Summary : The Pacific Ring of Fire manifests itself in numerous places on the rim of the Pacific Ocean—but nowhere more dramatically than in Russia's Far East. Along one of the world's most active plate boundaries, the Pacific plate subducts under the North American plate and the resulting volcanic and geothermal activity has built a unique and amazing landscape. Upwelling from the deep trenches formed by this action and currents around the many islands creates perfect conditions for seabirds and cetaceans. Consequently, the area is one of the richest in the world, both in terms of the number of species, which can be seen, and their sheer abundance.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$7,300 to $11,000
This morning you will board a coach for transfer to the Port of Korsakov some 40 minutes south of the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk where you will board the Spirit of Enderby. Once on board you will be shown to your cabins and there will be a chance to unpack and explore the vessel. There will be briefings and introductions to the ship, staff and crew after you sail.
Kunashir is the largest island in the Kuril chain. Plan a landing in the Kurilsky Reserve and explore an extensive area of woodland, where there are some good walks and birding. Species you could encounter include Latham’s Snipe, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Oriental Cuckoo, Japanese Bush-Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Narcissus and Brown Flycatchers, Siberian Stonechat, and Long-tailed Rosefinch.
This morning you will land at the small settlement of Kurilsk from where local buses/trucks will take you into the volcanic highlands to thermal hot pools where you can enjoy a soak or go birding. Possible species include Kamchatka Leaf-warbler, Japanese Robin, Siberian Accentor, Pine Grosbeak and Japanese Bush-warbler.
This morning you will explore Urup Island. Enjoy the chance to stretch your legs on an extended walk, beachcomb and look for sea otters or birds in the forest behind the beach. This afternoon depending on weather you will either Zodiac cruise or land on Chirpoy Island where there are some dramatic volcanic landscapes and headlands covered in breeding seabirds.
Enter a flooded caldera at the northern end of Simushir Island where a once top secret Soviet submarine base lies abandoned. In the surrounding area look for Siberian Rubythroat, Eurasian Nutcracker, Pine Grosbeak and Japanese Grey Bunting. Your visit to Yankicha Island is likely to be one of the highlights of the voyage as the number of alcids which breed here is incredible, with spectacular concentrations of Crested and Whiskered Auklets.
This morning at Toporkovy Island in the shadow of the active Matua Island volcano we can expect to find Harlequin Ducks, Red-faced Cormorants, Tufted Puffins and Brunnich’s Guillemots. Ashore you could encounter Grey-tailed Tattler, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler and Black-faced Bunting.
This morning on Onekotan Island you can stretch your legs through an amazing field of wild flowers as you walk to Black Lake. Your landing on Atlasova Island is great for birders and non-birders alike. There are the remains of a Gulag to explore and numerous species to see. Later today you will pass through Second Kuril Strait which has one of the highest densities of Sea Otters in the Kuril Islands.
In this deep fiord on the Kamchatka Peninsula you will look for the endangered Kittlitz’s Murrelet as well as Long-billed Murrelet. Plan a short excursion at the head of the fiord where there is a chance of seeing brown bears. At the entrance to the fiord where you can Zodiac cruise there are almost always Orcas and stellar sea lions.
Spend several hours in the Zodiacs cruising on the scenic Zhupanova River where you should get great looks at Steller's sea eagles as the birds often nest in the trees adjacent to the river. Other highlights could include Far Eastern Curlew, Long-toed Stint, Kamchatka Gull and Aleutian Tern. There is also a major salmon fishery on the river which you can visit.
There are two main islands in the Commander group, Bering and Medny, and during your two days you will explore several sites combining the best of the natural and cultural history. There is an excellent chance of finding Rock Sandpiper, Mongolian Plover, Pechora Pipit and Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch, as well as the endemic subspecies of Arctic Fox. Zodiac cruising can be extremely rewarding here with several species of auklets as well as the Red-legged Kittiwake. The area is also extremely rich in marine mammals. Potential species include Sperm, Humpback, Northern Minke and Baird’s Beaked-Whales, as well as Orcas, Steller Sea Lions, Northern Fur Seals and Pacific Sea Otters.There is an included visit to the small settlement of Nikolskoye and the local museum.
As you cruise across the Kamchatka Trench towards Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy you will keep a look out for the cetaceans that this area is well known for. It is a good time to be on deck as the birding can be good, but you will also need to wrap the expedition, so there will be recaps and formalities to attend to. This evening there will be a farewell dinner.
During the night the Spirit of Enderby will enter Avacha Bay which is one of the greatest natural harbours in the world. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation in this program, all passengers must purchase full medical and emergency evacuation insurance for the specific areas they will be visiting. The minimum coverage requirement is $100,000 for program. The policy provider, policy number and contact phone number must be provided prior to departure date. We also strongly recommend that all passengers purchase comprehensive travel insurance which would include coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Join experienced kayaker Judd Hill as you launch your kayaks from the Spirit of Enderby which acts as a floating base camp for special excursions and shore landings. Judd has kayaked in many exotic locations including Fiji, Panama, Palawan, Antarctica, the Russian Arctic and the Russian Far East. Cruising in a small group of about 6 to 10 paddlers and led by Judd, you will generally visit the same sites as the Zodiacs but be more independent and perhaps access areas not appropriate for Zodiacs. If the ship’s schedule allows, it may be possible to do an extended day trip, taking your lunch with you. The coastlines offer a wide array of habitats and sea kayaking opportunities, from sandy bays to rugged cliffs against a backdrop of extraordinary floral displays. They are also perfect sanctuaries for nesting seabirds, fish and marine mammals, so each day brings new challenges and fresh experiences to our small band of kayakers. Please inquire.
Group transfers to embark the ship and transfer from the ship to city hotels and/or airport on disembarkation; shipboard accommodation; onboard lectures and access to public areas; shore excursions as described; all meals onboard the ship. Rubber boots may be available on request. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare to and from your home to the port of departure and port of arrival; items of a personal nature such as insurance and excess baggage charges, passport, visa and vaccination fees, beverages, laundry, ship to shore communications, medical supplies, souvenirs, etc.; gratuities; landing fees; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © JE Ross