Forest Engineer Dragan Karaklić, Acting Director, Tara National Park:

Serbia’s Mysterious Beauty

The Tara National Park covers most of the Tara Mountain, which lies in the far western part of Serbia. It covers a region of the Old Vlach Mountains encompassed by the elbow-shaped course of the Drina river, between the towns of Višegrad and Bajina Bašta

Adorned by many hidden gorges and canyons, hollows, and caves, this mysterious beauty of Serbian tourism deserves far better treatment on the map of Serbian tourist treasures. Perhaps one gentle touch, one incentive from the state would suffice for this beauty to show its full splendour.

The Tara National Park covers almost 25,000 hectares, with the Vrelo stream, Lake Perućac all the way to the dam and Lake Zaovine. Is it possible to preserve and maintain such an enormous area, and what does it take to do so?

– Managing protected areas, especially national parks, is a complex endeavour, requiring a multidisciplinary and responsible approach towards nature and people. In essence, its core is not in merely applying the prescribed protective measures and performing routine duties, but in a deep understanding of the management role you have been assigned. In the Tara National Park, we try to harmonise the projected general goals with the interests of each and every individual user. Whether we have succeeded in reaching that goal, it’s not up to us to say.

The National Parks Tara and Black Canyon in Colorado have signed a fiveyear Cooperation Agreement. In what way do you expect the experience of this world-renowned natural park to be useful for our domestic national park, and how in practice?

– This Agreement foresees cooperation in sharing know-how, experience and staff. This cooperation runs across different areas, ranging from managing national potentials, restoring swamps and forests, controlling rare species, overseeing water and air quality, via training in environmental protection, through planning the construction of youth camps and mountain climbing for ecotourism, to administering web sites. There are many interesting topics here, but what is most important for us is their experience in restoring forests.

The Tara National Park is a unique area in western Serbia, characterised by nature that is still pristine, and with a great many natural phenomena and attractions.

In addition to being one of the most valuable and richest European ecosystems, Tara is also rich in cultural and historical heritage. Can you tell us about efforts to discover sites treasuring valuable messages from the past?

– The Tara National Park is known for the Drina river canyon, the monumental Pančić spruce, the brown bear, and vast stands of fir, spruce and beech trees. Its important cultural and historical heritage should also be mentioned. The recognition of the terrain and the results of preliminary archaeological research over the last decade have provided an indication of a considerable civilisational continuity. Today, beside the famous Monastery Rača from the 13th century and a necropolis with specific medieval tombstones called stećak (pl. stećci) in Perućac and Rastište, which are included in the World Heritage List, we also see foundations of early Byzantine churches from the period between the 4th and 6th centuries. The next thing we are planning to do is to publish the results of ethnological research on Mt Tara, which we have just carried out in cooperation with the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.

Tara is a favourite destination for both domestic and foreign tourists. What kind of help do you expect from the state in achieving an even more effective use of the tourist potential of this area?

– The Tara National Park is the only national park in western Serbia, and it is considered one of the leading tourist destinations in this part of the country. This is an area which is still in an almost completely pristine condition. It’s a real mountain, with a great many natural phenomena and attractions. When it comes to tourist activities, the Public Enterprise ”Tara National Park” is focusing on establishing basic infrastructure, defining and marking walking, mountain climbing, and cycling tracks, arranging picnic areas, opening visitors’ centres, and promoting the overall treasures. We definitely need better quality roads, and in that regard the role of the state is indispensable.