In the beginning of September we’ve organized a study tour for a limited number of journalists and tourism agents. The aim was to present the highlights of the Discover Dinarics nature guided trips that follow the guidelines for responsible bear tourism, emphasize bear friendly practices and support local communities. Participants had an opportunity to meet large carnivore experts and local tour operators.
The study tour began at the Department of Biology at Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. Researcher Tomaž Skrbinšek presented the basics of bear biology and ecology and informed participants about the main challenges of bear management in Slovenia. He emphasized the importance of preventing habituation of bears in the human-dominated landscape of Slovenia, as this is one of the main challenges that bear related tourism will face in the future. Next was the visit to the honey beekeeping cellar Kojek in Ribnica, where the participants learned about the importance of the effective beehive protection in the bear area. Concept behind the bear-friendly label was presented and bear friendly honey products could also be tasted. Study tour in the Kočevje region was organized in cooperation with Public Institute for tourism and culture Kočevje. In their new Bearlog hostel in Kočevje, where participant spent their first night in rooms named after forest animals and plants, the representatives of Slovenian Forest Service Kočevje explained how to behave in the bear areas. Participants were divided into smaller groups and were ready to go bear watching. Most were lucky enough to see bears and all of them were excited about the silence and magic of the evening forest. Next morning, after the breakfast made from local, homemade products, they went for a guided hike on the Roška trail that takes hikers through the mighty forests of Kočevski Rog. They followed the path marked with bear paw leading to the Old Saw where tables were already set, filled with delicacies made by local cooperative Zakladi Kočevske. In the afternoon we headed towards Croatia, to the National Park Risnjak. The participants had the opportunity to spend the night in forest hut. The evening passed in a quiet observation of the forest edge, some of the participants could hear the rutting sound of Red Deer males for the first time. After morning mists dispersed, breakfast of bear friendly cheeses and jams made on a family farm Pintar was ready. The guides of the Risnjak National Park welcomed participants and explained them about the flora and fauna of the area. Before lunch, we visited the old watermill Juretić in Leskova Draga where bear friendly mountain fruit drinks produced by family-run companies »Fruits of the Mountains« were tasted. We completed the study visit at the Zrinski Castle in Brod na Kupi, where forestry, hunting and fishing museum collection is exhibited.
For the successful implementation of the study tour we would like to thank the following organizations: beekeeping Kojek, Public Institute for tourism and culture Kočevje, National park Risnjak, Fruits of the Mountains, Promotiv agency.