well, and the second, in October 2017, is nearly full; another is planned for 2018. On our first tour PPNEA staff met our group and explained their work on vultures and other key issues like protecting the rare Balkan lynx. We saw flamingos, ancient churches and mosques..and PPNEA made it onto the BBC, with an episode of From Our Own Correspondent talking about Dalmation pelicans and the wonderful Albanian coastal wetlands.
How does the tour support local people?
Working directly with Albanian NGO PPNEA, and of course with local hotel owners, restaurants, guides and drivers.
What type of environmental education activities do you incorporate into your tour?
Talks from PPNEA staff, and me, daily discussion of conservation issues, visits to threatened sites, involvement in our vulture projects.
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Tour Operator | ACE Foundation
Contact Name | Kevin Hand
Contact Email | [email protected]
Website | https://www.aceculturaltours.co.uk/
Tour Info | https://www.aceculturaltours.co.uk/tours/Wildlife-of-Albania-wial-18