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Ussuriland: to the kingdom of amur tiger

( TIGER.jpg )The Russian Far East, known as the “northern jungle”, is one of the world’s most interesting natural regions. It is famous for the unique mixture of species typical to the northern taiga and southern subtropics, which reside in the same neighborhood. The region possesses the highest flora and fauna diversity in Russia, as well as a great number of endemic and rare species. It is the primary habitat for the Amur Tiger, Far Eastern Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Amur Goral, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Red-crowned, White-napped and Hooded Cranes, Scaly Merganser, etc.

Region: Russian Far East
Date:  August 17, 2009
 September 21, 2009

Trip duration: 13 days
Price: 1580 Euro per person in a group of 14 pax, 1725 Euro per person in a group of 12 pax.

    Included accommodation, transportation, motor boat rental, meals three times daily during the field part of the tour, breakfasts at the hotel in Vladivostok, fees for visiting nature reserves, guiding and interpretation services, museums, excursions, etc.
    Price does not include international airfare, airfare Moscow-Vladivostok-Moscow, Moscow program, visa support, insurance (we will gladly provide everything listed above if necessary), lunches and dinners at the caf
    Accommodation Cordons, tourist cottages during field part, hotels in Vladivostok


    Day 1: Vladivostok

    Arrive in Vladivostok in the morning. Transfer to your hotel, rest. Sightseeing tour of the city, called the ''Russian San Francisco''. Lunch at the restaurant. Excursion to the Museum of Nature History and Ethnography named after Arseniev (first explorer of the Russian Far East). Dinner at the restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.

    Day 2: Vladivostok - Lazovsky Nature Reserve

    Car (bus) transfer to Lazo village (245 km, 5-6 hrs). Dinner at the cafe. Excursion to the museum of nature and ecological education center of the Lazovsky Nature Reserve. Short lecture and video presentation about the Nature Reserve, famous for the highest density of the Amur Tiger, endemic goral and other interesting animals. Transfer by car to the ''America'' gorge (30 km, 1 hr). Overnight at the reserve’s cordon (wooden huts usually used by the scientists and forest guards – up to 6 guests) and tented camp./The cordon consists of two huts (facilities outside) located on a big meadow in the forest. Additionally, there is big kitchen inside a hut, and a summer kitchen./

    Day 3: Lazovsky Nature Reserve

    Radial hikes in the America gorge to make acquaintance with typical landscapes in the reserve. The multi-species valley forest gives way to the cedar-broad-leafed taiga and cedar taiga forest. Hollows of huge Maximowichii poplars growing in the valley are often used by Himalayan black bears as dens for the winter. Along the route you will see a variety of trees, shrubs and herbs of the Ussuri taiga. Also, tracks of many animals can often be found there, including Amur tiger, bear, ungulates. Crossing the Perekatnaya river, you will see Primorye sima (one of the local species of salmon) at the spawning grounds. The birdlife is extremely diverse. Dinner and overnight in the cordon.

    *NOTE: Another option. Having thoroughly explored the ''American Gorge'', the expedition will hike to the neighboring Karpad Gorge. The hike will feature crossing a chain of low hills (3,5 – 3 hrs) will stops being made along the way to admire the scenery and a picnic will be organized en route. Dinner and overnight stay at the Karpad camp: a wooden house located in a meadow close to the Karpad River. Additionally, accommodation in tents will be organized.

    Day 4: Lazovsky Reserve, Benevskiye waterfalls

    Car transfer to the Elamovskie springs (75 km ). 8 km- hike to the system of beautiful waterfalls. The path leading to the waterfall passes through valley forest representing a variety of tree species, and along a mountain spring with numerous rapids and water cascades. The forest type varies from broad-leafed multi-species to dark coniferous taiga. So you will meet a vast variety of plants, from common to very rare: Manchurian walnut, the Amur velvet (cork) tree, Corean cedar pine, Ayan spruce, Yew . The area represents the typical habitat of the well-known ginseng plant. There are a lot of shrubs and herbs with beautiful flowers, as well as lianas (Chisandra chinensis, wild grape, actinidia). Usually tracks of different animals (tiger, Himalayan black bear, badger, musk deer, fox) are found here. Bird life is very rich as well. Japanese blue and yellow-rumped flycatchers, yellow-throated and Siberian meadow buntings, gray wagtail, brown dipper, dollar-bird (Eastern broad-billed roller), Turdus hortulorum, pale and Siberian (ground) thrushs, oriental white eye, oriental (Himalayan) cuckoo can be found there. The main waterfall is about 17 m in height.

    In the afternoon, we will hike down the stream (8 km), car transfer to the seashore opposite Petrova Island (50 km) via one of the oldest local villages. Dinner and overnight in a tented camp next to Petrova cordon.

    /The cordon is a spacious wooden house located on a seashore. It consists of 3 rooms and a kitchen. There are also a summer kitchen, resthouse, and banya outside the cordon (field shower can be organized, too). Additionally, a tent camp can be organized./

    Day 5: Lazovsky Reserve, Petrova Island and bay

    Transfer by motor boat to the Petrova island (about 800 m) for an excursion. There, you will see the only known grove of relict Yew tree (Taxus). Such a small island is home to more than 300 species of higher vascular plants alone, as well as 117 species of lichen. Actually it is a natural botanical garden, where you can see most of the plant species inhabiting the Primorye. Ussurian cormorants, spectacled guillemots and northern white-rumped swifts make their nests on the rocks of the island. Upon return to the cordon, you will have free time for watching migrating birds on the seashore, exploring the environs, swimming in the pure water of the Sea of Japan, lying on the golden sand. The wonderful coastline, rich underwater world, historical sights are all around you. A motor boat excursion along the coastline can be organized additionally to provide the best chances to watch gorals on the rocks and to enjoy the most picturesque bays. Dinner and overnight, as per previous day.

    Day 6: Lazovsky Reserve

    Leisure morning for the rest on a wonderful sandy beach and exploring the environs. Hiking excursion for wildlife watching. A good contrast with recent staying in Ussuri taiga forest! Overnight, as per previous day.

    *Note: for additional fee, a journey by reserve’s motor boat can be organized to observe Goral antelopes on the cliffs, as well as beautiful sights of the gulf.

    Day 7: Lazovsky Reserve – Vladivostok

    Transfer back to Vladivostok (245 km) via Lazo village, where you can buy souvenirs and photographs. Nice views on the way to the hilly landscape of South Primorye. Dinner at the restaurant in the city. Visit to the okeanarium.Overnight at the hotel.

    Day 8: Far Eastern Marine Nature Reserve

    After breakfast, we board our small ship (''Yaroslavets'' or similar) for the 1,5-hrs trip to Popov Island (northern section of the Far Eastern Marine Nature Reserve). When we arrive, we visit the Museum of Marine Nature and Its Protection. The museum presents the amazing diversity of marine life and the threats it is facing. After our visit of the museum, we receive a briefing in the ecological education center on the characteristics of plant and animal life of the Peter the Great Gulf.

    After lunch, we take a trip by motor boat to the neighbor island and enjoy a wonderful view from the hill to the Peter the Great Gulf and islands of the nature reserve. We can swim and sunbath, even snorkeling is possible (rental flippers and masks is available on the Popov island).

    On the evening, we visit by motor boat small islands - the only breeding sites in Russia of Streaked Shearwater; some Swinhoe’s storm petrels also breed here. Return back to Popov island, overnight in cottages.

    Day 9: Far Eastern Marine Nature Reserve

    After breakfast, we take a trip by motor boat southwards through the picturesque islands across the whole the Peter the Great Gulf (Far Eastern Marine Nature Reserve and surroundings), with a highest chance to watch the coastal birds of the preserve. We make a short stop at some islands and watch the groups of Temmick's (Japanese) and Great cormorants, as well as the gulls. A marine biologist accompanying us will dive and show us different sea creatures.

    We will arrive on the False Island not far from the junction of borders of Russia, Korea and China. In September, False Island is a wonderful place for birdwatching: up to 40 species of migrating northern waders can be spotted there.

    After lunch, we continue a trip by motor boat to the Gamov Peninsula (about 4 hrs). Dinner and overnight at the cordon of Nature Reserve at Spaseniya Bay (spacious wooden house with few guest rooms and big dining room with a wonderful view to the sea; facilities outside).

    Day 10: Khasan Nature Park

    Leisure time to explore the natural environs, swim and rest. Enjoy wondful views to the gulf, rocks and islands. A tour of the 4000-year-old archaeological site will be organized. Dinner and overnight stay, as per previous day.

    Day 11: Kedrovaya Pad’ Nature Reserve

    In the early morning, we move by bus to the Kedrovaya Pad’ Nature Reserve (about 3 hrs).

    Kedrovaya Pad’ is the oldest Russian Nature Reserve, established in 1925. It was conceived as a «botanical Reserve» with preserved virgin groves of Manchurian Fir and Korean pine, Ash Maple, birch-liana forest. Now it is hilly ''oasis'' of wildlife, most rich in Ussurian flora. These pristine forests grow along the narrow valley of the River Kedrovaya. The valley is squeezed between two narrow mountain ridges and attracts many forest birds, including rare species. It is the only known area in Russia which harbors breeding population of the rarest Far East Leopard.

    Upon arrival we will have an excursion along the Kedrovaya River through different type of pristine forests up to the top of hill (6,5 km) from which we can see the panorama of the hills and entire sea bay. In September-early October, we can enjoy fantastic autumnal coloration of the forest. Evening with one of the Russian finest nature photographers, video presentation about the Far Eastern Leopard filmed in this reserve.

    Overnight stay in the visitor center of the nature park in Barabash/Perevoznaya Bay.

    Day 12: Kedrovaya Pad’ Nature Reserve

    An excursion to the Leopard site (half of a day). We will ascend to the slope from where will see the leopard’s den. We'll have a chance to see the leopard's scratches and other marks. Upon return, we will move by bus to Vladivostok and have dinner at the restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.

    Day 13: Transfer to the airport for the flight home.

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