Nature Guides for Prespa National Park – Interpreters of one of Albania’s most outstanding natural and cultural heritage
Prespa National Park assures the long term conservation of the specific ecosystems, of the habitats of rich flora and fauna of the Albanian parts of Prespa Lakes and surrounding cultural and mountainous landscapes as well as of remarkable cultural heritage of the region. Recently a training programme is performed which is to qualify local nature guides for interpreting the extraordinary nature values and cultural features of Prespa region to visitors. The highly motivated trainees and future PNP nature guides are looking forward to provide educational activities to local and regional school classes and youth and to guide nature lovers coming to experience the beauty of Prespa, may they be domestic or international tourists.
According to international good practice and guidelines by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) providing opportunities for nature education, nature experience and recreation are among the central objectives of a National Park. The services of nature guides are – complemented by other means such as interpretive infrastructure (e.g., visitor information centers, interpretive trails, information boards, viewpoints, and others) and printed and electronic media – considered to be indispensable and most effective to make aware, inform and educate visitors. Provided they have a sound, broad and deep knowledge on the peculiarities of a National Park and the necessary skills to deliver this to visitors in an entertaining, activating and motivating manner, interpretive guides can play an important role in making a visit to a National Park an unforgettable experience.
However, their activities reach out beyond providing intensive nature experience and delivery of information on the natural phaenomena and features, biodiversity of fauna and flora species and their habitats and on the ecosystems, the ecosystem services and undisturbed natural processes of a National Park. Nature guides further encourage active stewardship for nature and environment by responsible behaviour during the visit to the National Park, but also by influencing lifestyles of visitors towards more sustainability. The activities of interpretive nature guides can support nature conservation by educating people towards more awareness, interest, understanding and knowledge about the Prespa National Park, its nature values and the need and importance to protect and conserve them. By this, the educational activities of Prespa National Park to be performed by the now trained nature interpretive guides will contribute to environmental, ecological and nature education within the Albanian people, raise appreciation and positive attitude on Prespa National Park and conservation in general, thus, providing a service to the whole society. Last but not least, well trained nature guides will help meeting expectations of international tourists and thus contribute to a sustainable local economic and social development by direct and indirect income generating on the local level.
As part of the project “Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Prespa – Support to the National Park Prespa in Albania”, funded by KfW Development Bank on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development for the Albanian Ministry of Environment, a Training Programme for Nature Guides for Prespa National Park is being implemented within April to August of 2015.
Together with staff of the Administration of Prespa National Park, some 17 local dwelling ladies and gentlemen, carefully selected according to their motivation, interest and previously existing supportive skills and experience, are enjoying a training curriculum considered to be unique in the respective field in terms of comprehensiveness and intensity so far in Albania. Within 20 training days blocked to 10 training units, the participants are provided with basic training on the wide range of knowledge and skills which is essential for the challenging activities of nature guides: In theory lectures complemented by practical hands on exercises and outdoor excursions they learn about basics of nature conservation, ecology, botany, zoology and cultural heritage, all with emphasis on the Prespa Lakes region. They also get basic background on designing, organizing, administrating and advertising educational activities and are trained in applied methods of nature interpretation and performing guided tours. Security aspects are taken serious, thus a two days practical training on First Medical Aid has already been provided to the future nature guides of Prespa National Park.
The trainers are high ranking Albanian scientific experts, staff of Prespa National Park and its support project and an experienced Austrian expert on nature education and National Park management, who also did the design of the training progamme.
The final examinations, ending up in awarding of official licenses for the trainees who participated successfully,