At Undiscovered Balkans, responsible tourism has been the backbone of our business since we started up in Montenegro in 2008. As the first tour operator in the region dedicated 100% to ‘sustainable travel’, our focus has always been creating small group adventures over longer stays, offering activities which are low impact on the environment – like hiking and kayaking – but high impact in experience and cultural connection!
The Balkans’ stunning national parks are fragile and endangered treasures in countries that are developing faster than they can legislate to protect their natural assets. Together with you, our guests, we are able to pioneer a better way of doing tourism, boosting rural economies through ‘slow travel’, spending days not hours in a single destination, and encouraging local people towards more sustainable tourism practices which are low or no carbon, support nature and tradition and celebrate locally-made food and products such as wine and honey. As such, we are proud to be the founder member of the Responsible Travel movement in Montenegro, as well as members of Adventure Travel Trade Association and National Geographic’s Western Balkans Geotourism project.
Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency: In January 2020, we joined leaders in our industry in signing a declaration of a climate emergency and committing to five actions to work towards carbon neutral tourism. Scroll down to read more about Tourism Declares and our climate actions.
Our Responsible Business Pledge: Undiscovered Balkans is committed to operating high quality adventures which minimise the environmental and social impacts of our guests, while actively supporting local conservation, tradition, culture and people. It is up to us to lead by example, demonstrating that a responsible travel model makes good business sense, creates better experiences for tourists and locals and offers a sustainable future for tourism in national parks across the Balkans.
Book to Give Back – every booking sparks a donation to our chosen local environmental and community causes!
Supporting pelican conservation
The rare Dalmatian Pelican is the emblem of Lake Skadar National Park, where we began our business, but it is a bird in peril. We donate a proportion of our company profits each year to help its vulnerable colony flourish, which means every tour booked with us helps the pelicans. Our funds have already helped the Skadar Lake Dalmatian Pelican Conservation Project to conduct essential repairs to artificial nesting rafts ahead of the 2018 and 2019 breeding seasons and complete a project to replace old solar units for video monitoring. Read more here.
Save Skadar Lake campaign
As part of the Save Skadar Lake campaign, we helped publicise and promote a petition and social media campaign to fight the construction of two large luxury resorts in an untouched area of Skadar Lake National Park. As a result of this campaign, in December 2019, the Bern Convention, Europe’s nature watchdog opened a case file to ensure that instead of building, the site concerned is conserved as a top level nature protection zone. For now, the diggers are halted and Lake Skadar, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and candidate ‘Emerald’ site for Europe, is protected for its wildlife and future generations. Read more here.
Local area clean-ups
Each year we arrange & support regular clean-ups in our local area, Virpazar – we even campaigned for and succeeded in getting the first ever waste bins and collection services for some of our local villages back in 2016! In 2019, together with friends, we decided to spread our desire for a clean Montenegro nationwide, co-founding OcistiME! (CleanME!), a movement to inspire citizen and government action. Through social media like Facebook, we report on and celebrate the citizen heroes arranging clean-ups and we’ve also launched a petition to ban single use plastic bags in Montenegro and do more – please sign it!
Our petition – http://bit.ly/plasticbagbanMNE
Filtered water bottles
We have always been committed to minimising the negative environmental impact of our guests, who often buy bottled water as a safe drinking source, so when we heard about LifeStraw’s refillable water bottles with a filter inside, we had to order some to try. This portable bottle removes 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and parasites, even from a puddle – an essential for any traveller and now on our list of what to bring for guests and part of our kit for tour guides. In fact, we are such fans of LifeStraw’s products, which can revolutionise lives in places without safe drinking water, that our founder Ben arranged to bring two of their larger filters by kayak to the nuns and monks of two remote island monasteries on Lake Skadar. Read more about LifeStraw water bottles here.
Supporting the community
When tourism involves the community, everyone benefits. Unlike many tour operators who are focused on profit for themselves, we are committed to boosting local economies where we run tours. ‘Going local’ is how we achieve this: employing and training local guides, choosing local partners for accommodation and tours who are small and often family-run, encouraging ‘slow travel’ so guests stay days, not hours, in a single destination and by taking our guests to local homes to dine, taste and buy locally-made honey, wine and other domestic produce. The benefits are not just economic but cultural too, fostering pride and value in maintaining local traditions – from bee-keeping and carp or ham-smoking, to wine-making, fishing and cottage farming. We also provide guests with a Travellers’ Code of Conduct.
Tara Kayak Fest
For years now we have provided sponsorship for Kayak Fest Tara, a fun, nature-based event which aims to raise environmental awareness & protect wild rivers in Montenegro. The festival has helped bring together activists from across the region for the Montenegrin leg of the Balkan River Defence. This inspiring gathering of music, culture and paddling is organised by our amazing guide, Gigo, who when he is less busy also runs our kayaking holidays across Lake Skadar and into Albania!
Zero Waste Montenegro
Developing countries are doing their best but still have some way to go when it comes to waste management and awareness levels on recycling and reducing disposable plastics. As such, we are proud to be sponsors of a new and much-needed campaign called Zero Waste Montenegro. Current projects include campaigning for a ban on plastic bags, raising awareness of recycling centres and bringing to market the first reusable bags made of recycled materials for Montenegrin consumers. Read more here.