Tracking Siberian tigers with conservationist Alexander Batalov
At first sight, Khabarovsk airport looks too small to receive 777's and the temperature on arrival is minus 11 degrees. Alexander Batalov himself meets us at the airport, which we didn't expect, along with Olga (the ground agent) and Misha, our translator. Alexander is small in stature but beams broadly and compliments us on our choice of boots and clothing, which is a great relief.
First stop on route is the supermarket for camp provisions and we pick up some of our own food rations (just in case!). After a couple of hours we enter the boundary of the forest for the first time. There is snow on the ground but it doesn’t look too deep. Some way into the drive, Alexander stops the vehicle just over a bridge. Tiger tracks are all around, these are very fresh; as in minutes old. We are allowed out of the jeep but told to be careful as the tiger is likely to be close. It is now pitch black but the excitement level goes up. Alexander is convinced these are the tracks of a female he knows and she is watching us close by. We will find out how close she was tomorrow.
We eventually arrive at the base around 7pm and stop outside cabin 1, which is to be our home for the week. Cabin 1 is wild boar themed, which means skins on the wall and trotters for pen holders! A wall of heat from the ancient stove greets us. Welcome to Siberia and the land of the Amur Tiger!