Europe was once a postcard of biological diversity, with an abundance of wild beasts roaming free through its forests, plains and valleys. Unfortunately, today, human interference has changed that drastically and while one may spot a deer from time to time, or complain that an urban fox got into suburban bins, it is but a touch on the spoil of life that once shared this land with us.
To be able to visit a place in todays world, that has recaptured some of this diversity, therefore, was a pleasure that transported me back to a simpler, perhaps a better time.
The forest here is the remains of its immense primeval counterpart, which once spanned the whole expanse of the European Plain. It is, however, the Bison, that form the main interest in the area; extinct in Europe since 1919, the majestic behemoths have been re-introduced to the area with great success. Białowieża and the surrounding nature reserves are now one of a handful of places where the animals roam free, with their numbers in the area now nearing the 800 mark.
Sharing the area with them are Elk, Boar, Bears, Wolves, Beavers, Lynx and Deer, making this one of very few areas that still showcase the full variety of life that once spanned the continent.
After 2 days of hiking, however, we were unable to spot much more than a few playful squirrels, a herd of deer and a variety of spectacular bird life. Perhaps this was due the unavoidable noisy crunch of dry autumn leaves underfoot, or the fact that the area is nearly 1200 square miles and we walked a lowly 15, but either way on day three, we conceded, that if we were to catch a glimpse, we would have to pay a visit to the breeding centre, and watch some in captivity. Although this was not as spectacular as seeing them roam free in the wild, it did give a chance to get much closer than otherwise possible and get some great photos.
As well as these stunning beasts, there was a full selection of other rarer European species.
I would recommend hiking in Białowieża to anyone, hopefully you will be luckier (or quieter) than us in the forest and spot some Bison in their wild glory, but if not, the visitor centre is not a bad way to spend the afternoon.