Salekhard – Reindeer Herders Photosafari from 21st to 28th March 2020

  1. Introduction

This photosafari trip to Yamar-Nenets Autonomous region in Siberia is unique. We will be trying to follow and understand the lifestyle of the Nenets, the nomads of Siberia, who raise herds of reindeers in the Siberian Arctic. We will be staying a couple of nights in chooms  (tents) and participate in the work of the herders.

The stark winter landscapes and the Aurora Borealis in this part of the world are so beautiful.

If you are interested in documentary, people, and landscape photography, this is one trip that you should not miss.

2. Salekhard Background

Salekhard was founded in 1595 and was called Obdorskaya fortress (meaning “near the Ob” on the language of Komi people). In 1635, the first inhabitants came to the settlement. It became the northernmost settlement in Siberia. It is often known as the Artic Capital as this city is situated on the Arctic Circle.

Both in tsarist and Soviet Russia it was used as a place of exile. In 1949-1953, Salekhard was one of the bases of construction of Transpolar Railway also known as Salekhard-Igarka Railway (mostly closed railway branch to Novy Urengoy, passing also through Nadym).

In December 10, 1930, it became the capital of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region 

3. Experience the lifestyle of Reindeer Herders

Experience a stay in a choom in the frozen marshlands of the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, Russia. The choom (tent), home to the nomadic Nenet, uses reindeer hides wrapped around wooden poles. During periods of migration chooms are moved every other day. Choom sites are chosen based on pasture and ground quality with a water source nearby. After checking the vegetation on a choom site, the Brigadier pushes his reindeer driving stick, called a khorei, into the ground where he wants the centre of the choom to be. Reindeer herding is different from herding goats, yaks and horses. The reindeer lead the nomads to pasture grounds rather than the other way around. The reindeer are not herded back in the evening. It is left to graze in the chosen land.

There are about 45,000 Nenets staying in Siberia, about 12,000 are staying in and around Yamal Autonomous Region.

4. Staying in a Choom

You will be staying in a Choom (tent) for 2 nights with some of the Nenets, reindeer nomad families. You will experience the lifestyle and maybe participate in some of their daily activities like herding the reindeers, hunting, etc. You will need to bring an arctic sleeping bag and be prepared for the camping experience. There would not be any bathing and toilet facilities during these two days. You will have to do what the Nenets do.

5. Visiting a Nenets School

From the Nenets camp, we will visit a local Nenets School. This school is unique in the sense that they will be teaching the Nenets children both Nenets culture and Russian school curriculum. We will stay at the Nenets school village for another night. We will be involved with this small community and document their way of life.

6. What is the other equipment that I need to bring?

Clothing – The average temperature in Salekhard is around -7deg C. Which means that the temperature can drop as low as -20 degC in some places. Keeping warm is a priority. You can wear layered clothing with at least a waterproof outer layer.

Footwear– a pair of waterproof trekking boots and a pair of crampons are ideal for walking on ice surfaces. You can order a pair of crampons online for about US$10 to 15.  For better protection, you may want to get a pair of winter boots and a pair of gaiters. You can also purchase a pair of winter boot that the locals used at Salekhard for about 30USD a pair.

7. Camera Equipment

You will need an ultra-wide angle, wide angle and a medium telephoto lens. You need to prepare for people, and landscape photography A sturdy tripod is a must for good landscape and aurora photography. We will be giving a briefing on camera equipment when the time comes before our departure.

8. Difficulty of this trip

It is easy to moderate. There will be very little trekking to places of photography. Getting yourself acquainted with the wind, cold and the Arctic weather is the hardest part of this trip.

9. Meeting place for this trip

You will need to arrive at Moscow before the 21st March. You may want to arrive a few days earlier to tour around Moscow and St Petersburg to get acquainted with these two cities. Hotel accommodation and tour for early arrivals are not included in our price. However, we can help you book your accommodation.

10. Luggage

This is mainly a camping trip. Please do not bring too much luggage. No luggage porters are included in the trip. You will have to carry your own luggage. However, you can leave some luggage at the Selekhard Hotel before leaving for the Choom camp.

11. Itinerary

  • Day 1 – 21 March 2020 (Moscow)
  • Arrival at Moscow
  • Check-in hotel
  • Free and easy
  • Day 2 – 22 March 2020 (B/L/D) (Moscow to Salekhard)
  • Moscow to Salekhard by plane
  • Arrive at Salekhard
  • Visit local Museum to learn about the Tundra and nomads culture.
  • Day 3 – 23 March 2020 (B/L/D) (Reindeer Herders Choom)
  • Check-out hotel and transfer to Herders’ Choom
  • Arrive at Choom camp and dinner
  • Night shooting Aurora Borealis around the camp. (Aurora Borealis depends on nature)
  • Night stay in choom camp
  • Day 4 – 24 March 2020 (B/L/D) (Reindeer Herders’ Choom)
  • Breakfast
  • Document daily activities of the nomads
  • Reindeers will be herded to the camp. This will be the most interesting times as the hundreds of reindeers will be surrounding you.
  • Night Aurora shooting if weather permits
  • Night stay in Choom camp
  • Day 5 – 25 March 2020 (B/L/D) (Nenets School)
  • Breakfast
  • Document the life of the nomads
  • Lunch
  • Transfer to Nenets School
  • Shooting around the Nenets’ school
  • Aurora hunting if time permit.
  • Day 6 – 26 March 2020 (B/L/D) (Nenets School to Salekhard)
  • Breakfast
  • Documenting the school class.
  • After lunch, transfer to Salekhard
  • Stay at the hotel in Salekhard
  • Day 7 – 27 March 2020 (B/L/D) (Salekhard to Moscow)
  • Breakfast
  • Transfer to airport for flight to Moscow
  • Check in at hotel in Moscow
  • Day 8 – 28 March 2020 (B) (depart for home)
  • Breakfast
  • Transfer to Moscow Airport
  • Trip ends

Please get in touch with us for enquiries or booking. Contact us at [email protected]

Photo Gallery

Choom at night
Our host and his wife
Cooking up a meal
Choom camp with the Nenets
Alexander and his dogs
Reindeer
Reindeer at the camp
Sunset at the camp
Wooden sledges are still in use
Chopping firewood. Firewood is used for heating and cooking.
A view of the Arctic Tundra
A family photo of our hosts
Children at the Nenets school
Teacher and her child
The school children and the Nenets School
Class in progress
Teacher teaching her students

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