Q & A with Lukasz Mazurek, Co-Founder, Wild Poland, Warsaw, Poland.
A privately owned local eco-tour company in operation since 2006.
WHO COMES ON YOUR TOURS?
Generally we attract people who have an interest in nature, wilderness, and wildlife; they also have an interest in Poland, its culture and traditions. In addition, we often receive visitors who have ancestral family ties to Poland.
WHAT MAKES WILD POLAND AN ECO TOUR COMPANY?
We always try to include local and family-owned businesses. That applies to accommodations, transportation, guides, restaurants, and all such services. We look for business owners who understand and respect our approach to nature and wildlife. It has not always been the case in the past, but now many providers have more awareness of their surrounding environment thanks to what they have learned from our tour groups in the past 10 years.
HOW DO GUESTS USUALLY ARRIVE?
Mostly they come by plane to Warsaw because it is our capital city with a large international airport with many connections. Some other travelers come by train from nearby countries such as Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, or Austria. Train travel is cheap, quick, and more eco-friendly.
ARE THERE LIMITS TO TOUR GROUP SIZE?
Yes, we try to keep the groups as small as possible. Most tours run with a total of 7 guests. Our maximum per group is 11 people. This is very important for many reasons: unobtrusive wildlife watching, quick and easy transfers, much more privacy and flexibility.
Our 8-day and 4-day tours in the Bialowieza Forest are the most popular at the moment. I guess that is because our government recently increased logging in this area, and for this reason there has been much controversy and publicity. But even before this news it has been a most popular place due to the largest population of European Bison.
Yes, and we became experts in finding and showing European Bison in the wild. ALL our groups visiting the Bialowieza Forest in recent years have seen them.
Oh, I could supply you with a very long list! Everything about it is special. It is simply the last natural woodlands found in the European lowlands. The age of trees, their species diversity, their height, the whole ecosystem, the number of forest bird species, the amount of dead wood with plentiful fungi and more discoveries. In this place you can honestly feel as if you have traveled back in time a few thousand years.
WHAT COMMENTS DO YOU HEAR FROM GUESTS ABOUT POLISH WILDLIFE?
Mainly two things. One is how much wildlife you can see here in April, May and June. That includes mammals and birds but also amphibians, butterflies and wildflowers. They find the diversity and abundance here breathtaking, especially if they are from western Europe. Our guests are also surprised by how quiet it becomes here in autumn and winter. There is still plenty of wildlife to see, it is just much quieter than some people expect based on the trip reports from springtime. Plus there are not so many other tourists around.
My answer would be that I have at least one favorite bird for each season! In winter, it is the Black Woodpecker and the Hawfinch. In early spring it is the Middle Spotted Woodpecker, and then further into spring it is the River Warbler. During the summer months, it is the Lesser Spotted Eagle.
WHAT CAMERA EQUIPMENT DO YOU LIKE FOR NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY?
I like quality, so I look for the best equipment I can afford, but I also like to be mobile and don't use hides, very long lenses on tripods, and so on. I now use a Canon EOS 70D with handheld Canon EF 100-400 L lens. In the past I tried to do landscape photography with a wide angle, but the images seemed unnatural to me. I now prefer a short zoom for these types of photos.
Actually, we never said that. What we do suggest is to avoid bright colors (like bright yellow or bright green), and the reason is because bright colors can reflect so much light as to make you visible from a long distance. The wild animals can spot you more easily and move away or hide. So this would be a disadvantage if your goal is to get closer to wildlife.
Typically it is scrambled or fried eggs, cooked sausages, cold cuts of meats and cheeses, a selection of breads, and homemade pickles. Sometimes they will include a sweet version of pancakes, crepes, or doughnuts along with homemade jam and a selection of homemade meats. There is usually milk and cereal on a side, fruit juice, tea and coffee unlimited to drink. If your visit just happens to be after a national holiday, and the host family still has leftovers from their table, you may be offered dishes that are completely new to you!
In some of the fancier hotels in the cities, they go even further with the breakfast meal to include pickled herring, various salads, fried mushroom, fish, and a selection of fruits.
THANK YOU FOR THIS INTRODUCTION TO WILD POLAND.
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