Slovenian Cases

Cape Madona Underwater Learning Path

a case of educational tourism helping to preserve biodiversity of marine habitats surrounding the cape with historic town of Piran

Key words:
educational tourism

The marine natural monument Cape Madona is situated at the very end of the Cape Madona, where the oldest part of the historic town of Piran is located. The town of Piran is one of three well-preserved middle-age Mediterranean towns along the Slovene coast.


Problems / Conflicts / Opportunities
Cape Madona represents one of the most distinct, accessible and, at the same time, endangered parts of the Slovene coastal waters. The main reason is its extremely diverse animal and plant life, which is endangered by fishing and recreation.

The hard rocky bottom, which extends along the entire Slovene coast, descends more or less evenly from the coastline to the depth of a few meters, and then suddenly takes a greater plunge right down to the sedimentary floor (33 m deep). This "plunge" is particularly explicit at the Cape Madona, providing the small area of the Cape Madona with high diversity of habitats, and consecutively with great biodiversity. Here one can find more than 50 macro-benthic species that provide good living conditions for numerous animals. Among them are various shells, sea urchins, sea horses, crabs, sea snails, sponges, numerous species of fish, and many others. Some stone corals (Cladophora caespitosa) can also be found there, which gives the area a special character.

In the summer, the coast of the Cape Madona turns into the main town’s beach, and a lot of bathers snorkel in the area that is under protection. They pull out many endangered bivalve and other sea creatures. There is also a lack of information regarding protected species on beaches themselves and in tourist agencies. Lastly, some species, listed in the SPA protocol, such as sea horse (Hippocampus guttulatus and H. hippocampus) are found in some stores, providing souvenirs for tourists. The store owners are generally not aware of the fact that both species are protected.

Photo:Arhiv Morske biološke postaje Piran

Foto:Arhiv Morske biološke postaje Piran

Project Description
To enhance the protection of the area, the idea to establish a marine learning path that one can visit using simple snorkeling equipment was born in the year 2000. Since the protected area surrounds part of the historic centre of Piran, where many other tourist attractions are available, the idea of establishing a marine learning path is reasonable. Besides that, the town of Piran already offers visits of aquarium, which is located at the edge of the old town’s harbour near the protected area, and which can serve as a starting point for guided snorkeling or boat tours. Establishing a marine learning path is not only a good commercial idea to build up the local tourist offer, but it is also a good promotion of protected area in the wider public as well as a good opportunity to organise various educational programs in relation to marine life and its protection. Finally, such a marine learning path can rise the awareness of people, and consequently, keep them from behaviour that is harmful to the environment.

Photo: Arhiv ZRSVN Piran

Results, Who, Where, When
So far, Marine Biological Station from Piran, Slovenia, concluded extensive research on biodiversity of the area and in 2000 prepared a book entitled “Biodiversity of life at Cape Madona (the Piran Punta)”. The idea for the Cape Madona Marine Learning Path itself is in preparation and should be realised in coming years. It should include good tourist information in forms of brochures and pamphlets available through tourist agencies and stores in the town of Piran, information tables on the beach itself, guided snorkeling tours etc..

Photo: Arhiv ZRSVN Piran
Further information

Tourism can be very harmful to natural environment. With careful planning of tourism products, one can not only diversify the tourism offer, but also to help preserve natural environment through education with establishing learning paths and educational souvenirs.


Can tourism help to preserve natural marine environment?


Prepared by:
IIDE – Institute for Integral Development and Environment (Marta Vahtar, Maja Zdesar and Miran Rusjan)