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Siberia Arctic Expedition: Reindeer Migration with the Nenets 2018
A unique chance to journey to the end of the world alongside nomadic Nenets reindeer herders as they embark on an epic migration across the frozen Gulf of Ob, deep in the Arctic Circle. You’ll immerse yourself in the traditional way of life of the Nenets’ on a truly minimalist expedition and have a rare opportunity to join their celebrations at the annual reindeer herding festival.
The aim of this expedition is to cross the Gulf of Ob alongside the Nenets nomads, travelling in a minimalistic style.
Twice a year the Nenets on the Yamal Peninsula migrate 60km across the frozen Ob, a bay of the Arctic Ocean. This intense migration can take up to 24 hours. There is no pasture along the way meaning that it is a race to get to the other side before the reindeer become too weak from a lack of food. This means there will be no breaks for the herders, the animals or for you.
At the end of the crossing you’ll be invited to the annual reindeer herders’ festival in Yar Sale, which will offer a chance to witness some extraordinary events such as reindeer racing and traditional sports.
• Join a genuine race for survival in this extreme and remote environment
• Experience the Nenets’ unique way of life
• Wear traditional herders’ suits and boots
• Experience the annual Reindeer Herders’ Festival
• Travel by sledge, snowmobile and all-terrain vehicles
• Look out for unusual arctic flora and fauna
* Apply by 20 Dec 2016 due to permit timeframes. *
• Day 1: Arrive Moscow.
• Day 2: Fly to Salekhard. Drive to Yar Sale.
• Day 3: Sledge across Gulf of Ob to meet the nomads in the Nadym District.
• Day 4-12: Migration.
• Day 13: Return to Yar Sale.
• Day 14: Reindeer Herding Festival.
• Day 15: Festival/ Return to Salekhard.
• Day 16: Rest day.
• Day 17: Fly to Moscow.
We will stay in a comfortable hotel in Moscow and Salekhard. From Yar Sale onwards we will be staying in the nomad camps; families sleep in conical reindeer-hide tents called chums. During the festival we will be staying in a hotel in Yar Sale.
The main constituents of the Nenets’ diet are meat and fish. They are eaten raw or cooked and often with pasta, rice, in a soup or simply on their own. The Nenets usually eat at least five times a day, as they are constantly running around after the reindeer from dawn till dusk so need the calories. You will not go hungry. Due to the minimalist and immersive nature of this expedition, it will not be possible to accommodate special dietary requirements.
• Internal flight Moscow to Salekhard return
• All-terrain vehicle from Salekhard to Yar Sale (and back)
• Snowmobile with wooden box sledge attached (Yar Sale to Nadym District and return after the migration)
Not only will you join the nomads on this fretful crossing but you’ll completely immerse yourselves into their lives during the migration. This means dressing, eating and travelling like a local. You will be kitted out with a Nenets traditional suit and boots to protect you from the elements. This will be much needed because temperatures can reach minus 50 degrees Celsius and are often accompanied by howling Arctic winds.
As a team, your expedition will start from the Arctic town of Salekhard. From there you’ll drive along the frozen surface of the River Ob on Trekol all-terrain vehicles to reach Yar Sale village. From there you’ll transfer to wooden box-sledges attached to snowmobiles from Yar Sale to cross the 60km wide frozen Gulf of Ob into the Nadym District. You’ll arrive at the nomad encampment and meet the family group you will be travelling with.
Over the next week the team will live and work with the Nenets nomads. You will conduct short migrations every few days, preparing for the looming crossing and taking part in everyday life, waiting for the optimal weather window to make the crossing. The migration itself crosses the Gulf of Ob and can take up to 24 hours. Any longer and the reindeer start to perish from a lack of food. It is an intense day and you will be working hard to complete this very real challenge.
Once the team is safely back on the Yamal Peninsula, You’ll return to Yar Sale on the snowmobiles and sledges just in time to attend the annual Reindeer Herder Festival.
The Yamal Peninsula is one of the least known, but most important, regions of the Russian Federation. In the language of the indigenous Nenets, Yamal means ‘the end of the world’. With a territory around 1.5 times the size of France, the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District (YNAO) is located in the north of West Siberia, just northeast of the geographic border between Europe and Asia above the Arctic Circle. Today more than 10,000 nomads herd 300,000 domestic reindeer on the pastures of the Arctic tundra. Under those pastures are huge gas deposits holding almost a quarter of the world’s known reserves.
Nenets Reindeer Herders
The Yamal Peninsula in Arctic Siberia is home to the nomadic Nenets reindeer herders. They have retained an extraordinarily rich and well-preserved culture. They dress in furs and traditional hand-sewn clothes, live in reindeer-hide teepees and travel by reindeer-drawn sledges. The Nenets are famous throughout Arctic Russia for being the best reindeer herders with the biggest herds, the longest migration routes and the most well-preserved culture, religious beliefs and language.
They are the guardians of a style of reindeer herding that is the last of its kind. Over the course of a yearly migration of over a thousand kilometers, they move gigantic herds of reindeer from their summer pastures in the north to winter pastures just south of the Arctic Circle. No-one knows for certain who is leading who – the reindeer or the people – but whoever is in charge, they have to battle one of the world’s harshest environments.
After the migration, there is the opportunity to watch and to participate in the annual Reindeer Herding Festival. Herders from many different camps will gather in Yar Sale village to take part in traditional sports including reindeer sledge racing, Nenets wrestling, sledge jumping, stick tug of war, lassoing and many more. For families living in camps whose migration routes do no cross, this is the one time during the whole year when they see each other. Young people often look for potential spouses.
It is the event of the year and is certainly not to be missed.
Suitable Team Members
This is not an expedition for the faint hearted (or soft skinned!). You will be expected to help the family out with daily migration tasks from cutting trees and chopping firewood to collecting ice and making certain tools. You will have no creature comforts nor bag of gear to dip into. You will be wearing the same clothes as the Nenets, eating the same food and living in the same tents. Everyone is racing against the elements to get the reindeer across the Gulf safely and it is a privilege to be invited to join this unique experience. Due to the unusual nature of this expedition, it will not be possible to accommodate any team members’ special dietary requirements.
You will need to be fit enough to:
1. Walk up to 20km a day.
2. Carry up to 10kg in a daypack.
3. Cross challenging terrain including frozen tundra.
4. Deal with an Arctic climate that can reach -35°c with howling Arctic winds.
Dates: 18 March – 3 April 2018
Price: 3,499 GBP
* Apply by 20 Dec 2016 due to permit timeframes. *
WHAT IS INCLUDED
• All transport (including internal flights Moscow to Salekhard)
• All accommodation
• Expedition guide
• All local guides’ fees
• All food and meals
• All local permits and permissions
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
• International flights
• Personal kit and equipment
“When it comes to getting off the beaten track these guys can’t be beaten. They lead pioneering expeditions to some of the most remote regions on earth. The organisers are dedicated to creating imaginative experiences for adventurers around the world and their team of expert military guides are some of the most experienced in the industry. Nowhere is off limits and no idea is too crazy. They have achieved ground breaking world firsts such as mountain biking in Afghanistan and mountaineering in Iraq and their first ever expeditions to walk across Madagascar and pioneer white water rafting in South Sudan both made the headlines…. and a bit of history.
Being wild and wacky is one thing but with their background as commanders in the British Army and experienced team of specialists in every kind of terrain and environment means that all of their adventures are thoroughly planned and the safety and security of teams is always their highest priority. Expeditions can be inherently risky, but they do everything possible to minimise potential hazards and for that, and the utterly extraordinary trips they put on, we salute them.”
All images (c) Gordon Esler
Siberia Arctic Reindeer Migration Expedition
- Dates: 18 March – 3 April 2018
- Price: 3,499 GBP
- Where: Siberia
- Length: 16 Nights
- Group size: 12