In Kõrvemaa on 17 February 2020

Bog shoes have been used by people to traverse Estonian bogs for centuries. The shoes found their way into the world of tourism in the early 21st century, and Estonia is a unique destination for bog-shoe hiking.

Based on interviews with entrepreneurs offering such hikes, the country receives around 15,000 visitors each year who, for recreational purposes, don bog shoes (and use other means) to stray from the boardwalks that wind their way through the bogs. The majority do so in protected areas and special management zones. However, this heavy footfall has left its mark on the boggy surfaces of some of the more visited areas, much to the chagrin of interest groups: problems have arisen in terms of both social and, in some cases, ecological burden.

Consequently, it is in the interests of entrepreneurs offering bog-shoe hikes that principles of best practice for bog-shoeing be drawn up and implemented. Such principles have been devised: close to 30 entrepreneurs involved in bog-shoe tourism have contributed to their development, along with employees of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Environmental Board, the Environmental Inspectorate and the Tourism Development Centre of Enterprise Estonia.

Best practice in bog-shoe tourism

  • Bog-shoe hikes have both a nature education and nature conservation remit and provide explanations about bogs and Estonian nature and cultural heritage generally.
  • In planning a bog-shoe hike, I ascertain the nature conservation values of and restrictions pertaining to the bog I have chosen and base my hike around them, coordinating my plans (including the area in which I will be operating) with the Environmental Board.
  • To traverse bogs at times when there is no snow, I use bog shoes without grapples.
  • Bog-shoeing is not allowed in protected bogs from 23 April-24 June except with the permission of the manager of the protected area.
  • When hiking in bogs with bog shoes I step off the visitor infrastructure onto the bog at different points each time so as to avoid visible surface damage in the area surrounding the infrastructure.
  • I am capable of assessing the tracks that form when traversing bogs and of choosing suitable routes in order to reduce the formation of such tracks. If necessary, I implement a system of skipping years to allow the surface to recover.
  • In all of my movements in the natural environment I minimise my footprint. To this end, I prefer to move in small groups.
  • Following a hike conducted by a hike organiser who has signed up to the best practice, the bog is cleaner than it was prior to the hike (with litter and other foreign matter being collected during the hike).
  • Those who have signed up to the best practice have undergone the relevant training.