Bear encounter in Slovenia

Only last week, our Operations Manager Aukje went on her first area visit again since March - and enjoyed everything Slovenia has to offer.

"Until the very last day before departure I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to make it to Slovenia. I had to postpone my visit twice before due to Covid-19, and in these times everything is very uncertain."

Photography credits: Aukje Van Gerven

But I was lucky! With the use of a variety of mouth masks I made it to the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, in the evening after a full day of travel. There was no time to explore the city as I was expected in the far north-east of the country, close to Maribor.

A two hour drive took me to Chateau Ramsak Vineyard Glamping, where luxury safari tents are dotted around a beautiful setting. The wine of the vineyard plays a big role and of course I had the chance to enjoy a glass. A spa bath on the deck is standard with each tent, which is an incredible luxury after a long day.

Breakfast the next morning was delivered to my tent, with homemade bread, jams and honey. One of my goals this trip was to visit a few potentially new accommodations for the European Safari Company, and I was already sold on this one in less than 12 hours. The area is still developing in terms of responsible tourism and it is expected wildlife tourism could blossom here too.

I went westwards after that, to experience a more well-known area of Slovenia: Triglav National Park, Lake Bled and its surroundings. Because of the pandemic, there are a lot less tourists than usual and it’s blissfully quiet in Bled.

It gives me the opportunity to enjoy a tranquil lake. The weather wasn’t great but despite the rain I head out for a hike in Triglav national park anyway. I am hoping for a view of the mountains but they are completely covered in the clouds.

After a few hours I return back to the car, soaked through and through. A short drive takes me to Lake Bohinj, where the sun comes out and I finally get my mountain views. Lake Bohinj is a beautiful blue and emerald green and while it’s warm. I decided to take the plunge for a quick dip – worth it! The night is spent in a special treehouse by a stream at Garden Village Bled. You can spend the night at a small waterfall too in a river tent, how amazing is that!

Meetings with our partners in Ljubljana are next on the list and I have a few hours to explore the capital as well. It’s a small and friendly city, with a nice historic center. So far Slovenia seems to be a mixture of the Balkan, Austria, and Italy.  This is confirmed when I see gelato (icecream) all around the city. The food and wine have been exceptional anyway so far, as has the service and hospitality of the Slovenian people. I stay at the Hotel Mrak, with a great location in the middle of the city.

The last two days are spent in the south of Slovenia: First exploring some caves (there are more than 13.000 caves in Slovenia), followed by an overnight in the special Theodosius Forest Village in the warm west of the Vipava Valley. Vineyards as far as the eye can see.

On my last day I finally get to meet our guide in Slovenia: Petra Draskovic-Pelc. She lives in the Kocevje area and is an expert on bears. There are an estimated 1000 wild brown bears living in Slovenia, which is an incredible number for such a small country. And today, we hope to be lucky enough to see one in the wild.

Petra takes us close to the virgin forest of Kočevsko, to show us the living area of the bear.  The Kočevsko area is forested for 90%, and from a viewpoint, you see trees as far as the eye can see. Petra’s knowledge is incredible, and her connection to these forests so pure. She teaches me to recognize bear tracks, and those of the wolves, lynx and other animals who live here as well. We hug the magnificent Queen of Rog, a more than 500 year old silver fir tree.

We are not allowed to enter the virgin forest but are walking right to the edge of it, where we listen and feel the trees and the wind. We have a warm and hearty lunch with a local family in a farmhouse in the woods, with an interesting history...which I will save for another time. Late afternoon, we leave for the bear hide.

Petra practices responsible bear watching tourism, but here also some feeding is needed to attract bears. They keep it to a minimum of a few apples and corncobs. The hide is an observation hut with large glass windows. We need to be very quiet and must wait and be patient. After an hour my back starts to get sore and my body feels stiff. It feels like no animal will show itself to us today.

But then, out of nowhere and quiet like a ghost, a young male bear walks through the forest and I can’t help but feel a little emotional for being fortunate enough to see such a magnificent creature in the wild. Petra tells us that normally they are only around for a short time, but this one stays for over an hour. It’s incredibly cautious and keeps smelling for intruders. A badger peeps around the corner but is too scared to go near the bear. A few birds are a bit braver and pick up a few pieces of corn.

And then he is gone again. What an experience!

On this high, my journey through Slovenia has come to an end and I had to go back home the next day. Slovenia has definitely stolen my heart with it’s beautiful nature, friendly people, good food and rich history. Go experience it for yourself!

Many thanks to all our local partners who go out of their way to make our guests comfortable and make their experience even more special.

Would you like to take this trip as well? At the moment we have two options for you. Click below to check them out. 

Soon, we will offer new safaris to the places and accommodations I visited: suscribe to our newsletter to keep informed.