© All CONTENT & PHOTOGRAPHS G.J. VERSPUI 2013 ©
Unless stated otherwise.
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All Lizard photo's are made 'In Situ', unless mentioned otherwise
Saterday morning, the 20th of July, very, very early out of bed and within 45 minutes we were on our way. Our goal for this day was to reach Austria. In the morning we passed a quarry near Koblenz were lots of species are living, we stopped here for an hour and found 9 species.
Grass Frog, Common Toad, Natterjack Toad, Yellow-bellied Toad, Edible Frog, Common Newt, Alpine Newt, Great Crested Newt and Viviparous Lizard, a good way to start this trip!
The rest of the day was filled with driving, we had dinner close to Munich and we slept somewhere in the north of Austria.
July 21st, Noooo, not again..
We wanted to enjoy a part of the Alps we haven't seen before, so we took the road southwards from Zell am See over the Großglockner Pass, only 30 euros to drive here, what a bargain...
When we were at an altitude of 1600 m, the engine suddenly stopped and my first words were: "F.... nooo, not again", (see the Pyrenees trip 2011)
We were brought back to Zell am See, here the campervan was parked at the VW garage and I looked for an hotel where we could stay untill our insurence company arranged an other way of transport.
We slept 2 nights in an hotel, but on the second day, while the kids were swimming in the lake, I could already pick up a Skoda Octavia combi and with this fine automobile we did the rest of our summer adventure.
July 23rd, New Lizard, new Tree Frog!
In the morning we left Zell am See and went for the Großglockner Pass again, what a great route to drive!
In the afternoon we found many Horvath’s Rock Lizards in southern Austria, it was the first time I saw this species, so I was happy....and when I am happy, the whole family is happy...
Later in the afternoon we arrived at a place in the north east of Italy, an ideal place to look for Italian Tree Frogs, we did not see a camping in that area so we put the freshly bought tent down in the field that was close to the Tree Frogs, it was already getting dark and I was already warned for it, millions of bloodsucking flying monsters had a nice meal and Cynthia and I looked a bit bumpy for the next week.
After some food I went out of the tent to look for Italian Tree Frogs, I heard many of them calling, but found only 3 of them and many Pool Frogs, in a forest close by I saw some Italian Agile Frogs, it was hard to take a good photo there because I was eaten alive again.
July 24th, Human Fish & Cave-day.
Early in the morning we packed the tent and left this very nice mosquito heaven, we waved to the farmer who passed us and went into the direction of Slovenia, close to the border we bought a vignet and then towards Postojna.
At Postojna we found us a campsite and we stayed there 2 nights, I called a cave guide and booked us a 'tour de cave' with the possible chance to see the Human Fish (also known as Olm) for the first time ever.
The guided tour was at 17:00 and it was still early, so I tried my luck in an other cave first, this was a cave you can walk in yourself, the water inside the cave was not very friendly for certain body parts, but after a while I found my first really wild Olm, the froozen body parts are still recovering from this great encounter.
In the late afternoon we went to the other cave, we were a bit early so we looked around at an old tower, out of a hole in the wall came the first 15 cm of a subadult Aesculapian Snake, but I was still a bit slow from the first cave, so it moved slowly back into its safe place, I was really too slow here.
Now the guided tour, it was great to see many more of this crazy looking species (Olm), the kids were very happy with their own flashlights and the guide was the victim of his own kindness, he got the most light in his face from my kids.
July 25th, Salamanders & Butterflies
In the morning we went to a mountain close to the border with Croatia, when we arrived Elin and myself tried to find Alpine Salamanders and guess who found the first one, it was not me! We found 5 of them in total, one of them was an adult.
After some Alpine Salamander photography and something to eat we decided to climb higher on the mountain, a beautiful trail which we called the butterfly-trail made us go higher and higher, at a certain point Cynthia and the kids stayed behind and I climbed a bit further to look for Adders, but it was very hot, so I went back to the others within 45 min.
I loved the butterflies there!
When we arrived back at the campsite Cynthia made dinner and I looked around close to the campsite and found a very big Slow Worm.
After dinner with some wine it did not take long before I was having an adventure on the inside of my own eyes...Bassie & Adriaan-style, so good night!
July 26th, towards Paklenica National Park
We went into Croatia and took the coastal route south, it was very hot, so we stopped to have something to eat at a little beach. When we went further we saw at least 5 caterpillars of the Giant Peacock Moth crossing the road. Close to the Velebit mountains and one of the entrances for the Paklenica National Park we found a campsite with shady places, a beach and an area with lots of grass, lose stones and low bushes.
At this place Elin saw a lizard, it was an Italian Wall Lizard and when I looked around there some more I saw 4 adult Glass Lizards making a noisy getaway.
July 27th, Let the snake escape-day..
Early in the morning I looked around close to the campsite, again some Glass Lizards and Italian Wall Lizards, but then in one second, I saw a big adult Eastern Montpellier Snake, it lasted not even half of that second, because the snake spotted me too, the other half of that second was all the time he needed to disappear.
Back at the campsite I showed a Glass Lizard to my kids, they liked the animal, but it was a male and he showed his privat parts without shame (like all real men do) 2 hemipenisses hanging out, so that animal is now called : "The lizard without legs, but with 2 piemels".
Let's have breakfast now! After breakfast I went into Paklenica NP and searched around an almost dry stream, Green Toad tadpoles, Hermann’s Tortoise and a single dark lizard were seen.
A bit later I heard someting, it was a Four-lined Snake, one of the slowest snakes ever, it went into the stone wall just in front of me and I was not able to make a photo or catch it.
So on one day I let one of the fastest and one of the slowest snake species escape, the afternoon was used for some swimming and crab & shrimp catching with my 2 best friends Elin & Siem!
In the late afternoon I saw 2 dark lizards again, I photographed one of them, it was a Dalmatian Algyroides, when I went back to the campsite I found a DOR Cat Snake.
July 28th, Krka National Park
Time to leave this area again, we wanted to camp close to Krka Natinal Park, but we only saw campsites in the middle of nowhere.. So we visited this great place one whole day. We parked the car and were brought to the waterfall area with a bus, from here we walked over a trail that goes through the park and the trail ended at the part where swimming is allowed, next to the trail we saw many March Frogs and close to the swimming spot was a big fight going on between 2 male Italian Wall Lizards.
Elin and me were already observing one of the lizards when an other male showed up and they started to fight, when they were fighting they payed absolutely no attention to their surrounding and even rolled over our feet, I tried to make some photos of this cool event, not easy!
We also went into this best looking swimming pool ever and after the pool-party we had 2 other male Italian Wall Lizards posing close to where we were sitting in the shade. This day was a great day, Krka National Park is very beautiful and we had a splendid time!
In the evening we found a campsite close to Dubrovnik.
July 29th, Dobrovnik oven
After waking up I photographed some Dalmatian Wall Lizards and then we went to the old town Dubrovnik, it was very hot, so we had more then one break in the shade, icecreams included.
On an old wall I found several Sharp-snouted Rock Lizards, but it was hard to get them in my camera...too hot, they were very allert and fast.
Medium rare we left Dubrovnik and went back to the campsite where we spent the afternoon catching crabs and swimming.
July 30th, Kotor & Lovćen National Park
From Dubrovnik to Montenegro was a short drive, after the 'border time-wasters' we stopped at a small stream, here I saw 4 Grass Snakes, March Frogs and a Balkan terrapin.
Next stop was supposed to be in Kotor, but 36' Celcius was to hot and we could not wait to get into the mountains, so we drove up the beautiful road from Kotor into Lovćen National Park, here we found a nice place where I did some lizard chasing and where the kids chased some grasshoppers.
During the day the Sharp-snouted Rock Lizards and the Common Wall Lizards were very shy, but in the late afternoon they came out and I could make some photo's.
I also looked for Mosor Rock Lizards, but I didn't find any, but I did find a pair of Eastern Green Lizards.
We put our tent next to the lizards and the next morning I searched again, the activity was a lot lower then in the late afternoon and again no Mosor Rock Lizards.
July 31st, Towards Virpazar
We moved on in the direction of Cetinje and from there to Rijeka Crnojevica and then to Virpazar, this as a very beautifull route, maybe a bit too much curves in it, but when you look around, it looks good!
In Virpazar we stayed one night in an hotel and the kids were running after frogs for the rest of the day, I checked out some places in the valley and saw Albanian Pool Frogs, March Frogs, 2 huge Common Toads, some Agile Frogs, Glass Lizards, Hermann’s Tortoise and a Dice Snake.
After diner I drove to the coast to look for Cat Snakes, but there was a very strong wind there, I did find 2 sheds and many Turkish Gecko's and a very big carnivorous Grasshopper, called Saga Pedo, but the Cat Snakes didn't show up.
On the way back to Virpazar I checked out a waterhole with many Common Newts in it, I was in bed around 01.30.
August 1st, Šasko Jezero & Into Albania
From Virpazar we went to the coast again and then towards
Šasko Jezero, a fresh water lake in the south east of Montenegro.
When we arrived there I found 3 Albanian Pool Frogs and 1 Grass Snake straight away next to where we parked the car.
After we had a drink in the restaurant we went to the lake, we saw many frogs, Marsh Frogs and Albanian Pool Frogs, Elin found a Dice
Snake and I found 4 more Grass Snakes, we also did some swimming here, but after 2 hours the sun was almost burning the skin of the kids, so we left again.
We drove to the Albanian border and saved an Hermann’s Tortoise from getting into future nasty experiences with a car, where I released it I found a DOR Nose-horned Viper and a living Dalmatian Wall Lizard.
At the border there was a huge traffic jam, but after 90 minutes we crossed the border.
We drove through Shkodër and we could really see some difference between this city and one in Montenegro, even more old Mercedes cars on the road then elswhere in the balkan area we had seen so far.
We also saw a lot of people riding a bicycle.
The things we did not like was the rubbish you see everywhere, but outside of the city we did not see that very often anymore.
We found a campsite next to the Skutari Lake, Lake Shkodra Resort and it was the first campsite that had wi-fi and most of the places they had were with some shade, so a campsite that will be getting more popular in the years to come.
While Cynthia made some dinner, I walked to the lake to photograph the sunset, I saw some Marsh Frogs and a Balkan Terrapin came towards the shore with its head sticking out of the water.
After last light I looked around a bit at the edge of the lake and then I heard a voice: " Are you looking for frogs??" It was Dominik Hauser, a German Reptile & Amphibian lover, we talked a bit and we both had the same planns for the next day.
August 2nd, almost to Thethi National Park
I wanted to go into Thethi National Park, but a Dutch couple warned me that the road towards it is only do-able with a 4x4 car, I said yes and tried it anyway.....
It was a very bad road, but if you really want it and drive with care you can make it, the only problem was around an altitude of 1650 m. here they were building a new road and there were lots of rocks on the road...
I parked the car and climbed up the mountain, I followed a dry stream and saw Common Wall Lizards and a grey lizard that turned out to be a Prokletije Rock Lizard, I searched for more then an hour, but could not find a second one, but I did make some photos of the Southern White Admiral butterfly.
A little lower I looked around at a place with a lot of stone walls and a man made pond, here I found Common Wall Lizards, Eastern Green Lizard, Grass Snake, Yellow-bellied Toads, Alpine Newts and larvae of the Macedonian Crested Newt.
I got some help to spot the Yellow-bellied Toads from a swimming sheep, even the shepherd said in his own way that it was a his most crazy member of the herd.
Back at the campsite Elin came to me and said she saw a lizard, so we looked around there and saw some Common Wall Lizards and Dalmatian Wall Lizards, then she called: "snake!" and I jumped after it, it was a nice 1 meter long Grass Snake, she was very proud because it was already her 2nd snake that she found herself, I must admit that I felt a bit proud too!!
We had Wine and pizza at the Lake Shkodra Resort restaurant, it was good!
August 3rd, Kirit river fun
This day we went with the whole family to the valley of the Kirit river, first we drove through Shkodër again and we made some city-pics.
We saw a little stream with water, but it looked a bit difficult to get there, but Elin and I were lucky, Siem was sleeping....so we could go together.
Elin and me walked through the stream and saw big Marsh Frogs, a Yellow-bellied Toad, 3 Grass Snakes and 2 Dice Snakes, one of the Dice Snakes was a juvenile and it was on the bottom of the stream, I showed it to Elin and she said: "Can I catch it" 5 seconds later she had the Dice Snake in her hands, she was proud again.
We had 3 stops at the Kirit river, at the first stop we were in the water when I heard 2 motorcycles, Dominik and his friend also stopped there and checked out the place, after some swimming we went a bit further and had a good meal at a small toko next to the river, where you can order your meat per kilo......it tasted good!
At the third spot we saw a girl who was washing her clothes in the river, when she saw us she put the clothes away and tried to convince us that swimming was nice there, so I also went swimming, she jumped from the rocks and I had to proof that I had the same guts she had, so I did it too.
From the Kirit river we drove to the place I was the day before, on the road we saw a Balkan Green Lizard, at the new place we found the same species again, but now we also found many adult Macedonian Crested Newts.
After dinner at the campsite's restaurant Dominik and me searched around the campsite, but we only saw some Marsh Frogs.
August 4th, Prokletije mountains
We packed our tent and left the Shkodra Lake Resort and went into the direction of Montenegro again, but before we were there again we had to cross the border again, a grumpy man saw some problems in our car papers, but if we paid a fine of 30€, then the problem would solve itself.....
In Montenegro we got some money from the machine and filled our bucket with bread and headed for the Prokletije mountains, just before we arrived I saw a little stream next to the road and I went in there with Elin, I found a little Grass Snake and she caught a frog, it was a Balkan Stream Frog, the first we saw on this trip.
While the kids had some fun in the water I followed the stream and found a very large Dice Snake and a juvenile, 2 more Grass Snakes and Balkan Stream Frogs which were also very big.
The next stop was at a beautiful lake surrounded by the Prokletije mountains, here we went swimming and Siem and Elin were very busy with catching very very small Common Toads, but they also found a big one!
In the late afternoon I climbed up some rocky areas and saw 5 Prokletije Rock Lizards, I managed to make some photographs of 3 of those pretty rock-climbers.
While I was making photos, Cynthia was already making dinner, thats how we devide things, she cooks, I eat everything...
After dinner we parked our tent next to the lake and when it was dark Elin and me walked around the lake, we heard Yellow-bellied Toads calling and soon after that we found them, but they stopped calling when we got closer, other species we saw were Alpine Newt larvae, Common Toad and a Grass Snake, the highlight was a pair Yellow-bellied Toads in amplexus.
August 5th, Kolasin
In the morning I looked around for Prokletije Rock Lizards again, but I only found Common Wall Lizards, so lets go for a swim again with the kids.
An hour later we moved on again, in Kolasin we bought some food and then we went into the mountains there and spend the day there.
I found some time to look around and saw some Viviparous Lizards and 3 Balkan Adders, the first one was too fast, but the second one was a goodlooking one, unfortunatly it was already trying to escape, so I could not make an In Situ photo, the third one was very blue-eyed, but I did get an In Situ photo of that one.
In the late afternoon we went into the direction of the Biogradska Gora National Park, here we put down the tent on the campsite and made some dinner. Next to the tent we found a big Common Toad.
I saw local people coming down the mountain with their car, so I thought: "what they can do with their 20+ year old cars, I can do also with my new rental car!"
August 6th, Tour de Biogradska Gora National Park
We had breakfast early in the morning and then went up the mountains, when I saw some areas which looked good for vipers, I started to search, within 20 minutes I found a Meadow Viper and a Balkan Adder, the last one was blue eyed again, so I did not make many photo's, in the stream were some Yellow-bellied Toads, in a pond lots of Alpine Newt larvae and Viviparous lizards were also seen more then once, meanwhile the kids were catching grasshoppers...no we can not take the grasshoppers home....
We had a drink and something to eat at one of those places higher in the Biogradska Mountains and the woman told us that we were also allowed to camp next to her house. What a great option!!
From here we took the mountain road through Biogradska Gora National Park towards the Kolasin ski center, it was a great route, but not adviseable with a normal car, you will damage it!!
From the ski center we drove down to Kolasin again and then towards the campsite, where I packed the tent and the other members of my family had an Icecream, then we took the bad road up again and put down our tent next to the woman's house.
It was close to the golden hours so I went out for some vipers, around the time that I had promised to be back for dinner I saw a Meadow Viper hoopje, they were already escaping so I tried to grab them, I managed, but 2 hands and 3 snakes is not very handy, I photographed 2 of them.
When I walked back I almost got into a strange situation with a local, I was walking through his fields with blueberries and he thought that I was stealing his berries, when he came closer he was still swearing, so I was ready to give him a chocking experience beyond the painborder.......he did not see any blueberries on me, so he changed into a very kind man.
August 7th, What a view and towards Durmitor NP
Good morning, I woke up early, made myself some breakfast and started to search for the last time in Biogradska Gora NP, around 07.30 I spotted a nice Meadow Viper, it was enjoying the morning sun from a low bush, I aimed the camera and it went away, I took some photos as fast as I could and went on to some higher parts on de mountains, here I saw many Viviparous Lizards and 2 juvenile Sand Lizards, no other vipers were seen that morning.
Around 09:45 I was back at the tent and Cynthia was already forcefeeding the children, sometimes you just have to do it...
We packed the tent, but before we left we climbed up a part of the mountain that gave us a great view over Biogradska Gora NP in western direction.
We left this great National Park and headed for Durmitor National Park, an other great place in Montenegro, the mountains here were even more beautiful then in Biogradska Gora NP, but thats only my opinion off course...
When we arrived in Žabljak, we noticed that this was a popular place, lots of tourists every where and hard to find a parking spot for the car, we looked for a campsite first from where it would be easy to explore the area the next 4 days, we saw some campsites, but they all had the same problem, small open fields, no shade the whole day, but a little later we found one with lots of trees close to the National Park.
The camping lady asked us if we were interested in eating with them in the morning and with diner, so we did that.
In the late afternoon I visited Durmitor NP and saw many Sand Lizards and Mosor Rock Lizards!
After dinner it did not take long before I was sleeping.
August 8th, 9th & 10th, Žabljak & Durmitor
In the morning I searched in the National Park, but only saw Sand Lizards and 1 Mosor Rock Lizard, back at the campsite the camping lady made a breakfast, sort of pancakes with cheese and ham inside and some other varieties, also yoghurt and fruit. I ate more then I needed, but thats what you do when it is very yummy..
The rest of the morning we spend in Žabljak, icecreams included again.
The afternoon was used to go into the mountains, we found a nice spot and Elin and me looked for grasshoppers and butterflies.
When I looked around at a more rocky area I found a juvenile Balkan Adder and a Sand Lizard.
We spend 2 more days in Durmitor National Park, I used the early mornings and late afternoons for trying to find amphibians and reptiles and the rest of those days we did something together like swimming and enjoying the stunning landscapes, we also enjoyed the breakfasts and the meals a lot from the camping lady!
Herp-wise I was lucky to find a total of 8 Balkan Adders in Durmitor, lots of Mosor Rock Lizards and Sand Lizards, March Frogs, an Agile Frog, a Common Tree Frog, Alpine Newts and Common Toads were also seen there.
The variety in the Alpine Newts is cool to see, they all look different from each other, I added some photos, so you can see it yourself.
On the morning we left Montenegro again, Elin found a huge
Japanese Silk Moth, it was on a yellow house, I made some photos of it, but the colors of the moth on the yellow wall were strange, so I photographed it in the grass. A very cool find!
From our good campsite in Durmitor National Park, we started the long drive home, first we went into the direction of Sarajevo, somewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina we had a stop next to a stream to eat something, in the stream we saw tiny Balkan Stream Frogs and next to it were 4 Common Wall Lizards.
In one day we drove from Durmitor to a place south of Zagreb, here I looked for Fire-bellied Toads, a 3 legged European Pond Terrapin was crossing the road and at the same place were 3 Grass Snakes found under a log, but the places where The Fire-bellies are normally seen were without water now, I also tried it at night, but nothing except some Green Frogs and Agile Frogs.
We packes our tent before 07:00 and went a bit further to a place loaded with lowland Balkan Adders, we arrived 08:00 and I searched for more then 2 hours, the vegatation was very high and it was not easy to see anything and I only saw one black snake escaping the scene, because it was big and fast I don't think it was a Balkan Adder.
We continued our journey and spend the afternoon at a small mountain stream in the north of Slovenia, here we saw many Fire Salamander larvae, Yellow-bellied Toads and Grass Frogs which looked good!
We decided to have 2 days on a campsite on the shore of Faaker See, I looked for Nose-horned Vipers in the morning and the late afternoon, the morning was very clouded, but after a while the sun came and in a very shady place I found a juvenile that offered me some chances to photograph it in situ.
After that I met a guy there, his name was Harry and the first words he said were: "sssst.... ein Schlange......ammodytes", it was an adult male, but it already went into the rocks, 10 minutes later I found a big female.
In the late afternoon I went there again and saw the juvenile again and I found an even bigger female, she was around 78 cm.
In the evening it started to rain, the first rain in almost 4 weeks.....
Me and my daughter did some roadcruising that evening and saw many Common Toads and Grass Frogs.
The rain came down the whole night, so in the morning we packed our very wet tent and started the ride home, we only stopped when it was necessary, so at a quarry where Green Toads should be, but we only found 4 Natterjack Toads, 2 of them were sort of looking a bit strange.
The other stop was at a place I had been succesful before with finding Green Toads, the water level was a lot higher now, but I still found 3 Green toads.
Just over 2 hours later we were home again.
Almost 4 good summer weeks, with a good herp-time/holiday-time ratio.
The natural beauty we saw almost everywhere was great, for sure you can count the balkan mountain ranges to the most beautiful places in Europe.
Mmmm, where should we go next year.....?
Special thanks to my amigo's Jeroen Speybroeck, Bobby Bok and Wouter Beukema for sharing their knowledge!
1. Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra salamandra
2. Alpine Salamander - Salamandra atra prenjensis
3. Smooth Newt - Lissotriton vulgaris ssp. vulgaris & graecus
4. Alpine Newt - Ichtyosaura alpestris
5. Macedonian Crested Newt - Triturus macedonicus
6. Great Crested Newt - Triturus cristatus
7. Olm - Proteus anguinus
8. Yellow-bellied Toad - Bombina variegata
9. Common Toad - Bufo bufo
10. Natterjack Toad - Bufo calamita
11. Green Toad - Bufo viridis
12. Common Tree Frog - Hyla arborea
13. Italian Tree Frog - Hyla Intermedia
14. Grass Frog - Rana temporaria
15. Agile Frog - Rana dalmatina
16. Italian Agile Frog - Rana latastei
17. Balkan Stream Frog - Rana graeca
18. Edible Frog - Pelophylax kl. esculentus
19. Pool Frog - Pelophylax lessonae
20. March Frog - Pelophylax ridibundus
21. Albanian Pool Frog - Pelophylax shqipericus
22. Hermann’s Tortoise - Testudo hermanni boettgeri
23. European Pond Terrapin - Emys orbicularis
24. Balkan Terrapin - Mauremys rivulata
25. Turkish Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus
26. Dalmatian Algyroides - Algyroides nigropunctatus
27. Western Green Lizard - Lacerta bilineata
28. Eastern Green Lizard - Lacerta viridis
29. Balkan Green Lizard - Lacerta trilineata
30. Sand Lizard - Lacerta agilis bosnica
31. Horvath’s Rock Lizard - Iberolacerta horvathi
32. Sharp-snouted Rock Lizard - Dalmatolacerta oxycephala
33. Mosor Rock Lizard - Dinarolacerta mosorensis
34. Prokletije Rock Lizard - Dinarolacerta montenegrina
35. Viviparous Lizard - Zootoca vivipara
36. Italian Wall Lizard - Podarcis siculus
37. Dalmatian Wall Lizard - Podarcis melisellensis
38. Common Wall Lizard - Podarcis muralis
39. Glass Lizard - Pseudopus apodus
40. Slow Worm - Anguis fragilis
---. Balkan Whip Snake - Hierophis gemonensis (DOR)
41. Four-lined Snake - Elaphe quatuorlineata
42. Aesculapian Snake - Zamenis longissimus
---. Cat Snake - Telescopus fallax (DOR)
43. Grass Snake - Natrix natrix persa
44. Dice Snake - Natrix tessellata
45. Eastern Montpellier Snake - Malpolon insignitus fuscus
46. Balkan Adder - Vipera berus bosniensis
47. Meadow Viper - Vipera ursinii macrops
48. Nose-horned Viper - Vipera ammodytes ammodytes