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Far East parks’ pristine wildlife keep drawing visitors despite lodging, transport crisis

November 28, 2017, 15:42 UTC+3 VLADIVOSTOK

Tourists’ interest in visiting the Far Eastern national park keeps mounting.

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© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

VLADIVOSTOK, November 28. /TASS/. National parks in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorye Region are ready to welcome tourists but have been running up against a dearth of available accommodations and undeveloped infrastructure.

Representatives from these national parks admitted to TASS that their remoteness from the regional center, Vladivostok, transport problems and the lack of accommodations have turned into major obstacles for visitors.

Nevertheless, tourists’ interest in visiting the Far Eastern national park keeps mounting.

One of them is the Sikhote Alin biosphere reserve, in the secluded northeastern zone of the Primorye Region. The reserve’s 400,000 hectares are home to two species of bears, sables, musk deer, goat antelopes and Siberian tigers. In addition, Sikhote Alin is rich with 1,100 plants.

The reserve is ready to welcome tourists and offers them several hiking trails, its deputy director Olga Arifulina told TASS. She noted that individual tourists who travel there in their own vehicles make up the bulk of those visiting Sikhote Alin.

"Tourist groups make up no more than 30% of our guests," Arifulina noted.

According to her, some 4,000 tourists visited the nature reserve in 2017, yet their numbers hardly exceeded 400 just five years ago. The township of Ternei, home to the headquarters of the reserve’s management, had recently built a small hotel but in summer, it can barely accommodate everyone who comes to visit Sikhote Alin.

This problem impedes the tourist flow, Arifulina said. Moreover, the Sikhote Alin biosphere reserve is located 700 kilometers away from Vladivostok and can only be reached by a local airline or by a road, which is dilapidated.

The round air trip from Vladivostok to Sikhote Alin costs some 4,300 rubles ($74). Meanwhile, the bus ride costs the same, yet it takes about 15 hours.

"Many people traveling to the north of the region stop at the reserve for a day or two but we cannot accommodate all of them," Arifulina said.

The Leopard Land national park situated in the southwest of the Primorye Region has fewer transport problems. The visitor’s center there that helps tourists pick out routes is just a two-hour drive from Vladivostok. It is located near a highway leading to the region’s most popular beaches that dozens of Far Eastern tourists visit during the high season.

The national park offers short routes for these tourists, Zilya Ibatullina, the Leopard Land deputy director, told TASS. "Some people traveling to the seaside spot our billboard and stop by for a quick visit," she pointed out.

The national park was founded in 2012 to preserve Amur leopards, the world’s rarest felines. The park covers about 60% of their habitat area and also has tigers, deer and small leopard cats.

"We had many visitors this year, more than 3,000 and we know their number will keep growing," Ibatullina said.

According to her, the number of tourists coming to Leopard Land has tripled since 2015.

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