Best Projects 2019 features all the nominated entries submitted ‘Submit your Project’ category. All the entries consist of innovative projects run by existing enterprises in the form of businesses, NGOs or informal programs.
Brown Bears in Northern Pindos
Explain your project in details:
During this trip, travellers learn about bear research methods and follow bear tracks. The main purpose of this holiday package is to give everyday people the opportunity to join a scientific research that tracks wild animals in their natural habitat. This way, the traveller understands the difficulties field scientists face, and support their actions both financially and via volunteering. They learn how wildlife monitoring takes place in difficult and unreachable parts of the mountain, and help maintain the shape of the trail system, so that they are more accessible during emergencies. They help set up camera traps to monitor the passing wildlife and keep note of biomarkers that hint the presence of various species. Furthermore, this is a responsible and sustainable means of tourism. Although bears are secretive animals, Northern Pindos provides good chances of viewing these magnificent animals in their natural environment, without baiting. Since animal welfare and travellers safety are our main concern, there is no bear baiting and therefore no 100% wild bear spotting guarantee. However, people will see bears for sure, in the bear sanctuary we visit, where orphaned or rescued bears are kept for rehabilitation. Lastly, the holiday takes place in a very little known corner of Greece, which is far away from the main touristic hotspots. Hence, travellers contribute to the support of the local community. This is done by bringing a piece of the tourism cake in this less known region of Greece, where many people abandon their villages to find a life in the city and only depend on agriculture or shepherding. During the programme they consume mainly local products and aim to reduce plastic use, and excessive wasting. As a visitor you raise awareness about the rich biodiversity of the place and locals see the importance of protecting the natural habitat.
Impact of your enterprise on sustainable development
Our vision has always been to make Tourism, a tool for Nature Conservation. When you travel on our tours, this is achieved in several ways: As a visitor you raise awareness about the rich biodiversity of the place. More locals see the importance of protecting their region and the natural habitat. Natural Greece collaborates with several Greek (NGOs), promoting and actively supporting their cause. On many trips travellers support biodiversity conservation: a donation for a Greek nature organization is included in the tour price. This is the case for our Bear Tours. When touring, interactions with wildlife do not produce adverse effects on the viability and behaviour of populations in the wild any disturbance of natural ecosystems is minimized, and travelers follow up expert advice. Furthermore we offer the option to offset carbon emissions for the trips We aim to reduce our plastic use and organise actions in collaboration with Plastic Free Greece The bear tours of Natural Greece are led by experts on bears. This means you will get to know a lot about these large mammals. You also get an insight in bear conservation, learn about research methods like radio-tracking and bear trapping and follow bear tracks. During these trips there is no 100% wild bear watching guarantee (there is a bear watching guarantee because groups visit the bear shelter) because no baiting or other methods are used that will disturb the natural behaviour of the animals, unlike many other bear holidays on offer in other countries. In 2019, 25 Natural Greece travellers donated 1.250 to the Bear Emergency Team of CALLISTO! The Bear Emergency Team (BET) operates and intervenes whenever a wild animal is hurt or in danger (think vehicle-bear collisions). The team also intervenes when needed in case of interactions between wild animals and humans.
Sustainability and future plans
By providing financial help to the NGO that works for the monitoring and the protection of large terrestrial mammals in Greece, we help maintain their work and enlarge their focus (currently being wolves and bears). Our funding comes mainly from the travellers that choose to join our natural experiences and is channeled within various partners. These consist of our office team, the local biologist who guides the group through the forest, local family-run businesses such as hotels and restaurants that work with local produce and the NGO Callisto. More than 10% of our income goes to Nature Conservation Projects. Apart from this, the tours also help sustain the financial support to the local community, which is suffering from urbanization and unemployment.
Your profile as an entrepreneur
Ever since I can remember myself I have been interested in the natural environment and the wellbeing of wildlife. I wanted to learn everything there is to know about animals and spend my life studying them. Thus, came to me the idea of becoming a field biologist. After the strenuous exams, one has to undertake in Greece to be accepted in the University, I managed to complete my goal and join the Biology department of the National University of Athens. During my college years, I steered my studies towards the fields of Zoology and Ecology, in order to be part of the greater research community. I took my thesis on the behaviour of a little studied warbler species and from there, I started taking part in many activities of various environmental NGOs. Thats how I met Callisto Environmental Organization for Wildlife and Nature. I have been offering environmental education to schools on behalf of them for the past 4 years and this is how I met Chantel of Natural Greece. All of us together are working towards a sustainable future for Greeces wildlife. Who knew Greece has brown bears? When you think about Greece, all that comes to mind is crystal clear beaches and white-blue houses. Dont get me wrong, these are wonderful as well. But Greece is so much more than that! It is one of the richest countries in the EU concerning biodiversity and the richest in the Mediterranean when it comes to habitat diversity. Only here, you can climb at the peak of a mountain to meet the Olympian Gods and in 15 mins be able to swim at the sea. Our goal is to show people this other Greece, where apart from touristic beaches, you can find wild animals, rare flowers and dense forests.