Summary : On this wide-ranging journey, follow in the footsteps of traders and explorers through the wilds of Russia and Alaska. Enjoy spectacular birding opportunities and keep an eye out for brown bears, among other creatures. Admire the rugged beauty of surrounding landscapes: rocky headlands, humbling glaciers, snow-capped volcanoes and tundra teeming with wildflower.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$17,800 to $43,700
As soon as all guests have embarked, a mandatory safety drill will be performed by all. This afternoon you will be introduced to important members of Silver Explorer’s crew and your Expedition Team. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and in the evening enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.
Kenai Fjords National Park’s famous Holgate Glacier will be your only chance to see a calving glacier. The glacier comes down from the Harding Ice Field and reaches the Holgate Arm of Aialik Bay. Enjoy an early morning Zodiac cruise towards the glacier.
During lunch Silver Explorer will sail to the Chiswell Islands – part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The islands will give the first chance to go out in Zodiacs to get an up close look at Steller sea lions. Thousands of birds call these rugged islands their home and you can expect to see Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and of the auklet family the Cassin’s Auklet and the Whiskered Auklet, among others.
Katmai National Park’s landscape is breathtaking, with 15 active volcanoes, towering mountain peaks, rolling tundra, rugged, wave-battered coastlines and the largest brown bear population in the state. Enjoy the opportunity to get up close to abundant wildlife. The entrance to Kukak Bay is quite scenic and one should be outside on deck to start searching for bears. Quite often sea otters are seen in the water drifting by. Zodiac cruise along Kukak Bay in search of wildlife and to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Good places to look for wildlife are the two river mouths. The scenery is magnificent at Geographic Harbour, at the head of Amalik Bay, and bears are even more frequent than at Kukak Bay.
During your Zodiac cruise there usually are ample opportunities to see and photograph brown bears.
The Semidi Islands form a stunning and uninhabited archipelago that is home to some of the largest populations of native and undisturbed wildlife in the United States. There are an estimated 2.5 million birds found here, considered almost half the breeding seabirds of the Alaska Peninsula. Horned Puffins, Northern Fulmars and jaegers, and over a million murres (guillemots for Europeans) have been seen -among them Ancient Murrelets and Parakeet Auklets. The surrounding sea is home to sea otters, sea lions, seals, porpoises and whales.
During the afternoon Silver Explorer will sail west towards the Peninsula and will reach Chignik. With only 91 inhabitants, Chignik is a remote fishing village with two fish plants. In summer the population doubles, as fishing gets better. Visit the village during the late afternoon.
Explore this Aleutian settlement which had been subject to a small gold rush. The village was eventually abandoned in the 1960’s and now has a somewhat sombre appearance. Many of the houses have collapsed. From a distance the church with the tower seems intact. Standing close you can see that only the roof is standing on the ground, the walls having collapsed. Great Horned Owls nest near the church. During a Zodiac-cruise in the bay kittiwakes, Double Crested and Pelagic Cormorants, as well as good numbers of Common Murres and Tufted Puffins can be seen.
The Aleutians stretch 1300 miles from mainland Alaska to Kamchatka. At one time they were stepping stones for Russian trappers and traders, who established settlements on the islands. Dutch Harbour became a trans-shipping point for the gold boomtown of Nome. Today most of the islands form part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
Dutch Harbour will be one of the few places on your voyage that Silver Explorer will go alongside. Together with the city of Unalaska, Dutch Harbour is a bustling community with about 4,000 residents. It is connected by bridge to the rest of Unalaska on Amaknak Island and its name is frequently applied to the entire town. During your visit, see the World War II bunkers and the spectacular Russian Orthodox Church. Dutch Harbour is also one of the best places to see Bald Eagles.
During your day at sea, have a leisurely breakfast, attend one of the lectures covering the North Pacific’s natural history and help your Marine Biologist watching for cetaceans or your Ornithologist looking for albatrosses and other pelagic seabirds. Relax in one of the lounges, and meet up with new friends for cocktails.
Perhaps the onboard Photographer will present a workshop to help you with advice and tips for better photos and/or editing. In the evening enjoy another special dinner by our Executive Chef and his team.
While approaching the island, search for Least and Crested Auklets, Peregrine Falcons and Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, all the while keeping an eye open for the sperm whales that frequent the area. Make a landing and hike on the eastern shore. Evidence of the Japanese occupation during WWII is still visible at Kiska Harbour. Once ashore see the remains of a Shinto shrine left behind by the 6000 strong occupying force. During nature walks look for Ptarmigans, Lapland Longspurs and Bald Eagles.
During the morning attend a lecture or scan the waters and sky for marine mammals and seabirds. Around noon reach Attu, the westernmost point of the United States and the site of the only WWII battle fought on North American soil — over two thousand Japanese soldiers lost their lives at Massacre Bay. The island is an ornithologist’s paradise and today see some of the Asian migrants that are occasionally spotted. Be on the lookout for Peregrine Falcons, Lapland Longspur and Aleutian Canada Goose.
A leisurely day at sea is yours to enjoy. Begin perhaps with a late breakfast and another cup of coffee or tea during the first of the day’s lectures. Join the lectures and hear fascinating tales of adventure and learn about the Russian Far East, its wildlife and remarkable nature. Knowledgeable Lecture Staff members are experts in a variety of scientific fields. Today you will also become a time traveler: coming from the east and heading west you will cross the International Dateline actually from west to east and therefore loose a day!
Petropavlovsk, the town of Peter and Paul, derives is named from the two sailing ships used by Vitus Bering when the great explorer reached Avacha Bay in 1740. It is the only major city on the peninsula and one of the oldest. Petropavlovsk is also the scientific and cultural center of the region, and today local guides will take you on a comprehensive tour including the museum of ethnography and natural history, the art school, the gold-domed Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the marketplace.
South of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy is the 15 kilometer long Ruskaya Bay. The northeast to southwest direction and narrow body of water have made this bay a perfect place to look for shelter in foul weather - and fishing fleets and WWII convoys headed for Vladivostok have made ample use of the bay. Two shipwrecks can still be seen close to the bay’s southeastern shore. A river, used as a source of freshwater in former times, meanders through the valley and with Zodiacs see how far you can explore, or hike to the small stands of trees found there.
In the late morning Silver Explorer will continue south towards our next stop at the Utashud Islands. The Utashud Islands are a small cluster of islets with spectacular scenery. The islands feature gentle slopes and steep cliffs which make them ideal habitat for various seabird species. Harbour and possibly spotted seals are plentiful along the shores. An old rusty ship wreck could be seen on the southwestern side of one of the island slabs.
A stretch of 800 miles separates the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula and Hokkaido in Japan. The Kuril chain of over 30 volcanic islands is an important breeding ground for Steller sea lions and one of the richest areas in the world for seabirds; up to 14 species of auks, as well as Spectacled and Pigeon Guillemots can be found in the islands.
With 6,500 ft. (2,000 m) Alaid is the highest volcano in the Kurils. The volcano is praised by the Japanese for its almost perfect volcanic cone. We land by Zodiac on the black lava beach for a walk to see the remains of the Taketomi tufa cone and the women’s prison, or gulag. Women, many of them political prisoners during the Soviet rule, were sent here to raise foxes for fur.
During a morning Zodiac cruise search for northern fur seals and Steller sea lions around this cluster of small islands and rocky outcrops. Here you should have excellent views of auklets too! Aboard Zodiacs drift among the Whiskered, Crested and Parakeet Auklets. Tufted Puffins with their colorful bills and flowing yellow head plumes are also around.
After the Zodiac cruise at Lovyshky, Silver Explorer will sail south for the impressive island of Yankicha. Its sinking volcanic caldera is accessible on its southern side only by Zodiac and only during high tide. Inside the magnificent lagoon with its fumaroles and hot springs, see traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago and a visit here is invariably one of the highpoints of the entire voyage. The number of the breeding auklets is truly incredible. If we are lucky we may also catch a glimpse of an Arctic fox. For spectacular views, weather permitting, hike up the crater’s flank.
During the early morning take Zodiacs to search along the coast for the profusion of wildlife that lives in the area, including Steller sea lions, Northern Fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets.
In the afternoon you can attend another lecture or seminar and prepare yourself for tomorrow’s visit to one of the seal and sea lion hotspots in the Russian Far East.
Tyuleniy means “seal” in Russian, and during the summer months the island is home to literally tens of thousands of northern fur seals and Steller sea lions. Visit the height of the breeding season timed to see not only the seals and sea lions, but also the Black-legged Kittiwake, Tufted Puffin, Common Murre and Pelagic Cormorant that summer on the island.
Your last stop in the Russian Far East is Korsakov. See the area’s highlights and explore part of the city that was founded in 1853 as Sakhalin’s first Russian military post. From Korsakov drive to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of the island with a population of just over 160,000. Founded as a small Russian settlement in the 1880s, the city became a Japanese prefect capital when the southern half of Sakhalin was declared a Japanese colony in 1905. After WWII the island was returned to Russia. Highlights include a visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Regional Museum housed in an impressive former Japanese mansion, and the bustling market. Enjoy a performance of traditional Cossack song and dance.
Do not miss the presentation of the voyage’s DVD by your onboard Videographer, and join your fellow travelers for the Farewell Cocktail hosted by the Captain.
After clearance into Japan and following breakfast, disembark Silver Explorer.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Ship accommodation; onboard meals; butler service; complimentary beverages served throughout the ship (an assortment of complimentary wines, champagne and spirits); parka and backpack; all onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suite. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry and spa options, fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises