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The Vilsandi nature preserve PDF Prindi

Vilsandi National Park

The park is located on the western coast of Saaremaa and counts within its territory nearly a hundred little islets and their surrounding sea. The area covers 106.9 square kilometers. The administrative center is located on the largest island, Vilsandi.

Vilsandi got its start when the keeper of the lighthouse, Artur Toom, started building nesting boxes and in other arranging protection for the birds that nested there. In 1910 the area was named a bird sanctuary. Approximately a hundred species of birds nest in the area, for a total of 7 000 to 8 000 nesting pairs. The most exotic birds to make a recent arrival are six ostriches that live on a farm and were brought there by a previous native of Vilsandi who returned from Sweden together with the birds. Today, the park aims to protect not only birds, but also the landscape, as well as plant and animal species.

Before World War II there were 33 farms (or "smokes" as the Estonians used to call old family farms) on the islands, with 200 permanent residents. Today, there are maybe 30 residents. Artur Toom ended his days in Siberia as a "nationally dangerous element" as the Soviets called independent-minded thinkers.

Today, several old windmills have been rebuilt, as well as the Tolli farmhouse. The Tolli farmhouse became a favored summer holiday destination for many Estonian writers. The lighthouse on the island was built in 1809.

A permanent population on Vilsandi did not develop until the beginning of the 18th century. The first permanent settler on the island was a Dutch sailor named Johann Doll. Tolli farm, which carries his name, developed into Vilsandi's largest farm. Towards the end of the 18th century a border control point was established there, which brought more settlers. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 30 families on the island. After land reform in the 1920's a few more families came.

The best-known bird sanctuary island are located off the western shore of Vilsandi - Alumine Vaika (Lower Vaika), Keskmine Vaika (Middle Vaika) and Ülemine Vaika (Upper Vaika), Mustpank, Kullipank and Karirahu. To the north of Vilsandi is Vesiloo island. The water here is shallow enogh to enable access by wading thru the sea.

During World War II Vilsandi and its bird sanctuaries were completely destroyed, as was the group of birds that Artur Toom had used for his studies thruout the years. Therefore, the rebirth of Vilsandi is dated to 7 June 1957, when the bird sactuary was reestablished to cover an area of over 180 square miles.

To reach Vilsandi take a bus or drive 32 kilometers to Kihelkonna. From Kihelkonna take the cobblestone road 3.5 kilometers to Papisaare harbor. From there, a boat will take you the 10 to 12 remaining kilometers to Vilsandi twice a day. It is also possible to drive to Vilsandi in a specially-equipped truck or even wade thru the shallows. The Vilsandi Tourist Info center located in Kihelkonna should be able to give information on the latter two routes.

Vilsandi lighthouse is located on the western coast of Vilsandi. It is a white, cylindrical stone-built lighthouse, with a red top. It rises to 40 meters above the surrounding sea, and was built in 1809. Its light can be seen for 18 sea miles. This is the lighthouse where Artur Toom was the keeper from 1910 to 1941.

 
 

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