Beautiful low angle sunlight was reflecting off the green hillsides of Anastasiya Bay as Zodiacs left the ship bound for a shallow river mouth. This spontaneous after-dinner trip ashore was the result of scanning back down the end of the bay, where we noticed a dark line appearing on the horizon. This region of the Russian Far East is known for its seasonal reindeer herders, who bring their herds to the coast each summer. It’s impossible to know when and where to find them, but this evening we were in the right place at the right time.
We disembarked the Zodiacs at the river’s edge below a small camp with several tents, a campfire burning, and a few dogs roaming the outskirts. Our goal was to scale a low ridge, where we would sit and wait for the massive herd of over 2,000 reindeer to approach and eventually gather beneath us on the coastal plain.
Soon we were in position, with spectacular mountains looming across the bay across from us. Within minutes, the herders had the reindeer swirling in circles around them in the most magnificent display. Then, using rope to lasso the antlers, they captured a large male and with incredible skill and precision, killed the animal and began dressing it. It was a once in a lifetime happening, and something very special very few people have witnessed.