As a yoga lover who struggles to find time for practice outside the retreats we host here at Lake Skadar (young kids, busy business!), I suddenly found myself with all the time in the world when I was put into two weeks' solitary quarantine in Podgorica last month! As the Coronavirus pandemic spread across Europe, Montenegro suddenly closed its borders while I was visiting the UK. Knowing yoga would help me maintain a strong mind and body through a mandatory 14 day confinement for returnees, I dashed out to buy a yoga mat before boarding a repatriation flight. Never was five quid better spent! Each day that followed, I rolled out my mat and set about a long restorative Hatha practice – at least an hour – guided by the brilliant Down Dog yoga app and always ending in a healing Savasana. As I progressed, I found myself mastering poses I had failed at before – Crow pose (Bakasana) & Hand to Big Toe Pose (Tadasana) - or hadn't managed since childhood (the wheel in my 40s!). It's true what they say about daily practice being the key to success. I also finally grasped the power of my breath. In just two weeks I felt stronger, fitter and more flexible than I had in ages. On the yoga holidays we run, workshops take place outside, early morning, on Villa Miela's tree-fringed yoga deck. It's when the birds sing their loudest and before the sun shines hot. Inside my four walls of quarantine, I saved my practice for late afternoons; something to look forward to and taking advantage of being able to watch the late winter sun lowering over the mountains beyond the city from my window. I like to do the same thing back at Villa Miela, but with no
As a yoga lover who struggles to find time for practice outside the retreats we host here at Lake Skadar (young kids, busy business!), I suddenly found myself with all the time in the world when I was put into two weeks’ solitary quarantine in Podgorica last month! As the Coronavirus pandemic spread across Europe,
My girlfriend and I arrived to volunteer at Undiscovered Montenegro for the 2020 season and obviously things have played out a little different than expected what with there being no actual guests for now! As a keen birder the bountiful birds certainly help compensate (Lake Skadar National Park has recorded over 270 species!) and they are completely oblivious to the current crisis. The villa and gardens here are nestled amongst a myriad of foliage and the cacophony of birdsong is never louder than now with the long, warm days and flowers coming into bloom. The nightingales have returned from Africa and seldom can you stand on the terrace without being serenaded with their fruity melodies. The scratchy song of Eastern subalpine warblers is ever-present as they flit around busily readying for the task of raising young. In the south-east of the UK, where I am from, the sighting of a Hawfinch would be an exciting occurrence but here it is quite common to see the black-and-white flash of their wings as they move through the treetops. By looking up you are rewarded with the aerial antics of house martins and red-rumped swallows and before long an alpine swift comes into view - dwarfing it’s smaller cousins with it’s half-metre wingspan. And this is all just from the villa and gardens! Lake Skadar itself offers a plethora of other rare and wonderful birds to discover. We managed to get out on the kayaks before total lockdown and the experience of floating gently through the reeds on a calm, sunny day while reed warblers sing from within and all around you pygmy cormorants, little and great crested grebes surface and disappear again is hard to put into words. If that wasn’t enough then the pièce de résistance is a group of Dalmatian
My girlfriend and I arrived to volunteer at Undiscovered Montenegro for the 2020 season and obviously things have played out a little different than expected what with there being no actual guests for now! As a keen birder the bountiful birds certainly help compensate (Lake Skadar National Park has recorded over 270 species!) and they
April is usually an extremely busy time for us at UM. We'd normally be knee-deep in enquiries and bookings, as well as working over-time to get our activity base, Villa Miela, and our equipment ready for our first week of guests. Lake Skadar and the surrounding valleys are looking gorgeous....but this year we won't be sharing the Easter break or our gorgeous grounds with anyone other than ourselves. No, this year we have curfews, partial lockdowns limiting us to the municipality we live in, traffic on the lake has been suspended and Emma still has a week of self-isolation to go following her 14 days in quarantine which means she isn't allowed to leave our property. I can go and walk our dog Coco for an hour a day and pop down to the local supermarket, but that's about it. For the foreseeable future we are more or less limited to the borders of our land. Just as well, then, that we're marooned in a quite stunning spot! We have cherry, plum and quince blossom on our trees, a swimming pool that might soon be warm enough to use (edit, our kids jumped in yesterday!) and with the spring season cancelled and summer looking like it may go the same way, to keep our spirits up we're using this pause to get stuck into some proper sustainable “projects". Almost every off-season since we started living at Lake Skadar a decade ago, we've had some sort of ambitious project going on at Villa Miela as we've attempted to improve the set up for our hosted activity holidays - (I might recount some of them in future blog posts). Why should 2020 be any different, especially as we now appear to have rather more time on our hands than we had anticipated?
April is usually an extremely busy time for us at UM. We’d normally be knee-deep in enquiries and bookings, as well as working over-time to get our activity base, Villa Miela, and our equipment ready for our first week of guests. Lake Skadar and the surrounding valleys are looking gorgeous….but this year we won’t be
In the middle of giant Lake Skadar National Park sits the tiny fishing "town" of Virpazar, one of Montenegro's historic trading centres dating from medieval times and, for the last 10 years, our home and activity base. The clue is in its name - 'Vir', which means confluence of rivers and 'Pazar', the Turkish word for 'market'. It's a beguiling, sleepy kind of place and the start point for many of our hiking and kayaking trips. These spectacular images will make you wonder why you'd never heard of it until now! All photographs are by the snap-happy me (Emma Heywood - co-founder of Undiscovered Montenegro). 1) Virpazar as seen from the 14th Century Besac Fortress 2) Summer view looking out from the old bridge 3) The historic monument to freedom celebrating 13th July 1878 and 1941 4) A magical autumn view of Virpazar cloaked in fog 5) We chose our activity base for its amazing location set by mountains and lake 6) Next to the lakeside are some great places to eat, like Konoba Badanj on the right 7) Reasons to love Virpazar #1 - it's surrounded by the incredible Lake Skadar National Park with all its nature! 8) When Lake Skadar's waters rise high, the reflected beauty around here is out of this world 9) There are some amazing hiking trails near Virpazar, you just need to know where 10) Virpazar is right on the shores of Lake Skadar, the largest pool of freshwater in southern Europe 11) This view of Virpazar has our activity base Villa Miela sitting pretty above it 12) This tiny fishing town oozes with characterful charm 13) Virpazar has a centuries' old port - the main gateway to vast Lake Skadar and the place to grab a boat tour 14) Our favourite view of
In the middle of giant Lake Skadar National Park sits the tiny fishing “town” of Virpazar, one of Montenegro’s historic trading centres dating from medieval times and, for the last 10 years, our home and activity base. The clue is in its name – ‘Vir’, which means confluence of rivers and ‘Pazar’, the Turkish word
As a UK business operating nature holidays and tours in Montenegro, including birdwatching, today (National Bird Day) seems the right time to tell you about one of the projects that we have been actively involved in recently as part of Undiscovered Montenegro's commitment to sustainable tourism and eco-awareness at Lake Skadar National Park. It's quite something to see the majestic Dalmatian Pelican up close. The pelicans are one of the biggest draws for visitors to the lake and we operate a stunning kayaking trip to see them in May/June that has left our lucky guests open-mouthed in amazement. Dalmatian pelicans are the heaviest flying birds in the world, sometimes topping the scales at 13kg and with wingspans over 3m. The trouble is, they are fussy breeders and are currently rated as "near threatened". Pelicans, you see, nest on floating vegetation, and when there isn't any, they don't nest at all. The National Park, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the Noe Foundation and CZIP (Montenegro's RSPCB) therefore have installed five man-made rafts in the pelicans' natural breeding area of Panceva Oka to give them a helping hand. These rafts have been so successful that pelican numbers have nearly doubled in the last five years (2017 saw the hatching of over 60 chicks, an annual high) - but the rafts are made of wood, and wood, when soaked constantly in water, will not last forever. When it was brought to our attention this year that the rafts were in dire need of repair and that local bodies did not have sufficient funding to manage this before the vital breeding season, we decided to donate the money, also enabling an upgrade to the solar-powered remote video monitoring system that has proven so vital in maintaining this habitat. It felt like we owed the pelicans, as
As a UK business operating nature holidays and tours in Montenegro, including birdwatching, today (National Bird Day) seems the right time to tell you about one of the projects that we have been actively involved in recently as part of Undiscovered Montenegro’s commitment to sustainable tourism and eco-awareness at Lake Skadar National Park. It’s quite something to
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