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Flora and Fauna in the Balkan Peninsula

The Balkan Peninsula is geographically rather amazing, ridged with mountains and washed by three different seas. Birds for days at the Danube Delta, sea life galore all around the southern periphery, plant life at elevations from sea level to timberline, vistas of forest or rock and sea and all the creatures that call these places home; the Balkans are paradise for nature lovers.

Recognized as the world's third most biologically diverse area - after Australia's Great Coral Reef and Ecuador's Galapagos Archipelago – The Danube Delta in Romania forms the second largest and best preserved of Europe's deltas: 2,200 square miles of rivers, canals, marshes, tree-fringed lakes and reed islands. You know this is heaven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts in general. Its passages are teaming with the highest concentration of bird colonies in all of Europe. The maze of canals bordered by thatch, willows and oaks entangled in lianas, offers the perfect breeding ground for countless species of birds, some of them from as far away as China and Africa. Millions of Egyptian white pelicans arrive here every spring to raise their young, while equal numbers of Arctic geese come here to escape the harsh winters of Northern Europe.

The Protected Area of Zlato Pole on the Martiza River Valley in Bulgaria is an oasis for a wide range of endangered species. The protected territory contains priceless riches from the plant and animal world: the pygmy cormorant, the little egret, the night heron, the squacco heron, the great bittern, the western marsh harrier and the bearded tit. The Collapsed Marsh Protected Zone in Golyamo Asenovo was formed after the mine beneath it collapsed. This has become a convenient winter habitat and food source for more than 120 endangered species of aquatic birds, as well as a family of European otters. The massive forest plantations contain centuries-old spruce forests, along with fir and beech trees.

Serbia has no fewer than nine UNESCO-listed wetlands, including the Golija-Studenica Biosphere Reserve, notable not only for its exceptionally well-preserved natural resources but also for its cultural resources. Plant and animal varieties which have disappeared and become extinct in other parts of Europe are still thriving here, living in the green marshlands and dense forests of Serbia. While you’re animal spotting, you can also look for the plentiful abundance of medicinal herbs, mushrooms and forest fruits.

Slovenia

Almost two thirds of Slovenia is forested, with virgin tracts remaining not far from Lubjlana. You’ll see evergreens and deciduous trees, wild mushrooms, chestnuts, and berries, according to the season. Flowers are rampant in Slovenia but leave them in the ground in the mountains, where the many rare species are protected. While you’re in the woods, keep an eye out for roe deer, squirrels and the occasional wolf, lynx, ibex, wildcat, capercaillie and pheasant if you’re really fortunate. There are bears in the woods but they’re the shy type.

Greece has loads to offer nature lovers in the ups and downs of its diverse terrain, from shady, forested mountains to sun bleached islands. Observe and admire rare bird species nesting on rocky coasts, sandy beaches, sand dunes, river deltas, lakes, marshes and coastal plains; study the highly diverse floral life of the Greek countryside; and visit the unique sea parks which provide shelter to two protected species, the Mediterranean monk seal and the sea turtle.

Croatia is a land of varied habitats: sunny and warm on the coast, a bit more invigorating in the highlands, and wide open on the golden plains of Pannonia. Visit the t two arboretums, one in Trsteno, near Dubrovnik, the other in Opeka, near Vinica, to survey Croatian flora all in one place. Sail the azure blue waters of the Adriatic and discover the island that is one of the last habitats of the griffon vulture in Europe. You can put to sea with an adopted dolphin or, if you’re really lucky, encounter the mysterious and rare Mediterranean monk seal. Slip further south along the coast to stunning Montenegro and the most celebrated fjord in verse, as well as high mountains such as Durmitor, Bjelasica, Komovi. These crags offer an unforgettable experience with their hidden lakes, numerous pastures, forests, pointed peaks, diverse flora and fauna, fast mountain rivers and imposing canyons.

 

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