The (Protected) Wild Side

Taken together, over half of Croatia and Slovenia are covered in forests, allowing plant life to flourish and making the region home to countless protected varieties. And of course, there are a lot of critters to be found – big, small, on the ground and in the air – some scarier than others.

Check out the numbers:

Add in the waters, where you’ll find perhaps 12,000 more species and subspecies, and it’s plain to see that the biodiversity between the two is unreal.

Above and Below the Surface

Under the sea, you can catch a glimpse of Flipper aka the common or bottlenose dolphins. If you’re very lucky, you could spot a Mediterranean monk seal, the rarest seal in the world and among the many protected animals in Croatia.

Two of Europe’s great wetlands are found in Croatia, Lonjsko Polje and Kopački Rit, and make for spectacular birdwatching. Kopački Rit may be famed for its deer, but it’s also where around 300 species of birds make their nests, including the white-tailed eagle and black stork.

Lonjsko Polje is the domain of as many as 250 bird species including the protected spoonbill, which is the park’s logo, in addition to nearly 60 mammals and more than 30 types of fish.

And there’s no shortage of trees, from beech to fir to oak forests and beyond, with Slavonian oak being particularly prized among winemakers.

A Refuge for the Rare

While bears, wolves and lynx are largely extinct in Western Europe, you can find them all in Slovenia and Croatia. Curiously, Medvednica, Zagreb’s nature playground, means “Bear Mountain”, but you won’t find a single one there.

If it’s bears you want, off to Slovenia’s Kočevje forests for an unforgettable 5-star bear-watching experience, you won’t soon forget.

For a different kind of rush, Lake Cerknica in Notranjska, one of Slovenia’s many nature parks, gives birdwatchers a chance to see some of Europe’s rarest birds like three-toed woodpeckers and Ural/Boreal owls. The habitat attracts around 270 bird species – 3/4ths of the birds found in Slovenia – and the lake itself is rather peculiar. It’s an intermittent lake, meaning during the dry season the lake isn’t even there!

Lipica is where arguably the most regal of horses hail from. The tradition of breeding the majestic Lipizzans – initially done for the Habsburg imperial court, bridges culture, history and natural beauty and is now over 450 years old. So important that it was added to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A Bug’s Life and Their Floral Friends

Slovenia may be one of the world’s greenest countries, but its tastiest secret is the golden honey its bees produce. Slovenia is the native home of one of the most widespread bees on earth, the Carniolan honeybee and while the bees aren’t protected yet, the honey is.

And lastly, plants, which add so much to the ecosystem aside from their beauty. From the life-giving oxygen to functioning as living memorials to bygone eras, like the Sibiraea croatica that dates back to the Ice Age. In Croatia alone, there are nearly 1,000 protected plants.

Conservation in Action

With the very constant threats of overdevelopment, pollution, overhunting and more, a proactive approach to conservation is required – something Croatia and Slovenia have proven adept at – which makes both places perfect for enjoying the outdoors responsibly.

Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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