• Polar bear on Wrangel Island, Russia, Heritage Expeditions

Itinerary Summary

Duration
15 Days
Price
£8880
When
Jul - Aug 2022
Destination
Russia
Type
Small Group Safari
Duration Price When Destination Type
15 Days £8880 Jul - Aug 2022 Russia Small Group Safari
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Wrangel Island: Across the Top of the World

Set sail to Wrangel Island in the Russian Arctic, a protected nature reserve known as the polar bear capital of the world. Over two weeks you’ll cross vast tundra and sail through icy inlets, always on the lookout for breaching whales, seabird colonies lining the cliffs and of course the King of the Arctic himself, the mighty polar bear.

Just 140km from the northern coast of Siberia lies Wrangel Island, a remote yet starkly beautiful landmass in the Arctic Ocean that is home to one of the highest concentrations of polar bears on the planet. On this journey to the top of the world you’ll marvel at the ice bears’ size and numbers, and watch enraptured as they hunt, eat and sleep here in their natural habitat. Due to the retreating pack ice at this time of year, you’ll be able to sail further north than most travellers ever reach, and learn from local rangers about the wildlife and history of the region.

Trips will be aboard the Heritage Adventurer.

What makes this trip extraordinary

  • Search for polar bears as they hunt on land and across the pack ice.
  • Test your photography skills as seabirds swoop around your expedition ship which will be dwarfed by the magnificent cliffs rising from the sea.
  • Look out for migratory whales as they breach and surface for air.
  • Sail past rocky shorelines and ice floes where seals and walrus congregate.
  • Spot Arctic foxes moving light-footed across the tundra.
  • Visit a collection of remote Russian islands that very few people have ever set foot on.

Embedded Video Overview

An adventurous 15-day safari to the Arctic wilderness of Wrangel Island

from $9,679 per person sharing, excluding international flights, charter flights and local payment

Day by day

Day by day

Day 1

Arrive Nome, Alaska

This expedition begins and ends in Nome, Alaska’s most famous gold rush town. Depending on your time of arrival you may have the opportunity to explore the town, before getting to know your fellow voyagers and expedition team on board the ship. We will depart when everybody is on board and set sail across the Bering Strait and International Date Line for Provideniya, Russia.

Day 2

Provideniya, Russia

After clearing Russian Customs and Immigration there may be an opportunity to explore this fascinating former Soviet military port and administrative centre followed by an afternoon expedition.

Day 3

Yttygran Island and Gil'mimyl Hot Springs

Today's port of call is Yttygran Island, home to a monumental ancient aboriginal site called Whale Bone Alley. Here huge whalebones, planted in the frozen earth by the former inhabitants of Yttygran, stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. The carefully arranged skulls, ribs and vertebrae – thought to have been erected over half a millennia ago – make for an incredible sight. It is still possible to see whales from the beach, so make sure to check the water’s surface. This afternoon we intend to make a landing at the Gil’mimyl Hot Springs. They are a short walk from the coastline, but well worth the effort. There will be a chance to explore the tundra for birds, plants and animals. After a soak in the springs we will re-join the ship for a relaxing evening.

Day 4

Bukhta Pultin and Cape Dezhnev

This morning there may be an opportunity to enjoy a Zodiac safari of Bukhta Pultin. Beyond its narrow entrance this sheltered and rarely-visited bay opens revealing a new world. Explore the coastline, fields of wildflowers, look for wildlife or hike up the ridgeline and take in the impressive helicopter view. This afternoon we plan to be at Cape Dezhnev, the north-eastern 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 short distance south of the cape is the former Inuit settlement of Naukan. The Soviet government relocated these people to other Chukotka settlements in the 1950s as it was thought they posed a security risk, supposedly because of the close proximity of Alaska. It is still possible to sense the melancholy in the air because the people never wanted to leave. As the relocation was fairly recent, there is a wealth of historic data and photographs that makes this visit even more poignant.

Day 5

Kolyuchin Island

Today is an expedition day where we plan to visit Kolyuchin Island and Inlet. Once the location of an important Russian Polar Research Station, this small island has since been abandoned following the collapse of the USSR. While the buildings are now derelict, the abundant wildlife the men studied is still there. Near the old station at the north-western end of the island are some of the most amazing bird cliffs in the Arctic, where puffns, guillemots, gulls and cormorants can be observed and photographed just metres away. A prominent walrus haul out often congregates at the south-eastern end and, if the animals are present, you can expect some excellent photographic opportunities from the Zodiacs.

We also plan to visit Belaka Spit near the mouth of the Kolyuchin Inlet. So huge that it is visible from satellite photos, it contains vast numbers of waterfowl and migratory waders. This wild and desolate landscape is also a strangely beautiful birding hotspot. Joined by Beringia National Park rangers, we plan to search the dunes and tidal areas for Emperor Geese. If we are lucky, the Gray Whales which frequent the area will be feeding just metres offshore.

Days 6-10

Wrangel and Herald Islands

Ice and weather conditions permitting, we plan to spend the next few days exploring Wrangel Island and we will also attempt to include a visit to nearby Herald Island. There are many landings that we can make to search for wildlife, wildflowers and Arctic landscapes. Polar bears will be high on our list of animals to see and with a little patience we should be rewarded with a number of encounters. Reindeer and muskoxen were introduced to the island in 1948 and 1975 respectively. We also have a chance to visit Dragi Harbour, where the survivors of the HMCS Karluk, which was crushed by ice in 1914, scrambled ashore and managed to survive until they were rescued. Wrangel Island is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international importance, particularly as it is a major polar bear denning area. In fact it is sometimes referred to as ‘the world’s Polar Bear maternity ward’ on account of the large numbers of cubs born there. It is also the last landfall for migratory species flying north. Each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed including Snow Geese, Snowy Owl, skua and Arctic Tern. 

Day 11

North Siberian Coast

Although the North Siberian Coast is well-mapped and charted, there have been very few expedition cruises here and, consequently, there is a lot of scope for expedition landings. Depending on weather and sea conditions we will attempt an expedition landing today. There are several choices including Cape Vankarem where there is a seasonal large walrus haul out which may have animals present. Another is the area around the Cape bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous coastal lagoons and inlets; while nearby there is a small Chukchi village whose residents still make their living hunting walrus, seals and whales. Another option is Chukchi village Nutepelmen, situated on a spit at the entrance to Pyngopikhin Lagoon, west of Cape Vankarem.

Day 12

Unnamed Bay and Lavrentiya

Picturesque Unnamed Bay is our planned destination for this morning where we will Zodiac cruise to shore. Welcomed by an expansive stretch of beach, backed by a lagoon and surrounded by rugged hills, there’s much to discover. Enjoy a walk along the beach and tundra looking for wildlife, or scale one of the nearby peaks and take in the stunning vistas. Dropping anchor in beautiful Lavrentiya Bay, we expect to spend the afternoon exploring its historically and culturally rich village. A former indigenous settlement, this Soviet-planned community was established in the 1920s as an administrative centre where local Chukchi and Siberian Yupik were encouraged to move to. We plan to visit the Lavrentiya museum, meet local elders and enjoy an authentic taste and slice of village life in the main square.

Day 13

Bukhta Penkingney and Arakamchechen Island

This morning we will be launching our Zodiacs with a landing planned at Bukhta Penkingney, a long fiord cut into the coastline by glaciers and a popular spot for whale watching. Here a small braided river, its gravel bed studded with Willow bushes, winds its way down to the sea where we land. Exploring this scenic location we will be looking for Arctic Ground Squirrels and Pikas, Willow Ptarmigan, Sandhill Cranes and brown bears attracted by the berries and salmon-filled river. This afternoon we plan to cruise over to Arakamchechen Island just north of Cape Chaplino and separated from the Chukotka mainland by the 8-kilometre wide Senyavina Strait. Having watched Gray Whales feeding here previously, we recommend being out on deck as we slowly cruise through the strait. On Arakamchechen Island we will explore the lush tundra and, if they are present, view the prominent walrus haul out.

Day 14

Provideniya

After clearing Russian Customs and Immigration in Provideniya we will set sail for Nome across the Bering Strait. One of the world’s most nutrient-rich stretches of water, each spring the Bering Strait is the scene of one of the planet’s largest wildlife migrations. Beluga, Bowhead and Gray Whales, walrus, Ringed Seals and numerous seabirds are all known to frequent the strait so there is plenty of opportunity for wildlife encounters. Join the expedition team for a recap and disembarkation briefing before enjoying a farewell dinner to celebrate our journey as we sail back across the International Date Line.

Day 15

Depart Nome

After breakfast and clearing US Immigration, it’s time to say your farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel.

TRIP DETAILS

TRIP DATES & PRICES

This is an expedition departing on set dates in July and August.

Please note that the trip price does not include the price of international flights, charter flights or $500 local payment per person.

Ship is the Heritage Adventurer.

 

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