Warsaw

Białowieża National Park

more than a year ago

Białowieża - thought of as the crown jewel of Poland’s national parks - is Europe’s last remaining primaeval forest, and dominated by massive oak trees dating several centuries. Spilling across the border into Belarus, Białowieża was declared a royal hunting ground back in 1541; a move which saved much of the wildlife from being hunted out of existence. In turn the bison who populated the forest were the exclusive prey of dukes and tsars, as well as latter day baddies such as Ceausescu and Goering.

In total the park stretches for 10,502 ha, though it covers just 20 per cent or so of the total forest area. The park features on the UNESCO list of treasured heritage sites. Besides the largest population of bison in Europe, there are 61 other species of mammal, including lynx, elks, roe deer and wild boar. There are some 232 species of birds in the Białowieża region, 120 of which breed in the park and include capercaillie, black stork, crane, owls, and a large number of raptors including the spotted eagle and the booted eagle. Twelve species of amphibian and seven reptile species have also been recorded as inhabiting the park.

Around 100,000 nature lovers visit the park annually, most on organised tours. Much of the park is protected and visitors must be accompanied by a guide. A number of companies in Warsaw organise individual or group day trips to the park and you can also find out more by calling the multi-lingual tourist office in the town of Białowieża, the gateway to the park, at tel. (85) 681 22 95. The best website is the park’s detailed site, found at: www.bpn.com.pl

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