Need Support / Ideas for a Winter Trip
Hi there and “Hello” from Germany!
For close to 20 years now I have been visiting Eastern and Southern African countries, going on safaris, always searching for mammals and predators in particular. Every once in a while we’ve also travelled across the USA, Canada and Australia. Last January then I flew to America for the first time during their winter months. I spend about 10 days in Wyoming and Montana, in and around Yellowstone NP.
This January 2019 was less about finding mammals (although was somewhat sucessful, with wolves, coyotes, moose and even an otter) but more about having “a true winter experience”. Here in Western Europe we hardly ever have severe winters and certainly not for entire weeks at a time.
Anyway, I enjoyed myself quite a bit, so much so that I have started to think about another winter trip for this year. However, finding an adequate destination seems to be much more difficult than I initially expected, mostly because I am confined to a very narrow timeframe: departing around Dec. 21st and returning no later than Jan. 05th.
What I am hoping to put together is a trip that concentrates on predators, sort of like a “classic” safari in Africa. What I am not interested in is
- cultural visits (like “Visit a Lapland Village”)
- side trips like “See the Northern Lights” or “Spend a night in an igloo”
I should also mention that I don’t ski. Snow-shoeing is ok, though.
These are the options I have looked at so far:
Scandinavia / Balkans / Baltic Countries
I have looked at a quite a few websites offering trip to these countries. However, most of the tours I found are offered way outside timeframe. Some operators told me that they generally close their business between Christmas and New Years.
USA / Canada
I certainly would love to see polar bears. However, I find the rates tour operaters are demanding ridiculous; rates I am as a principle not willing to pay.
Based on my most recent experience I am also pretty sure than having decent (aka “close” and “prolonged”) sightings of wolf packs are much harder to come by than say, decent sightings of lion prides or wild dog packs. A return trip to North America is therefore still an option, but not one I’d happily agree to.
I’ve also looked into trying to find snow leopards in India. From what I understand, these trips are similar to “wolf safaris”: decent sightings are extremly rare. The trip reports I’ve read so far did not really impress me personally.
Russia / Siberia
I am actually quite tempted to take a trip with the Trans Siberian Railway all the way to Siberia. It seems like there is a “safari park” near Vladiwostok, although I’d much more prefer to see animals like tigers in a “true” (aka unfenced) wilderness. From what I understand there is a national park / forest / reserve (or whatever they call it in Russia), also (rather) close to Vladiwostok but so far I have only found full package deals with a price I am neither willing to pay.
And that’s why I am here: hoping to get ideas for trips / countries / options I have not yet looked into or additional information about options in Siberia. However, please bear in mind the restrictions I have mentioned above, especially the timeframe and my lack of skiing ability. Also, for 2 weeks as a solo traveller I would not want to pay much more than 4.000 € / 4.500 $.
thanks in advance
Interesting reaction… I must say I got the same impression as Mattia and didn’t understand what you were going for. Furthermore I’ve seen a lot of helpful comments from him. Basically you don’t know what you are talking about, want us to plan a trip for you and when your idea is not clear to us from the start, you are indignant. Not cool in my opinion.
If I have understood your reaction correctly you want to go somewhere, not necessarily during the winter in Europe but it needs to be snowy or at least cold. Well I can tell you that its mostly hard work everywhere then. Situations as in Africa and India when you can drive around and have a good chance of bumping into multiple predators are just not normal. It usually takes dedication and hard work to get good predators. Still it can be a lot of fun and the thrill when you finally see the animal you want is great.
Some concrete options for your budget out of the top of my hat:
– Snow leopards in Hemis, could get you also wolves, lynx and pallas’ cat and chances of seeing them are pretty high actually, except for the latter two)
– do a Polar Bear Special with a company like Oceanwide. I did one for 1500 euros and saw 26 Polar Bears, normally they are 3000 though but that should still fit your budget. They sail around Svalbard and it’s a very easy way to have good sightings of Polar Bears.
– Mongolia (see the latest report)
– China (Giant Panda, Red Panda, Leopard Cat, Chinese Mountain Cat and a bunch of other stuff, Giant Panda is a very tough one though)
– Estonia or Poland for Lynx and Wolves.
– I wouldn’t go to Siberia if you want very good chances of predators. The only predators I would go for over there in winter are Tiger, Leopard, Leopard Cat and Lynx and are all very very hard over there. Bears are hibernating during that time.
– Go for Grizzly and Black Bears in the USA, can’t be exactly in the winter though but I bet it can still be pretty cold.
Don’t take the Transsiberian, it’s excruciatingly boring. There is a newer railroad to the north called Baikal-Amur Mainline, it crosses gorgeous wilderness and there are still some wildlife and native culture left. Don’t expect to see many mammals, though, unless you are prepared to do week-long side trips with snow camping. You will see a lot more in Alaska.
Mongolia will be brutally cold I imagine but judging by the latest report the cat viewing in winter can be superb https://www.mammalwatching.com/2019/04/05/new-trip-report-mongolia-snow-leopard-and-pallass-cat/
Vladivostok is also served by multiple airlines. Saves you from a week-long prison term in a flu viruses-filled train car.
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Mattia from Italy
During European winter, national parks of central and eastern India (Tadoba, Bandhavgarh and Kaziranga) are a good option.
But bear in mind that African (and some Indian) NP are the exception, not the rule. If you want always close and prolonged views of mammals like Snow Leopard and Wolves, a zoo is the best place.