Sunday, April 30, 2017

Our recent trip to Bulgaria, April 2017

We have just returned from a very enjoyable trip to the Rhodope Mountains in southern Bulgaria. The main purpose of our trip, and our number one target, was to see the European Brown Bear. Our trip was booked with Neophron Tours. A very good friend, Jonny Barnard, came with us and we all met up at Sophia Airport where our guide, Minko Madzharov, was waiting for us. Minko was a fabulous guide, he worked tirelessly for us and is a very likeable chap with a fantastic sense of humour. We definately had a laugh that's for sure !

There are two bear watching hides that Neophron use. Our first night was spent in the basic one that was a massive hike to get to. We went up in a Lada 4 x 4 as far as it could get and then walked the last half hour to the hide. On the way we passed a scratching tree and some poo so our hopes of seeing a bear were very high indeed. It was so exciting looking out in hope but soon the weather closed in and the fog fell upon us for a while, I really felt like crying !  But as night time came the wind picked up slightly and the fog did clear. The hide was actually quite warm and there were blankets to get wrapped up in when the nightime temperature dropped. But the night passed and dawn arrived and we sat there until 7am with not a bear sighting. Our driver had put out a bucketfull of food but this had been taken by a pair of greedy ravens. A male brown bear had been seen from this hide a couple of weeks ago but we were not too sure if food had been put out inbetween this sighting and our visit.

The following night we decided on a the luxury hide so just after tea we were picked up and driven up a different mountain for the night. We soon made ourselves comfortable in the hide for the night shift. Our driver had pointed out a footprint from a bear that had visited during the day....our hopes were high. The bears had just emerged from their hibernation so, knowing they would be very hungry, we thought we would definately be in for a sighting. A full night passed but all we attracted was a group of wild boar that stayed for about an hour, having their fill of maize. The following morning we headed back down the slopes to sleep for the morning in our hotel before heading back up in the afternoon for another visit.

We spent well over 30 hours in these hides, hoping to see a bear but afraid we didn't have any luck. We were sinking into despondency as was our guide so we all decided to cut our losses and the following day we headed into a different area for three days birding.....and that was fantastic!

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