Southern Siberia And Baikal

Some of Russia’s rarest and most spectacular wildlife roam its Golden Mountains, in deep virgin forests, flowering meadows, rushing streams, rivers, waterfalls, and snowy peaks between central Asia and the vast “Great Belt” of arid, treeless Eurasian steppes.

Endangered snow leopards prey on roe deer in mountain fastness. Massive brown bears fatten on berries but help themselves to Siberian chipmunks and larger mammals when hunger and chance dictate, as do small but ferocious wolverines. Imperial and golden eagles, largest of their tribe, soar on seven-foot (2-m) wingspreads over alpine grasslands, folding their wings and plummeting downward to capture alpine hares before their victims can glimpse their predator.

Three zapovedniks covering 6,848 square miles (17,742 km2) of this varied, welcoming habitat are set aside as strict nature preserves with no human disturbance other than scientific observers and closely supervised tourism.