“ Sightseeing Type: Tours „
Neophron Ltd. is a company in Bulgaria that runs wildlife / natural history and cultural tours throughout the country. As 'Neophron' is taken from the Latin name of the Egyptian vulture, one of Bulgaria's rare bird specialities, the company specializes in bird-related itineraries centred mainly - but not exclusively - in Bulgaria's many National Parks and wetland ecosystems - areas including the Danube Delta, the Rhodopes mountains and Rila and Pirin National Parks.
A variety of itineraries are offered, from one or two day excursions which can be booked at short notice, to longer designated touring trips of a week or fortnights' duration - where you're effectively booking you entire holiday through Neophron. We took a two-day trip from the Varna region in 2007, which we booked over the internet and then by 'phone while we were already in Bulgaria (on a separate package holiday). The cost of our tour at the time (bearing in mind this was just before Bulgaria joined the Eurozone) worked out at about £200 - excellent value, as this was for two adults and a toddler, and included vehicle hire and mileage, overnight accommodation and the services of one of the company's excellent expert guides, all of whom are qualified biologists, who drove us to the various places of local interest. It was undoubtedly the highlight of our holiday.
Being mainly interested in wildlife, we took up a combined natural history and culture-'lite' package; this took in a number of coastal and inland wetland sites as well as sites of historical / archaeological interest, such as some of the (many) cliff-side monasteries that are found in this part of Bulgaria. Our guide Mladen, an extremely knowledgeable wildlife photographer and birder, took us to a number of 'local' sites far off the usual tourist track, and with his expert guidance - even though as we visited in summer, we weren't in the country at a particularly 'special' time of year (ie we weren't there during the spring or autumn migrations) - we saw what was to us a huge variety of new bird species, few of which we'd have stood a chance of identifying without his help! Some wildlife highlights included the very rare pygmy cormorant and glossy ibis at a wetland near the border with Romania, and black stork and rough-legged buzzard over the open conuntryside, also a bee-eater nesting cliff, and suslik burrows - right by the side of the road! We didn't manage to see griffon vultures although our guide took us to a cliff-side monastery which commanded an excellent view of their habitat, and though he had been down-playing our likelihood of seeing one, I think he was still a little disappointed that we didn't give the bird-watching from that high vantage point a proper chance, as our sprog was trying to wander perilously near the not-especially-well-guarded cliff edges. (This is a point for parents to bear in mind: for obvious reasons the tours aren't really geared up for very young children, so if you take some along, it's necessary to be vigilant). With Mladen's expert guidance, we saw so much more than we otherwise would have found out about Bulgarian wildlife - even if say, we'd rented a car and visited the same sites ourselves (assuming we'd have been able to find most of them) - without his easygoing, laid-back and non-intrusive commentary, we wouldn't have learned a fraction as much.
At the midpoint of our tour we stayed overnight in a gorgeous Bulgarian B&B - a newly-refurbished chalet-style wooden farmhouse out in beautiful wooded countryside that had been booked by Neophron on our behalf. They also provided meals (we had catfish out of the nearby River Danube which considering heavy-metal levels in the mud there, mightn't have been the wisest choice ever, though we enjoyed it at the time). It was perfect accommodation, needless to say far superior to the coastal Bulgarian resorts.
Although the trip was excellent, in retrospect it wasn't ideal for very young children, though of course it was entirely our own fault that we took a two year old along in the first place. Road distances in this part of Bulgaria at any rate are also deceptive; it can take two to three hours to travel about 70 miles of what looks like pretty straight highway on the map, and we clearly hadn't budgeted enough for unexpected travelling times.
Bulgaria has some really spectacular scenery and wildlife, and we were only able to see a tiny amount of what's on offer there during our stay. If we were to go back in future, I certainly be in touch with Neophron Ltd. again.
Organized tours featuring a variety of natural history and wildlife specializing in bird watching and holidays in Bulgaria.