Tour organizer: Heritage Expeditions, Ltd. (New Zeland)
The eastern seaboard of Russia dominates the North Pacific but few have experienced its severe beauty. Choked by ice in the winter and barely accessible by dirt road, this is one of the last undiscovered regions of the globe; its isolation protecting its wilderness and wildlife.
During the Cold War the region was closed to foreigners - even Russians had to get special permission to travel here; nowadays political relations have thawed but the territory remains unreachable for most. Many people migrated from the unforgiving climate, State-subsidised transport has collapsed and there is no money to replace the ageing fleet of aircraft and ships that serve the area. Heritage Expeditions offers you a rare chance to see this sweeping domain and to be part of a programme that actively supports its conservation and gives funds and logistical support to the people who live and work there.
Jewel of the Russian Far East. Cruise Chukotka-Sakhalin
Our voyage begins in Anadyrskiy Bay and follows routes ploughed by 18th century explorers, across the lower reaches of the Bering Sea before heading along the wild Koryak coastline. We traverse the deep ocean trench off the coasts of the Kuril Islands, where whales come to feed in the rich waters and finally finish our journey almost at the tip of northern Japan.
Our expedition encounters vast Russian tundra; barren lands peopled by nomadic reindeer hunters and remote islands populated by thousands of seabirds. Heading south we witness the snow-capped volcanoes of Kamchatka; flooded caldera teeming with birdlife; abandoned gulags and Cold War bases and subarctic forests in autumn splendour. Along the way we will land on black sand beaches and glacial lagoons to see up-close the natural habitats of walrus, sealions, penguins and puffins. We may even have the fortune to see the rare and beautiful Steller’s Sea Eagle or the giant Kamchatka Brown Bear. Our expert guides give insight to the region’s flora and fauna and to the human history of the area: from ancient Chukchi hunters to Vitus Bering’s Great Northern Expeditions.
For those departing Nome, Alaska your adventure begins with a flight across the Bering Sea and the International Date Line, to the remote port of Anadyr.
Day 1: Anadyr
Explore Anadyr, the administrative centre of the Chukotka region, before getting to know your fellow voyagers and crew on board the Spirit of Enderby.
Day 2: Anadyrskiy Bay
Weighing anchor early morning, you are invited to join the expedition staff and crew on the bridge for introductory briefings as we sail toward the Bering Straits, through the Anadyr Estuary famed for its Beluga Whales.
Day 3: Yttygran, Nuneangan and Aarakamchrchen Islands
Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley, where we make a landing. Constructed from immense whale jawbones and skulls to form arches, the site is of international archaeological importance. On the lookout for Grey Whales, we also cruise by Nuneangan and Arakamchrchen Islands where seabirds nest and Walrus can be found.
Day 4: Anadyrskiy Bay
We spend the day at sea, crossing Anadyrskiy Bay to the jagged Koryak coast. Experience first-hand the work that goes into running our expedition vessel, listen to entertaining lectures from our experts or relax in the ship’s bar or library.
Day 5: Cape Navarin
With an early-morning landfall on the north side of the Cape we should have ample time to explore the lagoon for waterfowl and waders. Once forming a land-bridge to North America, this fertile area enjoys an abundance of food and sightings of Grey Whales and seabirds are common.
Day 6: Bukhta Natalia
Along the Koryak coast there are many beautiful bukhtas (or fiords) but none possess the dramatic allure of Bukhta Natalia in the low sun of autumn. A Walrus haul-out guards the entrance and we make a landing to explore the hinterland, surrounded by imposing mountain landscapes and verdant tundra.
Days 7: Tintikun Lagoon
This spectacular lagoon is situated on the Lorran Peninsula state reserve where a large population of Brown Bears should be hunting the wild salmon thronging the rivers.
Day 8: Verkhoturova and Karaginskiy Islands
Our landing on Verkhoturova Island should yield great colonies of puffins, guillemots, auklets and Pelagic cormorants. We view rocky islets that are home to the rare Steller’s Sealion before landing again to explore the wetlands and forests of larch and alder with their carpets of mossy shrubs and wildflowers.
Day 9: Ossora
Today we enjoy the hospitality of the people of Ossora whose lifestyles remain largely untouched by the modern world and who survive by Reindeer herding, hunting and fishing.
Days 10 & 11: Commander Islands
Once a bustling colony of seal hunters and fur traders, these islands were first discovered by Vitus Bering and became his last resting place after being shipwrecked; we visit his grave and the museum in the village of Nikoi’skoye, the one remaining settlement. We explore the remote and forbidding bays where seals and over a million seabirds live amid a backdrop of folded-block mountains, volcanic plateaus and sea arches.
Day 12: Zhupanova River
An expedition upriver by Zodiac takes us amongst valuable ecosystems that support an immense diversity of wildlife. While Brown Bears feed on the wild salmon, we might see the rare Steller’s Sea Eagle nesting as well as waterfowl, gulls and terns.
Day 13: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy
We explore this historic city nestled in one of the world’s most spectacular natural harbours and dwarfed by the colossal snow-topped Koryaksky Volcano.
Day 14: Atlasova Island
Sailing south along Kamchatka’s singular coastline with views of the many volcanoes that dominate the peninsula, we land on a black sand beach to investigate dune lakes for wildlife and take time to explore the eerie remains of an abandoned Soviet gulag.
Day 15: Onekotan Island
Through wetlands and diverse wildlife habitats we walk to Black Lake, which lies in the shadow of Volcano Nemo. Later we cruise the rugged coastlines looking for puffin and Northern Fulmars.
Day 16: Yankicho and Simushir Islands
We take our Zodiacs right into the flooded caldera of this extinct volcano and there are surrounded by thousands of auklets and guillemots, wheeling and diving for fish. We also take time to see geothermal pools and an abandoned Cold War submarine base that nature is gradually reclaiming and where Arctic Foxes can sometimes be found.
Exploration of Sakhalin
Day 17: Iturup Island
Landing at the village of Kurlisk we travel to Rubakov Volcano to soak in some thermal pools and enjoy the spectacular panorama across the region.
Day 18: At sea
Crossing La Perouse Strait, dividing Russia and Japan, signals the end of our expedition which we mark with a farewell dinner tonight.
Day 19: Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk
We land at Korsakov Port and transfer to nearby hotels or to the airport for onward flights.
Date and prices here on the official web-site
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