Poland | Wildlife Poland | Premium Trip

Ground clicking of evening Great Snipe lek, mystery corking of night Capercaillie and misty bubbling of morning Black Grouse ones… Free-roaming herds of Horses and bulky Bison, Wolf in a winter wilderness, Moose in a misty marsh, Wildboar wandering over… Clumps of Lady’s Slipper Orchids, acres of Hepatica, millions of Marsh Marigolds. Marshes and forests from medieval Europe… Aquatic Warbler singing and White-backed Woodpecker pecking and Corncrake cracking – all living free and wild in own garden. Do you like it? We do; and want you to see it too.

Such spots still exist on the European Plain… Not far away, in northeastern Poland. But these magic spots are volatile. We protect them: for themselves to survive, for ourselves – to live in favourite conditions, for everyone – to learn what has been the original environment of inhabitants of the European Plain for thousands years.

We are saving to show. We present them: to visitors by organizing tours, to readers by publishing articles and photographs, to audience by giving wildlife lectures and exhibitions, to all the society by making wildlife films. For building the knowledge and responsibility. We are showing to save. We have been working on it for a quarter of a century.

Top Five Birds

  1. Aquatic Warbler
  2. Great Snipe
  3. 10 species of Woodpeckers & Owl (incl. Three-toed, White-backed)
  4. 10 species of Owls (incl. Great Grey, Pygmy, Ural & Tengmlam’s)
  5. Greater Spotted Eagle

Ethics

At Terra Incognita we support tours that do good in the world. They must help to conserve the environment, support local people, and educate their guests. Here’s what Marek Borkowski from Wildlife Poland said to us…

What conservation activities do you support through the tour, and your wider operations?

Protecting Biebrza Marsh (NE Poland) by mowing and grazing, making and managing nature reserves, running herds of Konik horses to protect bird areas, protecting Bialowieza Forest (E Poland), etc.

How does the tour support local people?

Entirely. To start with: we are local people living at Biebrza Marsh and all the tours are locally done without a middle-man. We provide visitors with accommodation, local food, local transport of different kind, etc., lot of wildlife watching we do on our grounds, we use other local guides/friends/neighbors in different places.

What type of environmental education activities do you incorporate into your tour?

Taking advantage of people’s hobby of bird-, mammal-, orchid-, etc. -watching we try to provide environment understanding based on our experience of over 40 years of living at, working in the field and protecting nature of NE Poland as well as studies of history and local culture. We let people not only just see, but also to understand: why.

We introduce guests to conservation problems as e.g.: overgrowing, changing water level and the marsh surface and the ways to solve them, as limiting plant succession by Konik horses grazing – a nature protection technic being invented by us at Biebrza Marsh over 40 years ago and now widespread over Europe (incl. the UK) and show where the animals now helping nature in countries like England, Netherlands, France, Germany, etc. are coming from. We educate people about breeding and running the herd of – the nearest to original wild horse of Europe but now endangered breed. We let guests see, touch, hear and smell the impact of grazing. During our “”Birds & Breakfast”” we show the work leading to probably the best breeding birds gardens in Europe.

We introduce guests to geology & geography of the area and let them experience the impact of history and management for survival of the last wilderness of lowland Europe. At our parts of the marsh they can practically exam different ways of management and its consequences for wildlife. Although called a tourist trip, this is in fact a course based on local knowledge, understanding, experience.

Reviews

“There were many memorable moments, but the excitement of having unexpected and really close views of a great grey owl in Belarus accompanied by Marek’s excellent local naturalist had to be one of the best. It was a thrill to enter Belarus and see some of ‘Alexander’s’ woodpeckers and wolf field signs (my husband and the others saw wolves in Poland) and much more – as well as sharing his tasty Belarusian sausage while hearing about the local history and habitats.

The lynx and woodpecker sightings were also really special for me. It made me realize how amazing the sheer variety of woodpeckers is that thrive when there is enough dead standing wood and a rich, diverse habitat.

We quickly thought of Marek as more of a friend than a tour operator; not only is he a brilliant naturalist but he is embedded in Polish wildlife habitat and culture with many superb contacts who helped to provide a wonderful picture of Polish wildlife and its relation to the different habitats, and also some of the problems wildlife faces and relationships with local heritage. He was especially appreciated by me because I am slightly deaf and very short-sighted, yet I saw everything I could possibly wish for (except the wolves which appeared when I had wandered off!) AND learned about their Polish context. Marek’s “In the Scope” meant I saw difficult birds – wonderful!

By bringing visitors into ‘wild’ Poland and introducing them to the people who are at the forefront of conservation, I think Marek is providing the best possible conservation support, not just financial but moral support as well.

If you are prepared to get up early, stay in great comfort in the most interesting locations, savour Polish culture and great foo and meet Marek’s brilliant contacts then you will have, I am convinced, the best possible Polish wildlife and cultural experience you could possibly have!” Betty Lee – Once in a Blue Moon January 2018.

  • Experience of the tour = 5/5 
  • Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5 
  • Tour’s contribution to local communities = 5/5 
  • The education the tour = 5/5 

“My most memorable moment was an early morning trip into the Bialowieza Forest where we saw lynx and wolves all in the space of a few minutes. Marek’s incredible knowledge of Polish wildlife, it’s people, history and ecology and his ability to communicate this to a wide audience via wildlife trips made this experience stand out.

You will not find another person with the breadth of expertise of Polish wildlife, having had a lifetime of hands on experience in which he has developed a wide range of contacts. Your education will be complete!” Robert Lee – Once in a Blue Moon Jan / Feb 2018.

  • Experience of the tour = 5/5 
  • Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5 
  • Tour’s contribution to local communities = 5/5 
  • The education the tour = 5/5 

“The best moments were observing birds at their nest – courtesy of Marek’s extensive network of contacts with local guides, forest wardens etc., e.g. 3 -toed woodpecker, white-backed woodpecker, but especially walking into the forest at dusk and seeing this huge Ural Owl guarding her nest of babies staring down at us – that was a truly magical moment that stays in the memory.

Marek is a fantastic guide with outstanding skills for obtaining an image of a wanted bird etc. in the telescope for us to see. His knowledge of the area coupled with his extensive network of local contacts enabled him to locate any particular species that we wanted to see but doing so with a sensitivity for the creature and it’s environment. (His garden and part of the Biebrza marshes are in themselves a wildlife refuge with a large diversity of species. )

He also has a willingness to help and ‘educate’ visitors to the whole context of life and wildlife in Poland. As we were also interested in the wider aspects of Poland he was able to explain the history and culture and show us certain variations of local life e.g. regional food, dress and customs. (and is not adverse to guiding visitors round cultural monuments e.g in Krakow).

Marek has a willingness to accommodate the visitors wants and requirements with a very high probability of achieving them. His communication skills and command of English is outstanding. He is knowledgeable and fun loving! Christopher Cody, July 2018.

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to local communities = 5/5
• The education the tour = 5/5

We saw ALL the mammals – Bison, Wolf, Beaver, Marten, Deer and all of the Spring Migrants. Visiting the Biebrza Marsh and then the ancient Bialowieza Forest was magical. Marek Borkowski is the “David Attenborough” of Poland. His passion and deep knowledge of the habitat and the birds, fauna and flora of Poland is exceptional. He goes the extra mile to make sure that every guest has a special experience. Go! you will not find a better guide and tour operator. He will give you an exceptional experience. Wilfred Banfield, July 2018.

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to local communities = 5/5
• The education the tour = 5/5

I loved learning to identify all 10 woodpecker species including mating Wrynecks, finding nesting wall creepers in the Tatras, bison emerging out of the mist nearby in the Bialowieza fores, identifying 15 raptor species across a range of habitats , meeting a Pygmy owl at 25 paces, learning to identify warblers, flycatchers, finches, pipits, terns, tits by sound as well as sight by an expert with seemingly infinite patience.

A particular magical moment was spending a clear sunny morning on a bridge near his farm watching beavers in the river, with Tarpan horses grazing the marsh whilst identifying a large variety of warblers, terns and raptors above.

The welcome by Marek and family into their homestead and farm – great sense of fun, humour and personality; total commitment to us over the whole 11 days, his proactive gaining of understanding of our interests, needs, knowledge and experience and building on these from the outset and throughout the tour.

This was underpinned by his depth of knowledge, skill and field craft about the wildlife of Poland, reflecting his evident commitment and work for conservation and networking with other subject matter experts. On top of that, his sheer exuberance and energy filled us with the love of the land and wildlife around us. Exceptional – and we would support this with quotes as written above. Karen Gowing, July 2018.

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to local communities = 5/5
• The education the tour = 5/5

As it was my first experience of Poland, the fact that the tour covered the entire eastern flank from north to south – including landscapes, wildlife ‘hotspots’ and a certain amount of architectural heritage – made the whole trip memorable. For me there were also positive and first-time sightings of many bird species, and in this regard the variety of woodpeckers was outstanding.

Particularly memorable, however, was the visit to Marek’s own home, in itself a remarkable timber edifice at one with its setting, which was a largely-untouched, extensive tract of natural landscape. We sat on straw bales in the shade of a tree from which a thrush nightingale was singing. We walked afterwards towards a boggy woodland patch to follow the song of a river warbler. We heard about the eagle owl that had nested in a tree in the garden and returned to see a pair of copulating wryneck in a fruit tree close to the house.

Not far from the house were areas of low-lying land which Marek was managing in a traditional way – cutting the grass and wildflowers perhaps only twice annually (I may have forgotten the detail!), and there was much talk of his advocacy of the traditional benefits of using polish horses to graze the land. We visited at dusk and experienced one of his pieces of land alive with lekking great snipe, quail and corncrake.

What really struck me was the abundance of life – not just the biodiversity (when the landscape was managed sensitively) but the biomass.

This tour operator stood out because of his personal commitment. ‘Putting his money where his mouth was.’ From a passion to photograph wild birds, to purchasing, owning and managing tracts of land with a view to creating the habitats suitable for wildlife (and birds in particular) and then introducing small groups into this cherished landscape, this tour operator offers a highly individual perspective as a passionate pundit and polymath. The tours are also very personal in that they can involve the whole Borkowski family, which appears to have endless patience and stamina to cope with what can be a demanding schedule.

He has decades ‘in the field’, and decades also of advocacy and campaigning for a habitat-based approach at a national level. I picked this tour operator because of the particular person who runs it. Having met and talked with Marek at Birdfair, I judged him to be the one who could best provide me with insights into the Polish Conservation scene. I was not disappointed!

You will have a very good chance of seeing wildlife, and Marek’s commentary will leave you in no doubt about his perception of what works best for conserving habitats and species. This is not an ‘anonymous’ tour operator, nor is it particularly ‘easy’ in terms of start-times, length of driving trips and keeping ‘on the go’. Pick the right trip, however, and the physical efforts can be offset by occasional overnight stops in very nice hotels. It can be challenging, but there are the rewards of sightings, and better understanding of the issues behind the various habitats encountered. David Thompson – Premium Trip Poland 2017 May/June.

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to local communities = 4/5
• The education the tour = 5/5

“There were plenty of memorable moments, unsurprisingly, in the Biebrza Marshes and the Bialowieza Forest. But the stand-out, we all felt, has to be a 40 minute spell in which we had, in succession, nutcracker, hazel hen and three-toed woodpecker in front of our little group. The male hazel hen, seen in the open and at leisure, is a sight to behold. I have never had such good views of one before.

Care for his clients made this operator stand out. A burning desire to ensure that they have the best possible birding experiences visiting a corner of the country he has made his own. Decades of experience of the species and the sites involved. Enthusiasm, not just for the natural world, but also to explain the country and its customs to his clientele. A love of lively discussion on a huge range of topics. Great humour – there was much sharing of jokes and quirks of language during the whole week. A very warm, family- based welcome, treating us like honoured friends rather than paying clients.

Huge energy and commitment to make sure that clients are shown what is on their ‘shopping list’ – so itineraries are tailored to the wish-lists of participants and are appropriately flexible. This demands huge organisation, but everything runs like clockwork. The ability to remain enthusiastic and fresh, despite the fact that he has done this so many times before. Teamwork with his partner, Hania, who is essential to the running of this complex operation – a crack observer whose cooking is to die for! In six decades of birding I cannot remember having such a long run of sustained ‘red- letter’ days.

Marek is the best operator in Poland. He has plenty of competition these days, and there are certainly cheaper tours around, but you get what you pay for. And you get so much more than just the birds. If all goes well you will return with unforgettable memories and new friends in Marek and Hania”. William Earp – May 2018.

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• The education the tour = 5/5

Photos

Contact

Tour Operator | Wildlife Poland
Contact Name | Marek Borkowski
Contact Email | [email protected]
Website | www.wildlife.pl

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