Fairytales of Russian forest

Fairytales of Russian forest

We have spent the beginning of 2017 in Kaluzhskie Zaseki nature reserve, situated about 300 km away from Moscow.

Wisent, or european bison, is a symbol of nature reserve. Kaluzhskie Zaseki is one of the few places where those guys live in the wild without cages. This is a rare and unique case, because after wisent have been nearly driven to extinct after World War I, they mostly live in nurseries and zoos. Local wisents have escaped from the neighbouring Orlovskoe Polesie National Park, where they were living on restricted territory. Here, in Kaluzhskie Zaseki, they live in such a great natural conditions that the females give birth every year instead of once in two years in average.

If you are interested a story of wisent recovery, take a look at the Happy ending story

Here, in this endless forest, you can meet a full pack of eastern-european animals, but you should have a skills of a hunter or professional photographer (which is pretty similar talking about skills) to meet them. Opposite to sea or savannah, in forest you have to seek wild animals for hour, days and sometimes weeks, and it’s even more complicated to make a nice shot.

But wisents are completely different. The thing is these guys feed on bark and branches, which become very tough during cold winter months. When it happens, wisents come to eat from special feeders made by local rangers. Most part of winsent pictures are made near the feeders.

According to ranger’s stories, wild boars were neighbouring wisents on the feeders, but recently boar population decreased dramatically in a result of pig plague. Other local ungulates are not brave enough to share food with the Lord of forest.

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During wisents feeding, you can notice multiple kinds of behaviour. Enormous adult males move slowly and proudly, dwarfing females and youngsters, baby wisents drinking mother’s milk, young adults trying to climb up to unawaring females. The life is boiling.

Several times we were lucky to see wisent in a forest, away from the feeder. Just imagine, you stay in the cold snowy forest, eye to eye with the large adult male animal, which is staring at you. Complete silence, you can hear the branches cracking. This moment you can feel a complete unity with nature and this beautiful wild animal.

I would like to end this story with a pictures of Trekol, large low-pressure ATV made on base of legendary UAZ. It looks like this vehicle can pass everywhere, but we were lucky to stuck in the middle of the river:)

Kaluzhskie Zaseki have made a great impression to us. I would like to say a word about a guards of this endless snowy forests, rangers and administration of nature reserve. They are real enthusiasts of their job and absolutely great people. We are very thankful to them.

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What fears the ocean’s top predator and who is the biggest carnivorous fish?

 

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Great white shark was one of the main targets in our South Africa trip. I was lucky, as always – the orcas have arrived to False Bay a week before us, and all the Great whites and cowsharks were gone. Do I love orcas? Yes I do, but not when they cause problems with the sharks! Such stories happen from time to time in several places in the world, including Australia and New Zealand. It’s pretty obvious for me who is the ocean’s top predator. Great whites always avoid the orcas.

So, we had a plan to meet great whites in False Bay, there weren’t any so we went to Gaansbai. This is the bay where you can always find great whites, which are the main touristic attraction and the main city-forming factor.

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But let me describe the process and the sharks. It was my first encounter with the great whites, and it impressed me a lot. The viz was something like 2 meters, so watching sharks from surface was not the worst option, but I spent the most time in the water. The guys begin with chumming, and when the sharks are there, they start to attract it closer to the cage by dropping and pulling a rope with a tuna head, which is considered to be the most delicious food for sharks.

Great white shark is a massive and fat fish. It swims slowly to the bait, but when grabs, it starts to fight in attempt to tear it off the rope. This fight is very impressive when you are inside the cage and you can see and feel how the shark hardly hits the cage with it’s body and tail, with a feeling of a sledgehammer. Sometimes it suddenly appears from the murky water following the bait, with it’sl primal fury and great power. A breathtaking scene.

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Despite the local sharks are not the biggest great whites (3-4 meters comparing to 6 meters-long giants in Guadalupe island), it’s much more impressive than any other shark I’ve seen before, because you can feel it’s great strength and power, same as in twisted spring ready to strike. That day we saw four sharks near the boat, which was unforgettable. 

The video is not as cool as you can film on Guadalupe, but it gives you the feeling of the process of being inside the cage.

BTW, did you know that great white is not the biggest carnivorous shark, as many people think? The first place is held by the legendary Greenland shark with a result of 7,5 meters. The same sized smalltooth sawfish is the biggest carnivorous ray. Comparing to this fishes, the great white is not such a giant.