On the bear trail: eco-tourism in Slovakia
Slovakia's Tatras Mountains are home to some of Europe's last brown bears as well as the critically endangered Tatra chamois (mountain goat). Tourism hasn't always been kind to the furry inhabitants of destinations but that's changing, with holiday companies realising that their businesses depend on the wellbeing of their destination's animal attractions. Now, Hands Up Holidays are taking this trend a step further, and offering green travellers the chance to combine a familiy holiday with helping researchers to preserve these magnificent mammals.
The company takes its' guests deep in to the woods surrounding the Tatras Mountains in search of bears, wolves and chamois. While hiking through the stunning mountain ranges, tourists contribute to the essential monitoring work needed to keep tabs on local bear and chamois populations.
Most trips also include a visit to the Tatras Foundation, an NGO established to raise awareness of environmental issues in the local area. After a day spent trekking through the Slovakian wilderness, kick back at local eco-hotel, AquaCity, which owns the world's only solar-powered, luxury swimming pool complex. The rest of the energy efficient resort is almost entirely powered by electricity generated on-site, using a combination of geothermal and solar power.