Gap Year Wildlife Conservation
Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch is the only genuine working guest ranch in Croatia, surrounded by 2 million acres of UNESCO protected pristine wilderness. Intimate and very private, the guest ranch offers a wide range of first class eco-adventures, superbly blended with the casual elegance and quaint amenities.
All aspects of conservation are addressed during your experience. As a conservation volunteer you will assist in the ongoing conservation projects that take place in the area and your research will be used in making important conservation decision for the area of Velebit.
- Wildlife watching for species including Brown Bear, Eurasian lynx, Balkan chamois, red and roe deer and if lucky Grey wolf
- Bird watching for iconic species such as Golden eagle, capercaillie, Griffon vulture and a various types of owl and woodpecker
- Wolf howling at night
- Wildlife tracking, monitoring and spoor identification
- Outdoor survival skills including foraging for food
- Star gazing / Astronomy
- Wildlife watching hide construction
Call our friendly team today on +44 (0) 1483 860560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Country & Area: Croatia, Velebit
- Nearest Airport: Zadar, 105km to the reserve
- Nearest Airport: Zagreb, 200km to the reserve
- Nearest Airport: Split, 200km to the reserve
- Nearest Town: Gospic, 23km to the reserve
Duration: 1 week
Minimum Age: 18 years* (An Indemnity form will be required at the time of booking for students under the age of 18 as part of Eco School Challenge groups)
Dr Bruce Yerkovich founded Linden Tree in 2008. The ranch was born from a vision to build a sustainable wilderness retreat that demonstrates and respects the land, people and wildlife of Velebit. The Yerkovich family now live in, own and manage Linden Tree from where they primarily operate horseback riding and nature tourism activities.
The landscapes and ecosystems of Velika Plana (meaning ‘Great Plain’) where the lodge sits support an abundance of wildlife that thrives on the grasslands, forests and rivers characterising the valley. Iconic species including deer, bobcat, brown bear, wolf, eagle, falcon, and owl are often seen directly from the ranch. Prior to purchase, the property owned by Linden Tree had been abandoned for 40 years allowing for native species, both plants and animals, to ‘rewild’ the land providing a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Approximately half of the land owned by Linden Tree is under deciduous hardwood forest and other half is open fields, brush and wetlands. The ranch site is traversed by 2 streams providing a sufficient year-around water supply for all ranch needs and creates an attractive habitat for a broad range of biodiversity including migratory birds.
Linden Tree Retreat and Ranch and Worldwide Experience are supported by Rewilding Europe. Rewilding Europe is an initiative of WWF-Netherlands, the ARK Foundation, Wild Wonders of Europe and Conservation Capital. It aims to rewild 1 million hectares of the European landscape across 10 different multi-national sites by 2020, making Europe a wilder place, with much more space for wildlife, wilderness and natural processes.
Velebit is a priority area for Rewilding Europe. Currently the initiative is working on a number of conservation activities on Velebit, some of which Worldwide Experience groups participate in.
Rewilding Europe appreciates the voluntary commitments that both Linden Tree Retreat and Ranch and Worldwide Experience make towards supporting ongoing rewilding activities on Velebit.
Covering over 2,000km2 Velebit is the largest protected natural area in Croatia characterised by dramatic karst limestone cliffs and forested landscapes boasting some of the richest wildlife habitat in Europe and an abundance of flora and fauna biodiversity including many species that can rarely be seen elsewhere in a European setting in such healthy numbers and in such proximity to each other.
Velebit is part of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme and contains three protected areas – the Velebit Nature Park (200,000 ha) centring around the town of Gospic, within which are two national parks – Sjeverni Velebit (11,000 ha) in the north and Paklenica (9,500 ha) in the south.
These areas boast a high ecological value that riders and guest experience and absorb, including:
- Habitat biodiversity: The landscape, ecology and biodiversity of Velebit changes significantly along the mountain escarpment. Northern Velebit hosts an interesting spectrum of ecosystems from Dalmatian oak and hornbeam forests to black pine, Illyrian coastal beech forests, alpine grasslands, Dinaric beech/fir forests and mountain spruce forests supporting key species such as Capercaillie and Ural owl. South Velebit has a more ‘Mediterranean’ aesthetic where the topography is lower and is characterized by a hilly landscapes with a mosaic of mixed oak forests, hornbeam and other deciduous tree species;
- Endemism and wildlife: More than 1,800 plant species and sub-species have been identified in the Velebit area with 79 being endemic. There are few, if any, parts of Europe where one can track wolves with as much success (the Lika region is calculated to support as many as 100 individuals), as well as see lynx, brown bear, mouflon, Balkan chamois, boar, and red and roe deer in addition to many marine species.
- Work is planned to increase wildlife numbers by decreasing hunting pressure through policy and field conservation. Wild life watching is proving to me more valuable than the unprofitable hunting.
- Velebit National Park boasts one of the best places in the world to see European brown bear and European wolves in their natural environment in the world.
- Hunting forms a big part of the Croatian History and crucial for wildlife management but the establishment of hunting free zones give wild life the opportunity to breed and therefore a balanced conservation system is created.
- The study of the historical distribution of other grazing mammal species will reveal opportunities for their reintroduction.
Linden Tree is wholly reliant on the maintenance, existence and quality of wilderness areas on Velebit that create compelling landscapes for guests and provide natural products that sustain and support ranch operations. The business has aligned itself to preserve the natural environment and conduct operations in sustainable ways which limit their impact on, and in some cases improve the wilderness.
By practically applying this operating philosophy, Linden Tree is directly relevant to conservation.
Specific promoter of conservation:A core component of engaging guests to support the enhancement and protection of nature is through education and promoting the values of natural environments and landscapes. Linden Tree is currently supporting this through direct and indirect mechanisms, including:
Lodge management: Linden Tree is operating under and looking to expand upon a sustainable working model that seeks to make use of locally sourced natural products and materials, and ensure the consumption of energy and water, and waste management has a low environmental impact. Examples of this work include:
Waste water filtering: The lodge has installed a waste water filtration system which separates waste water (filtered and used on the gardens) and reusable water (filtered for use in water heating system);
Efficient water heating system: The lodge has an efficient water heater for summer use and an efficient boiler fed with sustainably harvested wood (collected from land owned by Linden Tree and only comprising of dead or diseased plants);
Product sourcing: Linden Tree attempts to source all of its produce from local suppliers who use natural products and traditional techniques – examples include local cheese and butter, organically grow vegetables (mostly from the ranch), meat from locally grazed livestock, a beer brewed specifically for Linden Tree with no artificial additives and using water that runs through the ranch, mountain herbs used in teas, and food collected from the natural meadows surrounding the ranch. Where possible Linden Tree sources and grows products directly from their land and actively includes guests in this process;
Activities management: Linden Tree operates low impact adventure tourism activities on Velebit. The ranch has intentionally not incorporated higher impact detrimental activities (such as quad biking) into it’s offering. All guests at Linden Tree sign a ‘Code of Conduct’ which governs their behaviour at the ranch and incorporates details on ways to protect and limit guest impact on nature;
Community outreach: Linden Tree distributes €5 per guest into community development projects lead by staff of Linden Tree – and where guests are invited to participate. These projects are primarily targeted at women and skills development to facilitate them in finding employment. A core component of these courses is promoting the sustainable use of natural products and valuing the natural environment. Furthermore, where possible Linden Tree looks to employ it’s staff from local communities;
Morning: Breakfast at ranch. Full day hike in the Velebit Nature Parks area, Premuzic Trail
Afternoon: Packed lunch on the mountain; complete hike
Evening: Dinner at ranch & Talk around the fire
Morning: Breakfast at ranch. Velebit National Park: wildlife monitoring & counting; talk on Rewilding Europe
Afternoon: Packed lunch, followed by visit to Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary
Evening: Dinner at ranch, followed by Star gazing
Morning: Breakfast at ranch. Full day survival course. You will learn skills in orientation, building your own shelter, starting fire, foraging for food, looking for water, finding medicinal herbs and edible plants.
Afternoon: Complete full day survival course
Evening:Dinner at ranch & Talk around the campfire
Morning: Breaksfat at ranch. Morning at leisure & Reflection activity. Optional visit to Nikola Tesla Memorial Centre.
Afternoon: Lunch at ranch, followed by Linden Tree’s ‘Cowboy Olympics’!
Evening: Pizza night at ranch & Talk around the campfire
Morning: Breakfast at ranch. Ranch management activity, e.g. firewood preparation, pasture management, cow milking
Afternoon: Lunch at ranch, followed by horse-drawn wagon-ride in the valley
Evening: Dinner at ranch & Talk around the campfire
Morning: Breakfast at ranch, followed by full day excursion to the spectacular Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Afternoon: Packed lunch at picnic site in National Park. Complete visit and return to ranch
Evening: Farewell dinner and barn dance at ranch
Morning: Breakfast at ranch & check out, followed by transfer to Zagreb airport.
The lodge and accommodation site is spread across a number of new and historical buildings with plans in place (structured in phases over the next 5 years) to renovate the derelict units. Accommodation is provided across chalets, mountain huts, a studio dormitory for groups and three tipis. Current occupancy stands at 24 pax with a further 8 beds planned for 2014 to bring total capacity to 32.
All the food is sourced locally, is organic and is self-prepared. Hot meals are prepared in the evenings often around an open fire. Breakfasts are continental with fresh juices, organic cereals, free range eggs and freshly baked bread. Lunches can either be prepared at the ranch and typically consist of soup, cold meats and salads, or packed lunches are provided for excursions.
WI-FI is available and there is also a direct landline.
Contact telephone numbers will be sent though
Price : from £1,599 per person, including:
- All road transfers, as per itinerary
- Highly personalised and guided activities as per the itinerary
- Three meals per day
- Local community and conservation fee, and Occupancy tax
- Travel insurance
- Medical requirements/vaccinations for travel.
- Tickets to Plitvice Lakes and Velebit National Parks, Velebit Nature Park & Bear Orphanage
- Optional visit to Nikola Tesla memorial centre
- Pocket money for snacks, souvenirs, etc.
*Price subject to minimum of three volunteers booking over the same dates
Please contact email@example.com for group rates