Monday, August 13, 2007

Lazovsky Zapovednik, Petrov Island (July 30 – August 8, 2007)

From July 30 to August 8 I had the amazing opportunity to live at Lazovsky Zapovednik (i.e., lazovsky nature reserve)’s Petrov Island ranger station in order to learn about how the reserve conducts environmental education work with summer visitors, and to help out at and learn about an environmental education camp for kids that the reserve hosts every year (Aug 6-8) . The ranger station is located across the bay from Petrov Island. (The bay is called Petrov Bay; Petrov Island is all of 700 m from the shore.) Petrov Island is one of two islands that are protected in Lazovsky Zapovednik. (The other protected island, Beltsov Island, is just a few dozens meters from Petrov Island.) Petrov Island is a fascinating place both ecologically (here there is still untouched forest – this is what the taiga forests in the Russian Far East once looked like) and archeologically (ancient peoples lived on the island from 6000 BC to about 1200 AD.) Moreover, Petrov Island is a truly legendary place, almost mythical in meaning(like Lake Baikal) for the zapovednik staff and for many people who have visited there – when you are on the island, you feel like you are in another world. It is a very special feeling, a connection with nature that you can’t quite put into words.
The first picture (above) is Petrov Island from the ranger station.

Above is a picture of nearby Beltsov Island.

In the summer the environmental education department of Lazovsky Zapovednik gives two-hour tours of Petrov Island on an environmental trail. Only 3000 visitors are allowed on the island each year, in order that the ecosystems of the island are not permanently harmed. Lazovsky also takes tourists on a hike from the Petrov Island ranger station to a nearby bay, Peschanaya Bay (“Sandy Bay” in translation), or Peschanka.

This year 2 staff from the environmental education department, Sveta and Olya, as well as one of the reserve’s rangers, Nadya, are working as tour guides on Petrov Island and for the Peschanaya Bay hike. I was very lucky to get to go on tours of Petrov Island with all three of them – they all have a different style, but they are all incredibly professional. (See more about Petrov Island in separate post.) At the ranger station there are also always (year-round) 2 reserve rangers, plus in the summer the head of the environmental education department, Galina Aleksandrovna, and two cooks, who cook for visitors, also live there. There are 5 4-person cabins at the ranger station that visitors can reserve in the summer (they are all booked usually more than 6 months in advance), and there are also a few places where the reserve allows a limited number of visitors to pitch tents. Above is a picture of the cabins and kitchen/dining area at the ranger station. This is the only spot in Lazovsky Zapovednik that has former facilities for visitors. Zapovedniks are not for tourists – Russia has national parks for that.

Here is a picture of some of the staff at the Petrov Island ranger station: Denis (driver; also in charge of the banya (Russian bath and sauna)), Olya (environmental education specialist), Olya (cook), Tyoma (part-time student hire for the summer – chops wood and delivers water and wood to visitors in cabins), Galina Aleksandrovna, Nadya (cook), Nadya (ranger), Katya (Nadya the cook’s daughter).

Above are two pictures of the main house at the ranger station. I lived in this house together with Olya, Olya, Denis, Nadya and Sveta. The flag flying in the front is the Lazovsky Zapovednik flag – pretty cool that the reserve has its own flag.

While I was at the ranger station it rained a lot. We had sunny weather only 3 days – but when it was sunny, it was beautiful. I had an amazing trip despite the rain. I have had a chance to really get to know the staff at Lazovsky, and we had a good time together. I hope that they will remain a part of my life in the future. In the picture above Nadya and I are making pirozhki (filled pastries – with meat, cabbage, fruit – you name it) on a rainy day. The zapovednik sells these pirozhki to visitors.

On the warm sunny days the zapovednik staff put up a tent to hang out under.

Here Dima, the deputy director of Lazovsky Zapovednik, is making shashliki (like Russian shish-kebabs) and talking with Olya. Dima came out to the ranger station to relax for one night – but his cell phone still rang constantly with calls from the reserve’s main office! In general everyone at the ranger station is very, very busy. They do not have weekends in the summer, of course – in fact on Saturdays and Sundays they have the most visitors. If the weather is good, they will give tours all day long. The reserve’s main office is also very busy – when I arrived to the office at 11 pm on a Sunday night, the reserve director opened the door for me – he was at work!

Not only do Nadya and Olya work as tour guides, but they also do all the various housework at the ranger station. This means washing the sheets when visitors leave the cabins, cleaning the cabins, cleaning the toilets, etc. It was amazing to me that two specialists (Olya – education; Nadya – environmental law/inspection) also do all of this work. It is a lot of work! They let me help them out some when I was there. Here are some sheets drying in the breeze in front of the banya, and Olya and Nadya taking a break.

This is a view of the coast looking south toward Peschanaya Bay, and the sign informs visitors that the reserve starts here and it is against the law to cross the reserve boundary. It is impossible to miss this sign. Nonetheless, in the 10 days I was there 4 visitors crossed this boundary and started wandering up the coast! Nadya caught them all before they traveled too far. According to the law, they will have to pay about a $40 fine, although it is possible the reserve director will waive the fee after he has a meeting with them.

I saw a LOT of cormorants on Petrov Bay and Peschanaya Bay. Here one cormorant is drying his wings after a swim. (Cormorants always have to dry their wings.)

Here are some sandpipers.

This is the bay next to Petrov Bay, just north. This area is no longer territory of the zapovednik. Here there is a regular tourist site, called Olenevod, with a number of cabins for tourists. Here the number of visitors is not limited. (It is very strictly limited at the reserve’s Petrov ranger station.) Tourists from Olenevod frequently come over to the Petrov ranger station to ask if they can take a tour of Petrov Island, and if they can get a group together, then the zapovednik will usually give them a tour. A tour of Petrov Island costs about $12/person, and as a rule no more than 10 people are allowed in a group, so that they can hear everything the tour guide is saying and so that the tour guide can be sure not to lose anyone, that all members of the group are following the rules (not going off the trail and trampling plants, etc.).

This is a picture of some seaweed that has washed up on the coast. In Russian it is called “morskaya kapusta” (sea kale or sea cabbage), and it is very popular in salads. They harvest it when it is still green, though – not when it is this color!

Below are some more pretty pictures of Petrov and Beltsov Islands and the coast.

This was my third trip to the Lazo District and its capital, Lazo (the zapovednik office is in Lazo; I came to the Lazo District also in April and May), and all of my trips have been connected with Lazovsky Zapovednik. I love it there. I’ve met a lot of great people in Lazo, and I am amazed how many people at the zapovednik know me and know my name – even though I don’t know all of them that well, and sometimes it takes me a second to remember their names. When I get on the bus to leave Vladivostok for Lazo, even though I know I have a bumpy, spine-jarring 5 ½ hour ride ahead of me, I get this really happy feeling inside. I can’t help smiling, and if almost feels like I am going to a second home away from home.

You can read on for more about my time in the reserve this July and August.


gennady said...
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gennady said...

The Pacific views from Lazo remind me our trip to the other side of Pacific Rim in Oregon. Practically same nature and rocks. Isn't it?

gennady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gennady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.