Our project was visited by Joseph Attlee and Tamzin Plummer, pair of adventure cyclists and amateur environmentalists, who invented the Human cycles project and are cycling from The Netherlands to Slovenia, visiting different environmental projects along the way. We’ve met them in the small town of Lož in the core brown bear area in Slovenia, were we had a short presentation about bears, bear friendly label and ecotourism opportunities developed within LIFE DINALP BEAR project. We were hosted by Javni zavod Snežnik and Slovenianbears to discover the highlights of their bear watching programs, which follow the guidelines of responsible bear tourism and give a share of the revenue from tourism back to nature conservation.
First stop was Turizem Jure, where we have met Jure Kordiš, local from Gornje Poljane, tiny village without permanent resident, where Jure has restored his ancestors’ house, and offers accommodation and local culinary specialities. The terrace overlooking a meadow is perfect for wildlife watching over a cup of tea in evening. Jure showed us a wonderful collection of local farm and forestry tools and household items from the first half of the 20th century. He took us on a short hike through the forest, telling stories about the interdependence of man and nature and shared memories of his bear and other wildlife encounters. The day was a bit chilly and we were more than happy after Jure served us with some hot, home-made stew, followed by delicious stir fried apples with ice-cream. Just what we needed before going bear watching.
Local hunter Zdravko took us to the hide offered by Slovenianbears. While walking towards the hide, he showed us bear prints in the mud of the forest ground. Mother bear with a small cub must have been here on the night before! We were excited: just knowing that these woods are full of wildlife, that we share the same paths as they do, was an adventure for us. While we were admiring the bear print, Zdravko was silently trying to capture our attention. He spotted two young bears among tree trunks and branches – for a moment it looked like they are not aware of our presence. But then, with a blink of the eye, they were gone. »They’ve smelled us«, whispered Zdravko, as we quietly entered a photo hide trying to produce as little sound as possible. Than we were sitting in silence. Waiting. And waiting. Waiting in silence, listening to the sounds of the forest, watching wild pigeons, bees, watching a rain storm come and go: it can be very relaxing, but it’s also challenging. We were wondering if our guide Zdravko, who stayed with us for the whole time, is feeling tired: he had seen a bear so many times. But looking at him we knew: he was just as excited as we were, checking the area, listening for the sounds of broken twigs, ready to show us any signs of wildlife.
And then, yes, they have arrived! The same young bears we have seen before. Zdravko quietly explained that they were probably siblings, spending their first year away from their mother. The experience was beautiful and emotional and we felt very grateful for these moments after the bears moved away.
Thank you Javni zavod Snežnik and Slovenianbears for such a great day. We recommend this trip to anyone, who would like to have a responsible and authentic experience of bears and local life in Loška dolina.