Walks Worldwide's Mark Wright recently visited Slovakia on our Walking with Bears adventure. He's keen to share his thoughts and experiences on what makes this trip such a breath of fresh air.
I’d wanted to walk in the High Tatras for many years. A taste of Alpine trekking placed in a very culturally interesting part of Eastern Europe with lakes, waterfalls and unique plants and wildlife; all of it sounded like a breath of fresh air. The mountains have a number of well-marked tourist trails, but as I found out, it’s the days spent off the trail which are the highlights of any visit to this amazing location.
When I was given the opportunity to see bears in the wild I had assumed that i'd have to spend long hours sitting in a hide all day hoping one might come along. I was very wrong. This is no ordinary bear zoo! Our aim during the trek was to actively locate and observe bears (from a safe distance of course) in their natural habitat.
This trip is is a unique collaboration between Walks Worldwide, the national park rangers and a local bear-conservation project. Accompanied by our park ranger, Peter, we were taken ‘off piste’ to walk amongst the mountain areas where other travellers are usually forbidden from entering. This allowed us to enter a secret world and to reach places and see things rarely seen by outsiders. Not only the bears themselves, but also sensational mountain landscapes and many ungulates and other wildlife.
Starting in cracking Krakow in Poland, we made our way into Slovakia, as to walk through jaw-dropping gorges of the Slovak National Park. We then began our adventure in the Tatras, following trails well-used by bears and wolves. Making our way into the isolated Silent Valley, we were able to scout for bears out of the way of the regular tourists. Staying off the tourist trails we made our way through the deep forests of the area to the bear rich area of Liptovske Kopy. We also visited the wonderfully preserved village of Spisska Sobota, which was our base for the remainder of our trip. A free day at the end of the trek was a welcomed chance to relax after some hard walking in the previous days. Although given the option to visit the historic Spis Castle or Poprad, I chose to stay in the village and explore its traditional medieval streets past painted houses and shops.
To those that are interested in walking and wildlife this trip ticks all the boxes. Any apprehensions you may have will instantly disappear once you see the bears roaming freely in their natural habitat, they are far more afraid of us than we are of them!