Siberian Tiger Tracking & Amur Leopard Photography Tour
February 11, 2022 - February 28, 2022£1553 – £7374
Track the elusive Siberian Tigers of the Russian Far East in the hands of the excellent and experienced Russian tiger researchers and help in their research of conservation of this incredible species. In addition to this you will have access to specialist photography hides set up in locations which offer amazing chances to see wild Amur leopards. This is one of our range of Big Cat tours to Russia that offers both species, Tigers and Leopards in one trip.
Accompany Tiger research patrols
One of the last strongholds for tigers
Top Animals on Tour
Amur Leopard Cat
Siberian Roe Deer
Tour Dates: 11/2/2022 – 28/2/2022
Duration: 18 nights
Type / Focus: Siberian Tigers & Amur Leopards
Vladivostok / Leopard Forest Reserve
Today you will be met at the airport by your guide / interpreter and taken to the national park (~3 hours). On arrival here we will settle into the log cabin / hotel (it has large apartments which we will share) and have some food, we will meet the park rangers and have a briefing about the park, the hide and the way the photography hide operates here.
If time allows (the days are short and the nights long here during winter) we will have a guided walk around some of the forest to look for wildlife and evidence of the elusive leopard. Tomorrow will be your first day in the hide.
Leopard Forest Reserve
For the next 6 days you will have access to the hide. The hide accommodates 3 people, there are two bunks and one folding camp bed for sleeping and we recommend people spend the entire time (all 5 nights inside the hide).
There is a toilet, gas heater and we will provide lots of food (we will bring food regularly and you will be in radio contact with the main accommodation). We recommend staying inside the hide the entire time and maybe receiving food deliveries every 2 days as this will dramatically decrease the disturbance around the hide and thus increase the chances of the leopard (there are 3-5 leopards that are currently using the area around the hide according to camera traps) coming around. The location of the hide was chosen to take advantage of natural features (water sources and the popular food trees utilised by the wild boar and deer species here) so that the ungulate animals naturally like to spend time here during the winter. The high density of prey animals around here increased the chances of leopards using the area too. To further increase our chances the area has been baited with salt and other minerals as well as grain for up to 2 months prior to our arrival. This is done just for us and is done in the hope that it will increase the presence of the prey animals and therefore the leopards ahead of our arrival.
The hide has been in use on and off for a number of years, most notably in 2007 when the BBC Planet Earth team came here and filmed wild Amur leopards for the very first time. From then until 2015 the hide was used sporadically by the occasional wildlife photographer and film crew. But in general the area was unknown and very difficult to arrange a visit too. Now the hide is open to tourists and Royle Safaris has managed to negotiate the use of the hide on our tours. With the success we have had on our Siberian tiger tours we believe that this is the perfect extension and hope to further show case this species and its stunning habitat to help increase awareness and raise much needed funds which goes the national park and surrounding communities to create a positive association with the wildlife and their continued survival.
In fact on our very first tour here in February 2018 we had success and a sighting and photographs of an Amur leopard and since then we have achieved a 90% success rate in seeing Amur leopards on these trips.
This morning you will leave the hide and come back to the main building for a shower, to pack up and get ready to leave for the city. Once back in Vladivostok the rest of the day will be free for you to explore, rest or do as you please. The city is quite pleasant to walk around, the frozen bay and the cars driving across it is a sight to see, the terminus of the Trans Siberian Express railway is another famous location in the city.
Tomorrow the next section of the trip begins and the travel from here back inland and north-west to the city of Khabarovsk on the other side of the famous and rugged Sikhote Alyn mountains. In fact it is the mountains that now is the boundary between the two sub populations of Siberian tigers, the larger population leaves in the Primorye area and numbers around 300-350 individuals, whilst the tigers we will be going to track now live in the Khabarovsk Krai and number around 100-150. These are the most northerly tigers in the world and their population is very little
known and because of this they have remained pretty much untouched by poachers, which is not the case with the tigers from the Primoyre region.
Khabarovsk / Durminskoye Reserve
This morning we will leave the hotel after breakfast to catch our short flight to Khabarovsk (~1 hour), on arrival in the airport we will be met by your Russian guide and your new interpreter and taken to meet the rest of the group (as some people will just be doing the Siberian tiger section and will be arriving in Russia today.
You will have a little briefing and some lunch if you are hungry and once all of the vehicles are loaded and we have been to a local supermarket to stock up on any supplies (alcohol, chocolate etc) you may like to take into the forest, you will be transferred out of the city of Khabarovsk and south to the wonderful forest reserve.
The drive to the reserve will take around 3-4 hours, depending on the weather and road conditions as well as what wildlife and tracks are seen along the way. Along the way you will begin to the vastness of the taiga forest and the habitats of the tigers and other wildlife here. When entering the forest and reserve it is possible to see wildlife so keep your eyes peeled and any tracks spotted along or near the road will be examined and recorded.
When you arrive at the base camp you will be met by Alexander’s team and shown to your cabin and then have dinner. Whilst the forestry team do not speak much (if any) English we will have our own translator with the group so communication will not be difficult. Plus when tracking and searching for tigers it is best to be quiet and we find
hand signals work just fine.
When we are staying in the reserve all of our meals will be served here and we will eat together with the Russian crew in a dining room / kitchen that is part of the Russian team’s units. The whole base camp is a small collection of wooden cabins; consisting of a circle of four log cabins for ourselves, while the staff live in similar adjacent cabins.
Our base camp for this trip is located in the centre of the reserve and so we are right in the heart of tiger country.
Each log cabin is has electricity (220 volt, Russian plug) (although power is only available from around 6pm – 11pm each night), fireplace, single beds (each cabin sleeping 2 people) and other basic furniture. They make quite homely cabins and welcome places to rest in the evenings after cold days in the forest. The accommodation is simple and nothing fancy, yet it is clean and cosy, especially in the winter time, being very typically Russian. For washing there is hot water in the local style banya (traditional Russian sauna), as well as fresh water is sourced from a natural well and provided to each cabin for daily use. The food usually consists of Russian national dishes and local foods including game & fish from the forests around here and locally grown vegetables & mushrooms.
Around the base there are also several friendly pet dogs and cats. The base and cabins are largely powered by solar and wind energy, while eco-friendly bio-toilets are used in the visitor cabins. If time allows we may head out around the base on a tour to see if we can find any evidence of tiger activity. But in general our tiger tracking will start tomorrow, and the tour usually takes place after breakfast on the second day.
For the next 7 full days you will walk, drive and be taken around on snow mobiles and sledges as you explore this incredible reserve in search of a Siberian tiger. Using all of the knowledge and skills of our very own tiger expert and his team you will delve into the reserve and follow the signs left in the snow by this incredible predator. Our number one tiger target is one of the resident males who fairly predictably circumnavigate their territories roughly every 7-10 days. So hopefully we can find some tracks of a male in the area and from these make a plan where to
look and base our searches. As the tigers use the same pathways and prefer to scent mark the same trees it is sometimes possible to stake out such trees and wait for the tiger to show up. There are some observation posts that can be manned for this purpose (however they are largely left in woeful repair and also they are not used in winter because of the extreme cold and genuine threat of hypothermia; but again any sightings will require patience and luck. The tigers here have been increasing in number steadily and there are usually litters of cubs around in the nearby forests as well.
Not only is this population healthy which is great news for the Siberian tigers there is enough food and space for them and more tigers to survive here into the future. Another great way of experiencing the Siberian tigers here is by helping the team to check their camera traps. These camera traps provide nearly 100% guaranteed chances of getting photos and videos of the tigers whilst we are in the reserve, as well as helping the work that Alexander and his team are doing here. By using camera traps we increase our chances of seeing what the tigers do when they are most active, at night. By helping to protect the park of their commitment to conservation Siberian tigers we know this reserve and its wildlife better than anyone.
Whilst we cannot guarantee a sighting of a wild Siberian tiger we can all but assure you of seeing their tracks, scratch marks on trees as well as helping out and contributing to Siberian tiger conservation here. We will be arriving and tracking during the winter period and despite the snow and freezing temperatures seemingly making these difficult this is a good time to try and track down and observe Siberian tigers; the snow makes tracking them much easier and it concentrates their prey in certain areas where they can still access the vegetation and running water. The format of each day whilst we are staying in the reserve will be latish starts (we have to wait for the sun to come up and the temperatures to reach a reasonable level – even the tigers do not show any particular preference for time of day or night when they are most active), where we accompany the patrols on their daily duties as well as scouting 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. 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 there is of seeing this stunning, huge and hardy cat. This reserve in winter can seem devoid of life with the forest being so quiet, many species have migrated south for the winter and certain mammals are hibernating. But certain species are hardy and are very active during the weekend. In fact 40 species of mammals have been recorded from the reserve. Herbivores such as Manchurian wapati, Siberian roe deer, Siberian musk deer and wild boar form the prey base for the tiger as well as other predators including wolves. There are also smaller carnivores in the forest and these include raccoon dogs, sable, Eurasian lynx, European minks, Eurasian otters, Siberian polecats and Eurasian badgers. The bird list is also impressive with over 100 species being recorded here; many of these are migratory and will not be here during winter. But regardless of what species are seen here during the tour and which are not, we can assure you that by sharing the beautiful taiga forest with Siberian tigers you will have a fantastic time and experience one of the world’s last pristine environments.
At some point during these 11 days we will spend two days outside of the forest (the roads to get to these locations are also tiger habitats and important census routes that we have to monitor). One of the locations is the Utyos rehabilitation centre, which is a very special place where orphaned and injured tigers (and other wildlife) are brought and helped to regain strength or to learn vital life skills in order for them to be released back into the wild. This centre is located in prime tiger habitat and they often have wild tigers visit their captive animals and walk around the enclosures. You will spend a couple of hours there and this is a great place to see a Siberian tiger in the frozen forests of Russia up close. Yes they are in cages, but they provide you with a close view of the way they move and interact with the snow and harsh environment here. We hope to have seen wild Siberian tigers on the tour however this will provide a great chance for you to get close up pictures of this beautiful cat against the Russian taiga forest background.
You will also visit a local Udeghe village, the Udeghe are a group of indigenous people who live around here and you will be introduced to some of their culture and how they have lived in harmony with the forest and all its wildlife for generations.
Over these 11 days you may not see a tiger, but then again you might; we will do everything in our power to increase our chances but one thing is for sure. At some point whilst you are in the forest tracking the tigers at least one tiger will have seen you! With an animal that was so close to the brink of extinction, just the idea that anyone could have the chance of seeing a wild Siberian tiger was an impossible dream not that long ago. We hope that our eco-tours here continue to help the conservation work and then one day the population of tigers in the Russian Far East can grow to its historical numbers once again.
This morning you can have a little longer in the reserve tracking tigers and taking in the taiga forest one last time. You will then be transferred back to the city of Khabarovsk and taken to the hotel for your last night in Russia. The rest of the day will be free for you to relax or maybe explore some of Khabarovsk. You can arrange with your interpreter about where to go if you would like to see some of the sites such as Lenin Square as well as a waterfront along the impressive Amur River; and if we wish he can also book a table for a group dinner to have a traditional Russian farewell meal.
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.
The weather in the Russian Far East during late winter is very cold, record temperatures are as low as -40 to -50 degrees C; but average around -10 to -20 degrees C. There is also a lot of snow on the ground and snow fall is common and heavy.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – excluding for meals when in Khabarovsk. There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private vehicle to be driven by a local guide for transfers when needed.
All our excursions including guided walks, vehicle safaris, hide use, camping fees and park entrance fees and anti-poaching patrol fees also included; we also include all fees for our camping team including cooks, assistants and translator.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or spotting scope as well as appropriate clothing; which should be both light and durable walking clothes as well as very warm winter clothes, such as down jackets & trousers, walking socks, gloves, hats, scarfs, fleeces etc. Broken in and comfortable, waterproof walking boots are essential. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. There is usually a spare pair of binoculars but in a group of 4 people these do not stretch too far. We also provide a spot light for nocturnal viewing (this is subject to local condition when we arrive). Where camping all camping gear is included as well as camp cooks and assistants where needed.
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights, travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
As we are based in Manchester we recommend flights from Manchester International Airport
We recommend Areoflot as a good airline for flights to and from either Vladivostok or Khabarovsk. One of the best websites to search for the best fares for these flights is www.odopo.co.uk; who are IATA accredited this is a link direct to their site. Please check our terms and conditions regarding booking flights.
Please contact us for more information about flights and we can provide you with a link direct to the flights from another supplier; in which case you only have to enter the passenger information and payment details. By using the above link you will leave our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for the content on the site.
Visas and Health Information
All UK passport holders and most other nationalities are required to have a visa for Russia. These are only obtainable in advance from your local embassy. The easiest way to find information is by visiting http://visitrussia.org.uk (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site). A tourist visa costs around £115 for a single entry visa which is valid for 30 days, however things change so please check out the website above for more information.
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit Russia, but it is recommended to be protected against TB, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting Russia as soon as you have decided on this trip.
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