Accommodating 140 passengers (originally designed for 184 guests), the Heritage Adventurer offers a spacious stylish and comfortable home for your expedition.
|21 Days||£10900||Aug - Sep||Russia||Small Group Safari|
Cruise the rugged coastlines of Russia’s eastern seaboard, a remote and seldom-visited area that is known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich wildlife. Travelling in September, witness thousands of seabirds prepare for migration, along with the walrus, sea otters and Kamchatkan brown bears that call this region home.
Starting in Nome Alaska, journey across the Bering Sea to discover the wild eastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula. With numerous shore landings and zodiac excursions en route, you will witness incredible rugged landscapes and distinctive wildlife, including sea otters, walrus, Kamchatkan brown bears and a wide variety of bird species. From beautiful fjords and the Tintikun Lagoon to the bird colonies of the Commander Islands, this remote and untamed region is a fascinating destination for photographers, historians and adventurers alike.
Our expedition begins in Nome, Alaska’s most famous gold rush town. This afternoon, on embarkation, you will have the opportunity to settle into your accommodation and familiarise yourself on board before joining your fellow expeditioners on deck as we set sail across the Bering Sea and International Date Line for Provideniya, Russia.
We arrive into Russia. After clearing Customs and Immigration there will be an opportunity to explore this fascinating former Soviet military port and administrative centre followed by an expedition afternoon.
This morning we plan to be at Cape Dezhnev, the northeastern most point of the Eurasian continent. This cape commemorates the accomplishment of the Cossack Semyon Dezhnev who was the first European to sail through this strait in 1648 (80 years before Bering did). On the cape is a lighthouse, a monument and the remains of a Border Guard base. If the weather and sea conditions are suitable we plan to land here and give you the opportunity to explore the area.
A few nautical miles south of Cape Dezhnev we visit Lavrentiya village, home to Chukchi, Yupik and Russians. While Russian development here began in the late 1920s, Lavrentiya had been an indigenous settlement long before. Explore the town square, sample local delicacies and experience traditional cultural performances with the friendly locals.
Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley, where whale bones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. There are many meat pits used for storage and other remains of a busy whaling camp that united several aboriginal villages at a time. In one location, immense Bowhead Whale jawbones and ribs are placed together in a stunning arch formation. Gray and Humpback Whales are frequently seen around the island.
This afternoon we plan to visit Bukhta Penkingney. This long fiord, cut into the coastline by glaciers, is a popular spot for whale watching. Exploring this scenic location we will be looking for wildlife including brown bear.
As we sail across Anadyr Bay there will be lectures, opportunities to look for whales and walrus from the deck, relaxing in the ship’s bar and catching up with reading or downloading and editing photos.
This coastline is rich in marine mammals and one creature we will be looking for, in particular, is the walrus. As the animals regularly move between locations, finding them can be a matter of luck, although we have had success here in the past. We plan to explore Bukhta Gavriila. The bukhta (or bay) was named after Commander Vitus Bering’s ship, the St Gabriel, from the First Kamchatka Expedition. Behind the expansive beach there is a lagoon and we may also visit Chukotka’s oldest, and the Arctic’s southernmost, weather station which now sits abandoned. Due to strong tides around Cape Navarin there is an abundance of food here and it is not uncommon to see large numbers of seabirds and Gray Whales congregating in the area.
This afternoon we plan to visit the delta of Pika River – a well-known walrus haul out and one of the few places in the southern part of their range that sees thousands of animals coming to rest on the beach.
Along the Koryak Coast there are many beautiful fiords (bukhtas or bays) and none are more beautiful than Bukhta Natalii. This fiord has two smaller fiords that drain into it from the south – Bukhta Pavla and Bukhta Petra (named after St Peter and St Paul by Commander Vitus Bering). We plan to cruise to Bukhta Pavla and make a landing. The magnificent mountain landscapes and tundra vegetation will surround us, along with the possibility of sighting Snow Sheep, as they are often seen in the area. There is a historic walrus haul out on Bogoslova Island which guards the entrance to these fiords.
Much of the southern Govena Peninsula was declared a state reserve. This wildlife-rich and rarely visited location is surrounded by jagged peaks and cliffs where waterfalls tumble down valleys, and is home to Kamchatka Brown Bears, Steller’s Sea Eagles and Largha Seals. During our Zodiac cruise we expect to enjoy numerous wildlife encounters and explore one of the region’s most spectacular fiords Tintikun Lagoon. This fiord was blocked by a large terminal moraine during the last period of glaciation. A shallow river surrounded by jagged mountains, glaciers and forested slopes has breached the moraine, allowing access to one of the most picturesque locations found anywhere in the world. We take a closer look on a Zodiac safari. There is also a large population of brown bears and these should be feeding in, and around, the river mouth that drain into the head of the lagoon.
Verkhoturova Island has some huge seabird colonies which we plan to get close to by following a short, but steep trail to the clifftop. We should be able to enjoy some fantastic views of Tufted Puffins, Brunnich’s Guillemots, Pelagic Cormorants and Black-legged Kittiwakes. We may also see some Steller Sea Lions, as they are often hauled out on offshore rocks nearby.
Spend the next few days exploring the wildlife-rich Commander Islands, first discovered by Vitus Bering who is now buried on Bering Island, where his ship was wrecked in 1741. There are two large islands (Bering and Medny) with two smaller islands Ariy Karmen and Toporkov. These islands are located at the western extremity of the Aleutian chain. We intend to explore the islands through a combination of landings and Zodiac cruises. Anchoring off Bering Island, named after Commander Bering who had the misfortune of discovering this land when his ship was wrecked here in 1741, we plan to explore Commander Bay. Walk to the graves of Bering and some of his crew who lost their lives during the long cold winter on this remote land and visit the site where they sought shelter. The reports from those that survived led to a ‘fur rush’ and the settlement of the islands. Our first stop will be the village of Nikolskoye, where we will visit one of the only museums in the world to display a skeleton of the famed (but now extinct) Steller’s Sea Cow. After the village we plan to visit the fur seal rookery at North-West Cape and Zodiac cruise the bird colony at Ariy Kamen. At nearby historic and atmospheric Medney Island we explore this fascinating landscape and wildlife including Pacific Sea Otters back from the brink of extinction after being hunted relentlessly in the 1800’s.
Sail westwards from the Commander Islands to the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, visiting the Kronotskiy Reserve, which encompasses the famous Valley of the Geysers. The habitat is quite different to what we will have been experiencing before with lush Kamchatka forests coming right down to the beach line. There is a possibility we will see brown bears and other forest fauna. Scenic Olga Bay is set against a backdrop of volcanoes, providing a beautiful setting for photography, and is often visited by large numbers of grey whales. If the conditions are right we will take a Zodiac whale-watching cruise.
This afternoon we make our way along the Zhupanova River by Zodiac. This journey allows us to explore a river habitat which is common in Kamchatka. They are especially important for salmon spawning – one of Kamchatka’s valuable natural resources. Steller’s Sea Eagles are known to nest in the lower reaches of the river and we are likely to see many young birds as well as a few adults still hanging around their nesting sites. There is also the possibility of spotting brown bears, Red Foxes and Musk Rats.
Near the entrance of Bukhta Russkaya, an isolated fiord roughly 150 miles north of the southern tip of Kamchatka, there have been sightings of both the Long-billed Murrelet and the endangered Kittlitz’s Murrelet. There is also an excellent chance of seeing Sea Otters, Largha Seals, Steller Sea Lions and Orcas. We plan to make a landing at the head of the fiord where the birding can also be very rewarding with Lanceolated Warbler, Brambling, Common Rosefinch, Oriental Greenfinch and Rustic Bunting among the possibilities.
We plan to make a landing at the head of the fiord where brown bears are not uncommon. During the night our vessel will enter Avacha Bay, one of the greatest natural harbours in the world.
Today we plan to spend the day exploring Petropavlovsk- Kamchatskiy, the capital and administrative centre of the Kamchatka Region. The town was founded in the 1700s by Commander Vitus Bering during the Second Kamchatka Expedition. All through the Cold War it was home to a significant part of Russia’s Pacific Fleet which included a large submarine base. The city and region was ‘closed’ to all foreign visitors until 1992. There is the option to join our inclusive tour, or upgrade to join a tour to the Valley of Geysers – the second largest geyser field in the world – via helicopter.
(B, L, D)
Early this morning we will arrive at the wildlife rich Ptich’i or Bird Rocks. The plan is to Zodiac cruise these fascinating formations where an abundance of birds, seals and Sea Otters reside. Sea Otters were hunted to almost extinction in Russia, but now number back to almost two-thirds of their historical range. Harbour and Largha Seals are often seen here as well as a healthy population of Tufted Puffns. We then plan to sail through the Second Kuril Strait between Shumshu and Paramushir Islands on route to Altasova Island where Alaid, the tallest volcano in the archipelago with an elevation of 2,340 metres, can be found.
(B, L, D)
Today we plan to make a landing at Onekotan Island, an uninhabited island comprising two stratovolcanos connected by a flat stretch of land and part of the Kuril Islands chain. Exploring the island you will find extensive evidence of fortifications built by the Japanese during World War II.
(B, L, D)
After an early breakfast we plan to board the Zodiacs and cruise into a vast flooded caldera at the northern end of Simushir Island. Only a quarter of a century ago this was the location of a top secret Soviet submarine station where hundreds of mariners were based. This haunting reminder of the Cold War has now been completely abandoned and we can wander around what remains of the base, which is steadily being reclaimed by nature. Within the stunning setting of this huge caldera, we can expect to find a good range of species with one of the most common birds likely to be the spectacular Siberian Rubythroat which can often be seen singing from the tops of scrubby bushes. Over lunch we plan to cruise to Yankicha Island, the summit of a submerged volcano. Invariably this is one of the high points of the entire voyage as the number of alcids breeding here is truly incredible. Subject to weather and sea conditions, we will use the Zodiacs to circumnavigate part of the coastline and then enter the flooded caldera. The concentrations of Crested and Whiskered Auklets here are simply spectacular and we can also expect to get great views of Brunnich’s and Common Guillemots and both Tufted and Horned Puffns. We also stand an excellent chance of seeing Arctic Foxes that can be pretty inquisitive as they patrol the auk colonies looking for their next meal. As we return to the ship in the late evening many of the alcids will be returning to their colonies. Being surrounded by clouds of birds darkening the sky is an experience you will never forget.
(B, L, D)
This morning we plan to anchor off Chirpoy Island where there are some dramatic headlands covered in breeding seabirds. Blacklegged Kittiwakes and Brunnich’s Guillemots are among the more numerous species that we are likely to find here. As we continue south towards Urup there is an excellent chance of observing Sperm Whale and Orca from the ship. Laysan Albatross, Ancient and Long-billed Murrelets, Brunnich’s Guillemot, Crested and Rhinoceros Auklets and Tufted Puffns are often seen in good numbers on this crossing. On an extended walk on Urup Island we will explore the scrubby woodland. Beachcombing and walking can be very rewarding here as there is the possibility of seeing both Largha and Harbour Seals, as well as Pacific Sea Otters.
(B, L, D)
This morning we make our way to the community of Kurilsk. where local buses will take us into the volcanic highlands of Iturup. Passing through some spectacular scenery as we steadily climb up towards the Baranskiy volcano, there may be an opportunity to soak in the thermal pools. The higher altitude and different vegetation provides a great contrast to recent days. On our return to Kurilsk there should be an opportunity to explore the village on a nature walk with our expedition guides or do some further birding.
(B, L, D)
We arrive at the Port of Korsakov on Sakhalin Island where we will clear Russian Customs and Immigration before setting sail for Otaru, Japan. This evening enjoy a farewell dinner and recap of our adventure.
(B, L, D)
This morning we arrive in Otaru, a port city in Hokkaido known for glassworks, music boxes, sake distilleries and picturesque Otaru Canal flanked with shops and cafes built within repurposed 1920s warehouses. After breakfast and clearing Japan Customs and Immigration, there will be a complimentary coach to a central hotel or to the airport. To allow time for disembarkation procedures and travel from Otaru, we do not recommend booking flights departing before 13:00hrs.
This is an expedition, departing on Heritage Adventurer on a set date in September.
Please note that the trip price excludes the cost of international flights.
Additional charges: $500 local payment per person.