Day 1, Saturday: Vladivostok. The drive from the airport to the city will take approximately one hour depending on traffic. On the way you will travel through the outskirts of Vladivostok past the Satornaya District, dotted with colorful dacha's both old and new. You will arrive at "Hotel Primorye" located in the middle of town to check in for your first overnight in Russia. Afterwards you will take a small walk of the nearby center of the city. You will have dinner in one of the oldest café's in Vladivostok, "Nostalgia". D Primorye Hotel Vladivostok is often called "the Pearl of the East" and might remind US travelers somewhat of San Francisco. This city of some 600,000 inhabitants is sprawled over several hills along the famous Amursky Bay. Vladivostok is a big port and all though most of its activities have changed from military to trade, most of its naval vessels all though a bit rusty, still make a great impression. Vladivostok is a city for walking. The pockets of parks in between newly renovated buildings of spectacular architectural styles, is one that can be eye opening, and also establishes the city's magnificent ambiance.
Day 2, Sunday: Ussurisky Reserve. After breakfast this morning, we will depart for a scenic ride through the taiga to the Ussurisky Reserve, a drive of approximately 130km. We will walk on a specifically designed ecological path showing some of the unique nature of the reserve. Afterwards discuss with the reserve managers their Project '"Restoration of the Himalayan Bear." We will have lunch at the reserve. The Ussurisky nature reserve is located at the western edge of the southern Sikhote-Alin Mountain range in the Ussurisky and Shitovsky Regions of the Primorsky Krai. Many small streams and waterfalls crisscross the reserve while rolling hills rise up to about 70 meters above sea level.
The old-growth coniferous-broad-leaf forests that line the Ussurisky reserve between the two major rivers are among the last remaining intact habitat of the Siberian (Amur) tiger, the largest cat in the world. The number of tigers currently is on the rise, mostly due to what the scientist feel a sharp decline in the wolf population in the reserve. Aseatic bears and badgers live in the reserve year round. After lunch we again drive through the Ussurisky taiga, an ever changing carpet of colors, to our next stop, Victor Yudin's Tiger Reserve. It is difficult to briefly describe the situation in Russia, relative to the protection and preservation of the Amur Tiger, but here are some of the problems.
In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the USSR, several things happened which directly affected the future of Siberian tigers. The opening of Russia's borders with her South East Asian neighbors made smuggling easier. Increased mining and forestry encroached on the Siberian tiger habitat and also resulted in increased road construction which opened up the area to poachers. Government funding for conservation dwindled. All this led to an increase in poaching. You may wish to make a small contribution to assist him in this task by buying several or one of his photos. Then we continue on to Khankaisky Reserve, where we will overnight in comfortable wooden cabins. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3, Monday: Khankaisky Reserve. Today after breakfast we take small boats into the Reserve to observe the incredible variety of birds. We spend the entire day exploring the lake with a wonderful Russian picnic on the lake shores. Lake Khanka is the largest fresh water lake in the Russian Far East. Most of the reserve is lowlands dotted with wetland areas, all though there are also some hills in the reserve. Five low ridges extend parallel to the eastern shore of Lake Khanka - these are previous coastlines of the lake, separated by swamplands. Two small islands (Sosnovy and Vasilevsky) are protected in the reserve in the southwestern part of Lake Khanka.
Most of the species breed in the reserve, while quite many stop at the reserve during seasonal migrations. During these periods, for example, the number of ducks sometimes reaches several hundred thousands. Lake Khanka received the status of a Ramsar Wetland of international importance in 1971, nearly 20 years before the reserve was established. In the late afternoon, we take a drive through the country side dotted with small villages. This is an agricultural area and we'll meet most of the cattle roaming alongside the road. We overnight accommodations in a small Old Russian village. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4, Tuesday: Country side. Today is a day of leisure in the countryside. You may wish to go for a hike around the nearby picturesque lake, visit with the neighbors and talk about their activities and interests, or go back to the Lake Khanka area for some more bird watching. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5, Wednesday: Kedrovaya Pad Reserve. Today we return to the area of Vladivostok by way of the Kedrovaya Pad Reserve. Agriculture is one of the most prevalent economic drivers in this region; we pass by fields of various vegetables. Alongside the road many small farmers display their wares. The Kedrovaya Pad reserve is the oldest in East Russia. Located east of the Amursky Bay and on the border with China, it is the most southern reserve in the Primorsky region. Despite its small size, only 179 sq km, it includes all types of Ussurisky taiga.
There are all together 240 different kind of birds, though only 100 nest in the reserve. Several types of animals can be found in the reserve, such as roes, spotty deer, wild boars, raccoon dogs and Himalayan bears. But the main pride of the reserve is the Far Eastern leopard, which can only be found in this specific reserve. The population of this rare predator totals only 30 animals, including 1-2 families who are a constant feature of the reserve. When we arrive we take the "Leopard's" trail, designed to show most of the natural beauty of the reserve. We stay within the reserve and overnight at Hotel "Yelena". In the evening we enjoy the typical Russian Banya. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6, Thursday: Far Eastern Marine Reserve. We depart by boat to explore the islands of the Far Eastern Marine Reserve. Most islands are treasures that are inhabited by various bird species. We will spend the night on the Rimsky-Korsakov Islands, where we overnight in the reserve cabins. The Far Eastern Marine Reserve was the first reserve in Russia created to protect the marine ecosystem of the underwater world. It was established in 1978 under the direction of the Institute of Biology. The reserve is situated in the extreme southern part of the Russian Far East, in the Peter the Great Bay of the Sea of Japan. The Peter the Great Bay is the most biologically rich part of the Sea of Japan and has the highest level of marine diversity of any sea in Russia. Eleven islands are part of the reserve. The unique, biologically-rich environment is partly explained by the climatic conditions. The reserve is located at the meeting points of warm and cold maritime currents. The eastern side of the reserve is completely off limits to human disturbance, while scientific research of marine and islands habitat is performed in the western and southern part of the reserve.
A buffer zone, extending three nautical miles in the water and 500 meters on land and fishing, hunting and collection of plants are not permitted in this area. The northern section of the reserve has been set aside for educational purposes. The environmental center restored with local funds and those of USAID, is located in Popov Island. A small museum explains the tasks of the Far Eastern Marine Reserve and some ecological trails have been established on the island. Marine mammals in the bay include the common porpoise and common seals. Whales and other mammals, such as the false killer whale, and sea lions, migrate to the waters occasionally. Breeding and haul-out areas for the large seal are mostly on the islands of the reserve. More than 360 species of birds are found in the terrestrial are of the reserve which only occupies two percent of its area. Large bird colonies of cormorants, loons, thin-and thick-billed Mur, Atlantic puffins, spectacled guillemots, and ancient murrelet. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 7, Friday: Far Eastern Marine Reserve. Today we spend additional time exploring the Reserve with an arrival late in the afternoon back in Vladivostok. We enjoy a wonderful farewell dinner at pone of the restaurants overlooking the bay. Hotel Primorye. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8, Saturday: Vladivostok. After breakfast we enjoy either a city tour or spend the day at leisure. We leave at noon for the airport for our flight back home. Includes: (B), (L).
- The weather circumstances may change each day's activity as to take advantage of good weather
- This program requires flexibility and good humor
- Be prepared for walks in the forest by bringing rain and sports gear and excellent hiking boots or shoes
- All though services have improved in the last couple of years, we will encounter problems with delays, bureaucratic conditions, bad road conditions, uneven surfaces and steps and unavailability of public bathrooms.
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