Join wildlife photographer Bret Charman on a five-night visit to Slovenia’s southern Dinaric Alps region in search of brown bears and Ural owls.
From our base in the Dinaric Alps we will explore the surrounding Notranjska region, famed not only for our main highlights of viewing brown bears and Ural owls, but for also its karst topography and scenery.
Our mornings will vary with walks to view Ural owls along with visits to intricate cave networks and disappearing lakes, whilst our afternoons and evenings will be spent in purpose built photography hides to observe the local brown bear population.
Read Bret's blog to learn more about watching bears in Slovenia.
Day1: Fly to Ljubljana, transfer to Stari Trg pri Lozu
After arriving into Ljubljana we transfer to our guesthouse. This evening we enjoy a traditional Slovenian dinner before an overview from our experts of what to expect in the coming days, as well as hide etiquette.
Accommodation: Mlakar Guest House, 5-nights
Day2: Ural owl & brown bear photography
An early start this morning sees us exploring the forest area near the guesthouse to view and photograph Ural owls. The Dinaric Alps are home to up to 500 pairs of Ural owls with some areas having the highest density population in the world.
After lunch we transfer by 4 wheel drive to one of the specially designed photography hides in the forests of the Notranjska region. The brown bear population in this region is thought to number over 400, which are part of the wider Dinaric population. We stay in the hide to observe the bears until darkness falls at around 9pm when we return to the guesthouse for dinner. Our afternoons/evenings for the next few days will follow a similar pattern.
Day3: Excursion to Rakov Škocjan Valley and Lake Cerknica; afternoon brown bear photography
This morning we visit the Rakov Škocjan – a wonderfully wild karst valley. Two natural bridges frame each end of the valley which is rich with karst topography phenomena.
We also visit Lake Cerknica – one of the largest intermittent lakes in Europe. The lake is a designated Wetland of International Importance for the preservation of endangered birds and its incredible biodiversity, home to 276 bird species, 45 mammal species, 125 butterfly species and 15 amphibians species.
After our morning excursion we will return to the guesthouse for lunch before a second afternoon spent in one of the hides to continue with our brown bear photography experience.
Day4: Visit Križna jama cave; afternoon brown bear photography
Our morning is spent exploring the unique network of the Križna jama cave. The tunnels and passages of the cave are filled with water and we travel through on foot and by inflatable boat. Starting with large halls, we enter a tunnel to sail over our first lake of the network, before continuing further into the cave following low ceiling water tunnels before we reach our second lake. Each of the lakes can be up to six metres deep and cover a fascinating array of ground stalactites and stalagmites.
Late this morning we return to the guesthouse for lunch and a third afternoon spent in one of the various brown bear hides.
Day5: Brown bear photography
Today we spend the day focusing on the main highlight of the trip, with two visits to the forest hides to observe and photograph the brown bears. We will start the day with an early morning visit to one of the hides before returning to the guesthouse for some leisure time and lunch before returning to the forest for an afternoon spent in a hide.
Note: Tours with a 5-day duration will omit this day.
Day6: Fly back to the UK
After an early morning visit to a brown bear hide, we enjoy brunch at the guesthouse before departing for Ljubljana where we should have time for a quick city tour before the return flight back to the UK.
You should note: Wildlife is extremely wary around people and patience is an absolute must – you will spend up to five hours at a time in the hides. When in the hides there will be no access to toilet facilities. A full briefing on hide conduct will be given on your first night of the tour. Due to the various landscapes we visit - which can at times be rocky and uneven underfoot with some hides being accessible by ladder only - a reasonable level of fitness is required for this tour. The exact order of the itinerary may change depending on local conditions.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 6 daysfrom £1,645 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 6 daysfrom £1,445 pp
Bret is an award-winning wildlife photographer with a background in the wildlife travel and safari industry.
After spending a year in Australia to pursue wildlife photography, he was rewarded with success at the prestigious Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition, as well as making the shortlist in Bird Photographer of the Year and Outdoor Photographer of the Year. Bret has experience leading groups in Europe, the Americas and in Africa – and has a real passion for African wildlife in particular.
Growing up on the edge of the forests of Snežnik in southern Slovenia inspired Miha to develop an interest in the wildlife of the region, and in particular the brown bears that he observed over the years.
Whilst leading groups in the Notranjska region, Miha met two photographers and became enthusiastic to learn more about wildlife photography. Over time he has developed a network of photography hides which are not only designed to provide photographic opportunities in ideal conditions, but also have an emphasis on responsible and ethical tourism.
Located in southern Slovenia, the Dinaric Alps is a mountain range that stretches from Italy across Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro before ending in Albania. Noted for their rugged karst topography and valleys, they also offer rich forests filled with brown bears.
Where: Southern Slovenia
Ideal for viewing: brown bear, Ural owl, scarlet rosefinch, pine marten, black squirrel
Mlakar Guesthouse is situated on the edge of a forest in the Notranjska region of the Dinaric Alps, providing access to the photography hides located throughout the area. With just five rooms accommodating up to ten guests at a time, the guesthouse offers an intimate stay, with traditional touches.