Kamchatka Brown Bear Safari

On this safari, you'll travel to one of the world’s most wild and picturesque places in search of brown bears and spectacular landscapes. Kamchatka is an essential destination for anyone interested in frontier travel, and you'll be well placed to capture the region's stunning beauty on camera.

Itinerary Summary

Duration
12 Days
Price
When
Jul 2020
Destination
Russia
Type
Small Group Safari
Duration Price When Destination Type
12 Days Jul 2020 Russia Small Group Safari
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About this trip

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.

You’ll be accompanied on this trip by professional photographer and specialist guide, Andrew James. He will be on hand throughout your trip giving his expertise and photographic advice, taking you through the stunning landscape and enabling you to improve your camera skills. In August 2019 Andrew travelled to Kamchatka in search of brown bears, returning with a portfolio of incredible images seen below.

 

What makes this trip extraordinary

  • Visiting one of the most frontier destinations in the world to spot and photograph one of the world's largest populations of brown 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.
  • 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.
  • A full day marine tour to Russian Bay to spot sea life and birds in fjord-like landscapes.

Embedded Video Overview

An adventurous 12-day safari to Russia’s Far East

from $12,002 per person sharing, excluding international flights

Specialist Leader - Andrew James

Andrew James is a professional photographer, writer and tutor who spends his time shooting images, writing about the technical and creative aspects of photography and leading photographers on workshops and holidays in the UK and all around the world.

He has particular experience working in frozen landscapes, serving as an expert photographic guide on our 2014 expedition that explored South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, as well as our 2017 expedition to photograph the wildlife and landscapes of Antarctica. In 2018, Andrew served as the specialist leader on our pioneering expedition to remote East Greenland. In August 2019 Andrew travelled to Kamchatka in search of brown bears, returning with a portfolio of incredible images.

Andrew’s editorial background ensures his photography is varied and creative. He always aims to shoot images that have both artistic and technical merit, but his emphasis is always on producing photographs that are full of atmosphere and interest.

Day by day

Day by day

Day 1

Arrive Petropavlovsk - Kamchatsky

Upon arrival in Kamchatka’s largest city, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (frequently abbreviated to PK), you’ll be transferred by minivan to your guesthouse. You will be met by your local guide and also Andrew James, the specialist photographic guide accompanying your trip. You will have the remainder of the day to relax and recover from the extensive travel to get to this remote location. This evening you will have your first dinner as a group, to allow everyone to get to know each other and prepare for tomorrow's journey, when your safari will begin in earnest.

You will be staying overnight at Yelizovo Guest House. 

Day 2

Yelizovo - Kuril Lake

Today, at a time to be advised locally, 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. Later you will meet the inspector who will be accompanying your group on your photographic safari. You will be fully-briefed on the rules of the sanctuary which are there for your comfort and safety.

You will be staying overnight at Kuril Lake Camp. 

 

Days 3-4

Exploring Kuril Lake

You will have two full days at Kuril Lake to photograph the brown bears, as well as the stunning landscape. We have secured photographic permits for your group, and you will be one of only two photo tours in the sanctuary at this time (although note that non-photographic specific visitors will also be present), allowing you and your group prime access to the photographic sites in the sanctuary. Each evening your guide and the sanctuary inspector will discuss what areas will be available to the group for photography the next day.

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.

You will be staying overnight at Kuril Lake Camp. 

 

Day 5

Kuril Lake - Kambalnaya River

Today you will be flown 15 minutes by helicopter to Kambalnaya River. Once again today's flight timing is subject to weather conditions. 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. You will be oriented to the area and briefed on what to expect from the coming days.

You will stay overnight at Kambalnaya River Cabin.

Days 6-7

Exploring Kambalnaya River

You will have two full days to 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. There is the possibility for the group to hike up the river to the lake which is a 4km one-way hike up the tundra and along the river. Due to the nature of the changing terrain this is quite a strenuous hike so the guide will discuss with the group as a whole whether it is something that you would like to undertake.

You will be staying overnight at Kambalnaya River Cabin.

Day 8

Kambalnaya River - Yelizovo

Today, at a time to be advised locally, you will be flown by helicopter back to Yelizovo. Again, the timing of this flight will be determined by the weather, but you will have the chance to relax at the guest house and look through your photographs from the preceding days. Later this evening you will have dinner at Old Castle restaurant (cost of meal to be settled directly with restaurant), around a 10-15 minute walk from the guest house.

You will be staying overnight at Yelizovo Guest House. 

Day 9

Valley of Geysers

This morning, at a time to be advised the night before, you will depart to the heliport for your scenic helicopter flight through the Valley of Geysers. You are likely to depart before 10am, but this as with all other helicopter flights, is weather dependent and the tour lasts for 6 hours. You will fly to the Valley of Geysers in the Kronotsky Reserve where you will disembark the helicopter and hike on the boardwalks through the valley with plenty of opportunities to photograph the impressive landscape. You will then re-board the helicopter and fly 10 minutes to Uzon Caldera before continuing onto Nalychevo Nature Park. Here you will be able to bathe in the natural hot springs (don't forget your towel and bathing suit as well as a change of clothes). You will have a late lunch today, so it's worth making sure that you have adequate snacks with you and you will return to the Guest House for dinner this evening.

You will be staying overnight at Yelizovo Guest House. 

Day 10

Marine Tour to Russian Bay

Today you will be treated to a full day (12 hour) marine tour to Russian Bay. On this extensive boat trip you will depart the harbour 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. You will return to dry land at the end of the day, before enjoying dinner back at the guest house. Please note that the Russian military regularly use the harbour at Avachinsky Bay as a stage for exercises, and as such the timing of today is subject to change and may require an early start.

You will be staying overnight at Yelizovo Guest House. 

Day 11

City Tour of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Today marks your final day exploring the Kamchatka Peninsula and you will embark on a tour with an English-speaking guide. En route, stop at "Russia begins here” monument to take photographs with the huge volcanoes in the background. The next stop is 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.

You will be staying overnight at Yelizovo Guest House. 

Day 12

Depart Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Today, at a time to be advised locally, you will be transferred to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Airport in time for your onward international flight home, bringing an end to your time exploring Kamchatka.

Trip date Duration Prices from Specialist guide(s)
Jul 29 - Aug 09 2020 12 Days Andrew James
Jul 17 - Jul 29 2020 12 Days Andrew James

Talk to one of our specialists for further details on our small group safaris in Russia.

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