A Research Trip To Plitvice lakes

I owe my gratitude to my dear sister Mirela, and brother Ivan who helped me collect questionnaires, as well as the Manager of national park Mr Anđelko Novosel who gave us permission to conduct research on territory of Park.

     In May i was once again in Budva, meeting my dear friends on 9. International Congress of Faculties of Tourism and Hospitality. The same as i am, one of the regulars seams to be James Kennell, senior Lecturer at University of Greenwich, London. I always enjoy Budva; weather is always great, and people are pleasant.

     In one of the informal conversations we have had, we were discussing my PhD, and its subject. I remember he said how he feels sorry for those applied economists dealing with quantitative analysis. I smiled because it is major part of my dissertation and also because I knew what was expecting me this summer.

     After finishing 4th PhD session with my mentor and commission, I am focusing on research. Main emphasize of dissertation is determination of correlation between public attributes of selected national parks and hotel prices. To do so I have chosen 2 national parks, Plitvice lakes and Mljet. My mission is to collect 500 questionnaires in each. Target group are national park visitors who sleep in different hotels in Croatia.

     On 31st of July we went to Plitvice lakes, which is the most famous Croatian, and one of the best known European National parks. Even dough mission was to collect cca 500 fulfilled questionnaires; I have expected it to be piece of cake, since it is most visited national park in Croatia, with more than 1.1 mill visitors per year. Plitvice Lakes is the oldest Croatian national park. It is known for its magnificent travertine waterfalls which create clear lakes in a constant biodynamic process of travertine creation. As a result of that process, a series of 16 cascade-lined larger and several smaller lakes, which are the most picturesque part of this Park, was created. The Park is home to as much as 1267 plant species, of which 50 orchid species, 321 butterfly species, 157 bird species, 20 bat species… A special place in the abundant fauna is reserved for the largest European carnivores: brown bear, wolf and lynx. In 1979 UNESCO included Plitvice Lakes in the List of World Heritage Sites due to the uniqueness, natural beauty and value of the national park. (For more informations please visit http://www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr/hr/)

     I took this photo while waiting in line for electric ferry boat to cross from one part of the Park to the other.


On photo you can see Tufa barriers. Plitvice lake waters are supersaturated with dissolved calcium carbonate, in the form of calcium bicarbonate. As water is dispersed at a large scale at tufa barriers, it mineralises and calcium carbonate (calcite) is emitted in the form of tiny agglomerating crystals. The basic chemical formula for tufa sedimentation is the following:                              

Ca (HCO3)2+water dispersion → CO2+H2O+CaCO3↓ (tufa)

The invisible and at the same time essential element of this specific and complex tufa creation process are the so-called ‘blue-green algae’ (Cyanobacteria), eukaryotic algae (Diatomeae), various bacteria, Protozoa (single-cell organisms) and multi-cell microscopic organisms. These organisms represent a life community developing on rocks, plants (mosses) and submerged debris. Calcite micro-crystals are glued on mucopolysacharide mucus excreted by algae and bacteria. Crystals glued in such a way are crystal-forming agglomerate, around which calcium carbonate from water settles, helping the precipitation of well-known tufa barriers. The most prevalent moss, covering steep and vertical tufa barriers is Cratoneuron comutatum. This moss lithifies fast, and its contours remain well preserved in the tufa. At quieter places, a ‘Bryum pseudotriquetrum’ moss forms a Bryum-type tufa. The process of tufa formation dates far back into geologic history, to the conditions of warm and humid climate, similar to today. The age of active tufa barriers precipitation is estimated at 6.000 – 7.000 years, which corresponds to their formation after the latest ice age. Growth and development of tufa barriers is threatened if there are disturbances in physical, chemical and biological balance, important to the precipitation process.

However, it was everything but a piece of cake. 😦 But, do not worry we managed to collect some 350 questionnaires which is ok.

In one of my papers concerning tourism development in national parks, we were questioning implementation of different visitor management strategies in Croatian national parks „Visitor management tools for protected areas focused on sutainable tourism development: the Croatia experience” . This field research helped me to understand better how National park operates, and how well they have developed and implemented their visitor management tools. Even dough Park is beautiful, because of extremely preserved nature and lakes, as a researcher I was a bit disappointed with visitor management tools as well as the hospitality facilities in Park. By reading their management plan I have seen that they have incorporated some of the visitor management measures, but on field the story was different. Entering points to national park are scattered and are not very well marked. It took us some time to figure out where people enter, buy tickets and go. Problem related to that was fact that most of front stage employs were seasonal human resources, so they were lacking important answers. Different extremely long trails are not very well marked, and there are lacking vital information, like how long you need to walk to get somewhere. Major problem for us was the fact that most of the visitors on that day were from Korea. Since they do not speak English (almost all of them that were offered questionnaire have refused it because of language), the number of available subjects was cut in half. L Newer mind, fresh air and all that unique preserved nature had extremely calming effect.

Finally, after half hour consultation on info point, we have found right start point. Few minutes later, we were boldly heading, with 2 boats that were crossing lakes; to place that seems to be visitor hub.

Even dough it was exhausting, field research gave me some new energy. It seems that I needed something like that. To change common environment…. Thinking now about that make me realized how I was real tourist for one day, excursionist. I had real need, and it was full field with tour. How Lovely. After some time I was finally doing something I really enjoyed. Managing a travel agency (Wings Travel), setting up new business as well as preparing new lectures for autumn, has sucked out plenty of energy from me.

Whole day in Park, as well as achieving milestone made us feel victorious. Tragedy in whole was the fact that we believe we were the only persons that were for the whole day in Plitvice lakes, that haven’t seen waterfalls.

So dear James, it semis that all quant’s live their tragedies sometimes, and I believe this was mine! 🙂

Ps. This Sunday my story continues in National park Mljet! 🙂

We recommend visiting the national park most sincerely!