Meet Our Hosts: Working at a Nature Park on Greek Island, Crete
Tell us a bit about your Stay. (Where is it located? What is the organization called? Why does it exist?)
Our nature park is located on the beautiful Island of Crete, just 3km from the old Venetian town, Rethymno, which is an attractive touristic place in summertime.
The organization is called ‘Parko‘ and is an outdoors activity park for kids. It’s an experiential learning center for school excursions, where the Greek kids can do different activities.
We founded the Biotopoi (Nature Park) as a non-profit organization with friends and volunteers, and it became a very important part of the whole place, as the kids can explore their own environment with its rich flora & fauna.
Over the last 7 years the park grew into an ecosystem, which became very important for the whole area with its plants, insects and the climate.
We opened the park for visitors from all over the world, who are interested to experience the wild Cretan nature and it’s geological & archaeological sites, too. While giving a guided tour through the park, we put all our passion into letting the visitors experience nature in all its beautiful shapes and changes. We want them to feel inspired and connected to nature.
This is where our volunteers work.
What duties are expected of the Helpers at the Nature Park? Do you think these are challenging tasks?
We like our helpers to be flexible, feel responsible, and to be able to do the tasks independently. There are challenging tasks for sure, because they depend on what’s needed in nature, which is changing all the time.
Of course we ask for some regular tasks which must be fulfilled everyday, especially when the season has started and visitors are coming, like keeping the area neat, the outdoor kitchen and the bathrooms clean.
We would say the most challenging task is to be always ready and to feel comfortable making the people feel welcome, talk with them and to be really interested in sharing the stories of nature.
What do you think makes a great Host? A great Helper?
Great hosts are the ones who love to share their lifestyle with the interested world. They are able to also learn from the helpers – actually when they also feel like volunteers, which means for us that we’re not the bosses in a workplace, but we might have just a bit more experience with the project we like to share
Great helpers are the ones who like to get involved in our project and have a deep love for nature with all her elements. They like to share the experiences they’ve had. We love people who are ready to learn more, to be open to new experiences and are curious, flexible and responsible.
What would you say is your Hosting style? Do you interact with the Helpers much?
We would really say that we like to interact with our helpers, to get to know them better. The best time for interaction is mostly the spring time, when we open the place up again, but also in the hot summertime; we often chill together in the shade, sharing our stories.
Can you tell us a funny story or a good memory with your Nature Park Helpers
There was a time one of our iguanas disappeared. It was in December, and we were worried he would not survive the winter alone. We did not find him, and thought he must have perished in the cold. We were preparing to open the park in April, which meant fixing the adventure park for the kids as well as the Nature Park. One of our volunteers climbed a 20-foot wooden tower to attach a rope, and there was the iguana, perched on top, perfectly healthy and happy. We named the iguana Eddie, after Sir Edmund Hillary, for conquering the Everest that is the tower.
What is your favorite part thing about being a host?
It’s a very sympathetic site and when we started there last year, we liked very much the personal support of Shay (HelpStay founder), who always answered our questions patiently. We feel like we are part of a really nice community, which attracts interesting helpers from all over the world.
As we were travelers ourselves in the past, we appreciate it so much to have found this connection.