Verblijf met de Nenets nomaden

17 dagen

22 maart - 7 april 2020

Expeditie met culturele onderdompeling


Over deze expeditie

The aim of this culturally immersive expedition is to live and travel with Siberia’s Nenets nomads and join them on their epic reindeer migration within the Arctic Circle. This journey offers cultural immersion of the highest calibre. Teammates will totally embed themselves with their hosts, wearing what the Nenets wear, eating what they eat and sleeping in their conical reindeer-hide tents called chums (pronounced ‘chooms’). This is a rare opportunity to experience the unstaged reality of nomadic life out on the remote, freezing and unforgiving Yamal Peninsula.

Nenets live nomadically and usually migrate (move their camps) every few days to access fresh pasture for their reindeer. Twice a year the Nenets of the Yamal Peninsula also migrate their reindeer for 60km across the frozen Gulf of Ob, a bay of the Arctic Ocean.

Conditions allowing, our expedition is timed to coincide with this event.  This intense migration can take up to 24 hours, with the team keeping pace in all-terrain vehicles and sledges. With no pasture along the way it’s a race to get to the other side before the reindeer become too weak from a lack of food. There will be no breaks for the herders, the vehicles, the animals or for you. The crossing of the Gulf is a feat of human and animal endurance which requires exacting conditions for the attempt. Should weather, migration patterns or other circumstances prevent the team from joining an Ob crossing, day-to-day Nenets life remains an awe-inspiring experience. The expedition culminates at the annual Reindeer Herding Festival in Yar Sale. The festival is a highlight in the Nenets calendar, offering the chance for different families to come together and for our team the opportunity to witness extraordinary events such as reindeer racing and traditional sports.


Nenets culture

The Nenets have an extraordinarily rich and well-preserved culture. They are the guardians of a style of reindeer herding that is the last of its kind. The Nenets dress in furs and traditional hand-sewn clothes, live in reindeer-hide tents called chums and travel by reindeer-drawn and motorised sledges.

The Nenets are famed for being Arctic Russia’s best reindeer herders with the biggest herds, the longest migration routes and the best preserved culture, religious beliefs and language. This expedition offers a real opportunity to experience this unique culture first-hand. Further information and cultural advice will be sent out to teammates upon booking.

The Yamal Peninsula

The Yamal Peninsula is one of the least known, but most important, regions of the Russian Federation. In the language of the indigenous Nenets, Yamal means ‘the end of the world’. With a territory around 1.5 times the size of France, the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District (YNAO) is located in the north of West Siberia, just northeast of the geographic border between Europe and Asia above the Arctic Circle.

Today more than 10,000 nomads herd 300,000 domestic reindeer on the pastures of the Arctic tundra. Under those pastures are huge gas deposits holding almost a quarter of the world’s known reserves. Increased interest in mining these deposits is one of the growing threats to the Nenets’ way of life.

Reindeer migrations

Over the course of a yearly migration of a thousand kilometres, the Nenets move gigantic herds of reindeer from their summer pastures in the north to winter pastures just south of the Arctic Circle. No-one knows for certain who is leading who – the reindeer or the people – but whoever is in charge, they have to battle one of the world’s harshest environments.

Reindeer herding festival

After the migration, there is the opportunity to get involved in the annual Reindeer Herding Festival. Herders from many different camps gather in Yar Sale village to take part in traditional sports including reindeer sledge racing, Nenets wrestling, sledge jumping, lassoing and many more.

For families living in camps whose migration routes don’t cross, this is the one annual chance to meet up and young people often look for potential spouses. It is the celebratory event of the year and is certainly not to be missed. Spirits will be very high!

Expedition program

This expedition is run with framework itinerary, rather than a guided tour with set daily plans. The following is the outline plan for this culturally immersive journey with Siberia’s Nenets nomads – it’s the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is available on request or upon application to join the team.

All teammates arrive at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.

Your expedition leader will meet you at a local hotel, served by a regular airport shuttle. The expedition officially begins at 1700 that evening, with an arrival brief and introductory team meal at the hotel. Get some sleep before a 0300 internal flight to Salekhard.

Day two involves a seven-hour drive out of Salekhard in all-terrain vehicles along the frozen river Ob to reach Yar Sale for dinner and to spend the night.

In the morning, the team gets kitted out in Nenets clothing and sets off in wooden box sledges pulled by snowmobiles to locate and join the Nenets encampment in the middle of the tundra.

For nine days, the team will live, work, eat and rest with the Nenets, a few teammates per chum (the Nenets’ teepee-styled, reindeer-hide tents). Take part in the daily routine of life among the reindeer herders.

Usually, the Nenets dismantle the chums, pack the sledges and round up the reindeer to move on to fresh pastures every few days as the Nenets have done for generations.

Sometimes, severe weather patterns prevent this happening with dire consequences for the reindeer herds. In order to reach summer pastures, when conditions allow, the extended family of nomads will aim to make the full crossing of the frozen Gulf of Ob – a carefully calculated risk. This must be done in one go as there is no forage for the reindeer on the frozen surface.

Depending on the weather conditions and terrain, this crossing has been known to take up to 24 hours but can be much quicker. As with much of the travel between camps, this will be done with the Nenets and the teammates being pulled in box sledges or on snowmobiles.

Returning to Yar Sale after the migration and an unforgettable foray into the frozen wilds of Siberia, the team will have the unique opportunity to attend the Nenet’s Reindeer Herding Festival.

Herders from across the region take part in reindeer sledge racing and jumping, wrestling, lassoing and other traditional games. Depending on timings you’ll have one or two days in Yar Sale to explore and enjoy the festival.

After your time at the festival it’s back on the all-terrain vehicles to return to Salekhard, home to museums, Obdursk fortress and a market square full of crafts and furs. There may be a chance to enjoy a traditional Russian sauna. A contingency day is scheduled here (following the migration stage of the expedition), in case bad weather prevents the return journey from Yar Sale to Salekhard.

On your final day, the internal flight lands in Moscow by approx. 1100, to meet outbound flights arranged for any time from 1500 earliest or 1600 onwards preferably. This allows a sensible amount of time to collect luggage from the internal flight terminal and to transfer to and recheck in at the international terminal at Domodedovo Airport.

Date en price

22.03 - 07.04.2020 - € 4.195,-


Not included

Minimum fitness requirements

  • Trek: short distances around camps and to collect wood. Although distances are short, deep snow can make this tiring.
  • Strength: help carry water, chop wood, push sledges, put up chums.
  • Terrain: icy tundra, snow, frozen lakes.
  • Snowshoe: there may be chances to snowshoe around camp.
  • Climate: deal with temps down to -35°c with howling Arctic winds.
  • Age: 21+