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Buna Delta

Nature lovers or those just looking for a pleasant walk in some cool forests can head straight from the beach into the Buna Delta reservation, between Velipoja and the Buna River which forms the Montenegrin border here.

The Buna is a short 44km river that originates from Lake Shkodra and meanders its way to the Adriatic sea. Near the sea, the river splits into a few arms, forming a marshy low-lying delta area, with a few fishing villages and one large island on the Montenegrin side (Ada Bojana). On the Albanian side, a few old river arms have turned into marshy lakes full of wildlife, surrounded by forests of pine and deciduous trees.

The delta is populated by a rich variety of animals, including logger-head turtles, wild boar, foxes, jackals, spoonbills, pygmy cormorants, stone curlews and levant sparrowhawks. Arriving very early in the morning gives you the most chance of spotting wildlife and the chance to explore the whole area.

To get here, turn right or have the furgon drop you off at the large sign for Hotel Belavista, near the local police station and on your right when near Velipoja. The wooden building down the small road here is opposite the entrance gate to the nature reservation; you may have to pay a small fee to get in. Mind that after wet weather the rutted paths are not suitable for normal cars, and walking (or cycling if you have a bike) is the best option. If the gate and wooden house are unmanned, jump over it, or simply walk further down the road to the beach and enter the reservation from there.

It's easy to get around the park as there are only two paths with marshes making shortcuts tricky. There are no facilities, so bring food, water and mosquito repellent.

From the gate, keep heading straight ahead through dry pine forests to finally reach a bird-watching tower overlooking the calm river, with the Ada island across the water. If you follow the road upriver, you'll come to a small fishing village. Halfway between the gate and the river a turning to the left eventually leads past a large lake with another high observation tower for birdwatching.

The track continues through fields to the beach near the mouth of the Buna. The beach here is unfortunately strewn with plastic rubbish that floated down the river or was chucked from ships out at sea. In the 1970s and 80s, locals would come to the beach to see what had washed up from Italy, and plastic bags and bottles were valued and used at home. Nowadays even for the Albanians it's trash, and if you sit at the shore looking out at sea you won't notice it too much.

Near where the road emerges there's another tower for birdwatching. From here you can walk across a sandbar past a lagoon with twittering birds to the tiny former Franc Jozef island (now a forested peninsula), named so because of a Habsburg naval base set up here in 1892.

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