On your arrival at Vladivostok airport you will be met by your zoologist escort and local guide and transferred to your accommodation, level – 3* hotel. Then after lunch you will have some sightseeing of this very industrial city. The majority of the city is quite charming and offers much sightseeing. This is because the city remained closed to the rest of the world for a long time and unlike other Manchurian and Far Eastern cities there is little cultural diversity. But we will visit the fortress museum which is worth a visit.
Zov Tigra National Park
After leaving Vladivostok you will be transferred to the first of two reserves. The first is Zov Tigra National Park and is located close to the coastline of the Sea of Japan and in one of the most impressive landscapes of all of Russia. From the mighty Milogradovka River to the huge Mount Oblachanaya that rises over 6000ft high from the Sea of Japan. The park is over 200,000 acres in size and provides one of the largest protected areas for a large number of Siberian tigers. It is estimated that around 15 different tigers use this area (either as a resident or transient), to help us in our quest we have a few tricks up our sleeves. We will arrive with specialist equipment, from camera traps and spotlights to increase our chances of seeing tigers when they are most active (after dark) and we also gain the help of the resident anti-poaching patrols that help to keep these tigers safe. Protected by WWF as part of their commitment to conservation Siberian tigers these ant-poaching rangers know the park and its wildlife better than anyone. We will accompany them as they work the park, tracking tigers along their preferred routes through the forest and also using camera traps to understand their movements, population size and behaviours. The park encourages people to visit the park and join up with the patrols; by helping here you will be directly contributing to the ongoing conservation of the tigers here. Because this park is so remote we will come equipped with a small team to help us on this expedition-style tour; we have a local translator to help us communicate with the rangers as well as a small team of camp cooks and assistants that will prepare our food whilst we are out searching for tigers. Whilst we cannot guarantee a sighting of a wild Siberian tiger we can assure you of seeing their tracks, scratch marks on trees as well as being a significant part of tiger conservation here. We will be arriving and tracking during the late winter and despite the freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall winter is the best time to try and track down and observe Siberian tigers; the snowfall makes tracking them easier as well as concentrating their prey in certain areas where they can still access the vegetation and find unfrozen water. Plus late winter is their breeding season so the tigers are more active as they pursue partners, they mate at this time of year so that they can time the birth of their cubs for the onset of spring and the birthing time for their prey species. The format of each day whilst we are staying in the park will be early starts where we help the patrols and also scout out potentially good areas for tigers, followed by a lunch break and some rest time during the middle of day, we will then head out in the afternoon until nightfall where we will retire to the base camp, level – log cabins; and maybe even a traditional Russian sauna before dinner. Of course this is one of the rarest and least encountered species in the entire world but by being here and tracking through the snow with expert guides you stand as good a chance as any of seeing the stunning and huge Siberian tiger. To help us achieve this ambitious aim we will head out in winter, this vastly helps in tracking tigers as their prints and scat are highly visible as well as being the season where they move around the most. This is the breeding season and also when they search far and wide for food as well as mates. In addition to tracking their prints and staking out carcasses that tigers may return to, you will have help in this mission. You will have an expert local guide, nature reserve rangers (who know and understand the tigers habits here) as well as our own big cat expert zoologist escort who has experience in tracking big cats on 4 continents. This reserve in winter can seem quite bleak and imposing but there is a wealth of life here. Whilst the brown and Asiatic black bears hibernate there are many species of deer which endure the harsh winter and as well as the threat from tigers the prey species here also have lynx and wolves to face.
Kedrovaya Pad Reserve
This morning you will leave the Zov Tigra National Park and head a little south-west to the only dedicated reserve in the world to the protection of the Amur Leopard. This is a very small reserve and one that had the majority of the 40 or so remaining Amur leopards. On arrival at the reserve you will be taken to the camp (we may have a cabin or private camp site – depending on availability) and then after lunch you will be able to explore some of this park. Like the tiger winter is the best time to try and catch a glimpse of this most elusive of mammals. Just like with the tigers in Zov Tigra we will track the leopards through the snow covered forests and look for likely places to stake them out. But this afternoon and this evening will be quite relaxed and mostly used as an introduction to the reserve and also the Amur leopard.
Kedrovaya Pad Reserve
Over the next 5 nights you will be staying in either reserve lodges or camping (depending on the local conditions), and during the day we will exploring the reserve in its entirety. The park is dominated by a meeting of two mountain ranges, the impressive Sikhote Alyn Mountains are at their southern most tip and meet the eastern Manchurian Mountain range. These are low mountains and have several small streams that meet coastal rivers. It is these mountains that help to retain the heat supplied by the warm Sea of Japan in the during the summer and this coupled with the coastal river systems there is a great variety of plant life here which has helped maintain large populations of prey animals. It is all of these factors that make this small reserve the last stronghold (if you can call 40 animals strong) for the Amur leopard. Created as a reserve in 1925 to help protect the leopard after the explorations of Vladimir Aseniev made accounts of the leopard at the turn of the 20th century. As well as the leopard there are large numbers of musk deer, Siberian roe deer and sika deer. These three species make the majority of prey animals for both Amur leopards and the other predators that inhabit the reserve. During the winter the Asiatic black bears will be hibernating but raccoon dogs and red foxes are common throughout the park. Also easily seen are Manchurian hares, Amur leopard cats, Eurasian badgers, Siberian weasels and also Eurasian otters that inhabit the many lakes in the reserve. Whilst we are in the best place to see Amur leopards (as with Siberian tigers) we must stress that there is absolutely no guarantee that we will see any of the big cats here. But we will as always try our best.
This morning you will have a last chance to spot a leopard before heading the short distance back to Vladivostok. Then after checking into the accommodation, level – 3* hotel, you will have lunch and then the rest of the day for some rest and relaxation.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport in time to catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.