Worldwide Photographic Journeys

Europe

Bulgaria & Greece: Pelicans, Vultures & Bison

Saturday 4th January – Saturday 11th January 2020

Leader: Inger Vandyke

8 Days Group Size Limit 5
Saturday 9th January – Saturday 16th January 2021

Leader: Mike Watson

8 Days Group Size Limit 5

Photographic Highlights

  • Photograph the beautiful Dalmatian Pelicans in full breeding condition at Lake Kerkini
  • Search for other birds at Lake Kerkini, including White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, Greater Flamingoes and Greater Spotted Eagles
  • Photograph the huge Griffon Vultures of Bulgaria from a hide as they feast on their carcass dinner
  • The chance to photograph other birds of prey that visit the vulture hide, including Cinereous Vulture, White-tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle
  • Potential encounters with Red Foxes, Grey Wolves and Wild Boar
  • Close up encounters with the magnificent and very rare European Bison

Bulgaria is perhaps one of Europe’s more surprising wildlife destinations, simply because it is still poorly known. Yet this small Balkan country is home to around 90 nature reserves, more than 500 protected areas and 11 national parks. Indeed, Bulgaria is one of the last places in Europe where you can photograph Dalmatian Pelicans, European Bison, Griffon Vultures and other species that are either extinct, very rare or in decline in other European countries.

In southern Bulgaria, near the border with Greece, lie the beautiful eastern Rhodope Mountains, an area of exceptional biodiversity. Soaring above these mountains are Griffon Vultures, their giant wings holding them aloft as they search the terrain for carcasses where they can enjoy a meal. Elsewhere in Europe, Griffon Vultures have declined due to persecution and a loss of habitat and food supply, yet in Bulgaria they still do well at the edge of their range.

This unusual photography tour spends time visiting a vulture hide where carcasses are brought in to encourage the vultures to visit. While the Griffon Vulture is the main species to see, other impressive birds of prey include the enormous Cinereous (or Eurasian Black) Vulture, Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle. Other birds of prey may also join in the feeding session, while other creatures that join in the freast can include Red Fox and even Grey Wolf.

To photograph these large birds at any time of the year is a magnificent experience, but during the Bulgarian winter when they fly in to the photography hides you may be able to capture them, as they land with their great wings outspread, or when they begin to squabble with each other over the carcass, with a wonderful snowy backdrop in the crisp mountain air. They are truly the avian leviathans of these mountains!

During times when there is less activity at the hides, we can go off to explore the region looking for other wildlife. We will be sure to visit a nearby reserve where a reintroduced population of European Bison exist in a fairly wild setting that makes for good photography.

The second part of our tour features Lake Kerkini, which is situated in northern Greece. We will be there at a time when the stunningly beautiful Dalmatian Pelicans are in their full breeding condition (with blood-red areas of skin on their faces and bills, strikingly contrasting with their off-white plumage). Photographing the pelicans will be our main focus. Each day we will head out on boats to photograph these incredible birds with their wavy plumage and lipstick red gular pouches. The local guides feed the pelicans, so they have become very approachable and we should be able to photograph these birds from a myriad of different angles as they come in to feast on a meal of small fish.

While we are on the lake, we will also keep an eye out for photographable White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, Greater Flamingoes and we may even encounter a Greater Spotted Eagle or two.

The beautiful, soft winter light of Bulgaria and northern Greece makes this photographic journey a truly wonderful experience. Although snow is never guaranteed, if it happens we will embrace this opportunity to capture some of these magnificent creatures in their wintry domain.

Accommodation and Road Transport

Accommodation will be at comfortable guesthouses. Transport on our winter Bulgaria and Greece tour will be in a comfortable minibus (passenger van).

Walking

Most of the walking is on flat ground and will be easy.

Climate

In the Eastern Rhodope mountains, even though the area we will visit is in the lower part of the range at around elevations of 300-400 metres, the winters are often cold because they are influenced by the continental climate and northerly winds. The average daytime temperature there in January is about zero and it may drop as low as -10C in the night .

In the area of Lake Kerkini the average temperature in January is about zero to +5C and they can drop to between -5 to -8C during the night and early morning.

If we are lucky we will have snow during our trip.

Photographic Equipment

For the pelican photography you may wish to have a range of lenses with you,  including wide-angles or others with a shorter focal length, as the pelicans will often come very close to photographers on the shore or on the boat to get fish.

For the vulture photography we suggest you bring  either a large zoom or telephoto lenses with a focal length of between 400 mm and 600 mm.

Tripods are essential, especially for the hide photography. They can be also very useful also for some aspects of the pelican photography from the shore.

We can provide bean bags, which are very helpful for lower angle photography of the pelicans (from the shore), or you may wish to bring your own on the tour.

If you have any queries about the equipment you ought to bring, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our office.


BULGARIA & GREECE: WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR PRICE INFORMATION

2020: £1660, $2230, €1890 Sofia/Sofia. Single Room Supplement: £120, $170, €140.

2021 (provisional): £1660, $2230, €1890 Sofia/Sofia. Single Room Supplement: £120, $170, €140.

If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

Deposit: £300, $400, €350.

Price includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

Tips/gratuities at the hotel are not included.

This tour is priced in Euros. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

BULGARIA & GREECE: WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: ITINERARY

 

Day 1

Our tour begins in the early afternoon at Sofia airport on the outskirts of the capital of Bulgaria. From there we will transfer to our comfortable lodge in a nature reserve on the outskirts of Kardzhali, where we stay for three nights. We will arrive in time to enjoy a welcome dinner.

 

Days 2-3

We will spend these days doing Griffon Vulture photography from specifically designed hides. When the vultures are not so active we will search for other wildlife, including visiting a herd of European Bison that are being reintroduced in this area.

 

Day 4

After some final photography in the Rhodope mountains we will transfer to Lake Kerkini, situated on the border between Bulgaria and Greece, where we will check in to a small, comfortable, family-run guesthouse for four nights.

 

Days 5-7

During this final part of the tour we will enjoy three full days of bird photography on beautiful Lake Kerkini. We will make both early morning and late afternoon boat trips to capitalise on the best light at the lake for the famous Dalmatian Pelicans and we will also photograph other birds during from the shoreline.

We will cover both the Greek and Bulgarian sides of the lake as these days, as both countries are European Union members, there are no border restrictions.

 

Day 8

Today we will make the three hour drive back to Sofia airport in time for international flights.