Since I have already written a line or two in the past about intermittent natural wonders in Slovenia, allow me to jump a little farther this time and take you to Montenegro. On 2 February, we celebrated – or commemorated? or maybe didn’t even know it existed? – the World Wetlands Day. I guess that made you think of the Ljubljana moors. Yes, this area is also an extremely precious wetland. Personally, I like to remember what it was like when I moved to Ljubljana as a student and how much its moors captivated me. Rubber boots became a constant in my life as I roamed around the moors, discovering their secrets with a smile on my face and unbridled joy in my heart. This is why I still like to come back to the periphery, even now.
Maybe “wetland” is not exactly the most felicitous word to describe it; its role is, however, priceless. In addition to being the largest purification plants on the planet, they also provide us with drinking water, food, and construction material, allow us to benefit from the opportunities for recreation and relaxation they have to offer, mitigate extreme weather phenomena, etc.
This time, our path will take us a little farther than to the edge of our capital. We’ll travel to Montenegro to see Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula. The Lake Skadar National Park in Montenegro is the only national park dominated by water and marsh ecosystems. The lake is an IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area) of international importance, since it provides a home, a nesting place, an overwintering area or a migration stop for over 280 bird species; in addition, it is also protected by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The trademark of Lake Skadar is the extremely rare Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), a species endangered in Europe. Of course, it would have been wonderful to see one in the wild. Unfortunately, we didn't see any pelicans in 2013, despite waking up extremely early (at 4 a.m.) and boating through a substantial portion of Lake Skadar, nearly reaching the Albanian border. However, we were captivated by terns, and fascinated by thousands of cormorants. As far as pelicans go, we’ll just have to try our luck next time, or maybe head to Greece or neighbouring Albania. But that doesn't take away from the experience of the lake.
Its surface belongs to both Montenegro and Albania. The size of this lake of tectonic-karstic origin fluctuates significantly, reaching from 370 km2 up to 530 km2, which of course depends on rainfall. The lake is also characterised as a sublacustrine cryptodepression, meaning that in certain places, the surface of the lake is lower than the surface of the sea. At the same time, its coasts are broken down by numerous bays, peninsulas and headlands, whereas much of the marshy territory is overgrown by rushes and reeds.
Not only birds are interesting in these parts: other species represented in this animal kingdom are just as varied and diverse. Of the 50 different mammal species, otter must also be mentioned; in addition, 15 out of 48 species of fish living in the lake are endemic, and the list of such species only begins with them. But let’s not get carried away by enumerating them all ...
It is true that the richness of the area lies in the species one can find there, but it can also be found in the heritage expressed through contact with the people living there. Local churches, monasteries, and friendly fishing villages will probably make an impression on visitors of Lake Skadar.
The locals will be glad to strike up a conversation, showing the pride they take in the area, and will probably offer you a glass of their best rakija (homemade hard liquor) while telling you about “the Venice of Montenegro” – the village of Rijeka Crnojevića.
I must say that personally, I was equally captivated by the biodiversity of Lake Skadar and by the Venice of Montenegro. The river bends and vistas in Rijeka Crnojevića are truly breathtaking, and the hospitable locals only add a cherry on top of what truly becomes an unforgettable experience. One of them took us to a special part of his land where an already beautiful view proved out to be even more impressive. But you’ll have to see it to believe it ...
Petra Draškovič Pelc
Born in the Slovene Štajerska, she chose to live in Kočevje and the mere thought of adventures in the wild nature of Alaska gets her heart racing like a wild animal. She enjoys silence, peace and the beauty of the light-flooded wilds of all the untouched corners of the world, as well as the beauty of her local Kočevje-area and Slovenia. She is an enthusiastic traveler, a curious admirer of nature, a tourist guide, author of countless articles in Slovenia as well as abroad and a doctor in biomedical science, who found her calling in (natural scientific) photography. Throughout her work with ARS NATURAE she tries to express love towards nature and its preservation.