Conserving Bears

Join us in Conserving Bears at the only genuine working guest ranch in Croatia, surrounded by 2 million acres of UNESCO protected pristine wilderness. All aspects of local 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. 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.

Project Details

Our Conserving Bears programme is brought to you by Linden Tree Retreat and Ranch, which together with 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.

During your placement you may have the opportunity to experience:
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

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.

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.

Different types of accommodation facilities offered at Linden Tree include rooms, suites, chalet, lodges, river tents and Native American tipis. They all feature beds dressed with soft linens, en-suite bathrooms (river tents have detached bathrooms), porches and mountain views. With Studio hall, Saloon, the Square, hot tub, swimming pool, archery range, horse riding arena, tack room, two creeks and a river, there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor space for guests to spread out comfortably. We design our facilities for fun and relaxation in order to create peaceful and relaxing atmosphere and allow you to have an unforgettable experience.

Volunteers are provided with three meals daily. Linden Tree’s food is best described as a Croatian mosaic of world flavors – a sensational fusion of Mediterranean dishes plated with an international flare. Everything served is prepared fresh from scratch the same day in our open country kitchen, using the very best ingredients. Eating food grown on-site or foraged from the nearby meadows and forest is at the heart of every Linden Tree menu. Respect for the sustainable production, harvest and preparation of these ingredients is always at the forefront of our mind.

You will be met by our projects representative at the International Airport in Zagreb, and you will be transferred to Linden Tree Ranch

The transfer time to the sanctuary is approximately 2,5 hours. On arrival at the ranch a staff member will show you around the accommodation and facilities. A comprehensive and informative induction session will take place on upon arrival at Linden Tree, helping you to settle in, understand more about the project and your role, and set the expectations for the study tour. Activities are continuous so you will be hands-on on from your first day!

At the end of your trip you will be transferred back to the airport in time for your departing flight.

There is WIFI available at the ranch, available at no extra charge. We suggest that you take your mobile phone with you – you will need to activate roaming on your phone.

Most of Croatia has a moderately warm and rainy continental climate as defined by the Köppen climate classification. Mean monthly temperature ranges between −3 °C (in January) and 18 °C (in July). The coldest parts of the country are Lika and Gorski Kotar where snowy forested climate is found at elevations above 1,200 metres (3,900 feet). The warmest areas of Croatia are at the Adriatic coast and especially in its immediate hinterland characterised by the Mediterranean climate, as the temperature highs are moderated by the sea. Consequently, temperature peaks are more pronounced in the continental areas—the lowest temperature of −35.5 °C was recorded on 3 February 1919 in Čakovec, and the highest temperature of 42.4 °C was recorded on 5 July 1950 in Karlovac.
Mean annual precipitation ranges between 600 millimetres and 3,500 millimetres depending on geographic region and prevailing climate type. The least precipitation is recorded in the outer islands (Vis, Lastovo, Biševo, Svetac) and in the eastern parts of Slavonia, however in the latter case, it is mostly occurring during the growing season. The maximum precipitation levels are observed on the Dinara mountain range and in Gorski kotar.
Prevailing winds in the interior are light to moderate northeast or southwest, and in the coastal area prevailing winds are determined by local area features. Higher wind velocities are more often recorded in cooler months along the coast, generally as bura or less frequently as sirocco. The sunniest parts of the country are the outer islands, Hvar and Korčula, where more than 2700 hours of sunshine are recorded per year, followed by the middle and southern Adriatic Sea area in general and northern Adriatic coast, all with more than 2000 hours of sunshine per year.

Our schedule is designed around 7-day stay at Linden Tree, however there is a variety of off-site activities available, including a visit to the Kuterevo Bear Orphanage, Plitvice lakes,  and Tesla museum to name a few.

Airport Transfers
All fieldwork, lectures and activities in itinerary

Example Itinerary (one week):

Day 1
Morning: Fly to Zagreb, Croatia; road transfer to Linden Tree Ranch
Afternoon: Arrive at the Ranch for orientation & programme presentation
Evening: Dinner & Talk around the campfire

Day 2
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

Day 3
Eurasian brown bear, Ursus arctos, at a bear watching site in Sinca Noua, Piatra Craiului NP, Southern Carpathians, Romania, Rewilding Europe site

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

Day 4
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

Day 5
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

Day 6
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

Day 7
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

Day 8
Morning: Breakfast at ranch & check out, followed by transfer to Zagreb airport.

*Please note that the schedule is subject to change
**Subject to a minimum number of volunteers booking

Comprehensive Information Pack

Starting from: (2022 price)
£ 000.00
Starting from: (2023 price)
£ 000.00

Quick Overview

Country & Area  : Croatia, Velebit

Nearest Airport  : Zagreb, 200km to the reserve (There closer airports, however, Zagreb is the main airport)

Transfer Time     : ± 3 hours

Duration              : 1 week

Minimum Age     : 18