trip
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1
Discovery and Cruising
Activities
  • 13 days expedition crusing
Accommodation
  • 13 nights aboard Heritage Adventurer
Meals
  • 13 Dinners
  • 13 Lunches
  • 13 Breakfasts

14 Days$9450USD

Hit the trails with confidence

Flexible Cancellations
Stress free booking, learn more about our flexible terms

COVID-19 safety measures
Read our Covid-19 travel policy and what we're doing to keep you safe

Remote adventures
means social distancing comes naturally

Small groups only
Guided group sizes are strictly limited to maximum 16 people, average of 8-10


 
 
Trip Code: CRF

Trip highlights


  • Cruising the coastline of the Russian Far East
  • Opportunities for seeing the Kamchatka Brown Bear for which Kamchatka is well known as they venture here to the salmon streams
  • Entering the Second Strait there will be a chance to observe Sea Otters, where some of the highest populations have been recorded
  • Visit the summit of a submerged volcano at Yankicha Island. The visit here is invariably one of the high points of the entire voyage as the numbers of alcids which breed here are truly incredible; there are literally hundreds of thousands.
  • Explore Shaklin, Kunashir and Iturup islands

This expedition explores one of the most geologically active and biologically rich parts of the planet. The large number of live volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula and along the Kuril Islands has earned this region the reputation of the Pacific’s ‘Ring of Fire’. This is a land of stunning bays and snow-capped volcanoes whose alpine meadows and lowland forests support a great diversity of wildlife. The seas washing these isolated coasts are equally rich in life – they are among the most productive in the world, teeming with birds and marine mammals. Huge bird colonies dot the cliffs and large seal rookeries are scattered along the coast. The volcanic Kuril Islands chain comprises 32 islands stretching across the Bering Sea between Russia and Japan. On this voyage we focus on the extraordinary biodiversity of the area and get to know the people that call this wild outpost home.


Our expedition begins in Otaru, a port city in Hokkaido known for glassworks, music boxes, sake distilleries and picturesque Otaru Canal flanked with shops and cafes built within repurposed 1920s warehouses. Make your way to the designated meeting point for your transfer to the Heritage Adventurer (times and meeting point will be confirmed with your voyage documents) where the captain and expedition team will be waiting to welcome you aboard. After clearing Japan Customs and Immigration, join the expedition team in the Observation Lounge or up on the Observation Deck as we set sail for Sakhalin Island. Once clear of the harbour there will be an introduction to the staff and ship, and a series of briefings. However we’ll aim to keep these as short as possible to allow you ample time to settle into your cabin and get out on deck to look for seabirds.

Meals:  L,D

We arrive at the Port of Korsakov on Sakhalin Island where we will clear Russian Customs and Immigration before setting sail for Kunashir Island. If the weather is favourable we should get great views of Tyatya Volcano, which at almost 1,819 metres dominates the landscape.

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we have an early morning beach landing planned at Kunashir Island, the largest in the Kuril chain, to explore Kurilsky Reserve alongside local rangers. The reserve covers the northern and southern portions of the island with 70 per cent of it forested. Species we could encounter here 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. Overhead and along a nearby river, we should find good numbers of White-tailed Eagle. We will also be on the lookout for two special species that occur in the reserve, namely Blakiston’s Fish-Owl and Crested Kingfisher.

Meals:  B,L,D

Weather permitting we hope to take an early morning zodiac cruise to look for Spectacled Guillemot and Long-billed Murrelet before heading ashore to the community of Kurilsk. From here we will journey by bus to venture into the volcanic highlands of Iturup were the higher altitude and different vegetation allows us to search for a range of new bird life including the Arctic Warbler, Japanese Robin and Pine Grosbeak to name just a few.

Meals:  B,L,D

After an early breakfast we plan to board the Zodiacs and cruise into a vast flooded caldera at the northern end of Simushir Island. Only a quarter of a century ago this was the location of a top secret Soviet submarine station where hundreds of mariners were based. This haunting reminder of the Cold War has now been completely abandoned and we can wander around what remains of the base, which is steadily being reclaimed by nature. Within the stunning setting of this huge caldera, we can expect to find a good range of species with one of the most common birds likely to be the spectacular Siberian Rubythroat which can often be seen singing from the tops of scrubby bushes. Eurasian Nutcrackers also breed on the island and other species we have a good chance of encountering include Arctic Warbler, Brown- headed Thrush, Pine Grosbeak and Japanese Grey Bunting. Over lunch we plan to cruise to Yankicha Island, the summit of a submerged volcano. Invariably this is one of the highpoints of the entire voyage as the number of alcids breeding here is truly incredible. Subject to weather and sea conditions, we will use the Zodiacs to circumnavigate part of the coastline and then enter the flooded caldera. The concentrations of Crested and Whiskered Auklets here are simply spectacular and we can also expect to get great views of Brunnich’s and Common Guillemots and both Tufted and Horned Puffins. We should also see the snowy race of Pigeon Guillemot. While inside the caldera we will pass the breeding colonies of Crested and Whiskered Auklets and are likely to also find Harlequin Ducks. We also stand an excellent chance of seeing Arctic Foxes that can be pretty inquisitive as they patrol the auk colonies looking for their next meal. As we return to the ship in the late evening many of the alcids will be returning to their colonies. Being surrounded by clouds of birds darkening the sky is an experience you will never forget.

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we expect to be off Ekarma Island which, like so many of the islands in the Kuril chain, is an active volcano. The island is home to hundreds of thousands of breeding Northern Fulmars and we plan to Zodiac cruise along the coast enjoying the multitude of birds. Other species that breed here include both Tufted and Horned Puffins, we may even see some of the island’s resident Peregrines hunting alcids. This afternoon we plan to make a landing at the northern end of Onekotan Island from where it is a relatively easy walk to Black Lake. Our walk will take us through stunted areas of Siberian Stone Pine, Dwarf Birch and Polar Willow. At the time of our visit conditions should be spring-like and, as we make our way to and from the lake, there should be plenty of wild flowers in bloom including the possibility of some stunning orchids. On the lake a selection of wildfowl can usually be found including Greater Scaup and Goosander, while in the scrub we will be looking out for Buff-bellied Pipit, Brown- headed Thrush, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat and Pine Grosbeak. On the beach where we land, and throughout the walk, there is extensive evidence of fortifications built by the Japanese during World War II. The Russians defeated the Japanese in the closing days of the war and although the islands have been considered Russian territory ever since, Japan still disputes Russian ownership of some of the Southern Kuril Islands.

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we will arrive at Altasova Island. On the shore near our landing site are the remains of a Gulag and some small marshy ponds where it might be possible to see Long- toed Stint and other waders. On some nearby low cliffs there is a colony of Red-faced Cormorants and, out in the bay, there is a chance of finding Harlequin Ducks, Black and White-winged Scoters, Greater Scaup, Eurasian Wigeon and Falcated Ducks as well as Pacific Sea Otters. We then plan to sail through the Second Kuril Strait between Shumshu and Paramushir Islands on route to Ptich’i or Bird Rocks where Alaid, the tallest volcano in the archipelago with an elevation of 2,340 metres, can be found. The plan is to Zodiac cruise the wildlife rich Ptich’i Rocks where an abundance of birds, seals and Sea Otters reside at these fascinating formations. Sea Otters were hunted to almost extinction in Russia, but now number back to almost two-thirds of their historical range. Harbour and Largha Seals are often seen here as well as a healthy population of Tufted Puffins.

Meals:  B,L,D

If the weather is fine, fantastic views of the many snow-covered volcanoes that dominate the southern part of the peninsula greet us as we sail up this fiord. Bukhta Russkaya is an isolated fiord roughly 150 miles north of the southern tip of Kamchatka. Near the entrance there have been sightings of both the Long-billed Murrelet and the endangered Kittlitz’s Murrelet. We plan to make a landing at the head of the fiord where the birding can be very rewarding with many species singing and Lanceolated Warbler, Brambling, Common Rosefinch, Oriental Greenfinch and Rustic Bunting among the possibilities. We will need to exercise care as brown bears are not uncommon here. We also plan to Zodiac cruise the entrance to the fiord where there is an excellent chance of observing Sea Otters, Largha Seals, Steller Sea Lions and Orcas.

Meals:  B,L,D

We anchor off the mouth of the Zhupanova River where we will Zodiac cruise up the river for several hours looking for birds and other wildlife. The combination of smoking volcanoes and mile upon mile of untouched forest make this area very special, but it is also home to some exceptional wildlife including a high density of Steller’s Sea Eagles. There are usually several massive stick nests immediately adjacent to the riverbank and, consequently we have an excellent chance of getting some exceptional views of this majestic raptor. There should be plenty of other wildlife too. Species we have seen on previous occasions include Pacific Diver, Falcated Duck, Wood Sandpiper, Aleutian Tern, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Arctic Warbler, Willow Tit and both Yellow-breasted and Rustic Buntings.

Meals:  B,L,D

Olga Bay is a part of the very large Kronotskiy Reserve, which also includes the world-famous Valley of the Geysers. The habitat is quite different to what we will have been experiencing before with lush Kamchatka forests coming right down to the beach line. There is a possibility we will see brown bears and other forest fauna, as well as multiple bird species that live in this habitat. The seas around Olga Bay are frequented by large numbers of Gray Whales that are usually quite friendly to the visiting boats, if the conditions are right we will take a Zodiac whale-watching cruise. The rising volcanoes in the background here provide a beautiful setting to explore real Kamchatka wilderness.

Meals:  B,L,D

The Commander Islands form the western extremity of the Aleutian Islands and are the only islands in the chain that belong to Russia. They are named after the legendary Danish explorer Commander Vitus Bering who discovered the islands when he became the first European to sail between Asia and North America. Unfortunately Bering’s ship was wrecked and he died here along with many of his crew, though little evidence of their time on the island remains, except for a simple tombstone marking Bering’s grave. During our two days in the Commander Islands we plan to visit both Bering and Medny, but our first stop will be at the village of Nikolskoye on Bering Island. While ashore we will have the opportunity to visit the small museum (one of the few places in the world to have a skeleton of the Stellar’s Sea Cow). There is also some excellent birding to be enjoyed here. Along the shoreline there are often hundreds of Glaucous-winged Gulls as well as smaller numbers of the far more localised Red-legged Kittiwake. We should also see both Rock Sandpiper and Mongolian Plover (or Lesser Sand Plover) here, as well as both Lapland and Snow Bunting which invariably show very well. We should also have an opportunity to explore an area of tundra behind the village where the highly-prized Pechora Pipit is known to breed. All landing sites in the Commander Islands are weather dependent, so our precise itinerary will vary depending on the prevailing conditions. Possible sites include a colony of over 2,000 Northern Fur Seals where we should also see Steller Sea Lions and as many as 200 Pacific Sea Otters. There are also several sites where Zodiac cruising can be highly productive and it is possible to get close views of Red-legged Kittiwake, Parakeet Auklet, Horned Puffin and Pigeon Guillemot (a very different-looking race to the birds in the Kuril Islands). We also plan to ship cruise along the southern coast of Bering Island as this is a superb area for seabirds and cetaceans. We could potentially see Short- tailed, Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Mottled Petrel, Red-legged Kittiwake, Least, Parakeet and Whiskered Auklets and Horned and Tufted Puffins. This area is also renowned for cetaceans including Sperm, Humpback, Northern Minke, Baird’s Beaked Whales and Orca.

Meals:  B,L,D

Today we have a full day at sea as we cruise the Kamchatka Trench. Keeping our eyes open for whales and numerous sea birds including Tufted Puffin and Fork-tailed Storm Petrel's we will recap on the numerous experiences we have enjoyed on the voyage. Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner.

Meals:  B,L,D

This morning we arrive in the historic city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, it will be worthwhile watching from one of the many vantage points as we sail into Avacha Bay. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy is the main city of the Kamchatka Peninsula and the capital and administrative centre of the region. This city and the surrounding areas offer a great amount to see and explore. We encourage you to take a few extra days after the expedition to explore this amazing area, ask us about post travel opportunities here. After a final breakfast, a coach will transfer you to a central city point or the airport. Note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and/or opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.

Meals:  B


Inclusions

  • All meals onboard the ship
  • Comfortable cabin accommodation on the voyage
  • All shore excursions as outlined in itinerary
  • Services of specialist expedition leaders and staff
  • All activities while on cruise including lectures, slide and film shows
  • Medical services (there is a resident medical officer and infirmary on board)
  • Arrival transfer to ship
  • Departure transfer to the airport or hotel

  • International flights
  • Bottled water, aerated and alcoholic drinks
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc
  • Tips
  • Airport and departure taxes
  • Visa
  • Travel Insurance
  • Mandatory landing fee USD$500

Cabins


Departure dates


Notes

1
Mandatory landing fees of USD500 not included in cabin cost

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Total Priceper person from

$9450USD

Options & Supplements*
  • Superior TripleUSD$9950
  • Superior Deck 4USD$11950
  • Superior Deck 5USD$12450
  • Worsley SuiteUSD$15450
  • Heritage SuiteUSD$21450
  • Mandatory Landing FeesUSD$500
*Prices listed are per person

Essential Information

Ready to book? Make sure you download and read the detailed Kuril Islands - Russia's Ring of Fire trip notes which contains all the essential information you need to know before booking. Once you’ve booked, we will supply you with a Pre-Departure document which contains a detailed gear list and other important information to help you prepare for your adventure ahead.


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Enhancing your journey with authentic experiences, genuine cultural exchange and real exploration are the focal points on all of our adventures. In 2019, we were crowned by our peers as the best in adventure travel at The Travel Awards in Sydney.

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Responsible travel is at the heart of every program we offer as a fundamental and long held philosophy. When you book one of our 100% carbon offset adventures you’re supporting true sustainability in the protection of local communities, natural environments and wildlife.

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 When you book one of our adventures, you will receive quality services at the best prices with plenty of inclusions. There are no hidden costs, single travellers don’t pay more and you’ll enjoy many ‘extra touches’ that ensure your holiday is excellent value for money.

Positive Impact Travel

By joining this trip you are directly supporting positive impact projects in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We’ve offset the carbon emitted by this trip by purchasing credits that support important projects that address the UN’s seventeen SDGs, like reducing poverty, affordable and clean energy, reducing hunger, clean water and climate action.

Proceeds from this adventure purchase carbon credits through the world’s largest and most awarded carbon project developer, South Pole, which are invested into projects accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources in developing countries.

Supported projects are based on internationally recognised standards and are third-party audited. They entail a series of positive impacts on the ground, which benefit local communities and ecosystems, that are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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