Slovenia

August 2015

Despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe at just 20,273 km², Slovenia is one of the most ecologically diverse. Brushing shoulders with Italy and Croatia, and with its back to the Alps and the Hungarian steppe, it sits on the continent's crossroads, making it a significant biodiversity hotspot. 

I visited Slovenia in August 2015 with my friend Charlie Kitchen, with the intention of photographing some of its unique creatures. The landscapes are rich and ever-changing. To the north lies Triglav National Park and vistas of the Julian Alps, peppered with edelweiss and gentian flowers. In the southern forests of Kočevje, we hoped to find one of the last populations of brown bears in Central Europe.

 

But the true jewel in Slovenia's crown, and the one we most sought, was the Olm. An endemic amphibian to the Notranjska region, these slender white salamanders were once believed to be baby dragons. They are creatures of fantasy, with long snouts, hoofed feet, pink feathery gills and sealed blind eyes - but perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that it can live for up to 100 years. However, they can only be accessed by means of a long kayak journey into the caves where they live in isolation; and their sensitivity to light, movement and water pollution makes them difficult to observe. Guided by herpetologist Tomaz Jagar gave us the incredible opportunity to document this species in the wild. 

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