Ecotourism is a great opportunity to get to know your native country better
A more thorough study of flora and fauna and increased environmental protection have led to a logical result — the tourist potential of Belarusian forests and swamps, rivers and lakes is growing. The MT reporter took a closer look at the most interesting services and routes.
Eco we need
Belarus is actively working to protect and increase the population of rare animals, birds and plants. And it is very successful at it. At the same time, specially protected natural areas are not some kind of closed space, but places that can and should be visited. Specialists of the Ministry of Nature and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection have repeatedly emphasised that ecological tourism is a powerful educational tool. It not only provides knowledge and broadens one's horizons, but also leads to an increased awareness of the value of the country’s natural heritage. If a person does not have a clear understanding of the fragile beauty of the world around us, then there is no motivation to protect it either.
All over the world, specially protected natural areas, as accumulators of the main resources of biological and landscape diversity, are of the greatest interest for the development of ecological tourism.
In Belarus, the system of specially protected natural areas includes more than 1,300 objects, which occupy a little more than 9 percent of the country’s total land. At the same time, according to experts, there is an uneven distribution of tourists along eco-routes. For example, almost 518 thousand tourists visited the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park last year. This in itself is not bad, but there are many other equally impressive places in our country, the beauty of which is worth seeing. Moreover, the development of domestic tourism in recent years has helped bring the infrastructure for recreation in the regions to a decent level.
Meeting in the forest
Our country is an ideal place for a peaceful safari. Each season of the year can give you amazing encounters with animals and birds in protected forests. The main thing is to know where to apply for organising a tour.
So, in the fall, tourists are lured to the Pripyatsky National Park by a ‘natural performance’. In the main roles are male red deer, who arrange spectacular mating battles at dawn and dusk. For several weeks, dozens of males with luxurious horns arrange a real massacre to find out who is stronger and who can gather girlfriends around him. There is a lot at stake: the losing individuals remain alone until next autumn. Since deer are not as careful during the mating season as at other times, you can watch them from the observation tower equipped in the national park.
A winter feature in Pripyatsky is the Night of the Wolves. The unique programme includes a wild lecture, a quest and an excursion to the habitat of the pack. Moreover, for 3-3.5 hours on forest stitches in the dark, there is a great chance to hear the wolves themselves. At the end — a picnic by a large fire and a master class on making a souvenir from felt.
In a similar scenario, you can visit owls, badgers or beavers. In summer, experts invite you to take part in bird ringing or birdwatching. It is important that meetings with wild forest dwellers are safe both for humans and for the animals themselves.
Ecotourism is also being actively developed in the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve. There is an opportunity to watch moose and red deer during the rutting season, get on a grouse lek in the summit bogs and even see how brown bears go hunting for... oats! Yes, yes, the diet of clubfoot is 3/4 vegetable.
“We have been engaged in ecological tourism for a long time. At the same time, in order for us to be successful in this market, we must follow a number of rules and move in certain directions. First, you need a good team. To implement this task, we have created a tourism department, where highly qualified specialists work. Secondly, infrastructure is needed. We have it well developed, but we are not resting on our laurels. In particular, we offer walks along ecological paths, cycling routes, horseback riding, a number of demonstration objects — the Museum of Nature, the Museum of Honey and Beekeeping,” says Andrei Prokoshin, Director of the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve.
One of the most interesting locations of the reserve is the forest zoo, where animals have found shelter, which, for various reasons, cannot survive in the wild.
Where does the trail lead
At the end of September, lovers of walking in the swamps gathered the ecological holiday Zhurauli i Zhuraviny Miyorskaga Kraju. In autumn, the cranberry picking season starts in the Yelnya Swamp, at the same time thousands of cranes stop here, which tend to go south before the cold. You can even see grey-winged birds against the background of bright scarlet berries even from the eco-trail, 1.5 kilometres long. At the same time, travel services are becoming more personalised every year and cover a wide variety of social and age groups. So, in the state environmental institution (GPU) Yelnya, a weekend tour for people with disabilities called the Byaskontaya Tayamnitsa was developed, and an ecological quest called Who Lives and What Grows in the Yelnya Swamp appeared.
Today, 53 ecological trails and 185 tourist routes have been laid on the territory of the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve, four national parks, 29 reserves of republican and six local reserves, as well as the natural monument Golubaya Krinitsa, in addition, there are 284 tourist camps. The essence of this infrastructure is not only to facilitate the stay of tourists in the forest. Eco trails are always laid taking into account the least human impact on the environment. Remember, in the forest we are not masters, but only guests!