2018 Tours

SWAN LAKE: a gentle introduction to the WILDERNESS OF SIBERIA

Limit: 6 pax

Whooper swans wintering in ALTAI

Altai’s national reserve “Lebediniy” is the best place in Russia for photographing the wintering of the swans. Here, these beautiful birds gather from the very north of Western Siberia. There are plenty of unfrozen lakes and rivers—all due to the abundance of hot springs. Lake “Lebedinoe”, “Swan Lake”, remains unfrozen through the entire winter and this is the place where we will be heading for our expedition.

Altai National Reserve “Lebediniy” occupies thirty-eight thousand hectares (147 square miles). It blends meadows, forests, swamps and one hundred kilometres of the river Katun itself with about seventy inhabited islands. The reserve maintains the ecological balance of the entire region, and it is especially important as a wintering place for whooper swans and other birds, and as a breeding site of elk, roe, badger, rabbit, beaver-rat, beaver, min and Siberian stripped weasel. Plenty of small lakes unfreeze through the tough Siberian winters thanks to the abundance of thermal bottom springs, maintaining an average winter water temperature of 4-6°С (39.2…42.8 F). One of those lakes is the famous Lebedinoe (Swan Lake—a real one!), which is the only place in the whole of Russia where swans spend the winter in the continental climate zone. This swan population is absolutely unique and isolated, and does not interbreed with any other. The swans spend the summer in the Arctic prairie of the Salekhard region. Other winter birds are represented, such as garrot and goosander.

We will see and photograph adult swans and their offspring, totally pale gray during autumn, turning partly white closer to spring. The fowl chicks’ beak is coloured dirty-pink compared to the bright yellow of the adults. At two years old, the young birds turn completely white with only a few feathers at the head, and with grey wings. Birds form families in the second year of their lives and start breeding at the age of four.

Even during the winter, swans stay together. Their winter diet consists of small invertebrates, and aquatic plants and roots, which the birds dig out.

It is in this unique and picturesque location that we provide excellent conditions for professional bird photography:

  • An experienced local guide-naturalist.
  • Daily microbus transfers to photography locations.
  • Specially-built viewing platform.
  • The opportunity to film from the ground (though care must be taken in the extreme conditions of the Siberian winter!).
  • Bird feeding is allowed.
  • A three-meter distance to the birds!
  • Swans in ice-holes and in a steam fog.
  • Viewing of up to two hundred birds at once! The total number of birds in the area exceeds four hundred.
  • Andrey Gudkov is your personal mentor during the entire tour.


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