After last winter, some of our bear hides in the Velebit Mountains were damaged by flooding. After we received word that at least one bear hide was up and running again, I went for an area visit this summer to see how things were looking – and visit our partners as well. I started my visit in Gospic, where our guide Nino Salkic awaited me. Velebit is one of the most important natural areas in the Balkan and situated on the Adriatic coast of Croatia. It hosts exciting wildlife like Balkan chamois, red deer, brown bear, wolf and lynx.
It was a very hot day and after several hours of walking, it was time to cool off. On the way up, we already saw several natural waterholes that looked very inviting. On the way back and dripping with sweat, I decided to take a plunge in one of them. Crystal clear cold water. It was heaven.
We then drive towards Karlobag to enter Velebit from coastal side. It is truly amazing how close the mountains are to the sea at this part of the world. We meet with one of the rangers and drive into the Lagosta area, in North Velebit. Rewilding Europe is very active here and is seeing significant growth in wildlife tracks and trails in the last few years. We walk the last few kilometers to visit the bear hide that is recently renovated. It’s a nice hide to look at, wrapped in wood and in a beautiful green spot in the forest. It’s not the right time to watch bears – they don’t come out until the early evening- but we see tracks and also images of them on one of the camera traps. Magnificent creatures.
It is starting to get late and Nino and I tramp another few kilometers uphill to spend the night in one of the mountain huts. We see a thunder storm approaching and after dropping our backpacks in the hut, we race up the mountain behind the hut to watch it.
It is the most dramatic sky I have ever seen. We see Gospic in the distance, covered in black clouds with heavy rain thundering down. Lightning in the distance. I understand why the hides got damaged last winter - this is a true power display of Mother Nature. The hut is simple: it opens into a kitchen with a few supplies (we brought our own food), and has a separate bedroom with four bunkbeds. I settle in for the night and go to sleep after a long and tiring day. In what feels like the middle of the night I wake up: there’s people outside. I hear Nino getting up and speaking to them in Croatian and figure it’s probably all right, and I go back to sleep. The next morning, I wake up early and decide to go outside to get some fresh air. When I open the door to the kitchen, I’m greeted by a big dog and two sleepy men in their sleeping bags on the kitchen benches. Good morning to you too! Later I find out that they are locals – they apologize profusely for arriving so late at the (public) hut and treat us to morning tea and a local sweet delicacy. I’m not complaining...
On my last day I planned to visit two of our accommodations in Croatia. Kamp Velebit is a glamping site with tipi tents and crobbit houses (a combination between ‘hobbit’ and ‘Croatia’!), and it looks green and inviting - perfect if you’re traveling on a budget. After this visit I pick up my rental car in Gospic (the roof all dented from the hailstones that hit during the thunderstorm last evening), say goodbye to Nino and drive another twenty minutes to Linden Tree Resort & Ranch. Owner Bruce is an amazing guide and his wife Meggy a wonderful chef. I am treated to five-star culinary treats in the evening, have a great sleep in a comfy bed, and in the morning, Bruce takes me on a horse-riding tour of the area around Linden Tree. It takes us through the forest and streams, over rocky paths and up a hill for some beautiful vistas. Bruce is very knowledgeable and there’s nothing like enjoying nature from horseback.
Sadly, my journey is coming to an end and I have to go back home that afternoon. This was my first time in Croatia and I loved every minute of it – it's the place where Mother Nature rules!
Would you like to take this trip as well? I have two options for you:
Many thanks to all our local partners in Velebit who go out of their way to make our guests comfortable and make their experience in Croatia even more special.
Until next time,