Guided tours

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Program 1. Tortoise discovery – program in the tortoise Centre

Program 2. Trip on Eminska Mountain – the realm of the tortoises and one of the richest herpetological areas in Bulgaria

Program 3. Herpetological trips along the Black Sea coast

Program 4. Tortoise radio-tracking

Program 5. Tortoise and bird photography

Program 6. Trip to picturesque natural sites with gorgeous landscapes

Program 7. Sightseeing tour

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PROGRAM 1. TORTOISE DISCOVERY – PROGRAM IN THE TORTOISE CENTRE

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Annually the Tortoise Centre houses 50-150 hatchlings and 20-100 adult tortoises of both species. The visitors may witness the wonderful and unique aspects of tortoise natural history, and learn about threats facing these animals, and protective legislation. Hikes and interpretative presentations will allow visitors to experience first-hand the beauty and natural richness of the area. When you visit us we will tell you about the turtles of Bulgaria and the world; you will observe both species of tortoises inhabiting our country, in all their life stages – eggs, newly born hatchlings, juveniles and adults; you may have the unique opportunity to witness interesting moments of their behavior – nesting, hatching, feeding, and mating; you can take interesting pictures of tortoises from within a specially constructed hiding place. By preliminary arrangement we can arrange transport to the Tortoise Centre from any location along the Bulgarian coast (for groups of up to 7 people); participation in radio-tracking of wild tortoises inhabiting the vicinity of the Centre; a visit to spectacular habitats of tortoises and other interesting reptiles along the coast; green school activities for your children; a stay in our guest rooms or camping on the Centre’s meadow.

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Location : Tortoise Centre, Banya village

All excursions and activities take place between May – October, unless specific arrangements are made. Bird watching and photography may be done during any season.

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PROGRAM 2. TRIPS ON EMINSKA MOUNTAIN – REALM OF TORTOISES AND ONE OF THE RICHEST HERPETOLOGICAL AREAS IN BULGARIA

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Red Whip Snake (Platyceps collaris)

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This program focuses on searching and watching tortoises and native amphibian and reptilian species in the most wild and scenic areas of Eminska Mountain. This is the easternmost section of the 700-kilometres long Balkan Range, terminating at Cape Emine and the waters of the Black Sea. It is a significant bio-corridor for the distribution of thermophilic reptilian and amphibian species. The region is very rich in biodiversity and includes five protected areas, one Nature Landmark, and two protected zones, part of the Natura 2000 Network. Eminska Mountain is nationally designated as an Important Herpetological Area.

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Herpetotrip in Eminska Mountain

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Which species may be seen on Eminska Mountain?

Four reptile species of global significance are present here, included in the IUCN Red List: European Ratsnake (Zamenis situla), European Pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), and Spur-thigh tortoise (Testudo graeca). The following species may be observed as well:

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

European Green Toad (Bufotes viridis group)

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

Eurasian Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)

Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi danilevskii)

European Copper Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

European Legless Lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Meadow Lizard (Darevskia praticola pontica)

Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis viridis/meridionalis)

Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus)

Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius)

Red Whip Snake (Platyceps collaris)

Blotched Snake (Elaphe sauromates)

Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)

European Ratsnake (Zamenis situla)

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)

Horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes montandoni)

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PROGRAM 3. HERPETOLOGICAL TRIPS ALONG THE BLACK SEA COAST

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European Copper Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)

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The Bulgarian Black Sea coast, long 378 km, includes 70 beaches, many picturesque bays, estuaries with beautiful riverine flooded forests, some parts with combination between mountain and sea climate. The coastline is suitable for birdwatching, because here passes Via Pontica – one of the main routes of migratory birds from Europe to Africa. Numerous reserves located along the entire coast, preserving rare and protected plant and animal species. We can bring you to some of the best spots in the Black Sea coast not only for tortoise hiking but for most of the reptiles and amphibians inhabiting the country. Some of the most interesting places together we might hike in are: to the North – Bolata dere, Cape Kaliakra, Balchik, Kamchia river, Pobiti kamani Protected area; to the South: Ropotamo Reserve, Arkutino, Maslen nos and Stomopolu, Silistar Protected area, Veleka river, and many more. Also if you have some special request of a place you want to visit we might arrange it.

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Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi danilevskii)

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Amphibians and reptiles along the Black Sea region

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

Buresch’s Crested Newt (Triturus ivanbureschi)

Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina)

Common Spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus)

Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates syriacus balcanicus)

European Green Toad (Bufo viridis)

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

Eurasian Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)

European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis)

Balkan Pond Turtle (Mauremys rivulata)

Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca)

Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi danilevskii)

European Copper Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

European Legless Lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Meadow Lizard (Darevskia praticola pontica)

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis chersonensis)

Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata dobrogica)

Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis viridis/meridionalis)

Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus)

European Blind Snake (Typhlops vermicularis)

Caspian Whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius)

Red Whip Snake (Platyceps collaris)

Blotched Snake (Elaphe sauromates)

Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)

European Ratsnake (Zamenis situla)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)

Montpellier Snake (Malpolon insignitus)

Horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes montandoni)

Best period of the year: May – September

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PROGRAM 4. TORTOISE RADIO-TRACKING

Herman’s tortoise with radiotransmiter

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Since 2010 we have carried out radio-tracking surveys in order to collect more data about relocated and head-started tortoises’ survival rates. After brief, simple training on how to use GPS, radio-tracking equipment and collect field data, you may participate in the field work and be a part of this interesting, helpful and unique experience.

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Location: Banya village

Best period: May – Oktober

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PROGRAMS 5. TORTOISE AND BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

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In the Tortoise centre we manage a professional photo hide, which provides excellent opportunities for photographing the tortoises and especially egg-laying females as they nest. Additionally, many interesting and rare bird species come to feed around this specially prepared area.

Location: Tortoise Centre, Banya village

Best period of the year : May – October (bird photography is available year round)

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PROGRAM 6. TRIP TO PICTURESQUE NATURAL SITES WITH GORGEOUS LANDSCAPES

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This program includes trips to the most attractive natural sites not only along the Black Sea coast but inland as well. These include the following:

Cape Kaliakra

Cape Kaliakra is situated 60 km northeast of Varna. The shore here is a 70-m high cliff towering over the Black Sea. Its name in Greek means “beautiful cape”. Besides glimpsing the southern horizon, here you can observe nesting cormorants and dolphins and seals frolicking near the shore.

Sinite Kamani Nature Park

Sinite Kamani Park (the Blue Stones) is part of Sliven Balkan, extending over an area of 7000 ha. The name comes from the quartz rock mas sif in the area, accounting for the bluish colour of the landscape. The climate and diverse topographical characteristics create a n environment rich in wild life–14 reptile species, 9 amphibians, and 145 bird species. Especially not eworthy is the presence here of the white pelican and bearded vulture.

Stone Forest – protected natural phenomenon

One of the most unique phenomena, the Stone Forest resembles a forest of stone columns spreading over an area of 70 km2, hence the name. The columns vary from 5 to 7 meters in height and 0.3 to 3 meters in width. They are cylindrical, with a hollow core and highly eroded surface.

The Srebarna Nature Reserve

Th is is a freshwater lake adjacent to the Danube. It extend s over 600 ha, besides a 540 ha buffer zone. The lake is located on the Via Pontica and serves as a breeding ground for almost 100 species of birds, many of which are rare or endangered. Some 80 other bird species migrate and seek refuge here every winter. Among the most interesting bird species are the Dalmatian pelican, great egret, night heron, purple heron, glossy ibis and white spoonbill. Since 1983 Srebarna has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The Kamchia Nature Reserve

This reserve comprises the lower valley of the Kamchia River and is home of one of the largest and oldest riverine flooded forests known as the ‘Longoz Forest’ with more than 40 different types of shrubs and trees, including lianas. In some of the hard-to-reach parts of the river banks one can come across rare floral elements which have already found their place in Bulgaria’s Red Book of Nature, such as the white and yellow water lilies. The fauna is no less diverse with about 40 different fish and 156 bird species including the rare lesser spotted eagle, the Eurasian hobby, the European honey buzzard, and the black stork.

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PROGRAM 7. SIGHTSEEING TOUR

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This tour includes visits to ancient towns and cultural, archeological, ethnographic, historical sites and festivals. Bulgaria is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We offer you the chance to visit three of them:

The Madara Horseman is a rock carving of a horseman stabbing a lion with his spear and dates from the early Middle Ages

The Ivanovo Rock Monasteries extend for over 5 km and are made up of cells, chapels and churches hollowed out from the rocks by hermit monks between the 11th – 14th century

The ancient town of Nesebar features fishermen’s timber houses and close to 50 Byzantine churches. It is situated on a rocky peninsula on the Black Sea and has been settled for more than 3,000 years. It was originally a Thracian settlement (called Menebria), but at the beginning of the 6th century B.C. it became a Greek colony. Wooden houses built in the 19th century are typical of the Black Sea architecture of the period.

The fire-dancing Nestinarstvo Ritual has been officially declared by UNESCO to be a World Non-material Cultural Heritage. This ancient ritual uniquely combines Eastern Orthodox beliefs with older pagan traditions. The ritual involves barefoot dancing on smoldering embers. One of the center of the traditional Nestinarstvo is the village of Bulgari, in the Strandzha Moutains of southeastern Bulgaria. The ritual is held to ensure the well-being and fertility of the village.

Very interesting is The Balchik Botanical Garden, the largest and most diverse in the Balkans. The visitor can also enjoy the sightseeing places located along the Black Sea coast: Cape Emine, Cape Kaliakra, the former royal palace of the Romanian Queen Marie in Balchik, the Thracian sanctuary Beglik tash, and the ancient town of Sozopol.

With the appropriate notice we will design a unique program of events to suit your specific needs – and in particular, the needs of specialty groups visiting the Tortoise centre.

The Centre’s facilities are also available for study groups, seminars, workshops, meetings, nocturnal studies.

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