Inala Estonia Tour - Birds Wildlife and Culture - 28 May – 6 June 2021

Young Bull Elk - Tarmo Sammal - Estonia - Inala Nature Tours
Young Bull Elk - Tarmo Sammal - Estonia - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Friday, 28 May 2021 to Sunday, 6 June 2021
Duration: 
10 days
Price: 
AUD$6,385 per person twin share. Single supplement: AUD$530
Highlights: 
• Visit top birding areas such as Haapsalu and Matsalu National Park. • Possibility of viewing seldom-seen mammals including Elk, Eurasian (European) Beaver, Siberian Flying Squirrel and Ringed Seal and the option of staying overnight in a hide to view Brown Bear and Racoon Dog. • Join researchers and conservation projects working on Siberian Flying Squirrel. • Two boat trips to see Ringed Seal (Hiiumaa Island) and Eurasian Beaver (Kasari River). • Visit a range of habitat types, from peat bogs to primeval old-growth woodlands to wetlands and semi-natural grasslands • Stay in and explore the UNESCO World Heritage “old township’ of Tallinn which is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe, dating back to at least the 13th Century.
Overview: 

The Republic of Estonia is a northern European country which borders the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Finland and Lake Peipus, with Finland to the north, Sweden to the west, Latvia to the south and Russia to the East. In addition to the mainland, the territory of Estonia is comprised of over 2,200 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total land area of over 42,000 square kilometres (almost 16,500 square miles). Its diverse terrain spans rocky shores, old-growth forests and many lakes which provide habitat for an amazing diversity of wildlife; its air is amongst the cleanest in the world. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Estonia has been inhabited since at least 9,000BC and boasts a rich and diverse cultural history. The landscape is dotted with castles, churches and hilltop fortresses and the capital Tallinn is well known for its UNESCO World Heritage listed “Old Township” and museums. Interestingly, Tallinn is also the birthplace of many international high technology companies including Skype and TransferWise and the headquarters of the European Union’s IT agency and NATO’s Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence for global cybersecurity.

We will visit a diversity of habitats for a range of wildlife in this relatively untouched part of Europe. This tour will include visits to the Old Township of Tallinn and Hiiumaa Island (the second largest island in Estonia which is part of the West Estonian archipelago in the Baltic Sea). We will also visit Matsalu National Park, one of Europe's most important waterfowl resting areas between the Arctic and Western Europe. Matsalu is home to 4,000 hectares of Kasari meadow, Europe's largest preserved flat meadow, which is an important nesting site for corn crake, spotted crake and great snipe. More than 2 million waterfowl fly through the national park each year, of which more than 230,000 remain for shorter or longer stays. The Matsalu coastal meadows are some of the largest in Europe and important for nesting waders (eg shanks and tattlers, Northern lapwing, and the Eurasian curlew) because of their low vegetation and reed-free waterline. Numerous orchids grow among the oak and hazel trees in the species-rich wooded meadows. Lahemaa National Park is one of Europe’s largest and most important conservation areas and is rich in flora and fauna. Whilst most of the area is covered in forest, the landscape also has many raised bogs including the 7,000-year-old Laukasoo Reserve.

Start Location: 
Tallinn Harjumaa
Estonia
Finish location: 
Tallinn Harjumaa
Estonia

Inala’s Estonia Tour Birds, wildlife and culture 28 May – 6 June 2021

The Republic of Estonia is a northern European country which borders the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Finland and Lake Peipus, with Finland to the north, Sweden to the west, Latvia to the south and Russia to the East. In addition to the mainland, the territory of Estonia is comprised of over 2,200 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total land area of over 42,000 square kilometres (almost 16,500 square miles). Its diverse terrain spans rocky shores, old-growth forests and many lakes which provide habitat for an amazing diversity of wildlife; its air is amongst the cleanest in the world. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Estonia has been inhabited since at least 9,000BC and boasts a rich and diverse cultural history. The landscape is dotted with castles, churches and hilltop fortresses and the capital Tallinn is well known for its UNESCO World Heritage listed “Old Township” and museums. Interestingly, Tallinn is also the birthplace of many international high technology companies including Skype and TransferWise and the headquarters of the European Union’s IT agency and NATO’s Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence for global cybersecurity.

We will visit a diversity of habitats for a range of wildlife in this relatively untouched part of Europe. This tour will include visits to the Old Township of Tallinn and Hiiumaa Island (the second largest island in Estonia which is part of the West Estonian archipelago in the Baltic Sea). We will also visit Matsalu National Park, one of Europe's most important waterfowl resting areas between the Arctic and Western Europe. Matsalu is home to 4,000 hectares of Kasari meadow, Europe's largest preserved flat meadow, which is an important nesting site for corn crake, spotted crake and great snipe. More than 2 million waterfowl fly through the national park each year, of which more than 230,000 remain for shorter or longer stays. The Matsalu coastal meadows are some of the largest in Europe and important for nesting waders (eg shanks and tattlers, Northern lapwing, and the Eurasian curlew) because of their low vegetation and reed-free waterline. Numerous orchids grow among the oak and hazel trees in the species-rich wooded meadows. Lahemaa National Park is one of Europe’s largest and most important conservation areas and is rich in flora and fauna. Whilst most of the area is covered in forest, the landscape also has many raised bogs including the 7,000-year-old Laukasoo Reserve.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

Visit top birding areas such as Haapsalu and Matsalu National Park.
Possibility of viewing seldom-seen mammals including Elk, Eurasian (European) Beaver, Siberian Flying Squirrel and Ringed Seal and the option of staying overnight in a hide to view Brown Bear and Racoon Dog.
Join researchers and conservation projects working on Siberian Flying Squirrel.
Two boat trips to see Ringed Seal (Hiiumaa Island) and Eurasian Beaver (Kasari River).
Visit a range of habitat types, from peat bogs to primeval old-growth woodlands to wetlands and semi-natural grasslands
Stay in and explore the UNESCO World Heritage “old township’ of Tallinn which is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe, dating back to at least the 13th Century.

TOUR LEADER:

Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tours with local guide

ITINERARY OUTLINE:

Day 1. Fri 28 May 2021. Arrive Tallinn. Accom: Tallinn.
Day 2.  Sat 29 May 2021. Tallinn to Haapsalu & Matsalu National Park. Accom: in Matsalu NP
Day 3.  Sun 30 May 2021. Matsalu National Park-Kasari River boat trip. Accom: in Matsalu NP
Day 4. Mon 31 May 2021. Matsalu National Park-Hiiumaa Island boat trip. Accom: in Matsalu NP
Day 5. Tue 1 June 2021. Matsalu NP to Kõrvemaa/Lahemaa NP. Accom: in Lahemaa NP
Day 6. Wed 2 June 2021. Lahemaa NP. Accom: Lahemaa NP.
Day 7. Thu 3 June 2021. Lahemaa NP/Alutaguse Brown Bear hide. Accom: hide/Rakvere.
Day 8. Fri 4 June 2021. Rakvere Town/ Alutaguse NP: Siberian Flying Squirrel. Accom: Rakvere.
Day 9. Sat 5 June 2021. Rakvere to Tallinn. Accom: Tallinn
Day 10. Sun 6 June 2021. Depart Tallinn.

DETAILED ITINERARY

B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner

Day 1. Friday 28 May 2021. Arrive Tallinn.  
Arrival in Tallinn where we will transfer to a hotel close to the old town. This evening we will have a welcome dinner and discuss the plans for our tour.  
Accommodation: Hotel in Tallinn (ensuite room). Meals included: D

Day 2. Saturday 29 May 2021. Tallinn to Haapsalu & Matsalu National Park.
This morning we will drive to Matsalu National Park in western Estonia (around 1.5 hours’ drive), which is famous for its’ shallow coastline and vast meadows, which in turn are perfect for numerous species of birds. After settling in, we will visit the “birding capital” of Estonia – Haapsalu. Besides the good birding possibilities, the town is also known for its picturesque promenade and wooden architecture. From Haapsalu, we continue to the Noarootsi Peninsula (where historically the main inhabitants were Swedes) and look for birds in the former sea bays. In the evening, we head out and look for Elk grazing on the Rannajõe meadows.
Accommodation: in Matsalu NP (ensuite room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Sunday 30 May 2021. Matsalu National Park-Kasari River boat trip.
Today we will start the morning with a visit to Matsalu National park, one of Estonia’s best birdwatching spots. During the day we will visit Haeska birdwatching tower which holds the European record for the most birds seen in 24 hours from one tower (128 species in mid-May). Later in the day, we will also visit the southern part of Matsalu Bay, where we will explore the wooded meadows, which are semi-natural grasslands with a high number of different plant species. Laelatu wooded meadow is one of the most species-rich plant communities in the world, with a recorded 76 different vascular plant species per one square metre. In the evening, we will take a boat ride on the Kasari River, searching for beavers, birds and one of the biggest land mammals of Europe – Elk.
Accommodation: in Matsalu NP (ensuite room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 4. Monday 31 May 2021. Matsalu National Park- Hiiumaa Island boat trip.  
After breakfast, we will drive to Rohuküla port for a day tour to the second biggest island of Estonia – Hiiumaa. From the sundeck of the ferry, we keep an eye out for different seabirds and from time to time, Grey- and Ringed seals show themselves on one of the islets we pass by. After a brief landfall on Hiiumaa Island, we will once again head out on the sea in a traditional fishing boat to look for Ringed Seals.

Ringed Seals are a relict species which became trapped in the Baltic Sea as a result of the post-glacial rebound (the rise of land masses after the lifting of the huge weight of ice sheets during the last glacial period which had previously caused the land to sink). During the latter part of the day, we will return to Hiiumaa Island and enjoy the landscape and birds of Käina Bay and the Kasari Landscape Reserve.
Accommodation: in Matsalu NP (ensuite room). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5. Tuesday 1 June 2021. Matsalu NP to Kõrvemaa/Lahemaa NP.
After breakfast, we will leave the western coast and start driving towards the east. After a 2-hour drive, we will stretch our legs and discover one of the most iconic landscapes forms of Estonia – the peat bogs. More precisely, we will hike on a boardwalk that runs through the Suru Peat Bog in the Kõrvemaa Nature reserve (around 6km circuit track). While peat bogs are not the richest in terms of plant species, it’s a perfect habitat for numerous specialists, which thrive only on poor acidic soils found only in peat bogs (sundew, bog rosemary, dwarf birch, shrubby birch) and waders such as the Golden Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Whimbrel). Also, Merlin, Golden Eagle and Great Grey Shrike look for prey in the savannah-like landscape. After the walk, we will continue towards Lahemaa National Park, which is the oldest National Park in the Baltic States. In the evening we will look for one the most secretive birds – the European Nightjar.
Accommodation: in Lahemaa NP (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

 

Day 6. Wednesday 2 June 2021. Lahemaa NP. Accom: Lahemaa NP.
After breakfast this morning, we will talk a 5 kilometre walk in the primeval forest of Oandu, which is now growing on and between former sea dunes. It’s a picturesque forest illustrating different types of forests in different stages of growth. Due to its old age and lots of dead trees, these forests are home to several woodpecker species, such as the Black Woodpecker (the largest woodpecker in Europe) and Three-toed Woodpecker (one of the rarest). This afternoon, we will visit the fishing village of Altja and the captain’s village of Käsmu. Both villages are situated around the small bays of Lahemaa and are good for birdwatching; Käsmu has been a draw for intellectuals and artists, and both villages are worth a visit for their architecture and history.
Accommodation: in Lahemaa NP (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 7. Thursday 3 June 2021. Lahemaa NP/Alutaguse Brown Bear hide.
Today we have one big goal- to see Brown Bear and other medium to large mammals in the wild. This morning we will explore the national park further, before driving to Alutaguse, which is one of the most densely forested areas in Estonia. Parts of it belong to the newest national park in Estonia which was formed in 2018. These forests are also home to many European Brown Bears. For those who are interested, this evening and overnight we will spend in a Brown Bear watching hide. The simple but comfortable hides are equipped with bunk beds, pillows, sleeping bags and a compost toilet for those who wish to rest during the night. This time of year is the mating time of bears, so we should have a very good chance of seeing them. Another mammal species commonly seen from the hide is the Raccoon Dog, which was introduced from East Asia to Estonia and other European countries during the Soviet period because of their high-quality fur. It is not possible to exit the hide at night after the viewing so those that participate must stay in the hide overnight. Otherwise you are welcome to stay and relax in the accommodation in nearby Rakvere Town.   
Accommodation: Bear hide in Alutaguse (shared facilities and bunk beds) or Rakvere (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D

Day 8. Friday 4 June 2021. Rakvere Town/ Alutaguse NP. Siberian Flying Squirrel.
After leaving the Brown Bear hide, we will head back to our accommodation for breakfast and a rest. The accommodation is set in a protected oak grove/oak dominated forest in a quiet location on the borders of the town and we also have the chance to explore this for various woodpeckers and warblers.  Around lunchtime, we will return to the forests of Alutaguse are to meet a local specialist who works with one of the most secretive of species – the Siberian Flying Squirrel. This small mammal only lives in Finland and in the forests of Alutaguse in Europe. During the day we will visit its breeding grounds with the specialist and learn about its behaviour, habitat and ongoing conservation efforts as well as its importance as one of the flagship species of Estonian nature conservation and untouched forests. Flying squirrels are mostly active at night, but during the Estonian spring, we have a chance to see them during the day. After a late dinner, we will return to the area, where our chances increase after dark. Accommodation: Rakvere (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.Day 9. Saturday 5 June 2021. Rakvere to Tallinn. Today we will slowly start our journey back towards the capital – Tallinn. Before settling in the hotel, we will have a tour in Tallinn Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and where we will spend our last night.
Accommodation: Tallinn (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
 
Day 10. Sunday 6 June 2021. Depart Tallinn.
Depart Tallinn for our onward travels.     
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.

Tour Price: AUD$6,385 per person twin share.  Single supplement: AUD$530

Group size: 5-7 people + tour leader Tonia Cochran + local guide.

Price includes: 9 nights’ accommodation in en suite guesthouses and hotels (including optional night in a bear hide), specialist guide and transport, return transfers from/to Tallinn, all meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary (including 2 boat trips and also excursion with Flying Squirrel researcher and Brown bear hide).

Price does not include: International and domestic airfares, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature or activities not mentioned in the itinerary.

Extra nights’ accommodation can be arranged in Tallinn for those who are interested: at AU$260/double and $220 single (bed and breakfast).

Please note: 
The itinerary:
Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline.  Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to.  The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.

Mobility: This tour is suitable for a range of activity levels with walks of up to 6 kilometres on mostly level ground; there are options for joining some walks and for more relaxed touring nearer the vehicle if you prefer.

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