Preserving Estonian dugout canoe heritage through tourism

Preserving Estonian dugout canoe heritage through tourism

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Promoting and preserving the building skills and use of traditional dugout canoes (log-boats) of Soomaa National Park, Estonia by organizing workshops, camps and river trips both for locals and tourists.

Your idea
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Street Address

Basecamp Karuskose


Soomaa National Park



Postal/Zip Code


Year innovation began


Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality and distinctiveness of the destination

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Geographic location


Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Cross-cultural myopia

Main insight addressed

Education through hands-on experience

What is the goal of your innovation?

Promote and preserve the building skills and use of traditional dugout canoes (log-boats) of Soomaa National Park, Estonia by organizing workshops, camps and river trips both for locals and tourists.

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

Soomaa National Park is vast wilderness area of untouched peat bogs, rivers, floodplain meadows and floodplain forests. „In Soomaa we have not only spring, summer, autumn and winter, but also a fifth season – the floods,” say the residents of Soomaa. Regular floods are the reason why traditional dugout boat (called "haabjas") everyday use and building has survived here.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

A dugout is a boat which is basically a hollowed tree trunk. Other names for this type of boat are logboat and monoxylon. Dugouts are the oldest boats archaeologists have found.
In the flooded area of Soomaa national park these boats are survived as living culture. By today Soomaa has developed into a center for building and maintaining the traditions of these ancient boats in Estonia. Guests are welcome to come and educate themselves about the history and construction of these ancient vessels, participate in the practical building camps and make forays into the pristine nature of Soomaa National Park on these prehistoric vessels.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

Areas , where there is a risk for loosing of some cultural features, that can be the same time an interesting attraction for tourism development. Restoring a lost culture is impossible. Culture is a very sensitive issue, it is something that people first and foremost do for themselves, not for others. It is normally not a problem, that you share your culture with others such as tourists, allowing them to experience it. But the question is how far can you go?

In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

Promoting a dugout canoe culture of Estonia by organizing building workshops and river trips for both local residents and visitors of Soomaa National Park.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

Success can be measured by:
1. number of dugout canoe workshops and trips organized
2. number of people participated on these events
3 number of media reviews, articles on papers and magazines, TV-shows

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Dugout canoes are unique boats survived in the unique natural conditions of Soomaa National Park. Traditions are carried out to today by local boat builders, residents of the area.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Dugout canoes are harder to make than "normal" boats, that is the reason why less and less boats are built. In 1996 only 2 old men was able to build logboats. By organizing dugout workshops lot of outside attention has been brought to the culture of Soomaa people, from visitors of the area as well as media. It has created a new interest for the boat buildin worg among local men and people are proud of the unique culture connected to dugout canoes and Fifth Season.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

By experiencing a dugout building and paddling on the rivers on this ancient canoes people can understand the connection between Nature and our lives here.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

Yes , these dugout canoe trips and building workshops are economically viable tour products.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

We have recieved some grants for the boat building workshops 10 years ago. Today these festivals as well as dugout canoe trips on the rivers are self-financed.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

We will start taking excursion groups this year, for that we do need to invest for infrastructure (better road, electricity in the building-hall etc) and guide trainings.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?


The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

When Soomaa National Park was created in 1993 by the initiative of Estonian Fund for Nature, the idea of promoting and preserving dugout canoe culture of local residents. Only two old men was able to build dugouts. First boat building festival was organized in 1996, and similar activities has been carried out every year afterwards.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

I have been 15 years working as private nature tourism operator in Soomaa National Park, Estonia where I live. See my company site . I have also 15 years been one of the leaders for Ecotourism movement in Estonia. See my interview for ECOCLUB, International Ecotourism Magazine at their site:

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

Promoting and preserving the building skills and use of traditional dugout canoes (log-boats) of Soomaa National Park, Estonia by organizing workshops, camps and river trips both for locals and tourists.