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"The reserve is not a station!"

How do they combine ecotourism and nature protection in the volcanic reserve of Russia?

Kronotsky natural biosphere reserve and the South Kamchatka wildlife reserve named after Tikhon Shpilenka are at everyone's ears: it is here that the Valley of Geysers, the caldera of the Uzon volcano, the Kuril Lake and other corners of nature that have no analogues in the world are located here. Here people walk without touching the ground - on wooden flooring trails, scientists and inspectors of the security department work all year round, and tourists have a strict limit on visits to tourists. Why is the trip to the valley of the Geysernaya river or to the largest spawning ground sockeye salmon in Eurasia on Kuril stand as the average salary in the country, is it appropriate to talk about monetizing a miracle, why can illegal tourism in these parts be equated to crime with a risk to life, and the guests do not see more than 5% of the reserved territory, what fresh routes the Kronotsky Reserve and the South Kamchatka Wildlife Sanctuary will offer tourists already this year, EastRussia asked the Deputy Director for eco-education and development of cognitive tourism of the FGBU Kronotsky g Reserve statehood "Roman Korchigina.

"The reserve is not a station!"
Photo: Igor Shpilenok

On the photo: Roman Korchigin

- Turputevka in Kronotsky Reserve and the South Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge sold out for several years, is it?
- For companies that have been organizing tours in Kamchatka for a long time, the planning horizon stretches for two or three years in advance, they can book tickets even for 2020. But there are also young travel companies that also want to come to our region. To solve this dilemma, we started to implement booking a year in advance, but at the same time take an advance payment. Some travel agencies refuse, we wait for some time, then we offer them accommodation in another period. All routes to the Kuril Lake and the Valley of Geysers are really busy, but this only applies to photo and hiking tours, designed for several days. We offer guests the infrastructure for accommodation or camping sites, and their number is very limited. If we are talking about short helicopter tours for 3-4 hours, then there are places. You can just fly to Kamchatka, sign up for a tourist group in any travel company that organizes tours to a nature reserve or a wildlife sanctuary, and go on an excursion in flying weather.

In total in 2017 year Kronotsky Reserve was visited by 5500 people, the South Kamchatsky reserve is 3918 people. Almost all tourists come to us by helicopter. There are guests who come by ship, but this is still at the level of 0,1% of the total. Of course, there are many more who wish to visit the protected areas, but there is a limiting anthropogenic load. In the Valley of Geysers, the limit is 6000 people, on the Kuril Lake - no more than 4000 visitors per year, that is, we have now reached the limit. In the dilemmas of game theory, there is a general concept and, of course, if everyone is given uncontrolled access, this will lead to the fact that there will simply be nothing to guard.

Photo: Water boiler in the Valley geysers.

- Who determines the visit limit?
- It is calculated by employees of our scientific department, then it is coordinated with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation. The assessment is based on the infrastructure created at the cordon and excursion paths, the distribution of animals and birds on the territory, soil and soil cover. There are many brown bears on the Kuril Lake during the summer season, and we need to take into account the stress factor for animals. Thermal soils and plants are extremely sensitive to the presence of people; therefore, flat paths have been laid in the Valley of Geysers and the caldera of the Uzon volcano. While snow lies almost everywhere throughout Kamchatka, grass begins to grow in the Valley in May, there is a microclimate there. Bears begin to come there, their mating season begins, and, in order not to disturb them, since the end of May we annually spend a month of silence. At this time, visits are significantly limited.

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Photo: Valley of geysers before the "month of silence". Adam Kirilenko

- Are there any cases of spontaneous tourism in the history of the reserve?
- There are, but these are not mass cases, but exceptions to the rules. For example, we have a snowmobile route in the north, the Lazovsky cluster, potentially it is possible that they can pass without notifying. But we are rescued by the remoteness of the territory from the settlements, because you need to be not just an avid pedestrian, but a real fanatic who wants to violate the regime of protection, nowhere to be caught in cordons, it must be a complicated thoughtful operation, almost a blockbuster.

In 90-e people walked on foot to the Valley of Geysers, without notifying the inspectors, but we must understand that they exposed themselves to great danger! First of all, these are wild animals, in the second, you can get lost. Kamchatka is a tremendously large area, and who knows? There are passes, there are taluses, rough mountain rivers, bears, everything can be! Therefore, for any route, we allocate an inspector with a satellite phone, a gun and falshfeeryami. He is a guide, knows the territory and habits of a bear, and, in extreme cases, can use weapons to scare away the beast. People who are not from the state reserve with weapons in the territory are prohibited! This is a serious offense.

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Photo: Bear fishing at Kuril Lake. Nikolay Zinoviev 

- Your typical tourist - who is he? 
- 70% of our guests are Russians, the rest are foreigners. Germany, France, Israel, Italy, China, and every year more young Chinese come. There are a small number of Americans. From the Western countries, many people are traveling, who have earned a pension and can afford to travel. The main backbone is tourists from 30 to 70 years. Different people, very different. Those who travel around Russia, are interested in environmental tourism, got to Kamchatka - they are interesting people who know their country well and understand what they want. Those who traveled abroad are demanding on the level of service, hotels and other things, but this relates more to expectations here in the city. In our territory, as a rule, guests like everything.

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Photo: Tourists in the Valley of Geysers. Tikhon Shpilenok

- How much does it cost to fly, for example, to the Valley of Geysers and what is the price?

- A one-day tour costs about 40 thousand rubles. Kronotsky Reserve sets only the price for escort, excursion, and this price we agree with our founder - the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia. The rest in the tourist product is "packaged" directly by the firm. This includes delivery by helicopter, meals, services of their guide, can include accommodation in the hotel Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, if the visitor is a visitor. 

On the way back, the tourist groups usually fly into the Nalychevo Nature Park (if they fly from the Valley of Geysers), to the Ksudach Volcano or the Khudutskinskiy Volcano Hot Springs (if returning from the Kuril Lake). There they bathe in thermal springs and dine. A total round trip takes 2 helicopter hours, which is 50-60% of the total cost, since fuel is expensive. We now have about 20 companies with which we interact. Weekly excursions from travel agencies already cost about 200 thousand, because there are a lot of "buts". It can be a helicopter route with bоmore quantity of landings, special food, additional attendants, cook, for example, some groups need an escort from the morning to late evening, and so on.

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Photo: Helipad in the caldera of the Uzon volcano. Victor Gumnyuk

- There is an opinion that the Kamchatka people can not afford the Valley of Geysers.
- According to statistics, about 10% of Kamchatka residents visited the Valley of Geysers. But helicopter hours for local residents are subsidized, and a tour to the Valley upon presentation of a residence permit is almost twice as cheap for them. Accordingly, we also almost halve the cost of the excursion. But, of course, this is also not cheap.

Photo: Dactylorhiza aristata orchid in the Valley of Geysers. Igor Shpilenok

- If you imagine that there are no limits, how many people would rush to the Valley?
- In Soviet times, there were hiking routes to the Valley of Geysers, people arrived in the village of Zhupanovo by ships and from there walked, through the Semyachik cordon and through the territory of the reserve (in 1963, an All-Union route with a length of 160 km was formed, with a tourist base, tourist shelters and tent camps Over 10 years of the route's existence, more than 15 thousand tourists have traveled along it - information from East Russia). All these uncontrolled crossings led to serious damage: people passed through sensitive soils, then it rained, all of this was washed out, ravines appeared. We are still seeing the consequences. In addition, people simply tore off chunks of geyserite, a mineral that forms around geysers. It is unacceptable! 

If we build wooden decks everywhere so that people do not step on the ground anywhere, we build many helipads, the moment of solitude will disappear. That is, a group arrives, and in front of it there are already the third and fourth, and it will turn out not to be a reserve, but some kind of station! That is why we are trying to develop other objects so that there is an alternative. And we have no less interesting places, such as Kronotskoye Lake in the reserve, Kambalnoye Lake in the reserve and others. 

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Photo: Tourists in the Valley of Geysers, 70-e. Archive

- Is it possible to say that the secret of Kronotsky's success is that you "sit" on geysers and mud boilers?
- Our key task is the protection of the pristine nature. And ecological tourism is created in order to educate people, to explain how fragile it is. Where there are civilized tourists, there is no poaching. At the lake Kurilskoye 10-12 years ago there were almost no travelers, from the strength of 200 people per year, but there was a huge number of poachers. Uncontrolled fish were caught, there were cases of shooting bears. This seriously affected the ecosystem. With increased protection of the territory, poaching in the South Kamchatka Wildlife Preserve has been completely eradicated.

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Photo: Spawning of sockeye salmon on Lake Kuril. Igor Shpilenok

Plus, you need to understand that tourism in specially protected natural areas takes place in less than 5% of the total area. In Kronotsky, even a smaller percentage is used, because the reserve is a giant territory (1 hectares, including 147 hectares (619,37 sq. Km) of the three-mile Pacific Ocean - EastRussia). We highlight those objects that can be visited so as not to harm. There is a zone of the reserved core, in which there is no tourism at all, employees visit it only for scientific or security purposes.

A lot of work is carried out on improvement and construction of cordons, field hospitals, renovation of the footpaths, all this is limited by seasonality, weather, the number of helicopter hours and the possibility of delivery to the territory. The task is very difficult. On the tourist board, we sometimes can get volunteers to help on the cordons, our inspectors, when possible. If there is a place on the tourist helicopter, we transfer construction materials, products. Plus, this is scientific activity, constant research, keeping the history of nature, studying the changes occurring on the territory, counting the number of populations of animals and plants. A lot of work is being done to investigate thermal manifestations, seismic activity, and geological changes. To say that we simply have a unique territory and therefore we are successfully engaged in cognitive tourism is not entirely true.  

- There are people who proclaim themselves ecotourists who, for the sake of a beautiful frame, lie down, for example, on a beach with walruses. And in the reserve or reserve can you stroke the bear? And are there any who try?
- It is possible, but only once. Last. Because this is a dangerous animal, and we do not let the bears to a distance closer than 50 m, followed closely by security guards. A bear may want to stand up in the middle of a group, between people. Therefore, leading tourists, the inspectors control the group in front and behind, so that everyone is safe. The escort must anticipate the intentions of the beast according to its behavior - the sounds produced, certain poses. The professionalism of guides and inspectors is important in order to organize a tour of the tourists themselves. There are uncontrollable people, the group should be kept constantly together, so that it does not stretch.

Plus, we shouldn't forget that Kamchatka is a young land, where, due to seismic and geothermal activity, everything is in constant motion. For example, in 2007, there was a powerful landslide in the Valley of Geysers, where an abundance of geothermal manifestations is observed in a fairly compact territory. Now we are installing special equipment - corner reflectors - in those places where people fly to monitor soil mobility and seismic activity, and, if something happens, warn about the danger in time.

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Photo: Tourists watching the fox. Andrey Kireev 

- Now you are working on new excursions?
- At the end of 2018 - the beginning of 2019, we are working out winter expedition routes. For example, in the north, on the Lazovsky section of the Kronotsky Reserve, there is a snowmobile route with a visit to the Kipelye and Tumrok hot springs. You can go on a snowmobile 4-5 days and every day to stay in a new house. The route runs far from the mountains, so do not be afraid of avalanches. Also there are ancient Shchapinskie spruce forests, where there has never been felling and there were no fires, Kizimen volcano, from some points of the route a view of the active Klyuchevskaya group of volcanoes opens. 

In the summer we will clear the trails for the organization of hiking tours. We will develop a "pawn" in the Uzon-Geysern district so that it is possible to visit the Valley of Geysers, the Valley of Death and the caldera of the Uzon volcano for 4-5 days. We also develop marine tourism. During the trip, tourists observe whales, other marine mammals and birds in the protected water areas. A new route has been launched to the cordon "Aerodrom" near the largest lake on Kaminchatka, now we are developing and promoting it. There you can see a bear fishing on the Kronotsky River, and in the tundra meet a wild reindeer. The most beloved object of observation among visitors, and also the employees of the reserve, is the magnificent Kronotsky volcano.

Kronotsky volcano. Igor Shpilenok.JPGPhoto: Kronotskaya volcano volcano. Igor Shpilenok 

- Do you take any Russian or foreign reserves and national parks for the sample?
- We learn to be client-oriented. We investigate the interests of tourists from various countries through questionnaires in our territories and communicate with tour companies, we study the legacy of the Soviet Union. At international congresses and forums dedicated to the protection of nature, in which the employees of the reserve participate every year, we exchange experience with foreign colleagues. In addition, our specialists participate in practical field seminars in the territories of the reserves and national parks of the United States, Europe and Asia and island states. Now we are implementing electronic document management, which will give tour agencies an opportunity to see how much these or other objects are loaded to accommodate tourists in real time. For us, the main thing is the safety of visitors and the quality of the services offered. For example, we annually certify guides before the beginning of the season, so that they convey reliable information to the guests, they were real guides to the world of wildlife. This is still little practiced. We are implementing interaction with the best universities to involve students in the development of various programs, technologies that we could test on the spot. There is a unique territory and unique requirements, for example, to construction - increased wind and snow load, special requirements for communication. These things can be of interest to students of the same technical universities in the country.

- Walking routes will be more budget?
"They will not become much cheaper because they will be transported by helicopter to the territory. But, unlike participants in one-day excursions, on hiking routes tourists will have plenty of time to enjoy their stay in the wild. More budgetary is sea tourism, when on a boat or boat tourists can come to our territory and from there go on a walking route. Some moments of cheaper cost of excursions we are working with tour companies. For example, when one group arrives, another one flies away, the economy goes on.

One of the new for the Kronotsky Reserve and the South Kamchatka Wildlife Sanctuary is a branch of ecotourism-birdwatching (birdwatching is a visual "hunt" for birds in their natural habitat with the help of binoculars, a telescope and a camera), says an ornithologist from the scientific department of the Kronotsky State Natural Biosphere Reserve Reserve Fedor of Kazan.

On the photo: Fedor Kazansky

"A wonderful place is the Kuril Lake, everyone wants to look at the sockeye salmon, the bear, starting with Petrov's plumbing and ending with the prima of the Vienna Opera, and there are not so many fan-fans, of course," says Fyodor Kazansky. - A Birdwatcher is a separate cohort of a few "crazy" people who are ready to "undermine" every day in 4-5 in the morning, to see, for example, small chicks, ordinary, almost not different from each other visually (but not by voice) small birds . Every real bertwatcher maintains a list of species, subspecies, forms and possible future bird species that he was lucky to see. Often in "possible future species" they understand better than professional ornithologists, since each such "future view" is a potential line in the list. Traveling around the world, these people are trying to replenish their collection in any way. Usually every bertwatcher comes with his "wishlist" sheet, but in each region there are endemic forms, animals - which are found only here. They can be found in most "wish lists".

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Photo: Tourists in the South Kamchatka Wildlife Refuge. Andrey Kireev 

Rare species for all their own, for example, Australians adore woodpeckers, they, in Australia there is not one species of woodpeckers, you show him any, and he will have enough impressions for a long time, - shares ornithologist. - I can offer several places at the junctions of biotopes, where the species diversity is maximized. In these places you can try to satisfy these requests. One such place is just in the area of ​​the Kronotsky airfield, where I have test sites, the second is the Semyachik Liman, and there it is really possible to arrange a sea-faring. For the organization of observations of animals there is a need to build an appropriate infrastructure. In total, more than 240 species of birds inhabit the Kronotsky Reserve. There are groups associated with the sea, they feed in the water area, and nest on islands and sea cliffs. They are much more convenient to watch from the water. There are forest forms, there are inhabitants of the tundra. It is clear that the number of different species is not the same, there are background, there are rare. There are a lot of endemics in Kamchatka, for example, Kamchatka stone capercaillie, some species of titmice, Kamchatka dubrovnik, etc. There are species that are endemic to Northeast Asia, such as Kamchatka (Aleutian) tern, Far Eastern Curlew, Steller's Sea Eagle, beyond which they can not be met. Kamchatka is a de jure peninsula, and de facto an island, and on the islands there are always strong trends in the formation of new forms and subspecies.

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Photo: Oatmeal-Remez (Ocyris rusticus). Fedor of Kazan

To launch new tourist routes, it is not enough to bring people and throw them into the forest, they need to offer something. In 2017, I conducted several test tours, and wrote a long-term plan. As we plan to conduct excursions in an ever-changing environment: here the deer, here the seal, here the eagle, is needed first and foremost qualified personnel who will be able to tell something and show in each individual case. And this staff should have special training, because you need free English, because such wildlife tourism, associated with staying in the wild, is more popular in developed countries where one does not have to fight for survival. I saw turrets from England, Holland, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Australia, and for international communication in these countries English is usually used. It is also desirable that this officer be a universal wagon with weapons. In Kamchatka, you can not take binoculars and do not go into the bushes, because there are bears! This problem is often overlooked.

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Photo: Tedders in a boat of inspectors. Michel Roggo

There is a request for backwinding, and relatively large. While we can talk about this direction in the future. It is necessary to work gradually, it is a complex industry that can not be started at the click of a finger. Worked one route, figured out how and how to expand. We need, above all, simple inexpensive lodges for overnight stays, where you can come for the night, dry your socks, and sleep peacefully. Observation sites, from my point of view, is not necessary, since construction works frighten off potential objects of observation, and the cost of tours in this case will greatly increase.

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Photo: Polar tern (Sterna paradisaea). Fedor of Kazan

A group of tourists, with which it is convenient to manage, is no more than 8 people. And this direction is difficult to put on an organized stream, if only because a cyclone will pass and there will be a week of rains, and you need to be ready for the people you took under the wing, to occupy something. In the reserve is a rather complicated logistics, the improvement of which must be worked, the most difficult aspect is helicopter casting. Where you do not fly a helicopter, and you go by a car, you are less dependent on the weather, and, therefore, spend less time and see less for less money. Logistics, once, infrastructure, two, and staff, which solve everything, three. If these tasks can be solved, we will be fine. In the meantime, the bird watching industry is at the start. "

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