Your impressions...........

Gion Fraenkl-Switzerland-June/July 2008

This was my first volunteer project abroad, and it was a great experience. I truly enjoyed the two weeks I spent working at the eko center. To begin with the program was varied, with options in administrative and physical work. For instance, on one day there would be work in either clearing out ponds or rebuilding stone walls, and the next day giving tourists an overview of the center and its exhibition, or taking boat rides to see the island and rescue vultures. The work was fun and well organized, and there was always enough time to relax afterwards. There were also talks and guides about the island itself, which were informative. Beli itself was a beautiful place, small and isolated, with access to many beaches and hikes. In addition the staff at the eko center were incredibly friendly and interactive, it was great fun spending time with them and other volunteers. All in all, I have to say that out of the two weeks I spent there I did not have a single day where I did not have a great time. I was never bored or uninterested, and each day was a great experience. To any potential volunteer, the eko center in Beli is a fine choice!

Take the opportunity and go there.    

Andri Fraenkl

Country of Origin: Switzerland

Volunteer Dates: 28/06/08 – 13/07/08 

My time as a volunteer at the eko centre in Beli was a fun one. This was the first time I have done a volunteer project like this, but it showed me how fun volunteering can be. There was a lot to do at the eko centre, almost everyday there was something new and exciting to do. Sometimes it was helping with exhibition centre and showing the tourists around and other times it was physical work like building stone walls or clearing labyrinths from ferns. Other times we would take a boat ride to either observe the Griffon Vultures or rescue one, which is very rewarding. Although it hard work there is also time to have and relax afterwards, you can go to the beach or have a drink in restaurant, there is a good balance between both. The island itself was very beautiful and sunny and Beli was also a nice small town. Another plus was the staff of the eko centre, they were all very nice and friendly and they are very easy to get on well with. It was a very fun stay and I was never bored, overall it was an excellent experience and I would do it again in the future.

Chaya Smith-UK-3 weeks March 2008        

My Name is Chaya Smith, I was a volunteer at Eco-Centre Beli in March this year. It was a completely life changing experience for me.  I didn’t know anything about vultures before I came and at the centre I learnt so much.  I never would have considered a Griffon Vulture to be a beautiful animal but that was before I saw them gliding effortlessly above the Ocean.  They are the most peaceful graceful animals in flight. 

Cres is a very pretty place and I spent most of my free time hiking on the many forest trails around the centre.  The work load was very reasonable and enjoyable.  My favourite job was helping the farmers herd sheep.  Which involved forming a big line of people and chasing lambs through paddocks and olive groves.

My only regret is that I only went for 3 weeks; I could have happily spent 3 years in Cres.  I am definitely going back as soon as possible.

If anyone is thinking of volunteering in Croatia and would like to ask me about my experience please contact by email on longtllchay@hotmail.com.

                                    

Claire Winzar-UK 4 weeks Sept 2007

I will never forget my time in Beli, and will never have to say goodbye because I know I will return.  It is a magical place.  It filled my spirit with positive energy, right to the brim! 

At the Ecocentre there was a good mix of tasks to be done, I really felt like I was helping "the cause".  Feeding the animals (this includes the humans!), scientific observation of the griffons at their nesting sites, olive picking, educating visitors...just a few of the things I was involved in.  Of course I got an education myself and was taken on guided local nature/art/history walk, boat trip and car trip of the island.  Steve and staff from Eco-centre were always on hand and plenty of friendships began.  It is a peaceful place to live with lots of amazing walking, everyday if you like.  The warm-heartedness of the people and beauty of the surroundings cannot be put into words, you must go feel it, see it, hear it, smell it and taste it for yourself. 

One note, the less expectations you have, the more you will get from your stay.  Try to free yourself from the need to schedule your day and just let it happen.  Enjoy!

Slaven Kljucanin, Ecologist from Croatia....volunteered 4 weeks September-October 2006
 
As soon as I stepped on the island of Cres I felt a  very strong feeling...I felt there is something very special about this island. Not easy to put this feeling in words... a little bit like falling in love I guess... I felt full of energy.... I intended to stay one week but I ended staying for a month...As a biologist I enjoyed every moment of my stay there. Birds, insects, reptiles, fungi... such diversity.... As a photographer I almost could not sleep from the excitement of finding new motives for pictures. All the people that spent time with me in the eco centre will probably remember me as that guy who got up before the sun and never stopped smiling... I felt so good... My heart opened completely and I met some great people.... I even found love...
I opened my heart to Ani, another volunteer at the time... and Cres will now be even more special... and that first feeling that I got when I arrived to Cres, maybe it was just a premonition of finding new love....
volunteering at the eco centre, helping this island to keep its unique wildlife was one of the most rewarding experiences I had... I plan to come back to Cres... a part of my soul is there now...

Marie-Renee Goulet - Canada-10 Days February 2007

One thing is for sure; I got comfortable with the 'earthy' experience as you call it after 4 days. If I had stayed longer, it would have gotten even better. I didn't think I was going to cook anything on a wood stove so that was fun.

Don't get me wrong, the free time was used to walk around the trails and relax, which is something we don't do in Calgary anymore. When I left, I had adjusted to the pace, so it was not a bad thing but I really wanted to do more than feed animals in the morning, and clean. We cleaned up the upstairs and the volunteer area. I asked for some paint so you should see a difference with the walls in the eating area, or so I hope! Getting on the boat to see the nests was also a good experience. I live alone so the cooking/eating as a group in the evening was also nice. But I did end up alone in eating in front of the TV as I do at home on my last day.... :) I think Severena adopted me, she followed me like my shadow the entire time I was there. I really enjoyed taking care of her.

 

Beli. I really enjoyed the calm and quiet. It had been a while since I stood outside during the day and heard NOTHING. Driving around the Island and seeing Lubenice was also very special for me.

I really thought that everyone working at the centar was friendly, knowledgeable not to mention patient, answering all my questions.

Orestes Cendrero-Spain September/Oct 2003

Three consecutive years visiting Beli; the first one as a volunteer, the others just as a man who has found a perfect place to rest and forget all his problems.

 Well, if you have never been in Beli you won’t probably understand what I am talking about. It is not the moment for speaking about me but I can assure anyone who reads this page that Beli has something special. I have travelled around the world; from the wild jungles of Malaysia to the sandy beaches of Australia, from the arid deserts of Morocco to the frozen Glaciers of Iceland, from the rich and crowded cities of western Europe to the poor and almost inhabited villages of  Central America….well everyplace has something which worths a visit but Beli is different! 

The peace of the isle, the hospitality of the Croatian people, the Mediterranean way of living, the food, the landscape, the permanent smell of lavender, the forests, the transparent waters where you can dive in,……..  This year, I haven’t been able to go to my annual date with that small paradise, and I have realized how much I miss it.

Time goes by even in Beli. 

I live in Spain where the last data about vulture population show that the species is not an endangered one in our country. More than 30.000 of these birds inhabit in Spain. The population has risen from 8.000 couples in the 80’s to the current numbers.  A brilliant effort carried out by the authorities, NGOs, and the changes in people’s mind have made possible this “miracle”. Perhaps you can do something similar in Beli and achieve the conservation of the Croatian vulture. 

Everybody is talking about climate change and how easy is to protect the environment, (recycling, saving water, using public transport…). Why don’t you try to do something more exciting? 

 So I recommend you to go to Beli, even if you are not interested in birds. May be we will meet there…and if you have read this, please tell me and I will pay the first pivo (beer).

 Mr. O. Cendrero. – Spain.

Anne Straub-Germany-Sept/Oct 2006

Hi folks,

what shall I write about the eco-center and the nature and people around it? It is beautiful. Everybody is friendly and helpful. You will have great dialogues with people from every nation and you will find new friends. Nature is unbelievable beautiful, you can walk hours, days, weeks and each step you make, you´ll find something new and interesting.

I first wanted to stay one month, but it was not possible for me to go away from this place. So at the end I stayed 2 months. It was never boring (you should love nature and silence) and there are still so many things to discover and things I did not do on the island, that I must go back soon.

The eco-center (especially Franc “the chief”) tries everything to make the volunteers be happy. There is a big kitchen and living room where you can eat all the time everything you want and where all people meet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or just to listen to music, play some games or watch TV.

The sea is not far away and there are several beaches you can go to. You also have the possibility to go by boat watching the Griffons at their nests, two times a week.

There are many paths around the center in “Tramuntana” forest, where you can be completely on your own. The old oak trees look like masmalic (some creature that lives in the forest) and you feel like being in a fairytale.

But there is also a lot of work to do. Feeding the animals (cat, dog, donkeys, griffons, sheeps), cleaning the cages, ponds and rooms, repairing stone walls, building footpaths by pieces of rocks, cooking, leading tourists through the exhibition, etc

But I promise you´ll have enough time just to relax.

As Slaven wrote before, you can feel so much love in this place, you cannot imagine. Many nights you will sit outside with other volunteers either at a lonely beach, at a labyrinth or in one of the public bars like Pansion Tramuntana, discussing about god and the world or just looking into the great sky full of stars.

There is no stress and you can completely concentrate on what you do. And I think it is really a good thing helping such a project. Helping to protect nature with all animals and plants that live in and from it.

About Griffons I did not know anything before I came there. But now I love these beautiful and intelligent animals. And my knowledge about them improved 100%.

I promise, you will never forget your stay in Beli, you just need to love nature and to be open minded.  

Ani

Sophie Mathieu (Paris) 3 weeks-October 2006

Hi!
First of all i'd like to say that i'm french, so maybe i'll make mistakes...So, lets talk about my time in Cres.

I arrived by boat from Rijeka and then in the boat, i realized that what i had around me, was the most beautiful sea i had never seen...Then in Beli, my time was lovely.I met a lot of people from everywhere, so i could improve  my english (-:, Right now i keep in touch with some volunteers.The ekocentar offers to volonters a great big house,full of love, and helpful and interesting people. Its on a top on a hill from where we can see that so beautiful Adriatic sea.
And working together was great too.I realy loved that "community life".I had a so good time over there.
Since i came back in france, i  have always picture from that Island in my head.

That' a perfect place to relax, so do come and visit soon!

Bye,
Sophie,from Paris
.
                     

Jamie Craighead  (Seattle, USA) volunteered 4 months 2006

My name is Jamie. I am 21 years old from Seattle, Washington, USA. I am currently taking a year off from my studies. My main study as well as hobby is performing music. Thanks to Steve's excellent website, I am here in Beli at the Caput Insulae Eko-Centar having the time of my life. I forget where I found the link to Steve's website, but he encouraged me and my father that I would have an amazing experience here. He was right. The most amazing part of this experience has been meeting so many different people. Working beside them has truly been wonderful. The landscape around here is amazing as well. With several beaches just minutes away, to several different hiking trails, this place has it all! You are also guaranteed boat trips to view the griffon vultures. As well as drives around the island to view all it has to offer. I have spent a little over two months here now, and still have a month left. I wish I could stay longer. I definitely plan on visiting again sometime in the not too distant future. So check out Steve's website and stay in contact with him. You will have the best experience here on the island of Cres and in the town of Beli!

Alison Ince (Washington DC, USA) volunteer for 9 days, May 2006

Volunteering through Essential Croatia was a fantastic experience. Corresponding with Steve at 'Essential Croatia' before my trip made planning much easier; he was a great help with transportation and general advice for travelling in Croatia. 

Fond memories from volunteering with ECCIB: waking up to the sounds of the donkey and sheep in the yard; sitting around the Ekocentar's picnic table drinking turkish coffee; trying to spot vulture nesting sites from the boat and not drop the binoculars in thewater; the kitchen stove that seemed to have only two settings ("barely on" or "burn everything to the bottom"); swimming in some of the cleanest, clearest water I've ever seen; being awestruck by the sturdy remains of the old Roman Road that stretches across Cres;trying to find the turtles in the yard each morning; the thrill of scrambling up the Black Trail; experiencing Franz' infectious passion for the island; watching tourists come and go in the exhibits and feeling that I belonged (for a little while, at least); seeing the eerily beautiful vulture restaurant on the mountaintop at dusk, laughing with the other volunteers as we gorged on Tokolino (aCroatian baby food that is like chocolaty porridge); drinking medica at the Pansion; walking up from Feruccio's in the dark with the sounds of the sheep surrounding me; discovering the second beach, then the third, and finally, Zero Beach.  Even the things that were supposed to be "work" -- like being trained to help at the exhibition, cooking for the other volunteers, repairing stone walls, helping to build labyrinths, or cleaning blood from the back of the car they used to get the carcasses to feed the vultures  were such unusual tasks and done in the company of such fascinating people that they didn't even feel much like chores.  

My one mistake: Not planning my trip in Croatia so that I could spend more time in Beli!  I recommend a visit longer than a week, if possible.  With only seven days, your orientation is barely over before you have to leave.  Best of luck to all -- you won't regret your time on Cres!

Ruth Ward -(Vetinary Surgeon)-Volunteer 7 days 2005...from Cumbria U.K.

I didn't really know what to expect from Beli or the Eco Centre when I arrived but had an amazing experience while I stayed there. There was an excellent team of staff and other volunteers who did everything to make you feel welcome during your stay. The workload was fairly light, only working either a morning or afternoon shift with lots of free time. During this free time, boat trips and drives around the island of Cres were organised for you so you could see all the little villages and the vulture nesting sites. The work involved was very varied, from helping in the exhibition which told you about the vultures and their habitats, to dry stone walling and marking up walking trails. I even got to spend the night at the 'Griffon Restaurant' which was a bird hut up in the mountains where you watch out for the Griffons feeding. It was great to work for a project that is doing it's best to help not only save an endangered species but also helping to maintain the local ecosystems and educate the islands residents and also tourists. I've just been on the ' i - to - i ' website, and I'm absolutely gob smacked by how much they are charging for volunteers to go to Beli for 2wks!. I booked with 'Essential Croatia' for a fraction of the price! How much of the £895 does the eco centre actually get? If they don't get a huge proportion of it then something is sadly wrong, though I know they probably don't get much at all!"   COMPARE OUR PRICES WITH 'i-to-i'

Orestes Cendrero- Santander, Spain ...volunteer 2003 and bad sailor!

If  you visit Croatia you will probably expect to visit the beautiful coast of Dalmatia, the amazing Plivitce Lakes, the antique churches of Porec, Sibenik or Zadar,  the Roman Ampitheatre at Pula, or the majesty of Zagreb, ……I found something more in Cres, in Beli to be precise. In 2003, after a tourist trip to Dalmatia, I joined an eco-volunteer program for the protection of the common vulture in Beli. What I found there was so special that I went back there in 2004 and I hope I can go to spend at least one week in this marvellous place every year.If you are Spanish (or if you are not) and have wondered how the villages of the Mediterranean Coast of Spain had been before the tourist overexploitation, you just need to visit Beli. There you can still feel something original, and enjoy the wild nature of the Mediterranean Sea.  In addition to beautiful beaches with  clear water where you can dive and see many different fishes, and even dolphins, you can go for a walk through ancient forests of oaks and find martins, deer , lizards, snakes and several species of birds. If you like bird-watching, as I do, in these forests and the surrounding mountains you’ll easily find golden eagles, vultures, goshawks, eagle owls, redstarts, woodpeckers, etc.  But what I liked most was the people. 

When I arrived to Beli in 2004, my second visit, I as welcomed as if I was a old friend, almost a relative, and I had been there only one week!!! a year before. Pension Tramuntana with the dear Robi and Nina or Feruccio’s Bar are perfect places to talk about the important things of your life sharing a bottle of delicious white wine and a plate of tasty fried anchovies.  

And if you like to party at night, in the Isle of Cres is situated the village of Cres, not far away firm Beli, where a lot of German and Italian people go in summer season and you can go for a drink in a friendly atmosphere.  

No doubt, visit Croatia but don’t forget to visit Cres!!! 

  Sarah Holiday-Eco-volunteer (5 weeks) York, United Kingdom, 2005

Visiting the enchanting island of Cres has been one of the most enriching and memorable experiences of my life.  I found tranquility and inspiration walking the many eco-trails through the ancient forests; a sense of perspective and peacefulness not easily found in today's hectic world.  When walking these routes, stumbling upon ancient bridges, abandoned dwellings, and pagan shrines, it is as if you are transported to another era....a place where time stands still.  The island also has some beautiful beaches with the clearest blue water I have ever seen.  And when and the peace and tranquility gets too much, I recommend a 'B52' or 'Medica' in the local bar and soak up the atmosphere whilst sitting outside under the stars! To gain an authentic experience of the island I would definately recommend volunteering at the 'Eko-centar'.  This way you really do get to know the locality and feel part of it.  I was lucky enough to be there for five weeks and in that time I got to to experience the joys of sheep herding with the local shepherds, digging ponds, maintaining the eko-trails, helping injured vultures and much much more. It was great to be somewhere with such a community feel and I met some fantastic people and made some great friends.

  Dave Griffiths..... Hull U.K.-Volunteer 2weeks 2005
Just writing to say bok! from an old eko-centar volunteer who's now stuck back home again in sunny Hull (England).  Currently I'm in teacher training (- started late in life at 36 -) and am already missing Cres - its unbelievable serenity and peace, it's beautifully scenic mountains and walks, its unspoiled woodland.  Certainly, the sheep-herding was an experience I knew (even as it was happening) I would never ever forget, and the cross-section of people from all countries, including the people native to the island were without exception interesting and friendly beyond any possible expectation.
Especially enjoyed the mystic mazes and eco-trails (and most of all the 'deserted village' found on the blue trail), not to mention the novelty of sleeping outdoors in perfect unthreatenned harmony with nature.

Kate....... 'Powsers Mountaineering Club' Glossop UK  30th April 2005

Hi Steve,
Here are some of the pictures I took - help yourself if they are of any use to you & just to say thanks for introducing Cres to us - it's a fantastic place, we all enjoyed it.

 

Kirsty Mayers Maldon Essex..Long-term volunteer 2004 & 2005

You wanted some thoughts for your web page,  here goes "Volunteering at ECCIB is an experience you will not forget in a hurry. Tramuntana is full of surprises; deserted villages; caves, Roman Ruins, Ponds, Labrynths, ancient chestnut trees, and enough Flora and Fauna to shake a stick at.

There is no such thing as an average volunteer day,  you could be dry stone walling, marking eco-trails, monitoring the Griffon Vultures, painting the house, showing tourists round the exhibition,  making souvenirs, cooking dinner,  or everybodies favourite.....cleaning duty!

If it all sounds like hard work,  dont panic,  most afternoons you are free to do as you please,  be it walking the trails,  sunbathing on one of the 4 local beaches,  touring the Island,  or relaxing with a beer and watching the world go by.  (The world usually consists of sheep and the occasionaltourist!)

Of course the best part of volunteering is meeting other like-minded people. All ages, sexes and nationalities vists the Eco-centre and it makes for some lively dinner table discussions and some fabulous beach parties!

So what are you waiting for, if you want some fun in the sun,  and at the same time help promote responsible tourism,  and the local community,  get over to Beli!"

Joanna Greene.....Ilkley Yorkshire, UK....Volunteered Summer 2005 for 3 months

No I wont make any comments about Beli or the eco-centre, it shall remain a little undiscovered jewel close to home.  My little hide away!!!
  Walter K Hermes....Scientific Diver -Technical University of Munich 2004/5

Hi People,  

2005 I came to Beli and to the pension and diving base Tramontana for the second time and already felt a little bit like coming home. Thanks to Robbi and Nina, beside good food and fair prices this pension and the diving base have a kind of a familiar fair.  

 For 3 years the Technical University of Munich is using Cres as a part for their education of German Scientific Divers and since 2004 I am trying to give a little help in that lessons. The students who are taking that class have collected their first experience in an indoor pool and Beli is usually their first time in open water. The small island of Cres and especially the beautiful city of Beli is perfect for our needs – easy to reach from Munich, not many tourists (usually we are coming in the beginning of June), beautiful landscape and city of Beli, nice diving spots (with good visibility – the third and last part of the diving class is in German lakes; its nice for the students to have better conditions for their first real diving experiences)… and delicious grilled calamari J  

Beli is a jewel to eat, to relax, to dive or what ever you want to do - we will certainly come back…  

Greetings from Munich ,

Walter

'Samo' from Ljubljana (Slovenia) and friend of Beli for many years!

Stipe,

I really hate you and your idea of bringing more people to our Beli. I have spent some days a week ago on Tramuntana and it was amazing. We went canyoning up to Milan ’s farm, we were diving and some crazy guys went even swimming (as you know, I am quiet reasonable). And there were almost no tourists, so we enjoyed peace and gathered with lovely domestic people at Ferrucio’s restaurant ond on the beach in Mirjana and Buco’s house… Please cancel all of your activities and hide our hidden corner of the world from too many tourists. Don’t worry about them, send them somewhere else ( Spain, Greece,Turkey …).

Kasia Biskup from Poland ....volunteered 2 weeks in september 2005
I hope to see you soon in Beli. I really miss that place. Specially now when
it is raining in Poland and winter can come any day.

Kasia
Jaimie Park  from North Carolina...volunteered for 1 month summer 2005

My name is jaimie park and apparently i'm the "coolest American" that Steve has ever met.  I'm 26 years old and am from Asheville, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains.  I came to Beli from Dublin, Ireland, actually.  I had been working in Dublin for 6 months and decided I had had enough of the drab weather and city life.  I went to a bookstore and stood in the travel section one rainy afternoon and my eyes became locked on the Croatian travel
guide.  I wanted to volunteer while I was in Croatia and Caput-Insulae was listed; I also researched it on the internet.  I sent them my resume and I was accepted as a volunteer.  I originally planned on staying for two weeks, but I loved Beli so much that I stayed for two extra weeks, making my entire stay in Beli a month.While in Beli I volunteered at the Eco-Centre the whole time I was there.  I got to prepare meals for all the other volunteers, be a docent at the centre's museum, repair the old stone walls and eco-trails, swim in the sea, and drink some karlovachko (you should correct the spelling for me!).  It was great to be located right next to the pub, the Traumantana, because not only did you have a relaxing place to drink spirits and hang out with the volunteers, but you could meet other people staying in Beli there as well. Accomodation at the eco-centre was crowded at times, but the murals in the dorm-section were beautiful and you could get plenty of alone-time by hiking one of the eco-trails or finding your own private beach.  Volunteering at the eco-centre is also a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world, though mainly from Europe and America, to learn about the majestic griffon-vultures, and to get away from it all.

For more details about Cres or the Volunteer project, please contact volunteers@essentialcroatia.com 

 

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