Ležeški gabrk and surroundings of the Škocjan caves

Area description
Ležeški gabrk is a smaller (approximately 60 hectares large) karst field near Divača, situated between the hill Vremščica and the area of the Škocjan caves. Numerous sinkholes, ponds, dry karst fallows full of rubble, thorny bushes and some planted stands of black pine are typical characteristics that thoroughly outline the main features of this place. South of the field are the already mentioned Škocjanske caves – one of the greatest natural treasures of Slovenia. In the Škocjanske caves river Reka disappears underground at the bottom of a magnificent gorge surrounded by steep cliffs that form a complex of beautiful underground caves, which are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The caves surroundings are interesting both from an ornithological as well as aesthetic point of view. High walls above the caves, at the foot of which the river Reka disappears underground, descendingly glower into surrounding karst forests of downy oak and manna ash and above them, as a petrified guard, stands the idyllic stone church of the village Betanja.

Divača has good and frequent intercity bus and train connections with the coast (Koper) and the country’s interior (Ljubljana) and can thus be reached with ease.

Trail description
From Divača train and bus station we go in direction of Košana/Pivka and in a few 100 metres reach the village Dolnje Ležeče. From here we can continue either towards Ležeški Gabrk (on our left) or the Škocjan caves (on our right). We can begin on whichever side and do a round trip. By doing this we visit both sides and end our journey on the starting point. A whole day is needed for the trip.

Ležeški Gabrk is under a significant influence of the Mediterranean climatic zone. Thus, many birds typical for the sub-Mediterranean region (which is limited to the south-western part of Slovenia) can be seen here. Tawny pipits, woodlarks, common rock thrushes, common red buntings and yellowhammers nest in the open parts of the area. From high grass stands of Ležeški Gabrk singing of the common quail can be admired in spring and summer, hoopoes can be heard out of the forests and melodious and Sardinian warblers sing out of thorny bushes that overgrow open parts of the area. Voices of the European nightjar, scops owl, little owl and barn owl echo at dusk and in the night. Rock bunting, blue rock thrush, rock dove and alpine swift can be observed nesting in walls above the Škocjan caves. Birds of prey, such as Northern goshawk, common buzzard, short-toed snake eagle, common kestrel and Eurasian hobby nest in the surroundings. Harriers (hen harrier more in winter and montagu’s harrier more in spring time), European honey buzzard, red-footed falcon and Eurasian hobby can be seen flying over the open areas during migration. Golden eagles and griffon vultures wander around the wider surroundings in spring and autumn.

Other plants and animals
Mediterranean reptile species, such as the Dalmatian Algyroides and Balkan whip snake, occur in the region. The most interesting invertebrates are owlflies and lacewing insects, which resemble butterflies. Roe deer and fox are frequently encountered.

Interesting links
Škocjan caves regional park