Recently I saw a video about the Ulcinj Salinas and I was so enthusiastic that I decided to go and visit this nature reserve that is still rather unknown in Montenegro and beyond as soon as possible. With 250 registered bird species, the Solana is a paradise for birdwatchers: spoonbills, Dalmatian pelicans, flamingos and various birds of prey are regular visitors here. More than a quarter of the bird species in Montenegro are nesting in this Important Bird Area (IBA) on the Adriatic Flyway.
And so we visited the ‘Ulcinjska Solana’ on a sunny winter day, with the help of Michael Bader from Utjeha/Bar, who intends to organizе guided excursions to this beautiful place (for more detailed information: firstname.lastname@example.org). And although we did not see flamingos – as we expected – we were completely astonished at the natural beauty of this huge area and the numerous birds we could spot.
As the Salina with its 1500 hectares is private property, our visit had to be announced in advance. After a phone call with the manager we could enter the gate, leaving our passports with the guard. We were told that it is prohibited to make photographs of the dilapidated administrative and industrial buildings that once belonged to the salt works, which are now economically unviable and out of use. Indeed, the buildings do not look attractive, but certainly represent an opportunity for future investments, of course, in a controlled way.
With our small car we could drive along the canal, although some parts of the trail were flooded. Entering the first (educative) trail on our right side, we continued on the grass path that was rather muddy and slippery at some places. We passed by the salt basins, the rusty railway and old wagons. Corroded machinery for salt production was just left here and there . But of course, we also saw many, many birds.
Cormorants were drying their wings on naked trees in the shallow water and seagulls were resting in large groups in the salt flats. A lonely gray heron was flying just above the water surface. We saw a buzzard hanging in the sky and even a kingfisher sitting in the reeds.
The day was sunny, but very windy and after a drive of around 4 kilometers, we arrived at the watch tower. Alas! No paddling flamingos, no pelicans. Just the sound of seagulls and the experience of complete silence in a huge open space. What a natural wealth, what a beauty!
I knew that the owner of the company had tried for years to drain the basins and to convert them into a tourist complex with hotels and golf courses. Fortunately, with the support of Birdlife International and other conservation organizations, CZIP (Center for Protection and Research of Birds in Montenegro) has recently succeeded in persuading the government to protect the area from development, at least for the next ten years.
Nowadays, many activities are underway for the promotion of eco-tourism and birdwatching in the salt pans. The museum will be renovated, birdwatching towers will be built (one of them is already in use), a gift shop will be opened and for the first time in Montenegro, local guides will lead natural walks along ecological and educative trails: signposts and informative boards have already been placed.
Our trip was just an introductory exploration of an area that promises so much for the future! Walking, jogging, biking, birdwatching – the salt pans offer many possibilities! This is the kind of tourism Montenegro should promote. This is the future of Montenegro as tourist destination!
And finally, if you want to see the flamingos, just watch this fantastic video: