Wildlife Tour Russian Caucasus. Alpine Flowers, Birds and Butterflies of Dombai & Lagonaki with Greentours
The Russian Western Caucasus is peaceful, with a welcoming population, hopeful that the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held in this ‘Russian Switzerland’ will see many more visitors to a little-known yet stunningly beautiful part of the world.
The remote and unpopulated Lagonaki Plateau is quite possibly the floweriest place you’ll ever see. For mile after mile the limestone grasslands have very little actual grass visible so thick are the flowers. Lilies, Delphiniums, beautiful Aquilegia pontica, swathes of blue and white Galegas, yellow and purple Melampyrums, pink Linum hypericifolium, blue Iris sibirica and Yellow Globe Orchids produce a colourful feast for our eyes. Lammergeiers and Griffon Vultures soar overhead, and among the flowers are Ring Ouzels and Caucasian Blackcock, Scarce Large Blue and Large Blue. Lagonaki’s karstic landscape is peppered with sinkholes, and snow lays late in these sheltered spots. By the snow are alpine gems such as yellow Fritillaria collina, deepest pink Pedicularis nordmanniana, lovely Corydalis conorrhiza, and the extraordinary yellow spring gentian, Gentiana oshtenica, endemic to Adygea. Among thousands of neat pink Primula algida is yellow Primula ruprechtii and both white and violet forms of Primula amoena, the latter two hydridising to produce pink-edged yellow forms!
A cableway takes us high into the national park above Dombai, so we’ll not have had to work hard to reach 3000m. Spread out before us is the mighty central ridge of the Caucasus, a line of peaks 4000m high. Seven glaciers can be seen from this spot. Here we’ll find true alpine splendour with sumptuous groups of Campanula biebersteiniana and Campanula saxifraga, Omphalodes lojkae, yellow Anemone speciosa, Eritrichium caucasicum and Pedicularis subrostrata. On rocks and cliffs are plentiful cushions of Draba bryoides, several Saxifrages and pink Potentilla divina. White and orange Lapland Fritillaries and rare Nordmann’s Apollo settle on all this finery. Here are Alpine Accentors, Red-fronted Serins and Great Rosefinches, and we’ll see Caucasian Snowcock and West Caucasian Tur too. On the 2015 tour we watched two Wolves hunting the Tur, and then two Brown Bears walked past... In the forests below Dombai are Pine Martins, Persian Squirrels and White-backed Woodpeckers. Subalpine meadows have breathtaking displays of lovely Pulsatilla aurea, Lilium kesselringianum, large orange Inula orientalis, and blue and white Aconitums. From Gombashi we might see Elbrus, at 5642m the highest peak west of the Himalaya dominating the rolling montane steppes and sandstone cliffs, the latter a good spot for Wallcreeper. Here are many marvellous plants - scarlet Diphelypaea coccinea, Delphinium flexuosum, abundant orchids – while the number of butterflies mud-puddling the tracks in the Muhinsky Valley is unbelievable. Groups of a hundred or more at a time include abundant Blue Argus and Reverdin’s Blues, Scotch Arguses, and many Heath and False Heath Fritillaries. Gavarnie Blue and Violet Copper are two very special butterflies and we’ll also see Yellow-legged Tortoiseshells, White and Southern White Admirals.
Alpine Flowers, Birds, Butterflies and Landscapes.
Generally easy, no more than three or four miles in a day, optionally more. Sometimes the ground will be steep, and sometimes rocky. Some of the best high alpine plants will be on screes, but most will be found without venturing on to these!
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport, accommodation and meals in the Russian Caucasus. Accommodation, breakfasts and dinners on the St Petersburg extension. Services of your leaders. Please note: drinks, Russian visas, tips, and items of a personal nature including travel insurance, are not included.
Minimum is 4 and the maximum is 15.
We start with a night in the Forum Hotel in Krasnodar. Then we move to remote Lagonaki for a three night stay at the comfortable Azysh-Tau. Nice modern rooms and superb breakfasts, and there’s Lilium monadelphum and Delphiniums outside the front door! In the neat little ski-centre of Dombai we’ve seven nights in the Hotel Meridien, where the large elegant rooms have all the usual modern facilities. For the last night of the tour (and on the extension) we’ll be staying at the Hotel Vera in St Petersburg. This nice little hotel has great staff, a well-stocked bar, good restaurant and modernised comfortable rooms. All rooms on this tour have en suite facilities.
UK flights are from London Heathrow to Krasnodar, via Moscow, returning from Mineralyne Vody via Saint Petersburg. Other indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Usually warm and sunny, but it can be cool and cloudy. Typically rainfall occurs some afternoons in the form of heavy showers, but it can occasionally be prolonged.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Flower, bird, mammal and butterfly checklists are available.