Anatolia has a diverse mammal fauna with strong influences from Europe, Asia and Arabia, so here the ranges of Jungle Cat and Lynx, Porcupine and Red Squirrel just about meet. In the glorious wild landscapes of Northeastern Turkey one can still find healthy populations of some of the region’s larger mammals, notably Brown Bears and Lynx.
In the summer the bears retire to the forests and become difficult to spot, but for a few weeks in the spring the lure of succulent new growth in the alpine valleys above the trees brings them out into the open. By happy coincidence the summer trekkers will not have arrived so there are very few people to disturb them, and we of course can benefit from the increasingly pleasant hotel facilities needed for the summer trade. We have a fantastically situated hotel in Olgunlar, the last tiny hamlet before the mighty Kaçkar peak itself. On walks and short drives out from the hotel we will have a very good chance of encountering Brown Bears, indeed we can expect to find them only a kilometre or so from the hotel. Bears with young cubs are often visible at this season, or mothers with yearling cubs still in tow, and the impressive males are wandering the slopes too. It was the owner of the hotel who told us he was seeing Lynx in May in the hamlet itself and now we’ve worked out that with careful observation one can see them hunting on the slopes above Olgunlar. Caspian Snowcock call like ghostly Curlews from the rocky bluffs, and we'll see a good number of Caucasian Blackcock, the males displaying from snow-burnt turf on the slopes. We’ll encounter large flocks of Alpine Choughs, many Common Rosefinches, and Wallcreepers are frequent on the cliffs. We'll see small herds of Chamois daily on the hillsides above Olgunlar and we'll search for Ibex back down the valley, they favour the rocky slopes right by the road below Yaylarlar. Red Fox and Beech Martens pay the hotel a visit after dark…
Everywhere in the Kars Highlands is five thousand feet or more above sea level yet the mountains are much gentler with rounded shoulders, these often cloaked in open Scots Pine forests. These forests shelter a really impressive population of Brown Bears. We’ve found a place (a garbage dump of course!) where the bears can be seen, sometimes ten or more, each night and really close-up too. Of course, this is not the ideal way to see bears, so we’ve identified the route that they take to get to the dump and so with judicious positioning and luck where the forest meets a tumultuous river we’ll be able to watch the bears come out of the forest as darkness falls. This is remote country with a very low human population and many of those are herders. Consequently there’s still a number of Wolves. These are much harder to see, but we’ve a reasonable chance as the landscapes are huge and open and careful scanning should bear results! We’ve another chance with Lynx here too and maybe a Wildcat, especially after dark. A surprising inhabitant of the Scot’s Pine forests here is the Red Squirrel. They are largely white in the Kars Highlands with just the ear tufts (which seem abnormally large here) and parts of the legs and head red! Other wildlife we’ll see in this area includes Lesser Spotted Eagles, Steppe Eagles and Lammergeiers. Those with a botanical interest will enjoy the Fritillaria michailovskyi, Fritillaria latifolia, Iris iberica elegantissima and Scilla winogradowii as well as swathes of Bellevalias, Primulas and Prophet Flowers.
Those who elect to continue south will find a completely different set of mammals. Down in the Goksu Delta and up the river itself we can look for Jungle Cat and Porcupine. Golden Jackals are found around the delta too. A sheltered bay somewhat to the west of the delta offers a good chance of finding one of the Mediterranean’s rarest mammals, the seriously endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal. There are thought to be fewer than one hundred fifty left around Turkish coasts. Moving inland we’ll return to the heights, this time though to the highest ranges in the Taurean Mountains, hotter and much more barren-looking than the northeastern mountains. Here we’ll take to vantage points to watch for Wolves, there are a reasonable number in the area, and here too we’ve another chance of Lynx.
Mammals – especially Lynx, Wolves & Bears.
Ian Green, and Soner Bekir
Distances covered on foot will not be that great though there will be occasional short but steepish walks up to vantage points.
Included in the Price
All flights. Transport, accommodation and all meals in Turkey. Services of your leaders. Entrance fees to national parks. Please note: Travel insurance, drinks, tips and items of a personal nature, are not included. No visa is now required for UK nationals.
The minimum group size is 4 and the maximum is 8.
We start with a night at the clean and comfortable Otel Almatur by the river in Yusufeli before moving to Olgunlar where we’ll stay at the Kaçkar Pansiyon for 3 nights. This small hotel is set by the rushing stream that descends from the highest peaks of the Kaçkar, indeed at this season snow will not be too far from the door! Very clean rooms are simple but comfortable and there’s some great home-cooked meals in the restaurant that overlooks the stream. Next are 3 nights at Sarıkamış where we stay at the modern Çamkar Hotel, a ski hotel in the beautifully remote Kars Highlands. Those on the southern extension will then have 2 nights at the Altin Orfoz in Silifke and 2 nights at the Oz Safak Pansiyon in Camardi. All rooms on this tour have en suite facilities.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow via Istanbul to Erzurum returning from Kars on the main tour and Kayseri on the extension via Istanbul. Similar indirect routes from regional UK Airports* and from most major European Airports* may be available. Those on the extension will have an internal flight from Kars to Adana.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Variable, but essentially warm and pleasant with temperatures usually between 15°C and 25°C, cooler on the high passes. Although often sunny, especially in the mornings, we should expect cloud and sometimes rain.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Mammal and bird checklists are available.