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New Life, New Business in Bulgaria

Quest Bulgaria caught up with a family who moved to Bulgaria in August 2008. The family have established and are now operating ATV and Quad Biking safaris from Marinka, near Bourgas on the Black Sea coast. James and Lynn originally bought a home in Bulgaria in 2003 with their friends Kevin and Valerie for the two families to use for holidays.  However, five years later, one family headed across Europe to start a new life in their home in Marinka.  For now, the other family and their son remain in the UK but hope to make their move this year.

Neither of the families considers themselves as big risk takers even though they bought in Bulgaria in the early days.  “When we bought a lot of people thought we were either mad or very brave.  We were probably a bit of both but from our perspective we could see the potential in Bulgaria; we did our research and bought carefully in a good village not too far from Bourgas.”

Taking the plunge

After a couple of years the families started to think about making a move to Bulgaria more permanent.  “We’d all talked about it on and off but there was always a reason not to take the plunge.  Apart from the obvious things such as family ties, our jobs in the UK, schooling and finances we had to work out a way to earn a living in Bulgaria.

The idea of ATV/Quad Biking safari’s came about following a trip to Scotland.  “Whilst in Scotland we tried one of the many ‘year round’ outdoor activity centre’s that offered Quad Biking and loved it. In Scotland there was so much to do even when the weather wasn’t great and the afternoon on the Quads was a highlight for us, plus you got to see much more of the area on the move and in the open.  We then started to talk about our holidays in Bulgaria and the activities on offer for people near our village, around Bourgas and the local resorts.  Up until then our summer visits to our holiday home were focused on the beach, relaxing, maybe a visit to the aqua parks etc. That was all great but it would have been nice to have had a greater choice of things to do, even more so at other times of the year.  This began to make the safari idea very appealing”.

The Mayor was a key figure

The location of Marinka proved a key factor in their decision to focus on Quad Biking.  “Being a short distance in land midway between Bourgas and Sozopol it’s a great location.  There are miles of open countryside and hills covered in old farm and animal tracks – ideal Quad biking territory.  We are not far from the Poda Nature Centre and protected areas plus we are under the Via Pontica migratory route so the nature and bird life can be wonderful.  The variety of birds; including the storks you often see circling overhead makes exploring the old tracks and hills a real treat”.

Another key factor was the timing.  Lynn told Quest Bulgaria “2008, in our minds was the cut off point for us to move.  It had to be then or we might never do it.  In some respects it was a natural breaking point as our son was finishing junior school and would have moved to senior school in September 2008.  For Kevin and Valerie they will be in the same position this year and with luck their son James will be joining Alexander in our village school this September.”

A challenging venture

So what has life been like these first few months, has it all been a ‘walk in the park’?  James replies; “A walk in the park, no.  Even with a lot of preparation it takes a long time to adjust and understand how things work here.  We never thought it would be easy but some things that you take for granted in the UK we’ve had to learn again from scratch in Bulgaria. Starting a business in Bulgaria has its issues and you have to work like stink! Our first winter was a long and cold one but now that the weather has improved, people from Bourgas and the surrounding areas have been showing a keen interest in what we are doing.  We know Quad biking is becoming more and more popular and it gets quite a lot of coverage on TV.  Combine that with what seems to be a growth in other outdoor action activities such as paintballing, horse riding and cycling and maybe our area in Bulgaria will soon be giving places like Scotland a run for its money.”  

Starting a venture like this can be challenging and Lynn offers advice for anyone else thinking of something that might need access to land. “It might seem obvious but you must check who the land belongs to first and be open and honest with the mayor (Kmet).  We didn’t know where to start in terms of finding out where we could use the Quads; our logic led us to check with our solicitor, he told us that although a lot of the land was common land we’d be wise to seek permission from our Mayor. The Mayor’s input and approval was very important.  He asked a lot of questions including; how often we’d be using the quads, what we’d do if we came across grazing animals and what damage we might cause to the land. When he was satisfied with our responses he came with us and showed us which routes we could safely use.”

Did Lynn consider Quad biking across the Bulgarian countryside and the mayor’s question about damaging the land had been a difficult issue to address?  “Not really, he understood that we are not doing this to tear up the countryside and in fact take steps to avoid it.  We are taking out small groups, led by a guide using existing tracks that have been there for years.  The fact that we keep our speed down, switch tracks when necessary to avoid excessive track and soil erosion is all good practice.  He also liked the fact we frequently use the quads to collect some of the plastic bags and bottles (that seem to get everywhere in Bulgaria) for our village recycling bins.  We try to do our bit for the environment even if it’s small.  

So what do they see themselves tackling next? James replied “We are looking forward to our first full summer and that’s our main focus at the moment, come back and ask us in the Autumn we might have time to think then!

If you fancy a go at quad biking, why not find out more at