Adventures in The Russian Far East: Interview with Vadim Mamontov, Director & Founder of RussiaDiscovery Travel Company

Vadim Mamontov, Director & Founder of RussiaDiscovery

Yakutia Airlinesʼ direct summer flights from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula and to Yakutsk in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic open up more opportunities for Americans to visit the Russian Far East’s most exotic places, with endless opportunities to discover and explore dramatic landscapes, unique wildlife, indigenous cultures and Russian hospitality.

RussiaDiscovery is an adventure tour operator based in Moscow, Russia, that offers a variety of adventure tours across Russia. Vadim Mamontov, the company Director & Founder, discusses his personal journey in adventure travel, as well as RussiaDiscovery’s adventure tours for visitors to the Russian Far East.

Q: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your company. Why did you decide to pursue a career in the adventure travel industry?

I grew up in the Arkhangelsk region and, I think, during that time was when I first began feeling a passion for travel. Usually, twice a year we went on trips with our teachers. In the summer it was rafting along one of the rivers of the region, and in the winter – a ski trip. While I was studying at Moscow University, I stopped to travel for a while. When I started working after graduating from the university, I didnʼt have any friends who shared my desire for adventure travel.

Vadim Mamontov of RussiaDiscovery

In 2000, my desire to go to Kamchatka became so strong that I was ready to go on such a trip alone, even if none of my friends would go there with me. That was an amazing journey, in two weeks, we climbed to the crater of the volcano Tolbachik, saw a real dead forest, wandered through the lava fields, rafted along one of the Kamchatka rivers, while under the bewildered gaze of the bears on the banks, and fished on a boat trip along the Avacha Bay. Despite the fact that I went on this trip with people I did not know, it quickly became clear that they were all as passionate about traveling as I. Since then, every year we went out together for a new trip. As a team, we explored the Putorana Plateau, Northern Kuril, Chukotka, Karelia, Kola Peninsula, Arkhangelsk Region and many other places.

Every time when we set out on our trip, we had to organize everything by ourselves-from planning the route, to finding the necessary equipment, and preparing the itinerary and organizing meals. At that time there was no such company that could offer an organized program to fit our needs. It was clear that we were not the only ones with these problems. Therefore, in 2005, together with one of my friends from the first Kamchatka trip, we decided to create a company that would help those for who are interested in adventure travel, so in 2005 company RussiaDiscovery appeared. For some time after establishing the company, I still worked in the field of my degree, which I got at the Faculty of Computer Science (Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics) at Moscow State University. Since 2014, Iʼve mainly focused on work in RussiaDiscovery.

Q: What is the most popular tour or excursion in the Russian Far East that your company offers? What makes it popular?

The highlight of our summer trips to Kamchatka is the program “Russia Begins here”. Generally, the program is based on the inspirations behind our first trip 17 years ago, however the program is enriched with greater possibilities. This trip is a collection of the best impressions that you can get from Kamchatka. On the first day, it includes a picnic on the beach of the Pacific Ocean with volcanic black sand. It also features a helicopter ride around beautiful Kamchatka volcanoes, extinct and still active, as well as mountain biking on Tolbachik volcano (this volcano has a dead forest, caves and frozen lava flows). Guests on this program can also swim in the hot springs and raft on the mountain river. This program also includes a few days traveling on a sailing catamaran, exploring the east coast, where you can see killer whales jumping out of the water, and sea lions, lazily lounging on the rocks. There is also sea kayaking, so you can get closer to the animals. Soon we will be setting the dates for the next summer season of 2018.

Q: Since your launch in 2005, what area of the Russian Far East has been most surprising to you or your staff? When we say surprising, we mean the most unexpected and wonderful.

It is difficult for me to distinguish just one region. The Far East is an incredible collection of amazing places, each of which is worth a trip for several weeks. Wrangel Island has beautiful severe arctic landscapes, polar bears, walruses, musk oxen, polar owls and geese flocks. Chukotka features the harsh life of marine hunters and reindeer herders. From Ratmanov Island, you can glance into yesterday, because between Ratmanov Island and Little Diomede island (located only 4 kilometers away) lies not only the border, but also the line of date change. Northern and Southern Kuril, Shantar Islands, Sakhalin, Primorye, Kamchatka – all this is our Far East and each of these places is worthy a great inspirational story.

Vadim Mamontov of RussiaDiscovery

Q: Many of our passengers use our flights to explore Kamchatka. For those who have never been to Kamchatka, what are the top 3 reasons to go in the summer?

You should definitely climb at least one of Kamchatka volcanoes to experience the unusual sensation of looking into its crater, which represents the natural power of old (and sometimes very close) eruptions. Go to the Kuril or  Dvuchurtochnoe lakes to watch how bears catch fish with short and strong blows. And finally, fly to the Valley of Geysers – one of the largest geyser fields in the world.

Q: What is your personal favorite place or activity on Kamchatka and why?

My favorite, but more accurately my most desired place to visit is the Uzon valley. Even in my childhood, I read “Sannikov Land” and “The Country of Seven Herbs”, which fascinated me with fantastic stories about an extraordinary oasis of life in the midst of the Arctic cold. Unfortunately, there was no time on my trips to Kamchatka to visit it, but the dream of traveling there is still with me, so I have no doubt that it will someday come true.

Q: What countries do your travelers come from and what are their interests? What do they enjoy the most?

I am happy to note that more and more foreign tourist are visiting Russian Far East. Usually, our groups are a mix of Russian travelers, and travelers from all over the world: Europe, USA, Australia, Japan etc. All of them are experienced travelers who are attracted by unspoiled nature and opportunity to see the wildlife. Some tourists are coming to see life of local people and even report about the reindeer herders or marine hunters. In Kamchatka particularly, travelers enjoy boat trip with fishing, dinner with sea delicacies, trekking through lava fields on Tolbachik volcano and, of course, the moments when they can watch brown bears catching salmon just in front of the camera.

Wrangel Bay on Shantar Islands, Photo by RussiaDiscovery

Q: Could you share some travel advice for westerners who come to the Russian Far East for adventure travel?

Plan a trip in advance (January-February) – this way you will have more flexibility with air tickets and accommodation. Contact the travel agency to plan your trip in advance, as it is extremely difficult to find good accommodation in Kamchatka, especially in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, during the tourist season. Kamchatka is not only mountains and volcanoes, so be sure to include in your trip a walk on a catamaran along the coast. You can see whales, you will be able to come close to the rookeries of sea animals, and after going down on the water on kayaks, you can even swim among the sea lions.

Published on July 28, 2017

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