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Wild Siberia: Kamchatka, Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin and Kuril Islands

Russian Far East Cruise

Summary : Experience the Russian Far East with its prolific wildlife and remote landscapes of Kamchatka, Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin and Kuril Islands. Discover huge concentrations of seabirds in a frenzy of breeding activity — Northern Fulmars, puffins, guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, auklets, and more. Cruise by Zodiac along rocky islets and remote shores to search for the area’s prolific marine and wildlife including bears, arctic foxes, sea otters, seals, whales and the mighty Steller Sea Eagle. Travel in the company of experts including an ornithologist, marine biologist and climatologist. Photograph a variety of stunning scenery, from smoking, snow-capped volcanoes to wildflower-studded tundra. Explore rivers churning with salmon as they roar through taiga forests on this expedition of a lifetime.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking


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Day 1
Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan

Embark the Silver Discoverer for this stunning expedition. Meet your Expedition Team and attend a safety briefing. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, and meet some of your fellow travelers.

Day 2
Korsakov, Sakhalin Island, Russia

Explore this city founded in 1853 as Sakhalin's first Russian military post. 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 1880’s, the city became a Japanese prefect capital when the southern half of Sakhalin was declared a Japanese colony in 1905; after WWII it 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.

Day 3
Tuleniy Island, Russia

Tuleniy 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 who come to breed. In addition to seals and sea lions, keep your eye out for a range of different birds that summer on the island including Black-footed Kittiwake, Tufted Puffin, Common Mure and Pelagic Cormorant.

Day 4
Sakhalin Island, Russia

On your approach to Piltun Lagoon, be on the lookout for western grey whales including mothers and their calves. The area is the summer feeding ground for the majority of these endangered mammals, which were thought to be extinct until a small group was discovered near Sakhalin Island in the 1970’s. Watch for spotted seals as Zodiacs take you ashore to look for Steller Sea Eagles, Mongolian Plovers, Red-Necked Stints and other shore birds.

Day 5
Iona Island

This tiny, isolated island measures just over one square mile, but its significance to the mammals and birds of the Sea of Okhotsk is staggering. Iony is a crucial location for the endangered Steller Sea Lion and home to huge colonies of seabirds numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Cruise around the island and surrounding rocks, enjoying magnificent birding and watching hundreds of sea lions as they haul out on rocks or swim around, driven by curiosity. Dapper, boldly pied Thick-billed Murres crowd the ledges as puffins, fulmars, and kittiwakes fill the air.

Day 6
Shantar Islands

Covered with larch and pine forests, this large archipelago offer a wonderful habitat for about 200 bird species including the rare Steller Sea Eagle and Blakiston Fish Owl. Whales also roam these waters and there is a good chance of seeing these magnificent creatures. Spruce forests cover the major islands and the Kamchatka Brown Bear, sables and martens may be spotted. Weather and ice conditions permitting, attempt a Zodiac landing on one of the islands with birding, botany and photography excursions led by a team of naturalists.

Day 7
Malminskie Islands / Fedora Bay

These small islands with their breathtaking landscapes form part of the Dzhugdzhursky Nature Reserve, one of the wildest and least-studied reserves in Russia. The islands are home to a huge colony of Spectacled Guillemots along with kittiwakes, Parakeet Auklets and puffins. There is also a good chance of seeing Steller Sea Eagles here. On the mainland, brown bears roam freely, as well as wolves, wolverines, red foxes, weasels, Siberian musk, deer and moose. Going ashore in Fedora Bay gives a rare opportunity to hike in Siberian taiga, a forest composed primarily of conifers such as Dahursk Larch and a mixed variety of deciduous trees such as alder, aspen and mountain ash.

Day 8
Okhotsk, Russia

This town has featured in Russian Far East history since the earliest Cossack explorers came from the west. The great 17th-century explorer Commander Vitus Bering launched two expeditions from Okhotsk in order to explore the coasts of the Russian Empire, and the town remains to this day, seemingly frozen in time. Cruise up-river by Zodiac and visit town to enjoy tasting local food and observe cultural performances.

Day 9
Talan Island

Attempt a landing on this small (1 sq. mile) island. A birdwatcher’s paradise, it hosts 12 species of seabirds in one of the largest seabird communities in the Northern Pacific. The Rocky cliffs and slopes are inhabited by Slaty-backed Gulls, kittiwakes, murres, Tufted and Horned Puffins, Parakeet, Crested and Least Auklets, Spectacled Guillemots, Ancient Murrelets and Pelagic Cormorant. Steller’s Sea Eagle and Peregrine Falcon nest on the island too, as do red foxes that are able to reach Talan over the sea-ice in winter. Explore by Zodiacs and experience the magic of this tiny island.

Day 10
Yamskie Islands / Cape Japon

Explore this huge bay in the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, famous for its irregular and very high tides. It is home to four seal species: Bearded, Ringed, Ribbon and Largha, along with the Steller Sea Lion. Keep an eye out for whales including Bowhead, Northern Right, Grey, Humpback and Fin.

Day 11
Kvachina River / Utkholok Peninsula

Russia's 1,000-mile long Kamchatka Peninsula contains a vast network of rivers that remain free flowing from headwaters to ocean and is virtually unaltered by human development. This region produces up to one-fourth of all wild Pacific salmon and hosts the greatest diversity of salmon species on Earth. The Utkholok and Kvachina watersheds are some of the most productive and best-protected steelhead rivers on the Peninsula. The river basins, totaling 736,000 acres, drain the rich lowland tundra ecosystems of the western Kamchatka Peninsula, meeting at Cape Utkholok before draining to the Sea of Okhotsk. Enjoy a variety of shore walks led by the highly knowledgeable expedition staff.

Day 12
Kamchatka Peninsula

Head south along the rugged west coast of the peninsula with landing sites at the mouths of rivers that offer great wildlife viewing opportunities. Many species of salmon swim upriver throughout the summer to spawn, which in turn attracts many predators like Steller’s Sea Eagles and, of course, the King of Kamchatka – the brown bear. Possible landings include the Khairuzov, Opala and Golynia Rivers.

Day 13 – 17
Kuril Islands

Stretching over 800 miles from the southern end of Kamchatka to Hokkaido, this chain of over 30 volcanic islands is an important breeding ground for Stellar 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. As we travel southward, here are some of the places we hope to visit:

Shumshu Island – Watch sea otters at play in the waters surrounding the Zodiacs, and observe the activities of the many cormorants that reside in the harbor-side bird cliffs.

Atlasova Island – At 6,500 ft (2,000 m), Alaid is the highest volcano in the Kuril’s, and praised by the Japanese for its almost perfect volcanic cone. Land by Zodiac on the black lava beach to 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.

Onekotan Island – In Russian, Onekotan means "old settlement". Before the Japanese occupation during WWII, Onekotan was the site of an old Ainu settlement. Ashore we see the cylindrical indentations that formed the bases of the tents that the Japanese stayed in during their occupation. Expedition staff guide the search for Peregrine Falcon, Tufted Puffins and Wagtails that can often be seen along the beach and open areas near the river mouth.

Lovushki Islands – Search for northern fur seals and Steller sea lions around this cluster of small islands and rocky outcrops providing the best views of auklets by far! Aboard Zodiacs, drift among them — Whiskered, Crested and Parakeet Auklets. Tufted Puffins with their unique bills and flowing yellow head plumes are also here, and many fulmars.

Matua Island – Matua is home to one of the Kuril’s most active volcanoes, with more than 14 documented eruptions in the past 250 years. Learn about the Japanese military base that was set up here during WWII and how the Japanese used to capture geothermal heat from the volcano to keep the runway open, which normally freezes over during winter. Hikers are rewarded with good views of the abandoned military positions and hopefully get a glimpse of the island’s population of Brown-headed Thrush, Siberian Ruby-throats and alder thickets.

Yankitcka Island – Yankitcka is impressive. It’s actually a sinking volcanic caldera accessible only by Zodiac and only during high tide. Inside the magnificent lagoon with its fumaroles and hot springs, observe traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago. A visit here is invariably one of the highpoints of the entire voyage. The number of auklets, which breed here is truly incredible, and if we are lucky we may also catch a glimpse of an Arctic fox or even the rare and elusive Whiskered Auklet.

Chirpoy Island – Search along the coast by Zodiac for wildlife that live in the area including Steller sea lions, fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets.

Kunashir – Led by our expedition staff, we go ashore at the mouth of the River Tyatina for explorative walks along the shore and further into the dense vegetation to see a Japanese graveyard.

Day 18
Korsakov, Russia

This morning we make a quick technical stop in Korsakov to clear Russia. Enjoy a leisurely day on-board the Silver Discoverer cruising towards Otaru. In the afternoon join your on-board Expedition team for a video documentary recap of your amazing expedition.

Day 19
Otaru, Japan

After breakfast, disembark the vessel.


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; butler service; parka; backpack; water bottle; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee).

Not Included:
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; optional shore excursions; park entrance fees; government fees and taxes; passport and visa expenses; Visa Invitation Letter $40; some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes and cigars; laundry or valet services; items of a personal nature such as boutique purchases, medical care, and spa services; fuel surcharge may apply.

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