You probably remember the recent video that went viral of bears happily bathing in a pool of water. The pool was created by Mlakar for the bears to quench their thirst during periods of tremendous heat. The video hit a quarter of a million views in just a few days.
In 2007 Mlakar came up with the the idea to turn his hobby, bear watching, into a business. But the mills of bureaucracy grind slowly and it was only recently that the young businessmen received all the necessary permits and hunters' permission. At first, the hunters were sceptical about the idea of tourist bear watching, saying that this happening in the wilderness and not in a zoo.
But Mlakar's idea became a great success. The interest is huge, especially amongst foreigners without a bear population.
Observation posts sold out
Mlakar guides tourists on photo safaris in cooperation with hunters. Bears are watched from ten posts located across a wide area from Postojna to Delnice in Croatia. Tourists watch the bears through window slits and can take photos of them. Mlakar says that his venture is not an industry. Tours take place only a couple of times a year and there are a maximum eight people in a group.
The tourists have to respect numerous instructions in order not to endanger the natural environment of approximately 500 bears. It is good if you are of a patient nature – waiting to see a bear usually takes several hours.
In Europe, the brown bear in his natural habitat can be encountered only in Slovenia and the huge interest in bear photo hunting is therefore not surprising. All ten watching posts are already sold out for the next two years with the greatest interest coming from Italy, Austria, Switzerland and the UK.
K. S., MMC; translated by K. J.