Nature communication – Rewilding ourselves in the Central Apennines

Nature communication: What better way is there to learn about nature and the environment than experiencing it?

 

Experiencing nature means using all our senses. When being outside we see, hear, touch, smell, and sometimes even taste what’s happening around us. It’s an opportunity to rewild ourselves and re-establish our connection with nature.  

Rewilding ourselves in the Central Apennines

Last summer, Jonas and I spent a few days in the Central Apennines. The area stretching across the national parks of Abruzzo, Molise and Lazio and Majella is the perfect place to spend some time in nature and rewild yourself. It’s fascinating how wild and remote a place can feel that is only about 1.5 hours away from the vibrant city of Rome. No wonder that the area is often referred to as the wild heart of the Apennines.

 

The area’s nature is beautiful and diverse. Beech forests, open hillsides and alpine grasslands are among the most important habitats of the area. These habitats are home to large populations of herbivores including roe deer, red deer and wild boar. In many places, these animals share their habitat with herds of semi-wild horses, cattle and even wolves. In some parts of the Apennines wolf densities are among the highest in Europe.

 

But the most charismatic and popular forest inhabitant is probably the Marsican brown bear, an endemic subspecies to the region. The species is critically endangered with only about 60 individuals left in the wild. (Rewilding Europe)

 

The Marsican brown bear plays an important role in the region. It’s the flagship species for regional conservation efforts, but also important for the local culture and economy.

 

The Marsican brown bear is a tourist attraction and ever-present in the little town of Pescasseroli: You drink your coffee at the bear bar and buy t-shirts with bear prints. Houses are decorated with bear silhouettes, signs warn you to drive slowly to avoid accidents with bears and local tour operators offer bear-watching tours.

Bear watching

Intrigued by the omnipresence of the bear, we sign up for a bear-watching tour. When booking the tour, the tour operator warns us that so late in the season, the chances of spotting a bear are small.

 

We book the tour anyways. Of course, the idea of spotting a bear in the wild is fascinating. However, for us, the whole idea of joining a wildlife tour is more about experiencing the local nature than just seeing one charismatic species. Otherwise, we would have been better off in a zoo.

 

It’s a sunny Friday afternoon in mid-September when we set off for our little bear adventure. In a group of 8 people, 6 participants and 2 local guides, we start our hike a few kilometers outside of Pescasseroli.

A group of people on top of the mountain in Central Apennines watching bears.

We follow a dry riverbed up through the beech forest. Occasionally, we stop to inspect some footprints in the mud or listen to our guides, who tell us about the life of the Marsican brown bear and other forest inhabitants.

 

After about two hours the forest clears and we reach an open plateau. Here, we sit down with our binoculars and start scanning the surrounding hillsides for signs of bears. The sun is slowly setting and we are sitting in silence, trying to move as little as possible while enjoying the special time between day and night, when many animals become active. It’s peaceful and I feel connected to the living beings around me. I am nature.

 

As the sun disappears behind the mountains, the warm evening colors become blue, then grey. After a while, we switch on our headlamps and start our way back.

Experiencing nature

We didn’t see bears that evening. But we knew that we were hiking in bear land. Our guides showed us a bear footprint in the mud and some fur on a rubbing-tree. We didn’t see them, but maybe they saw us. The idea is exhilarating.

 

That evening, we weren’t lucky in terms of bears. But nature never ceases to amaze and we had a great experience anyways. We saw the imprint of a wolf paw right on top of the bear’s footprint, we watched a little fox wandering through the high yellow grass minding its own business in the evening sun and we observed a bird of prey circling the mountaintops.

Fox wanders through the yellow grass minding its own business in Italian nature.

We didn’t see bears that evening. But we knew that we were hiking in bear land. Our guides showed us a bear footprint in the mud and some fur on a rubbing-tree. We didn’t see them, but maybe they saw us. The idea is exhilarating.

 

That evening, we weren’t lucky in terms of bears. But nature never ceases to amaze and we had a great experience anyways. We saw the imprint of a wolf paw right on top of the bear’s footprint, we watched a little fox wandering through the high yellow grass minding its own business in the evening sun and we observed a bird of prey circling the mountaintops.

Roe Deer in the distance through a pair of binoculars.

Nature communication and storytelling

Even without seeing bears, this evening was one of the most beautiful memories of our holidays.

Spending time in nature with experienced guides is a great way to learn as we stimulate all our senses.

That’s why creating a positive and memorable nature experience also makes a great nature communication strategy. It allows people to understand and appreciate nature and increases environmental awareness.

Of course, creating such experiences as a way to communicate about nature isn’t always possible. For when it’s not possible, storytelling is a great alternative. For telling engaging stories is a great way to take people on an imaginary journey into nature.