Brown Bears and Birds
A 5-day tour available any time from April to November
Bulgaria hosts one of the most stable populations of Brown Bear in Europe. About 800 animals inhabit the mountains in the central and southwestern parts of the country.
This exciting tour we offer focuses on Brown Bear watching in the most virgin areas of the Western Rhodopes Mountain
The Western Rhodopes are one of the biggest mountain massifs on the Balkan peninsular, with great significance for the conservation of vast deciduous forests and unique pseudo-boreal conifer forests.
The Western Rhodopes are the main refuge of the Brown Bear in Bulgaria. They are also home of the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), the European Wild Cat (Felis silvestris) and the Balkan subspecies of Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica). Depending on the time of the year you will have bigger or smaller chances to see these animals.
The bird diversity in the Western Rhodopes is amazing, with nearly 150 breeding species recorded there. The Western Rhodopes hold the biggest breeding population of the Capercaillie in Bulgaria and they are one of the most valuable areas in the country for the conservation of the Hazel Grouse, Honey Buzzard, Black Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Tengmalm's Owl, Pygmy Owl, European Nightjar, Spotted Nutcracker, Ring Ouzel, etc. On this tour you will have extraordinary chances to see and enjoy many of these special birds.
Best time to see Brown Bear: April - May and September - November
Day 1: After your arrival at Sofia Airport we will drive (~ 2- 2,5 hours) to the core of one of the game reserves in the Western Rhodopes, where we will be based in a lodge for the next 4 days/nights. You will be introduced to the local rangers (guides), who are very familiar with the behavior and local distribution of the Brown Bear and the other big mammals in the area. You will learn about the Bear's status, behavior and habits and the conditions for bear tracking and viewing in the area. Depending on the time of arrival we can take a short walk.
Days 2-4: Day walks in the Brown Bear habitats, where we will look at Bear tracks and markings and by a lucky chance 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, if lucky, watch them from about 20-30 meters. We have to enter the hide about two hours before darkness. We stay in the hide as long as you wish, although it is preferable to stay there until the morning in order to increase your chances to see a Bear and other mammals. We provide night vision equipment. If you wish, you can spend all three nights in observation hides, regardless of whether you have seen bears the previous nights.
We usually reach the hides by jeeps, but some of them are at a walking distance. The hides are raised above ground and completely safe, made of concrete or wood, with a bed and chairs inside, normally hosting three persons.
Another target mammal of this trip is the Balkan Chamois, which is comparatively easy both to watch and photograph. While in the hides and/or during the walks in the game reserve you will be able to see Wild Boar, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Badger, Brown Hare, Stone Marten, European Wildcat.
The Wolves also thrive here, though the chances to see them are very slight. In the less forested eastern part of the Rhodopes they are easier to find. Please have a look at our Wolves and Vultures tour.
From late March to early May you can observe and photograph displaying males of Capercaillies at their leking grounds. If you wish to do so, please be prepared for early morning outings and walks in the snow.
You can use the day-time for other activities, like birdwatching, photographing, horse-riding, sightseeing, etc. The target bird species in the area of the game reserve include the Hazel Grouse, Honey Buzzard, Black Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Tengmalm's Owl, Tawny Owl, Ring Ouzel, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Willow Tit, Rock Bunting, etc.
If you wish, on some of the days we may go birdwatching out of the game reserve - in the foot of the Rhodopes and along Maritca river for Eastern Imperial Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Levant Sparrowhawk, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Syrian Woodpecker, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Tawny Pipit, Isabelline Wheatear, Calandra Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock Trushes, Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrike, Black-headed Bunting and many others.
Day 5: Transfer to Sofia for departure
This tour can be run from late April to November, but April - May and September - November are the most appropriate months, because before and after hibernation the bears visit the feeding places more frequently.
The best time to combine the bear watching with birdwatching is May.
Chances of observing Brown Bear:~ 60 % to see a Bear (Bears)
100 % to see Bear tracks
Basic tour price, per person:
|Single room supplement: € 60
1/ Birdwatching out of the area of the game reserve: from 20 to 45 EUR pp, depending on the distance and group size
2/ Horse riding: 30 EUR pp a day
3/ Sightseeing: TBA on the spot
Supplement for prolongation of the tour: 25 % of the basic tour price for every additional day
The price includes:
- Transfer by car or minibus from Sofia Airport to the lodge and back;
- Local transport by 4WD vehicles in the area of the game reserve for all kind of wildlife observations;
- Accommodation in twin bedded en-suite room
- All meals - most of the meals are at the lodge and the packed food and hot drinks are provided in the field;
- English speaking guide for birds and other wildlife during the whole trip;
- Local guiding for Brown Bear, Balkan Chamois and other mammals viewing, as well as for Capercaillie observations.
Price excludes: Flights and travel insurance