There is untouched nature just at the heart of Europe – only few hours away from us.
This is Slovenia – European nature at its best.
Being untouched and not the “usual-primary-choice” for nature wanderer has allowed wildlife to flourish. Slovenia is really the place where you can witness proliferation and conservation of amazing and diverse European wildlife and eco-system.
Combining wildlife with breath taking natural landscapes makes Slovenia an absolute must-visit if you are a nature lover, addicted to adventure and photography. However, it is also a must if you want to really enjoy the nature at its best without too much human interference.
My primary objective for visiting Slovenia was to meet the wild Brown Bear who is the undisputed protagonist of the region.
If you are looking for some tips on how to organize your trip and what to see once you finally get there then this blog post is for you.
Here is what I will tell you about:
- Organize your trip
- How does Slovenianbears.com work
- What else to see in the area
Organize Your Trip
If you are visiting Slovenia because you want to follow the tracks of the wild brown bears then your address of reference is Sloveninanbears.
You can book with them both on their website, via facebook, email, by phone…net they are extrememly flexible and approachable.
The company is run by Miha Mlakar who is a very nice guy super passionate and expert about nature and brown bears.
You can check the exact location of the Slovenianbear.com on the map below (point “A”). I have also added other two location marked with points “B” which i will talk about later in the post.
Please ensure you book your visit in advance. The demand for bear hides is very high all year around and the spots are running out of availability very quickly. So you’d better decide when to go and make your booking.
How To Get There
Car is – in my opinion – the best way to reach Slovenianbears.com.
This is because you want to keep a decent level of free mobility while you spend your time there. In fact, in top of being busy for most of your day in the hides spotting brown bears, you will also have free slots during the day when you might wander around the region maybe visiting some of the amazing caves and/or just get lost in the nature to spot some other wildlife.
If you cannot drive directly from your home location to Slovenia, then you can conveniently fly into Liubiana (the capital of Slovenia) airport and the rent a car which will leave you almost 90 minutes drive to Slovenianbears.com.
Where To Stay
On top of offering the trips to the hides and a lot of support to your visit, Miha is also offering accommodation to visitors normally included in the price.
There are two facilities where visitors can sleep.
One is the main base of Slovenianbears.com. This is a beautiful and charming house located in Markovec (point “A” on the map). This is where all key operations of Slovenianbears.com are operated. The restaurant which provides meals to visitors is also located in this facility. The house is not brand new but the rooms are comfortable and well maintained. Sleeping in the “main” house has the clear advantage of being directly on the same site from where all trips and expeditions will depart and – also – in the same building of the restaurant. As such you can just go to breakfast, lunch and dinner with your slippers after an intense day outside.
The other facility which is offered by Slovenianbears.com as accomodation is the Hotel Hrib 14. The Hotel is located into a nearby village with respect to the location of the main house. To access this Hotel – which is managed by the local touristic agency – you need to drive over the small mountain in between Markovec and Hrib – Loski Potok. The drive is on a gravel road and it is 15/20 minutes away from the Slovenianbears.com main base. Among the positives of this location I could quote the room quality. In fact, while the Hotel is very simple and down to basics, the rooms are just brand new and amazing and the hotel service is absolutely tailor made – i.e. they serve breakfast on time for you to depart for your adventure. Clearly, the disadvantage lies with the fact that in order to go for the excursions and also to have lunch and dinners you need to drive into the main Slovenianbears.com location.
I actually stayed in the Hotel Hrib 14. I was not given the chance the choose where to stay but I simply got assigned to it because I think the main house was full. While at the beginning I felt I was being penalized by this decision I actually ended up loving it. Not only the small Hotel Hrib was very comfortable but I also enjoyed the drive between Hotel and main base all the times. In fact, both at dawn or at night, I could spot incredible wildlife on my way in and out from main facilities. In addition, the rooms and the beds of the Hotel are just very good quality.
It is really recommend that you to go for the Hotel Hrib 14 as an accommodation. So please ask for it on your booking.
When To Go
Deciding when to go in Slovenia for brown bears is really up to you. Clearly the activity is running not all year round. It generally runs from March/April down to late October.
It is normally suspended from October to March due to bear lethargy.
In general, it really depends on what you want to shoot.
September/October is recommended if you want to see some nice autumn foliage or more misty scenery. However, you need to bear in mind that chances of cold and bad weather in general are clearly more likely in this period. Bad weather also means less light which could be very challenging in a forest photo environment.
May to August is recommended if you want to avoid bad weather but you are also ready to give up a bit on mesmerizing scenery .
March and April are also good months. Still there could be chance for bad weather and clod but there could also be snow falling in this period which clearly add quite some spin to your photo-trip.
How Slovenianbears.com Works
If you are reading this post it is probably because you have a passion for nature and photography and you may be wondering – how is my visit to Slovenianbears.com going to look like?
Here is what you should expect.
Slovenianbears.com owns multiple beautifully crafted and very safe hides located in various spots of nearby Slovenian forest. The hides are really full comfort. They are equipped with chairs. They have enough space to allow people moving around and lay down the photo equipment and they also present the option of installing your tripod head in the hide to hold your camera steady during the shooting sessions. Some of the hides are made for just one person while some others can host up to 4 or 5 people.
The team, has also quite a number of webcams in the forest close to the hides. These webcams are used to check where the bears are more likely to be found during the daily excursions to the hide.
Once the key locations are identified, the group is split among the different hides and then a Slovenianbears.com guide will drive you and the others to the hide.
Normally, all hides can be reached after a short drive (between 30 and 45 minutes). Once in the surroundings of the hide the van will drop you off and you will need to complete a walk between 5 minutes and 30 minutes to reach the actual location of the hide.
Typically, the excursions to the hides are organized in the afternoon, you could have the morning available to wander around the area and enjoy the numerous natural beauties. I will cover some of the options for the morning trips in the next paragraph.
RANDOM ODYSSEY TIP – HOW TO PACK: Remember to wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Actually I do recommend you wear warm clothes and you dress up with multiple layers. In fact, temperatures in the hide can be quite cold. You will be spending roughly 5 or 6 hours a day in the hide without too much possibility to move around. As such, even a slightly fresh temperature outside may become very cold for you inside the hide. Take this into account carefully in planning your luggage not to have bad and unpleasant surprises especially if you visit outside of July/August months.
What else to see in the area
Since the excursions to the hides are mainly in the afternoon, this leaves you with free mornings to roam around and live Slovenia to the fullest.
Slovenia is also very famous for its Jama (Jama is the Slovenian for cave). They are truly beautiful, extremely safe (for the most of it) and many of them allow tourists to visit them with guides.
When I checked the most interesting caves in the area I found the following:
- Krizna Jama is located at around 20 minutes car drive from the main base of Slovenianbears.com. This cave is impressive because it also contains some lakes and rivers which can be actually visited with small boats. Based on some of the pictures I have seen I also think that some of the rooms in the cave are very well illuminated and there are wonderful opportunities for pictures. Bear in mind that you need to book your visit WAY in advance because there are really limited number of places available each day. If you want to have more information about Krizna Jama and want to get in touch with the guides you can check this website.
- Postojna Jama is located at about 90 minutes car drive from the main base of Slovenianbears.com. Also this cave is amazing. It is much bigger than Krizna Jama and it is probably much more tourisitic. In fact, it is the biggest cave system in the whole Slovenia. However, if you get in touch with the management of the cave, you can arrange a private tour with guide before the cave actually opens for tourists and you can pretty much take all the pictures you want without anyone standing on your way. Actually, if you talk to the guide you can also manage to visit some parts of the cave that are not even accessible to tourists – which is what I did. As an example I managed to see the beautiful “cave of colors” which is really normally never accessed by tourists. Postojna Jama has an impressive river running inside (River Pivka) but due to the strength of its currents this cannot be navigated. There are some lakes which get formed when it rains heavily on the outside which are also very fascinating. Postojna Jama is also famous for the presence of the Baby Dragon’s which are living in the river and in the underground waters. They are basically blind lizards/snakes that are quite unique and they are also studied by National Geographic. If you want to have more information about Postojna Jama you can check this website.
Despite I really wanted to visit Krizna Jama, I found myself extremely fascinated by Postojna Jama. This is definitively something I recommend visiting in one of the free mornings you will have available. It is also recommended to get in touch with the management of the cave to organize a private guided visit. Costs are not outrageous!
Ural Owl Spotting & Other Wildlife
During the free mornings you should also go around the surroundings and have the chance to meet the amazing wildlife populating the area. You can literally find anything from Roe Deers, to Foxes. Wolves if you are very lucky as well as wild cats.
The guys from Slovenianbears.com also organize morning excursions to search for the Ural Owl which also populates this region. Spotting the Ural Owl is not impossible but it involves a good chunk of luck which I eventually did not have. The Ural Owl spotting is quite well organized as you will end up going around in different parts of the wood with a loud speaker reproducing the Ural Owl “voice” to attract the other ones which are in the area.