What is rewilding anyway?
Designed Around Rewilding Experiences
All of our holidays include the chance to experience at least one European rewilding project, whether that’s tracking Marsican Brown bears in the Italian Apennines, looking for Bison in Poland’s primal forests or setting camera traps for wolves in Bulgaria’s Rhodope mountains. Or you might prefer a day’s kayaking through the Danube wetlands, or the chance to watch thousands of raptors migrate through Bulgaria’s famous Via Pontica.
As well as being thrilling and enjoyable, these experiences mean your holiday is actively supporting crucial conservation efforts across Europe. By doing this we are turning amazing holidays into something that has long-lasting, positive effects.
Don’t worry, we won’t be shoving the rewilding message down your throats, and you won’t feel like you’re on some worthy university field trip – you’ll just be doing some darned exciting things that happen to be beneficial to people and place. And you’ll end the day in a charming agroturismo, drinking delicious local wines and clinking glasses with your hosts
What is Rewilding?
For a word that’s been around for little more than a decade, ‘rewilding’ has fast gained notoriety. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, rewilding means: ‘to restore (an area of land) to its natural uncultivated state (used especially with reference to the reintroduction of species of wild animal that have been driven out or exterminated).’
Rewilding is perhaps best described as the willful restoration of an ecosystem, and writers who’ve explored the subject have found their own understanding of what it means. In his book Feral George Monbiot writes that: ‘rewilding recognizes that nature consists not just of a collection of species, but also their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment. It understands that to keep an ecosystem is a state of arrested development, to preserve it as if it were a jar of pickles, is to protect something which bears little relationship to the natural world’.
Isabella Tree, whose bestselling book Wilding talks about her pioneering rewilding work on her Knepp Estate, simply calls the process ‘giving nature the space and opportunity to express itself’.
Essentially, to rewild an area is to consciously permit and encourage nature to regain some balance. This often doesn’t mean leaving it entirely to natural regeneration though; the impacts of intensive farming practices, industrialization, deforestation, soil erosion and species eradication could take hundreds, or even thousands, of years to reverse if we simply take our hands away from the steering wheel. Yet by assisting nature, helping establish and mirror natural processes, looking and listening to the impacts of each small change we make, we take an active role in giving nature that opportunity to’ express itself’.
The UN “Decade On Ecosystem Restoration”
In February 2020, the UN, thanks to a proposal by El Salvador, adopted the period from 2021 to 2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This global initiative, supported by seventy-one UN member states, has the stated goal to “ramp up efforts to reverse centuries of damage to forests, wetlands and other ecosystems. Getting it right will be key to putting the planet back on a sustainable course”.
The UN recognizes that the restoration of ecosystems cannot be attempted in isolation from the communities who live in or adjacent to them. Our hope is that by joining the dots between low carbon travel, the desire to experience wild places, successful restoration activities and vibrant cultural exchanges, we help to add value to ecosystem restoration and become a small part of the move to a positive circular economy that benefits both people and planet.
Community Meets Wilderness
We can’t hope to encourage good stewardship of natural ecosystems without local people being engaged and actively involved in every step of the process. For us, travel has always been about people more than it’s been about ticking off a list of sights. Of course landscapes can leave us deeply affected, but more often it’s the people, and our interaction with them, that linger in our memories the longest.
Thanks to your visit and your engagement in rewilding and nature, you add value to community-led conservation efforts, and become part of a virtuous circle.
A Wild Future?
We are a small company and have every aspiration of staying that way. Our goal is to ensure that every guest feels valued and has a personal connection with us.
We also don’t want the wild places we visit to become over-touristed. For that reason we limit the numbers of our guests each year. We see the development of truly net-beneficial travel as vital to the protection of our planet and we hope that this resonates with you too.
Rewilding: the single most important thing we can do to help stop ecosystem collapse
In Sir David Attenborough’s 2020 film, A Life On Our Planet – his ‘witness statement’ from a life working in conservation – the naturalist and broadcaster highlights the changes that have taken place in the Earth’s ecosystems over our lifetime, and the dire consequences humanity faces if we don’t make drastic changes now. This isn’t the place to go into all the details, but the film makes for sobering viewing.
In his summary, Attenborough notes that biodiversity is the fundamental building block of a balanced environment – a notion built overwhelmingly on peer-reviewed science – and he goes on to say that the single most important action we can take now is to rewild our planet.
Travel can be a positive driver for this change, and we feel there is a way to make travel work for the planet’s benefit. In August 2020, the New York Times published an article asserting that the next phase of travel would focus on what it calls “regenerative” travel experiences. In October 2020, the Financial Times ran an article on the future of conservation tourism in Africa, with a heavy nod towards the concept of regenerative travel on the continent. Other articles in the Times of India, The Telegraph and others have underscored that need to change the way we travel. At Wild Europe, we hope to be part of that positive change.