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REDISCOVERING SAMARSKAYA LUKA NATIONAL RESERVE

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Mapping a Majestic Journey of Nature and Adventure


Itai Schkolnik (MI’19), founding member of the Middle-East Chapter, moved to Russia two years ago. During these difficult and complicated times he decided to dedicate himself for humanitarian goals, using his love for nature and exploration. This is why Schkolnik, together with two of his friends: Petr Yacubson, a famous Russian speleologist and adventurer, and Tatyana Surkova, a biologist and explorer with many connections in the tourism area, have decided to create an important change in the Samarskaya Luka National Reserve.

Itai Schkolnik together with the project's volunteers from both Samara and Tolyatti cities
Itai Schkolnik together with the project's volunteers from both Samara and Tolyatti cities

Samarskaya Luka National Reserve is a beautiful destination in Russia known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. This area was never prepared for travelers and no trails have been mapped normally for organized tourism. This led to many accidents and vandalism during the years. People lost their way, fell from dangerous cliffs, and left a lot of trash behind them in the middle of the forested area. This brought Itai Schkolnik, Petr Yacubson and Tatyana Surkova to contact the Samarskaya Luka National Reserve and offer them that they will find the right trails in this beautiful peninsula, map them and then prepare the trail itself, including pointing signs, parking spots and organized camping sights.


The national reserve was happy to get such an offer! After getting the official approval for this project, Itai and his friends started giving public lectures about the plan and created a group of 82 adventurous volunteers who set out to map the touristic trail of the reserve to help visitors navigate through its natural beauty. The team consisted of hikers, conservationists, and outdoor enthusiasts who were passionate about the region's natural beauty. They started their journey by gathering information about the reserve's existing trail maps, but soon realized that the information was outdated and insufficient.


Undeterred, the team began their exploration by walking along the existing trails (a maze of broken paths which summed up to 230 kms in total!) and documenting their observations. They paid close attention to the flora and fauna, noting the various species of plants and animals that were present in the area, while marking the places where they will put post signs and create camping areas in the following year.

A map of Samarskaya Luka National Reserve and the mapped trail made by the volunteers
A map of Samarskaya Luka National Reserve and the mapped trail made by the volunteers

The team also took photographs of the surroundings, capturing the scenic views and the unique rock formations that were present along the way. They used GPS tracking devices to map the coordinates of the trail and recorded the distance and elevation of each segment of the journey.


As the team progressed further into the reserve, they encountered some challenges. The terrain became more rugged and challenging, and they had to navigate through dense forests and steep inclines. However, their perseverance paid off as they discovered hidden paths and and scenic vistas that were not previously marked on any maps.


Once the team had completed their journey, just before winter was about to start and the snow would cover the entire area, they compiled all their data and created an updated map of the Samarskaya Luka National Reserve. The map provided accurate information about the trail's distance, elevation, and difficulty level, allowing visitors to plan their journey according to their preferences.


Itai Schkolnik MI’19 (center) with his wife and son at surveys of the trail (photo: Svetlana Loginova)
Itai Schkolnik MI’19 (center) with his wife and son at surveys of the trail (photo: Svetlana Loginova)

Moreover, the map included detailed information about the flora and fauna present in the region, enabling visitors to learn more about the area's ecological significance. The team also marked the locations of key landmarks, such as waterfalls and scenic viewpoints and future campsites, making it easier for visitors to navigate through the reserve when the time will come.


The updated map has been a significant asset for the Samarskaya Luka National Reserve, as it will help increase the number of visitors to the area. Tourists will have a better understanding of the reserve's natural beauty and will be able to explore its hidden gems with ease.


The team's effort in mapping the touristic trail of the Samarskaya Luka National Reserve is a testament to the power of collaboration and passion. Their work has not only improved the visitor experience but has also contributed to the conservation of the reserve's unique ecosystem. It serves as an inspiration to others to explore and protect the natural wonders that surround us.


Petr Yacubson (second from bottom left) and Tatyana Surkova (second from top right)  - photo: Svetlana Loginova
Petr Yacubson (second from bottom left) and Tatyana Surkova (second from top right) - photo: Svetlana Loginova

On the next phase of the project, which will occur this spring of 2023, the volunteers led by Explorers Club member Itai Schkolnik will walk again along the trail, this time creating the post signs and campsites for future tourism in the reserve.


This project became known all over Russia. The trail is intended to become a national trail such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain and other famous trails around the world. Tour guides already are learning the new trail to be able to take travelers to that area and local businesses in different villages along the trail are being informed by the volunteers how to handle the tourism activity which already started to flourish in the reserve as a result of the public awareness of the project.

Itai Schkolnik MI’19 surveying the Samarskaya Luka trail
Itai Schkolnik MI’19 surveying the Samarskaya Luka trail

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