The first ten days.
Well, finally here I am, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. My mission for Wild Wonders of Europe is to cover landscapes, habitats, vegetation and wildlife of some of the Balkan’s most important flooded areas: The Livansko Polje Ramsar Site and Hutovo Blato Nature Park in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Neretva River Delta and Lonjsko Polje Nature Park in Croatia.
Unfortunately, at the moment I spend most of the time trying to avoid making this mission become the most explosive one. This because of the hundred of thousands of mines placed here during the last war (1991-1995).
Here in Bosnia Herzegovina, in fact, there are lots of very nice places that could resemble the English countryside, but most of them are not really the right place where you can go for a picnic with your family! Here, I was told by Andrija Vrdoljak, my guide during the first three days in Livansko Polje: “You must be very careful” and, “follow roads and paths only, mines could be everywhere, outside the known mine ground as well”.
So, in this situation, with a couple of maps that show the mine contamination areas in my hand, and lots of advice from Andrija, we surveyed the whole plain of approximately 410 square kilometres. This really takes lots of time as the area is so vast (LivanskoPolje is the world’s largest temporary flooded karst plain). There are just a few really flooded places during spring, and at the moment just a single, very limited, forest patch is flooded.
We have spent lots of time going back and forth by car, from 5 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock in the evening. So, for the past week I haven’t slept more than 5 hours each night! All these mines spread around keep you away from most places, as if you had a collar someone stronger than you was in charge of. So I cannot go where I want and I cannot do what I want. And that would be useful for getting the best result of my mission.
Notwithstanding this, in some circumstances I have decided to go out of the roads walking, to take pictures of plants or to get a favourable point of view. The way back has been quite comical: a bit like a mouse – I have turned back exactly following the same path on which I first came here.
When I was in Italy I planned to go to Livansko Polje when the trees would start to be covered with leaves; but, once I was in Bosnia, I was disappointed to discover that most of the water of the flooded areas has suddenly disappeared in just three days!
After the first six days in Livansko Polje, I move faster into the Neretva delta for an inspection beforehand, and to shoot some pictures just close to the mouth of the river. Pictures of housemartins, swallows and landscape. After that, I have moved to the Hutovo Blato Nature Park, where I have met my local contact Stjepan Matic.
The weather is not too good now, but in some parts of the Park there are quite a lot of tourists walking, cycling and going for boat rides.
In any case, here, out of the tourist path and off the roads, I have the same problem with mines again..! My wild stories continue…
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.