Georg Messerer, partner guide of The European Safari Company and participant of Rewilding Training Tourism, wrote an inspiring piece for us about his experience seeing a bear with his own eyes during the first day of Rewilding Training For Tourism field training in Central Apennines in May 2021.
Read about the once in a lifetime experience below.
Text: Georg Messerer
Photo: Georg Messerer and Aukje Van Gerven
What a privilege this experience has been! Waking up in the comfortable night-train from Munich to Rome after a good sleep I excitedly packed my belongings and got ready to exit the train and dive into the awakening Rome.
The sun was already shining when I walked down the streets from the station to the center. The first thing I noticed were the clouds of screaming swifts flying between the buildings and around their nest sites.
Shop owners unlocked the security gates of their stores. Dog-owners dutifully walked their best friends, and the traffic started to pick up. I reached the Colosseum and circled around it until I found a spot where I could sit to wait for the near-by Cafés to open up. I couldn't believe how empty the place was. Barely a few joggers and police, and no tourists.
I marveled at the sight and enjoyed the early sun in my face without all the distractions. Well, at least from the human side. Again, swifts were flying all around the place, rose-ringed parakeets were landing on the walls of the Colosseum after calling loudly, and some very tame pigeons almost landed on my shoulder to get a bite of my German cinnamon pastry. Basically, this moment was pure bliss.
To make the morning even better, I eventually followed my gut to a little side street, only to find a stunning little Café, buzzing with life and dripping with heavenly cappuccinos.
After a delicious breakfast I made my way back to the train to meet the rewilding group at the airport. We were transferred to Pescasseroli, a lovely town in the middle of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park.
Here we found the rest of our training participants and the local team of Wildlife Adventures together with Simon Collier and Aukje Van Gerven, who put together a fantastic training program around guiding and tourism in the rewilding context of Europe.
Now, even more excited to spend the 5 days with this group of passionate and friendly professionals in the mountains, I couldn't wait to get started. Soon enough, after tanking up on some water and food in the town, we headed up to the mountain to hike to our new home, the Terragena mountain hut.
Little did we know that we were in for a treat. Beside arriving in the most beautifully restored mountain refuge at the end of the walk, we came across fresh bear tracks in the mud and snow on our way up. Like a buzzing group of bees, the group excitedly examined the tracks, took photos and tried to figure out the story.
Then Valeria, our guide for the experience, led us up the slope to the side, to reach the close-by crest. The intention was to look over a large open area and increase our chances to spot wildlife. So we walked. And thinking to myself, that we may be a little too loud for the wildlife to stay in the open area due to all the fallen twigs and loud leaves we were forced to step on, I immediately stopped in my tracks.
Paulo stood in front of me, pointing behind my right shoulder and called to the group: “BEAR! BEAR!”. I could just see the shaggy back legs and behind of the bear running away from us about 50 meters away. The group instinctively sat down on the trail, quite spaced out, and kept quiet. Waiting for a potential second glimpse of the rare Marsican brown bear, we were all in awe, as suddenly two more bears followed the first at the same distance to us.
As we were silent and low to the ground this time, they did not notice us. We had a perfect view of them, in between the trees and I only remember whispering to myself: “Wow…...wow…..”. I had to stop looking through my binoculars, as it seemed too surreal and too much like a very good nature documentary. So I looked at the forest and just enjoyed the sight of these two bears, who stood still, smelling the air and listening in our direction.
Then, they noticed some movement and took off, just as the first, into the same direction. We remained seated for a while to just give them some space and start the process of digesting what had just happened. The whole group was full of energy and smiles and covid-correct fist-bumps replaced the joyful high-fives. What a privilege! And this was just the very beginning of the 5 day long stay in this magnificent place.
You can imagine that being back in Germany now, I am still digesting all the impressions, lessons and good memories created with this fantastic group of people. And I think one can also understand when I say that I truly love Europe!
Rewilding Training Tourism is a program founded by Rewilding Europe and European Safari Company with the help of Nature Tourism Development.
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The November and December 2021 intake for the webinar series registration is open.
Those interested in applying for the programme should e-mail Irene Fernandez (email@example.com), outlining why this training would be beneficial to themselves and their business. General questions about the programme should be addressed to Aukje van Gerven (firstname.lastname@example.org).