“ Bialowieza National Park, situated on the Border of Belarus and Poland, is a woodland located 43 mi north of Brest. It is one of the largest remaining sections of an ancient forest which once spread across the European Plain. „
Ever since I first came to Poland, I'd wanted to go to the Bialowieza National Park, tucked up near the Belarussian border it's home tot he European bison and one of Poland's only true off limits nature reserve. To enter the park you need to hire a guide - English and German speaking guides are available and probably cost about 150zl per hour. I went in a group of about 12 people and tried my best to understand him in Polish. The tour takes about 3 hours and was 15zl (3 GBP) .
Our guide was a knowledgeable old gentleman who reminisced about playing in the palace ruins and told us that in his youth, he would do 4 or 5 tours a day. The tour started at 10.30 from outside the tourist information office, a comfortable after breakfast time but in retrospect, too late to catch glimpses of animals which are better seen at the break of dawn. The guide's knowledge of trees, plants, birds and animals never waivered and he was able to give really in depth knowledge about everything on the trip.
Although we didn't see any bison or wolves, we were hot on the heels of a wolf at one point, with it's tracks extremely fresh after a period of rain. The trees in the national park are magnificient, tall and wide, it's fascinating to learn about them, likewise the range of strange looking mushrooms were well worth scrutinising.
I felt that our guide made us aware of things we would otherwise not notice and I certainly left the tour with a little more knowledge about the forest, including how to spot where a wolf has been marking their territory. The walk should be 6km but was actually closer to 10km, since our guide also spent quite a while taking us around the park, in order to give the other groups a bit of space, so we were not all on top of each other. It's worth taking suitable footwear, although the dampest sections have a path made of wooden planks, it can be muddy in places. There are also some fascinating graves from partizans that were based in the forest during WW2. A large fence built by Breznev in Soviet times seperates the Polish part of the National Park from the Belarussian side, which unfortunately slows breeding.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but have heard that the chances of viewing bison are much higher at 5.30am and would probably do that if I went again. I took a bit longer than the others as I was experimenting with nature photography on a below par performing camera. The only live animal I saw was a shrew but the flora is unique and interesting. I felt that the speed of the tour was just right.