About an hour and a half from Nice, near the Gréolières mountain resort, is an extraordinary place which is an unforgettable must-see: the Haut-Thorenc, an exceptional animal reserve. Here are the unforgettable marvels that await you there.
The crazy venture of a veterinarian to restock a reserve for wild animals.
As long ago as 1963, Doctor Longour moved heaven and earth to get his crazy project off the ground: restock herds of animals facing extinction, such as the European bison or the little Przewalski horse or those surviving in distressing conditions in zoos. Was it possible to bring together these animals, to give them a real territory similar to their land of origin and thus bring back to life the wild herds familiar to our ancestors and, before that, prehistoric man?
Mission accomplished: across these 700 hectares of a low mountainous region the bison have established new families and regained their social life, sharing their domain with little wild Przewalski horses who have also readapted to life in a group.
The authentic conditions of a real life in the wild, where man is just a spectator.
The wonderful miracle of the Reserve is that the veterinary staff and carers have put great care into giving these fine animals their freedom back, i.e. giving them the means to survive on their own (huge territory, climate similar to their climate of origin, no human intervention etc.). As a result bison and horses have had to patiently rediscover the buried secrets of their rules for living as a group, their hierarchies, to learn to raise their young without outside assistance once again!
Over the years with the increase in the herds, this ambitious gamble has already gone a long way towards paying off.
Stags, wild boar, roe deer, wolves…a new group of wild animals have made it their home.
In large part thanks to the behaviours of bison, who have opened up clearings in the forest and reduced tree density, animals have returned in large numbers, in particular deer (stags and does) and roe deer. As these animals have regained their habits in the reserve and reproduced, other predator species who live alongside them in the wild have also moved in: large numbers of wild boar, foxes, badgers. The wolves of the nearby Mercantour make forays into the domain, thus re-establishing the original food chain.
Visitors to the reserve discover the exceptional diversity of this fauna, which is continuing to grow as the years go by.
A must-see, particularly if you have children.”
This corner of the Alpes Maritimes is a delight, particularly around the pretty Lac du Thorenc which also awaits you. The ideal way to visit the Reserve is on foot or with a guided safari in a horse-drawn carriage pulled by two workhorses with commentary by one of the Domaine’s carers. Booking is recommended in high season(https://www.reserve-biologique.com/ reservation-tarif/).
Then you can pass by just a few metres from a herd of bison, witnessing the young frolicking around the majestic bison cows. You will see the little Przewalski horses drinking from the ponds that crop up, you will listen to the loud cry of the eagles flying high up in the Alpine skies and, depending on the season, you will observe the rutting of the stags or the foals with their mothers.
A night in the ecolodges? A thrilling adventure for young and old!
The Mont d’Azur Animal Reserve has installed facilities around its imposing farmhouse so that couples and families can enjoy their time there. Noteworthy is the simple, tasty restaurant, the natural pool, the horse-drawn carriage…
If you want the full Haut-Thorenc experience, spend a night in one of the ecolodges in the heart of the domain. You will be able to hear the whisper of the forest and experience the very heart of the wild.
Convinced? The Monts d’Azur Animal Reserve exemplifies and showcases Nature’s capacity for resilience. It reveals marvels both in terms of flora and fauna. It is one of the many initiatives of the region that showcase the incredible local diversity: the Mercantour, fields of lowers, the prehistoric past of the Valley of Marvels. The Côte d’Azur, visitors come not just for the coast but also for the hinterland!
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