The Wild East

Source:Columbus Magazine

Photography:  Staffan Widstrand


For the most beautiful wilderness in Europe, you must go to the Wild East: Eastern European areas that are overflowing with wildlife and are still allowed to be wild. Rewilding Europe, a pan-European organization dedicated to rewilding of the continent, shows you the way.

One of the focus points of Rewilding Europe is the creation of so-called “herbiforests”.  These are mosaic landscapes consisting of forests and grasslands, and warden grazed by lousy herbivores like deer, bison, and wild horses. The main advantages are:

INCREASED BIODIVERSITY: A herbiforest consists of both forest and grass vegetation and is suitable for grazing. The advantage of such a forest mosaic is that habitat heterogeneity (wealth of for and fauna) occurs, which naturally benefits biodiversity.

HIGHER CO2 INTAKE: Although grasslands can absorb more CO2 than forests in the long term, herbiforests have a larger storage capacity. The older the forest, the greater the storage capacity.

NATURAL FIRE BRIGADE: Dense forests and contiguous bush landscapes are more susceptible to forest fires than mosaics. landscapes that are grazed. After all, herbivores eat away soil vegetation, so running fire cannot swell.

ECOTOURISM: Local entrepreneurs who focus on nature and live in or around a herbiforest receive support in the form of knowledge or loans. This way, not only nature but also the local economy gets a helping hand.

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The Southern Carpathians in Romania stretched over million hectares and is nothing short of spectacular. The landscape is characterized by high peaks, deep caves, wild rivers, and forests. The area also has a wide variety of wildlife, from wolves to brown bears and wild boar; and Eurasian lynx. The Plopu valley, just outside the village of Armenia marks the border between cultivated lands and wilderness. In the valley, you can regularly spot bears and bison. Hire a local guide to track down the animals. Between June and September, it is dry and warm and from December to March there is snow.

HOTSPOT FOR BIRDS : Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria

The Rhodope Mountains area is the crossroads between Europe and Asia and is an important fortress for wildlife in the area, with no less than three species of vultures. These animals can be observed from a distance on the mountainside. The mountain range is an interesting breeding ground for the griffon vulture, while black vulture has settled just over the Greek border. If you want to see the birds up close, then stop at the remote village of Madzharovo. With a bit of luck, you will be witness to a grim feast, which you can observe from a wildlife hide. Once back in the village you can visit the Vulture Centre. In the mountains, other species of animals like the brown bear are coming back, and the wolf and jackal already feel at home here.


The Velebit in Croatia has a location of the Adriatic Sea and is, therefore, one of the most beautifully located mountain ranges in Europe. You could sail along the coast in the morning to spot dolphins and climb a 1,750-foot-high mountain top in the afternoon to spot brown bears or chamois. The flanks of the Velebit are full of pine forests and harbor all kinds of surprises, from waterfalls and to wild animals. Apart from brown bears and chamois, the park is also inhabited by wolves, lynx, red deer, and more than a hundred species of birds. You increase your chances of spotting in one of the game huts. The Velebit is perfect from May to October for solid hikes.

ANIMAL MULTITUDE IN THE DELTA: Danube delta, Romania and Ukraine

The Danube is the biggest wetlands area of Europe. Between the many waterways are dense forests with soft and hard tree species, this area is best explored from a boat. You can sail from one bank to another and enter uninhabited islands. Not only you will find water buffaloes, but also wild boars and pelicans feel at home here. For the people who live there, however, the area is much more than a nature reserve – is a renewed source of income and pride. Many locals have been able to supplement their income from fishing with income from tourism. They offer boat and fishing tours, bird tours, and walks. Take matters into your own hands by renting a kayak and explore it independently.

European Safari Company offers unique and unforgettable safaris in the European wilderness, including the areas listed.

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This article was featured in Columbus Magazine. December 2020.

Read the original article here (in Dutch) or susbscribe to Columbus Magazine here