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12 DAYS FROM 11867 PP

RUS Sl Kamchatka Brown Bear Andrew James

Kamchatka Brown Bear Safari

Push the boundaries on this frontier small group journey to Kamchatka located in Russia’s Far East. The peninsula contains less than 200 miles of paved road in an area larger than Great Britain, which is just one indication of how truly wild and remote this region is.

Embarking on this safari will see you traversing the rugged landscape by helicopter – often the only viable form of transportation here – before first making camp on the shores of an idyllic lake surrounded by greenery-covered mountains that scrape the sky and then a stretch of river frequented by bears, but without human presence.

In both locations you’ll become acquainted with the European cousin of North America's iconic grizzly bear on daily photographic excursions, before enjoying a scenic helicopter flight to the breath-taking Valley of Geysers and a marine safari to see sea birds and a variety of marine mammals.

What to expect

Upon arrival in Kamchatka’s largest city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (frequently abbreviated to PK), you’ll be transferred by minivan to your guesthouse. You will have the remainder of the day to relax and recover from the extensive travel to get to this remote location.

You will be taken to board your helicopter flight to Kuril Lake with a flight time of approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. Please note that as with all helicopter flights, the departure time is weather dependent. Upon landing in the South Kamchatka Sanctuary, your guide will show you to the tents where you will spend the next three nights. You will be fully-briefed on the rules of the sanctuary which are there for your comfort and safety.

Spend time at Kuril Lake to photograph the brown bears, as well as the stunning landscape. Please note that access to the favourite photographic sites will be alternated between your group and the other photographic group to make access as fair as possible. It is important to remember that on Kamchatka's second largest lake the weather can change rapidly and on occasion stormy weather rolls in which prevents boats from being able to go out for safety reasons. If this happens, you will be guided to sites within walking distance of the camp to photograph the bears. Whilst you are in a sanctuary, the bears at Kuril Lake are very much still wild animals and it is vital that the group stays together and acts on the inspector's instructions at all times. The primary reason for the visit to Kuril Lake is to photograph the bears and you should be prepared to spend up to 8 hours out in the field, and potentially in the same spot throughout, to improve your chances of capturing the best images.

Fly by helicopter to Kambalnaya River. Whilst the helicopters are former Russian military helicopters which are not designed for photography, you should still be able to admire the incredible scenery below comprising lakes, mountains and volcanoes. Upon landing at Kambalnaya River you will be shown to your simple cabin on the riverbank and your guide will introduce you to the inspector who will be accompanying you for this portion of your safari.

Explore the Kambalnaya River photographing more bears. The presence of the rapids adds a different dimension to the photography here compared to Kuril Lake. The fact that you are the only people here makes for a really exclusive, wilderness feel too. With luck there will be opportunities to photograph bears catching the salmon in the river.

Enjoy a helicopter flight through the Valley of Geysers. Bathe in the natural hot springs (don't forget your towel and bathing suit as well as a change of clothes).

Enjoy a boat trip at Avachinsky Bay and take in Three Brothers rocks, some impressive sea stacks, before continuing to Starichkov Island, a sea bird colony. Here you have the chance to spot tufted puffins, cormorants, several species of gulls, including kittiwakes and ancient murrelets. A pair of Stellar's sea eagles have been known to nest on the rock pinnacle adjacent to the island.

You will continue to Russian Bay with sea otter and sea lion rookery watching and the chance to see humpback whales and orcas if you are really lucky. You can also try your hand at deep-sea fishing for sole and flounder before enjoying a fish lunch. If the conditions are calm enough, a zodiac boat will be launched to take you through a rock grotto, offering yet more photographic opportunities.

Explore Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (PK) where you will visit various cultural sites, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Volcano Museum and Kamchatka Regional Museum. You will learn more about the city and the history of the peninsula. Visit the scenic overlook above the harbour in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to get an overview of the most historic area of the city. Following lunch in a local café you will continue northwards to Khalaktersky to visit the black sand beach and have the chance to dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean. You will return to the guest house for a farewell dinner and to share your memories of your action-packed trip exploring the Kamchatka Peninsula.

St Russia Franz Josef Land Cape Tegetthoff Shutterstock Samantha Crimmin

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Why book this trip


Visiting one of the most frontier destinations in the world to spot and photograph one of the world's largest populations of brown bears.

Observe Wild Bears

Spend two full days at Kuril Lake for fabulous opportunities to photograph bears catching salmon and raising their cubs.


Two days in the wilderness location of Kambalnaya River to witness fishing bears with no one else around.

Scenic Helicopters

Take a scenic helicopter tour to the Valley of Geysers for a birds eye view of Kamchatka's incredible volcanic landscapes with an optional dip in the natural hot springs.

RUS Sl Kamchatka Brown Bear Andrew James

Trip Details

Please note the following: The order of the trip will vary depending on dates chosen.

Daily itinerary and activities are flexible and are subject to weather conditions on the day in question.

All travellers to Kamchatka require a Russian visa; you’ll need to start the application process at least four months before departure. Russia also has a number of public holidays in early May and embassies and consulates commonly close for two weeks – so factor this in when applying for your visa.

The price excludes international and domestic flights to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, any optional activities in PK, personal medical insurance, visa costs (invitation letters and other necessary documentation will be provided), dinner on day 8 at Old Castle restaurant, all drinks and alcoholic beverages.