Tiger-spotting in Russia
At the extreme edge of Russia, close to China and seven hours ahead of Moscow, “ghostly swamps are frozen over”, says Sophy Roberts in the Financial Times. Here in Khabarovsk, where the temperature can slip to well below freezing, there are no tourists. It has little history of attracting visitors. But there are tracks in the snow that tell you the rare Siberian tiger lives close by.
Only 500 are thought to be left in the wild. Just as Roberts is starting to wonder if all she’s going to see is “wind-torn cloud and a billion birch and alder”, the guide spots a line of pug marks in the fresh snow, indicating the presence of a tiger close by. She caught a glimpse, just before he vanished, “the flash of black and orange disappearing among the skinny tree trunks”.
• From £2,325 per person – see NaturalWorldSafaris.com
Primeval woodland in Poland
Poland’s Białowieza forest, straddling the border with Belarus, is the last remnant of a vast primeval woodland. Here,the wild bison still roam, along with wolves and lynxes, although logging now threatens to disturb the peace. Wild Poland, led by naturalist Łukasz Mazurek, seeks to reconnect visitors with the untouched forest, says Ros Coward in The Guardian. From the traditional wooden Wejmutka Manor hotel guesthouse, you venture out to the forest edge early in the morning.
On Coward’s trip, the bison emerged out of this mist as if a primitive cave painting had come to life. Much of the area is swampy and feels mysterious, with black storks skulking in dark pools. Conservationists are keen to develop sustainable tourism in the forest. Certainly, “there aren’t many places left to glimpse Europe’s wild past”.
• From £785 per person for seven nights – see WildPoland.com
Rustic paradise in Kyrgyzstan
If your idea of paradise is yurts and hot springs lost in mountain valleys a thousand miles from anywhere, then Kyrgyzstan is for you, says Giles Whittell in The Times. Walking up the “most perfect mountainscape on Earth”, the Altyn Arashan valley bends with its river, revealing new meadows carpeted with edelweiss when not grazed upon by sheep and horses. The topography is Alpine, the scale Himalayan. But “more than anything”, it is Kyrgyzstan.
• From £2,555 per person for a 13-day tour – see Regent-Holidays.co.uk
How to survive in the great outdoors
You’ve done everything right and still ended up lost in the wilderness. Welcome to the club, says adventure writer Mark Jenkins in The Guardian. The thing to do is let the panic pass and think clearly. Remember the acronym, “Stop”. S is for “stop”. T is for “think”. What was the last landmark you recognised? How long ago was that? O is for “observe”. Can you see any landmarks? P means “plan”. Is there enough daylight to retrace your steps? Should you build a fire? Can you make a phone call?
Food is the least of your worries, but water and staying warm are critical. If you do regain the trail, “hightail it out and get back to your car”. The last thing you want is to spark a search and rescue mission. Otherwise, except in canyon country, your best bet is to move downhill. Eventually you’ll come to a road or a path. “You don’t die from not knowing where you are. You die from bad decisions.”