Where to visit nature: 5 amazing Ukrainian reserves
African safari, a real archeological expedition, and ancient writings
Ukraine's nature is unique in its diversity. While the borders are still closed, we can not only dream of an exotic vacation but also go for it without leaving the country. We've put together five atypical destinations, and traveling there, you can visit the safari, and archeological excavations, as well as go photo hunting for wild pelicans.
Safari in Askania-Nova
The largest protected steppe in Europe is in Ukraine, and it's the Askania-Nova Reserve, one of the oldest in Ukraine, founded in 1874. Askania-Nova is one of the seven wonders of Ukraine, and here you can see how zebras, wildebeests, buffaloes, gayals, cranes, greylag geese, and ducks live in the wild. And, as you realize, it's not a complete list of animals. Instead of the famous African five, you can see a hundred other, no less beautiful, and very rare species of birds and animals.
The reserve offers various tours, including retro photo safari in untouched areas. So don't forget to bring your best camera and video camera, otherwise, no one will believe the stories about wild zebras in the Ukrainian steppe! The two-hour trip even includes contact with wild animals, which, incidentally, are accustomed to visitors and are always ready to make friends with them. Excursions aren't conducted during the lockdown, and relevant information can always be found on the reserve's website.
Archaeological expedition in Bilsk Reserve
In the Poltava region, there is a Bilsk historical and cultural reserve. This is a grand but still little-known monument of Ukraine's cultural heritage. In the VIII-III centuries BC, this area had a center of pre-state formation of the tribes of the Dnieper forest-steppe. Now it is a real paradise for archaeologists; they come here every year in the warm season on expeditions, live in a tent camp, and conduct excavations.
Tourists are offered a variety of treks: by car, bicycle, or on foot. An assortment of terrain, consisting of hills, fields, forests, and meadows, provides routes for 15, 20, 30, 40 kilometers, and throughout the archaeologists have placed information boards and maps, where you can get a lot of interesting information. But the main thing here is not the hiking at all, but the opportunity to feel like an archaeologist.
Together with the National Academy of Sciences, the reserve organizes the International Summer Field Archaeological School: volunteers, schoolchildren, people of completely different professions under the watchful guidance of archaeologists are involved in the excavations. Their involvement is not just entertainment, but the need for scientists: there's a catastrophic shortage of archaeologists in Ukraine. Therefore, the chance to learn, observe the process from the inside, live in an archeological camp, and even find a true centuries-old value is given to everyone.
During the pre-quarantine period, the Helon Fest festival was held here every year, which was attended by artisans, ethnic and folk music groups; the masters encamped. Last summer, the festival had to be canceled, and what will happen this year is still unknown, however, the reserve remains open to tourist groups, so you can safely add this place to your itinerary.
You can find out about the activities and the park work schedule on the website.
Hiking trails in Mizhrichynskyi Park
The young reserve park with an area of 78 thousand hectares, founded in 2002, is located in the Chernihiv region. These are mostly wild forests, home to more than 2,000 wild plants and animals. More than 100 of them are in Red Book.
Among the animals here are bats that live just in the park's office, a wooden house, which also serves as a museum, and moose that have their largest population here, 130 heads, in Mizhrichynskyi Park. In 2019, moose were listed in the Red Book of Ukraine. Lynx and wild boar also live here, black storks and gray cranes nest.
In the park, you can go on a tour, and if you like to relax alone, the park office has a map with paved tourist routes and four ecological trails. For example, the Zhuravlyna Trail passes through pine and birch forests, the Bondarivske Boloto Hydrological Reserve is a wetland with an area of over 100 hectares, Sokolynyi Luh is a trail along the banks of the Desna and deciduous forests and the Poliska Trail.
Photo hunting in Tuzly Limans
In the lower reaches of small rivers, there is an amazing area, full of lakes, and an abundance of birds. Tuzly Limans is a national nature reserve park in the southwest of the Odesa region. The unique place has become a refuge for migratory birds; there is one of the largest transport migration corridors, through which they fly to Europe, Asia, and Africa. There are 256 species of birds on the territory of the Park (which is about 60% of the total species composition of birds of Ukraine), of which 54 are listed in the Red Book of Ukraine and other conservation lists. The territory of the Tuzly limans is important for birds during nesting.
The area of the park is huge: almost 28 thousand hectares. This is the only place in Ukraine where you can watch pelicans in the wild, white pelican and Dalmatian pelican.
Through the efforts of volunteers, the park has a house for ornithologists, entomologists, botanists, ichthyologists, and other scientists, and, of course, for protection; it's necessary for the park because a huge area of the reserve before the house was a real Eldorado for poachers.
Tourists who come to the park, as a rule, come here for an organized day trip. The main thing is to have good weather during the visit because the sandy roads of the park are easily washed away in the rain.
Current information about the park can be found here.
Secret writings in Kamiani Mohyly
The source of finds and the most interesting place for surveyors, archaeologists, and historians, and treasure hunters are in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. The cultural monument is more than 12 million years old; even earlier, 2 billion years ago, a volcano erupted here. Once the place served as a man site for the ancient Scythians; according to legend, there was an altar of their god Aris. Two circles, 5 and 17 kilometers in diameter, are mounds with deeps full of treasures. And on the surface of the reserve, there are "babas," cult stone sculptures carved by the ancient people.
The rocky hills here are low, up to 200 meters, but these granite ridges of chemical composition and physical structure have no analogs on our planet, a truly unique place.
But the main treasure of the reserve is an enormous boulder made of pink granite, the western side of which is covered with writings, the main symbol of which is a trident. Even though time has ruined the monument, and 80% of it is covered with moss, the symmetrical sign is clear. But, unfortunately, despite the obvious uniqueness of the symbolism and style of execution, the stone is not included in the guidebook by the reserve and isn't mentioned in any reference book or encyclopedia of Ukrainian culture and history. However, this doesn't prevent curious tourists to find the artifact and admire the monument of ancient history.