Montenegro Birding Holiday – Lake Skadar, Bojana Delta, Durmitor

“Montenegro has a wonderful variety of bird life and we were privileged to be taken around the country by two ornithological experts, Mihailo and Andrej…[our holiday] was a resounding success, and an unforgettable experience.” Elizabeth Oakley, April 2018

Group bird watching holiday with expert guide
Departure date: 5th May 2019
Individual bookings accepted

Enjoy an incredible week bird-watching in the untamed nature of wild Montenegro. Starting at Lake Skadar National Park, you will discover one of Europe’s top five sites for migratory birds at that magical time of year when migration crosses 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, mud flats, rocky shores, marshland, rushing rivers and forested hinterland.

Further inland, a visit to UNESCO-protected Durmitor National Park will offer 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 beautifully restored 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.

This holiday supports pelican conservation at Lake Skadar – for every booking, we donate 10%


Your expert guides Andrej Vizi is one of Montenegro’s leading ornithologists. 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 and is also the project coordinator for bird ringing in Montenegro.

Mihailo Jovičević works at Faculty of Natural Science, Department Biology and is also an active member in the NGO Montenegrin Ecologists Society, non-profit organization whose aim is to offer an effective model for facing current challenges in the area of nature conservation. He has so far conducted several projects concerning the research and protection of a few endangered species on both national and regional level.

Itinerary:

Day 1, Sunday 5 May:

25 minute transfer from Podgorica airport to Villa Miela near Virpazar, Lake Skadar National Park. Group welcome dinner.

Day 2, Monday 6 May:

Boat trip to Europe’s most westerly colony of the Dalmatian Pelican – an endangered species and arguably the world’s largest water bird. In a private wooden motor boat, we will chug gently along Lake Skadar’s mirrored waters to reach the remote north eastern shores and this rare and magnificent bird’s breeding grounds. On the way we will stop by the roosting areas of Pygmy and Great Cormorants and are almost guaranteed to chance upon Glossy Ibis, Squacco Heron, Ferruginous Duck, Whiskered Tern and other species, while Scops Owl and raptors such as Short-toed Eagle are not unusual to see from here. Packed ‘brunch’ included.

Day 3, Tuesday 7 May:

In the morning we take a scenic drive above the lake’s stunning southern shores to look for species which frequent the rocky crags and corse Mediterranean shrub by the sides of the high mountain road: Subalpine Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Eastern Orphean, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush… From here, we head away from the lake for a visit to the Cijevna Canyon, just a half hour drive from Virpazar. This is one of the most beautiful karst rivers in the region, an Important Bird Area, with its water flowing all the way to Albania. We lunch at a restaurant set by gushing waterfalls before exploring this beautiful landscape (another Important Bird Area) and its avian life.

Day 4, Wednesday 8 May:

Visit to the Ulcinj saltpans and Bojana Delta, Montenegro’s top site for waders. Right by the border with Albania, close to Lake Skadar’s exit to the sea via the Bojana river, lies a series of shallow pans with next to no vegetation. They attract an exciting array of water birds (241 species recorded) including Greater Flamingo, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Roller. The site is an Important Bird Area and considered one of Europe’s most important locations for winter migration with its position on the Southeast Europe flyway. Lunch is at a fish restaurant on the banks of the Bojana river, where we later spend some more time spotting birds.

Day 5, Thursday 9 May:

Free day. Your personal time to relax and enjoy Villa Miela’s hot tub or head out on an excursion of your own choice. Several charming Venetian stone towns on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast are within easy reach.

Day 6, Friday 10 May:

We leave Virpazar early to drive north into the mountains, stopping on the way for lunch and a walk at Biogradska Gora National Park, home to one of Europe’s last primeval forests and a variety of bird species including Crested Tit, Yellow and Blue Tits, raptors including Imperial Eagle. From here we continue by road past the Tara Canyon, the second deepest in the world, and on to our accommodation in Durmitor National Park in time for dinner (included). This pleasant hotel is located at the edge of tourist centre Zabljak and has a wonderful view of valley, forest and mountains.

Day 7, Saturday 11 May:

We spend the morning exploring Durmitor’s UNESCO protected forests of conifer, juniper, fir and pine and looking out for some of the 163 bird species which have been recorded here: Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers, Nutcracker, Common Crossbill, Goshawk. In the afternoon, we begin the journey back to Virpazar and Lake Skadar via the impressive Skakavac waterfall. Overnight is at Villa Miela.

Day 8, Sunday 12 May:

Departure. Check out is at 10am.

Price – £ 790 per person.

Includes: accommodation for 7 nights, welcome dinner and 1 other evening meal, 5 guided birding excursions, lunches on excursion days, all transportation while in Montenegro. Flights not included. Single supplement £ 200.

VILLA MIELA

A beautifully renovated farmhouse with modern facilities, Villa Miela is the ideal base for guests on our Lake Skadar multi-activity holidays. With panoramic views and a prime location offering easy access to the lake’s southern and northern shores as well as Virpazar’s restaurants and shops, it’s the perfect place to stay for families, couples and groups of friends. Make new friends as you share the well stocked kitchen, gorgeous outdoor terrace, gas BBQ and hot tub, or take over the whole complex if your group numbers 6 or more (a supplement may be charged).

At a glance

Sleeps 8-10 with 2 double rooms, 1 twin and 1 4-bed dorm room, each with private bathroom
Modern kitchen with all amenities
Free WIFI
Open-plan living room with TV, DVD player and library of books and films
Large terrace with gas barbecue, loungers, hammocks, boules court, swimming pool; incredible views over lake, valley and mountains
Extensive grounds with hot tub/plunge pool, orchard and wild tortoises
Two minutes from the lake shore, 30 minutes from the Adriatic coast
Free use of mountain bikes

Exposed stone details and wooden ceilings and floors add to the charm, with locally produced, handmade bedspreads and bathroom soaps also handmade from olive oil. Stunning views are offered up by each bedroom and the open-plan living area.

The modern kitchen comes equipped with washing-machine and dishwasher, and there is a DVD library available.

Staying at Villa Miela is recommended by top travel media such as the Lonely Planet and Bradt Guides to Montenegro, the Guardian and Daily Telegraph newspapers and National Geographic Traveller magazine. Read more about our activity base here.

PLEASE NOTE, THE FRIDAY NIGHT IS SPENT IN ŽABLJAK, DURMITOR NP.