Sunday 28th May - Sunday 4th June 2017
Bulgaria in spring offers a high variety of species for photography and our tour provides many opportunities to capture passerines and birds of prey, along with mammals and butterflies. We will take you to south-eastern Bulgaria, through the Eastern Rhodope Mountains and the Maritsa river valley, encompassing birds within these different habitats.
This tour is ideal for passionate wildlife photographers, who can be both very experienced and goal-oriented, as well as those searching for a comfortable and relaxed wildlife photography experience. Photos will be taken primarily from professional photo-hides. In the Rhodope mountains we will visit the established feeding stations, which in spring-time attract birds like Griffon, Egyptian and possibly Black Vulture, Black Kite, Raven, as well as Red Fox and occasionally Golden Jackal and even the elusive Wolf.
Along Maritsa river we will use a hide located in a mixed forest by a drinking pool and feeder, attracting over 25 bird species, such as Nightingale, Hawfinch, Turtle Dove, Red-backed Shrike, as well as woodpeckers - Syrian and Green, plus many more commoner species. Regular visitors are also species which are among the very best south-eastern specialties - such as the Levant Sparrowhawk, Masked Shrike, and even Semi-collared Flycatcher.
We will also visit wetland areas around the Maritsa river bed, which are a common place for Black and White storks, egrets, Night and Grey Heron, Kingfisher etc. The water level of the river will determine the variety and number of species which visit, and may need to be judged as to the chances for success there at the time. There is an option to visit several Bee-eater colonies not far from the river bed.
Day 1 Arrival at Sofia airport, followed by transfer to Eastern Rhodope Mountains (around four hours drive), checking in the small family hotel, offering excellent organic, homemade food, where we will spend the next 3 nights. If time permits, late in the day we might do a short trip to some of the lovely areas along Arda River. After dinner we will discuss some of the specifications of taking photos of raptors from our hide.
Days 2 and 3 In order to reach the hide before sunrise, an early start at 5am is required. It will take around an hour with an off-road vehicle - if there is no rain and the roads are dry we should be able to stop a few meters from the hide and no walking is needed. We will spend two full days in the hide, food and drinks will be provided and there is a chemical toilet inside. Going out of the hide will be in the afternoon, when the wildlife is not so active anymore and our vehicle arrives back. The rich biodiversity in the area will provide different opportunities, including car window, macro and also landscape photography.
Day 4 We will visit another feeding station for vultures, which will give us a different perspective, background and setting. We will enter it early again and shoot until noon. When ready we will continue north towards the small town of Dimitrovgrad for the second part of the tour. Around two hours drive will bring us there and we will take advantage of the afternoon light at the drinking pool in the forest. We will check in the hotel first and be in the hide around 4pm, giving us a good 4 hours of photography. Back to the hotel around 9pm, where we will spend the next four nights.
Days 5 to 7 We will have early starts and afternoon sessions; in case of sunny days a siesta is recommended, to avoid the strong light around noon. If there are more than 3 photographers (the capacity of the hide), we shall split into two groups. One will use the hide; the other one will photograph along the river bed. Then we rotate, as we have enough time here. The Bee-eaters will be another possibility or Golden Jackals hide. There will be options for butterflies and macro photography.
Day 8 Transfer to Sofia airport will take maximum 3 hours, so if time permit we will have another morning session in the hide. Departure.
Additional info: Best lenses are 300 mm + converters as it is perhaps the most universal combination for both stages of the tour. Otherwise, zoom lenses such as 150-600 mm, 100- 400 mm, 200-400 mm, would be ideal. 500 mm lenses are suitable for the vulture hide, but might not be as suitable for the larger birds visiting the drinking pool hide - they will often perch only 6-7 meters away. Therefore, if you are bringing one lens, it should be a more universal one, for both stages of the tour. Tripods are must.
Clothing: The weather will be hot (25+oC), so prepare accordingly. It is good to have hiking shoes and a raincoat, just in case. Sun hat and cream and mosquito repellent in case we need it.