One can observe nature with intent to get to know her, to defend from her or to use it for his own purposes. It is hard for one who observes it with different intents, thoughts or emotions” Ivo Andrić
Visit to the river Uvac canyon, with many beautiful lakes and caves, one hundred year old forests and rare plant and animal life represents unforgettable experience which you can not experience anywhere else.
Special nature reserve “Uvac”, premier category natural estate of great importance, is located on south western Serbia, on territories of municipalities Sjenica and Nova Varoš. This reservation of untouched nature, nurtures and feeds in its bosoms various animal and plant species. The presence of very rare kind of vulture, very few in numbers – griffon vulture, makes this area unique. The griffon vulture nests in certain parts of gorge, on rocks, covered cliffs and caves above water.
Cooperation between man and nature
About four decades ago in the canyon, which was formed by river Uvac for centuries, on its 115 kilometer on the long road from Pešter to Valey of Lim, three hydro accumulations were formed – Uvac, Zlatar and Radoinje lake. Some time ago the electric power manufacture from these accumulations represented 65 % of total manufacture in Serbia. By building great facility systems in Serbia the significance of hydro plants is diminished, but Uvac has still remained important in Serbian plant system, because of its natural and geographic values. Although the part of the canyon is submerged by constructing three artificial lakes, which gave the entire area a new scenery, the gorge of river Uvac is still lively, a at its beauty is breath taking even for those who have witnessed various world wonders. Today, through lively Uvac canyon in the vicinity of Nova Varoš, by foot and boats, great number of nature lovers and rare vulture lovers – griffon vulture lovers, which is, because its wing span of 2.8m and astounding flight, rightfully called King of the Skies.
King of Heights from the coat of arms of Nemanjić dinasty
Griffon vulture is, by many things, unique bird. It is one of the four vulture species which inhabits Europe, but the only one with habitat in Serbia. It has a long life span, about fifty years. With its weight up to 15 kilograms and wing span of about three meters it looks very powerful and represent an air attraction. Because of its beauty and powerful features, but also the way of life it has often been called “mythical” bird. Watching it, while it cruises the skies, man has for centuries given significance to its perfect flight. That has borne belief that griffon vulture can predict the storm, chase away the clouds, and foresee unhappy events. Griffon vulture also had its place among the medieval Serbian aristocracy. Two headed griffon vulture can be recognized on the coat of arms of royal house of Nemanjić, coat of arms of houses of Mrnjavčević, Lazerević and Crnojević, and the best preserved coat of arms of griffon vulture is located on the south wall of the Lazarica church in Kruševac. In the past, griffon vulture had its habitats all over Serbia, but with the societies negligence and with diminishing of cattle fond it came almost to extinction. Because it feeds mainly with dead even-toed ungulates and other large mammals, griffon vulture has a role of nature cleaner, because of its unique way of feeding it prevents spreading the diseases. You can see him today on only three locations in Serbia – In canyons of rivers Trešnjica, Mileševka and Uvac. More serious activities on colony protections in river Uvac canyon have been taken three decades ago, thanks to the locals and employees in Uvac reserve. It is yearly “served” in “restaurants” or feeding pools for griffin vultures about 50 tons of classic waste and died cattle. After everything that has been done for their protection, number of griffon vultures has came from seven pairs (which was their number in 1993.!) on today’s three hundred animals. This colony of griffon vultures is today the largest in Balkans and one of the largest in Europe.
Breath taking nature
River that carries many secrets, besides bird lovers, is often been visited by large number of tourists. Boat ride through meanders of Uvac river is something you will remember for a long time. Uvac is racing through the curves which are more lake a maze with no way out rather then a river flow. Stone walls of the gorge, which is in some places so narrow that you will have difficulties to go through even by boat, are white at the bottom, polished by water, and in heights are gray and black, covered by bushes. In the nests formed beneath cavities and rock porches, about hundred meters above water, you can find nests of griffon vultures, who have chosen the river Uvac canyon for one of their last habitats in this part of Europe. After thirty minutes of boat rides, you cross by boat across the rock bridge on Žvale, which is a part of the remains of Emperial road from Dubrovnik to Carigrad (Istanbul – Emperor city). With a tour through the canyon you will find also one of the caves of the Ušac system – Ice cave, in which you can enter both from the land and from water. Beauty of this cave is in its halls with big white pillars, crossed with red and blue shades. Once you are up on one of the many viewpoints, from the griffon vulture perspective you can observe natures masterpiece – meanders of river Uvac.
That which certainly stands this natural jewel apart from other tourist destinations is that it has not changed beside the fact of increased numbers of tourists and visitors, and it has not lost anything of it authenticity. You will not see skyscrapers or large mansions. Here houses steel give the warmth of true village home, and in those houses is prepared the food based on the recipes of our ancestors. But, to make the adventure complete, you must experience this for yourself…
Flora and fauna
Beside the griffon vulture you can also see others endanger bird species, like Golden eagle and osprey, eagle owl, mountain wall creeper, and common merganser. On the gorge area are recorded total of 216 plant and 400 bird species, and its habitat in these parts have also found bears, lynxes, and otter, as well as many species of endemic insects and bats which are listed in European red list of rare and endangered fauna species. In meanders lives also the huchen, noble fish species, brought nearly to extinction but it has found its peace here.
What else to visit?
You can start touring river Uvac canyon from the dams on Uvac and Zlatar lake on Rastoke, and in Kokin Brod, ten kilometers from Nova Varoš. On the edges of the canyon were raised two wooden churches in villages Kućani and Radijevići with icons of priceless value, and in the village Božetići is located the monastery Dubnica which was recently reconstructed after three centuries in ruins. At about 15 kilometers from the dam in Rastoke, on old road for Ivanjica, is also located ethnic village Štitkovo with residential housings made of timber, built at the end of 19 century.
Hadžisup (great griffon vulture)
By following griffon vultures through rings and wing marks it has been determined that young birds from Uvac go even 2.000 kilometers away from their native colony. The most famous of them is Hadžisup – 4, griffon vulture which has settled in Israel and which has, with the help of local ornithologist “sent” his photograph. The largest number of griffon vultures flies to Bulgaria and Greece, but they return later to their home land. That is the reason it is said for them that they rule the Balkan skies.
Do not miss to try: buckwheat pie, paprika in milk cream, beef smoked ham, forest strawberries preserve and wild pear brandy.