BULGARIA - BROWN BEARS & BIRDS
Tuesday 18th - Tuesday 25th April 2017
Tour cost excluding flights: 910 Euros per person sharing for 2-3 people
860 Euros per person sharing for 4 or more.
Return flight with Easyjet from London Gatwick to Sofia about £180
Three people already booked.
For this tour will shall be using Neophron, our old friends in Bulgaria, as ground agents. Usually they run their Brown Bear trip over three nights but we have devised a 7-night trip with them to allow time not only to see the bears but also to get in a few days birding in this beautiful region.
Bulgaria hosts one of the most stable populations of the Brown Bear in Europe. About 800 animals inhabit the mountains in the central and southwestern parts of the country.
This exciting tour focuses on watching the Brown Bear in the virgin recesses of the Western Rhodope Mountains. The Western Rhodopes are one of the biggest mountain massifs on the Balkan peninsula and have a great significance for the conservation of vast deciduous forests and unique conifer forests. It is the main refuge of the Brown Bear in Bulgaria. The mountain is also home to Grey Wolf, European Wild Cat and the Balkan subspecies of the Chamois. Other mammals that we may possibly encounter are Wild Boar, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Badger, Brown Hare, Stone Marten. The best time to see the Brown Bear is April – May and September – November.
The bird diversity in the Western Rhodopes is amazing, with nearly 150 breeding species recorded there. The region holds the biggest breeding population of Capercaillie in Bulgaria and is one of the most valuable areas in the country for the conservation of Hazel Grouse, European Honey Buzzard, Black Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Tengmalm’s Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, European Nightjar, Spotted Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel (ssp. alpestris), Wallcreeper and Rock Bunting. On this tour we shall try to see all these target bird species.
Chances of seeing a Brown Bear on this tour: 75 %
Days 1 - 7 Upon arrival at Sofia Airport we shall drive to the core of one of the game reserves in the Western Rhodopes (about a three-hour drive), where we will be based in a lodge for the next 7 nights. We shall meet the local rangers, who are very familiar with the behaviour and local distribution of the Brown Bear and the other big mammals in the area and shall learn about the Bear’s status, behaviour and habits and the conditions for bear tracking and viewing in the area.
We shall take day walks in the Brown Bear habitats, where we will look at Bear tracks and markings and, if we are lucky, see a bear in day time. The main approach for observing bears, however, is to stay in a hide in front of a feeding place for Red Deer and Wild Boars frequented by Bears and, hopefully, watch them from about 20–30 metres.
We have to enter the hide about two hours before dark. We can stay in the hide as long as we wish, although it is preferable to stay there until the morning in order to increase the chances to see Bears and other mammals. If you wish, you can spend all nights in observation hides, regardless of whether you have seen bears the previous nights. The hides are completely safe, made of concrete or wood, with a bed and chairs inside, normally hosting three persons.
From mid-April to early May you can observe and photograph displaying Capercaillies at their lekking grounds. If you wish to do so, please be prepared for early morning outings and walks in the snow.
Another target mammal of this trip is the Balkan Chamois, which is comparatively easy to watch. While in the hides and/or during the walks in the area we will have chances to see Wild Boar, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Gray Wolf, Red Fox, Badger, Red Squirrel, Stone Marten and Pine Marten.
The bird species likely to be seen during the trip include Hazel Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Pygmy Owl, Wallcreeper, Nutcracker, White-throated Dipper, Crested Tit, Willow Tit, Firecrest & Goldcrest, Rock Bunting.
Day 8: Transfer back to Sofia for departure.