Life is about experiencing different things, and nature is high up on my list. Therefore, when I got an opportunity to go bear watching in a forest in Slovenia with Slovenian Bears – one of the best nature photography tour organizers for bears in Europe I was very excited, although a bit scared also: at the end of the day a bear is the largest wild animal we have in Europe – and also unpredictable.
The day kicks off in the afternoon with a short ride from Miha’s (the owner of Slovenian Bears Eco-tours) hotel-restaurant. Our group is divided into pairs and each pair gets their own little hide. The hike to the hide by a rocky hill took some ten minutes. Once inside, we are instructed to keep quiet and keep the door of the hut locked until we would be picked up some four hours later. Miha spreads some food – a mix of apples and seeds for the bear and leaves us to wait for the guest of honour of the afternoon.
The first few minutes pass in silence, in a sort of mix of excitement and fear (as bears are good climbers and our hide is rather flimsy), but then the boredom kicks in a bit. I practice taking pictures of the birds that come to pick up seeds as well as other little animal and then take to reading my kindle a bit. Food is obviously not allowed and hunger starts kicking in, as well as a need to go to the loo (which isn’t possible for four hours either!).
I think we’ve sort of dozed of a bit in the warmish September afternoon sun and when I wake up I see something brown – the bear has silently crept up on us. I was filled with adrenaline and start fumbling with the camera, pushing the lens through the little peephole made for recording devices.
The sun wasn’t ideal with the light being behind the bear – and although our friend stayed for quite a long time, he managed to hide partially behind a tree or dip between some rocks for most of the time. Anyway, I was happy to have just experienced this encounter, and the photos I took were just an added bonus: pictures will be there forever ready to refresh my memories when they eventually will start fading…
Our friend keep walking around, eating, listening barking and other noises coming from the valley below us. He also kept intently gazing to our direction, so despite our no perfume or other smells rule he must have been able to smell (and probably see us too). A bit unnerving at the time…
The bear granted us a good 40 minutes to admire and document its’ beauty, before finally it was scared away by some noises made lower in the valley. This was certainly a memorable and unique experience, totally different from seeing bears in captivity.
I must admit that despite this being an amazing experience, the whole waiting for hours with no facilities was a bit of painful experience. Great for a day, but I wound’t be able to do this several days in a row as I just love walking and going around so much, looking for new things to see and experience every day.
I definitely recommend Miha’s tours ( he now has nearly ten hides) – but book early as he normally has quite a wait list for these amazing encounters with bears.
And finally – here’s my little video of the bear when he first appeared – he just sort of silently appeared behind the rocks and all of sudden he was there. I was so taken by surprise that it took a minute to get the camera rolling…I hope you’ll enjoy the beauty of this king of the forest.
Disclosure: This experience was made possible by Slovenias Bears, but all opinions presented are my own.