Brown Bears of Transylvania

Eastern Europe's new bear photography destination

Essentially the same species as North America's Grizzly Bear, the bears of the Carpathians can also grow to an impressive size! (Gábor Simay)

Essentially the same species as North America's Grizzly Bear, the bears of the Carpathians can also grow to an impressive size! (Gábor Simay)


Friday 8th September - Tuesday 12th September 2017
(5 days)

Leader: Zoltán Baczó
Group Size Limit: 6


This exciting tour visits a network of permanent bear photography hides recently established in Romania's Carpathian Mountains at a time when the bears will be in a period known as 'hyperphagia', eating furiously to prepare for their winter hibernation. Set deep in the heart of Transylvania, a land of dark forested mountains, quiet meadows, quaint traditional villages and vampires, although the latter is thanks only to the influence of Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula'! The hide network has been developed under the supervision of our friend and colleague János Oláh, in co-operation with local foresters, and offers superb opportunities to photograph Carpathian Brown Bears in daylight against natural forest backgrounds. Attracted by a variety of food, the areas in front of the hides have been visited regularly by a growing number of individual bears of all ages, from mothers with cubs to large mature males. In fact the estimated bear population of the Hargita region is 350 individuals!

The hide network can comfortably accommodate groups of up to six photographers, rotating between the different locations. April and September are great times to visit Transylvania's bear country, when the bears are keen to take advantage of a free meal, and especially the tasty treats offered by the feeding stations! The bait is carefully placed behind rocks and other natural objects so as not to interfere with photographic compositions.


The Bear Hides

At present there are three hides available, each comfortably accommodating up to three photographers. Each photographer's position has its own tight fitting lens tube (to minimise scent leakage) so you do not have to shoot through additional glass, as well as a small glass peep hole above the lens tube for photographers to watch what is going on in front of the hide. The bears have got used to visiting the feeding stations over the past couple of years, and although they are clearly aware that there is something going on in the hides overlooking them, they have become accustomed to this. The heated hides are constructed from wood, have shelving and chairs inside and are of a walk-in design. You will be escorted to and from them by a local forest guide. Bears have appeared in front of hides around 90% of the morning and afternoon sessions during 2013 so there is an excellent chance of success. Set deep in woodland two of the hides overlook an area of subalpine spruce/mixed deciduous forest at around 1000m ASL and another overlooks a more bushy area for a different background. Other mammals visiting the hides regularly include Wild Boar and Red Fox.


Daily routine

The daily routine may need to vary according to local conditions and weather but a typical day would start with a transfer, after an early breakfast, to the bear hide allocated to you, which can then be reached by a 10-30 minutes easy walk along forest tracks. You will be picked up again before midday and taken back to your accommodation for a lunch break before being transferred to your allocated hide for the afternoon/early evening session, which lasts until dusk.


Other Excursions

If you would like a break from bear photography there are also a number of other photographic excursions available to you at no extra cost, which presently include:

  • Békás Gorge (Bicaz Canyon) is one of the most beautiful and scenic of all Carpathian gorges, and well worth seeing in its own right. It's dramatic limestone cliffs also host the region’s biggest population of Wallcreepers. In many parts of Europe, finding these unique, crimson-winged birds requires considerable walking and climbing so it is quite a luxury here to be able to drive right into the heart of their domain. Often they allow close approach for photography sometimes coming down to road level. Autumn is a good time to see them here.
  • Szentpál (Sanpaul) fishponds are located along a migration route and this tiny pond system boasts an impressive bird list of over 250 species! Past visits have produced plenty of regular migrants and a wide range of waterbirds and migrants. There are no hides here yet and photography here will be opportunistic.
  • Woodland in the Hargita region holds woodpeckers and if we are lucky Ural Owl. We have several nest-boxes for these shy creatures and if it has been a good breeding season there may be some good opportunities for photography.


Itinerary

Day 1 The tour begins this afternoon in Bucharest, from where we will transfer to our hotel in the Hargita region, which will be our base for the next four nights.

Days 2-4 We will have three full days of photography, with everyone guaranteed daily morning and afternoon bear photography sessions in a variety of hides. If desired, or optional morning or afternoon excursions to Békás Gorge, Szentpál Fishponds or woodland areas in the Hargita region. These can be arranged locally depending on bear photography success.

Day 5 We will return to Bucharest, where the tour ends this afternoon.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel is of a good standard. Road transport from the airport is by minivan while transfers between hides is by either minivan or car (4x4 if required) depending on weather conditions and group size.

Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout.

Climate: The weather is variable and can range from  warm, dry and sunny, to cool and overcast with some rain. In the higher levels in Transylvania it can be distinctly cold at times.


CUSTOM DEPARTURES

These superb hides lend themselves to customized tours at other times during the bear photography seasons for any duration, and you will also be looked after by Zoltán or a member of his team. Please contact us to check availability if you would like us to arrange a customized tour for you. At present the bear photography seasons last from March to April and then again from July to September (the bears have tended to visit the feeding areas less frequently later in the autumn, in October).

These are confirmed prices

Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike many tour operators who are still showing prices based on hugely higher and very outdated pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assurred that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is a significant recovery by the Pound you will receive the benefit by way of a price reduction.

Tour Price: £950, €1120, $1240 Bucharest/Bucharest.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, all excursions, all entrance fees, leader services. Tips at the hotel are not included. Price based on minimum 2 participants.

Base prices for this tour are determined in Euros, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = €1.180 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in Euros, prices will be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a significant change in the exchange rate. See booking information.

Single Room Supplement: £84, €99, $110.

Deposit: £300, €350, $400.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

You will have to keep reminding yourself that these are wild bears! (János Oláh)

You will have to keep reminding yourself that these are wild bears! (János Oláh)

The purpose-built bear photography hides are located deep in the forest (shown here before their conversion to a lens tube and glass peep-hole arrangement)

The purpose-built bear photography hides are located deep in the forest (shown here before their conversion to a lens tube and glass peep-hole arrangement)

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