The Ulcinj Salina – largest salina (saltpan) in the Adriatic, located in the extreme south of Montenegro, close to the border with Albania is a nearly 15 km² large wetland area and one of the most important wetland areas in the Balkans. It is located 1 km of air distance from the city of Ulcinj and the same distance from the border with Albania.
The significance of these salt pans for migratory birds is commonly compared with that of Heatrow or Frankfurt Airport for its air traffic because the Salina is indeed a hub for bird migration along the Adriatic Flyway.
Thousands of wading and water birds rest there each year in the spring and autumn and refuel for the rest of their energy-sapping flight. Moreover as a breeding site the Ulcinj Salina is of great importance. The Site is divided into several areas which had different purposes in the salt production process, such as crystallization and evaporation.
They are now mostly covered by grassland, halophyte vegetation and reeds. Overall, 252 bird species have been recorded in the Site, 20 of them globally threatened.
The «signature» species of Ulcinj Salina in the past several years has been the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), but also the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), a unique and distinct species which regularly visits the Salina area, with flocks of up to 100 specimens observed in the fall months. In addition, one endangered amphibian (Albanian water frog), one reptile (European pond turtle) and one mammal (European otter) are present.
The salt works were set up here in the period 1926-1934 and in turn, ensured a good life for local workers and birds alike, the latter being particularly attracted by the salty delights of the altered ecosystem.
At its zenith, the Ulcinj Salina was an inspirational example of how human activities and natural processes can indeed flourish together.
The national and local significance of Ulcinj Salina is reflected in its social-economic impact as well. The Bajo Sekulic saltworks used to employ up to 450 workers, making it a significant and steady source of income for a large number of households in the Ulcinj municipality.
Moreover, Ulcinj Salina was a well-known Montenegrin brand – a product of the marriage of the sun and the sea.
The procedure of winning sea salt in the Salina was in harmony with nature and people. The sea water was pumped into the vast salt pans, the water evaporated due to sun and wind, the salt remained and was harvested by hand.
This was not only good for people. With the sea water being pumped-in also fish and other little animals entered the Salina – a rich food source for birds and the basis for a flourishing biodiversity.
However, the salt harvest stopped in 2013 and there were initiatives to sell Ulcinj Salina and build a luxury hotel resort on the land.
Fortunately, Montenegro has designated Ulcinj Salina as its third Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site no. 2399). In June 2019 the Salina was declared a Natural Park and thus a Protected Area.
The Ulcinj Salina can be explored whole year by foot or by bike, though the bird species observed will depend on the season.The Centre for the Protection and Research of Birds in Montenegro (CZIP) hold a series of tours where visitors can observe these elegant birds from up close.