We have been running trips to this south-east corner of Europe for many years now and this winter have for the first time looked to combine two of the regions undoubted highlights. Bulgaria’s mountain ranges in winter offer a harsh but dramatic beauty, and this is best personified by the raptors to be found here. We will have the opportunity to work from small purpose-built hides in the Balkan mountains in the centre of the country which will in particular give us the opportunity for some dramatic photographic encounters with the powerful and majestic Golden Eagle. With small bird hides offering some of the less than common passerines here at home such as Hawfinch, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Tree Sparrow along with a session with the characterful Nutcracker too this part of the trip offers a diverse range of opportunities.
The Dalmatian Pelicans of Lake Kerkini in northern Greece have received plenty of dramatic photographic coverage recently in their own right, and with good reason too as they are a stunning species offering bags of variety in terms of portfolio building. At this time of the year they are at their most colourful with the males in full beak and throat colour – add in some snow on the surrounding hills and that lovely winter light and the chance to immerse yourself in all things Pelican you’ll need the full array of lenses for opportunities on the shore, in flight across the water as well as from the boat with the local fishermen who will take us out each day for a full two days photography that completes a photographically jam-packed and truly diverse trip.
Itinerary Open +Close -
Day 1: Upon arrival at Sofia Airport in the early afternoon we will travel to our base at Melnik in the Pirin mountains (near the Greek border) where we will check in and enjoy a lovely home cooked meal. Over dinner we can discuss what to expect over the coming days, and hints & tips will be provided.
Days 2-3: The format for the next 2 days will have similar flexibility to ensure we maximise coverage of our main target, the beautiful Dalmatian Pelicans. They will be at their vibrant best as the breeding season approaches, and this is the best time of year to photograph this stunning bird. On both days we will cross the border into Greece and head for Lake Kerkini where there is an established resident population, and a stunning setting as well. We will have the chance for close-up portraits, wide-angle group shots, swimming, flying, and the chance to take to the water with one of the local fisherman to ensure a wide portfolio of images in a jam-packed couple of days. With some dramatic landscape opportunities on either side of the border, we’ll have plenty to work on each day before returning to our hotel for a well-deserved evening meal and the chance to look at the day’s images.
Day 4: First thing in the morning, we will have the option to photograph the stunning sandstone pyramids at our base in Melnik and also make use of some additional small bird hide options. After this session, we will then travel from Melnik to Sliven in the heart of the Balkan mountains, which will be our new base for the next 4 days.
Days 5-7: The hide setups at Silven will allow us to rotate around in permutations that we will agree on a daily basis as they are all 3-person in their nature. The main one, and our main priority here, is focused on the magnificent Golden Eagle, photographable in a rocky mountainous habitat that completely compliments its nature. With the potential of snow, beautiful winter light and a truly dramatic setting, this is a great place to photograph these stunning raptors. A further hide offers an array of usually challenging small birds including Hawfinch, Tree Sparrow and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and hopefully some snowy conditions will add an additional dynamic to these setups as well. During our trip here in 2015 we were also rewarded with some active and dramatic Sparrowhawk images too. The days in the Eagle hide in particular will be long but potentially very rewarding.
Day 8: A final full day of photography using the hides at Sliven will give everyone a chance to complete their portfolios before a 3 hour drive to Sofia, where we will spend our last night in Bulgaria and be in a good position for our final photographic session the following morning.
Day 9: We will have a short drive to the Vitosha mountain on the outskirts of Sofia where we will enjoy the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with an additional dramatic bird, the Nutcracker, in a location that is a true hotspot for them. After our session here, we will be able to quickly change our clothing at the hotel before making the final hop to Sofia Airport to catch our return flights back home.
What our customers say
“Far far beyond what I’d expect: it was better than perfect”
“An amazing array of opportunities”
“The guides were excellent – interested in photography and knowledgeable on the wildlife”
“Really wanted to see these Pelicans and this trip exceeded my expectations of them”