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Kamchatka: The Ring of Fire

AT A GLANCE

FOCUS

Bird & Wildlife Cruise:
birds, whales & dolphins, mammals, scenery & photography.

WHERE

Sakhalin-Kuril Islands-Kamchatka coastline-Commander Islands-Petropavlovsk

SAMPLE WILDLIFE

Laysan Albatross, Fork-tailed Storm-petrel, Spectacled Guillemot, Pigeon Guillemot, Whiskered Auklet, Crested Auklet,  Horned Puffin, Tufted Puffin, Red-legged Kittiwake, Aleutian Tern, Steller’s Sea-eagle, Long-toed Stint, Rock Sandpiper, Siberian Rubythroat, Humpback Whale, Baird’s Beaked Whale, Dall’s Porpoise, Brown Bear and Sea Otter.

CLIMATE

Temperate to cool.

ACCOMMODATION

50+ passenger expedition ship, cabins with and without private facilities.

  

WildWings pioneered expedition cruises to this region in the mid-nineties, however, our original ship is no longer operating, so we now offer this exciting itinerary on the expedition vessel ‘Spirit of Enderby’ (55 passengers), run by Rodney Russ and his team.  Being a Russian flagged ship, these expeditions can now visit sites previously not open to Western vessels.  We have had clients on these voyages every year since 2007 and 2016 will be the eighth time that Chris Collins will have travelled this itinerary.

This region of spectacular scenery has only been accessible since 1994 and still remains rarely visited, far more people have been to Antarctica! The species list is truly mouth-watering and is surely headed by one of the world’s ultimate raptors, Steller’s Sea-eagle.  Seabirds are also here in abundance, with the potential alcids including Spectacled, Brunnich’s and Pigeon Guillemots, Whiskered, Rhinoceros, Crested, Parakeet and Least Auklets, Tufted and Horned Puffins, and both Ancient and Long-billed Murrelets.  Black-tailed, Glaucous-winged and Slaty-backed Gulls are all present, along with the range-restricted Red-legged Kittiwake and highly distinctive Kamchatka Gull. We also stand a good chance of seeing Aleutian Tern too.

 

Whilst Laysan Albatross is the commonest albatross, there is also a good chance of both Black-footed and Short-tailed Albatrosses, with five of the latter in 2009, one in 2010 and 2012 and three in 2011. All three albatross’s were seen in 2017! Other likely tubenoses include Mottled Petrel, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, Short-tailed Shearwater and the blue morph of the Northern Fulmar.  Japanese, Pelagic and Red-faced Cormorants, Harlequin Duck, Black and Stejneger’s Scoters can all be expected and ashore, we will search for shorebirds such as Grey-tailed Tattler, Red-necked and Long-toed Stints, Latham’s Snipe and Rock Sandpiper.

 

Our landings add many more birds including Oriental Turtle Dove, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Buff-bellied and Pechora Pipits, Brown-headed Thrush, Lanceolated and Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warblers, Radde’s, Eastern Crowned and the recently split Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Grey-streaked, Siberian, Asian Brown, Narcissus and Red-throated Flycatchers, Rufous-tailed Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Rubythroat, Pine Grosbeak, Long-tailed Rosefinch and Rustic, Black-faced, Japanese Grey and Yellow-breasted Buntings.

Some of Japan’s special birds also occur in the Southern Kuril Islands and we will search for Japanese Robin, Japanese Bush Warbler and Japanese Accentor whilst ashore.  On Sakhalin Island itself, we have seen Sakhalin Leaf Warbler and Sakhalin Warbler on previous visits and will look for both of these if time allows. 

 

There will also be excellent chances for some exciting mammals including Arctic (Blue) Fox, Asian Brown Bear, Largha Seal, Northern Fur Seal, Sea Otter and Steller’s Sea Lions.  Cetaceans could include Orca (annual – often 150+ seen), Blue (2007 & 2009), Sperm, Northern Minke, Grey, Humpback and Fin Whales plus Baird’s Beaked Whales (2009, 2010 & 2011) and the seemingly ‘turbo-charged’ Dall’s Porpoise.  The opportunities for photography will be generally superb throughout. 

 

The expedition offers an opportunity to explore one of the most geologically active and biologically rich parts of the planet and due to the large number of active volcanoes, this region has become known as the Pacific’s ‘Ring of Fire’.  The Kamchatka Peninsula is a land of stunning bays and snow-capped volcanoes where alpine meadows and lowland forests support a great diversity of wildlife, whilst the Kuril chain comprises 32 islands that stretch between Russia and Japan. 

 

Whilst the Southern Kuril Islands are sparsely inhabited, the Central and Northern Islands have no permanent human presence and we can expected to go for several days without seeing any other people.  The voyage also takes in the remote Commander Islands which are also rich in bird and marine mammals and are the final resting place of the famed Danish explorer Vitus Bering.

 

Depending on your flight arrangements, you will have time to stay in Petropavlovsk and/or Sakhalin pre and/or post cruise and we can book hotels in both.  The vessel will have a full expedition team onboard for this voyage including Chris, the ship’s ornithologist. Subject to demand, we will also operate some land-based birding excursions around Petropavlovsk and Sakhalin for specialities such as Black-billed Capercaille and to guarentee Spectacled Guillemot. Note for 2018, the voyage is sailing in reverse of it’s ‘usual direction’.

Day 1:Sakhalin, group transfer from hotel, embark at Port of Korsakov and sail.

Day 2:Kunashir Island.  Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Crested Kingfisher and Eastern Crowned Warbler could be found.

Day 3:Iturup Island.  A trip into the highlands with possibilities including Japanese Robin, Japanese Accentor and Black-faced Bunting and Spectacled Guillemot offshore.

Day 4:Chiripoy and Urup Islands.  Ashore we will look for Japanese Bush Warbler, Oriental Cuckoo and Japanese Grey Bunting.

Day 5:Yankicho and Simishur Islands.  Morning zodiac cruise at Yankicho for Crested and Whiskered Auklets and then to Simushir with its abandoned submarine base, where we could find Nutcracker, Brown-headed Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat and Pine Grosbeak.

Day 6:Matua and Toporkovy Islands.  Spectacular zodiac cruise with vast flocks of seabirds plus a landing on Matua with it’s active volcano are the plans for today.

Day 7:Onekotan and Atlasova Islands.  Ashore Buff-bellied Pipit, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler and Siberian Rubythroat can be expected and whilst cruising between the islands we should find Fork-tailed Storm-petrel, Pigeon Guillemot and Ancient Murrelet.

Day 8:Bukta Russkaya, Kamchatka Peninsula.  Likely species include Harlequin Duck, Long-billed Murrelet and Kamchatka Leaf-warbler.

Day 9:Zhupanovo River, Kamchatka Peninsula.  Zodiac cruise for nesting Steller’s Sea Eagles and then ashore searching for Long-toed Stint, Lanceolated Warbler and Yellow-breasted Bunting.

Days 10-11:Two days in the Commander Islands.  Visit the community of Nikolskoye where we look for Rock Sandpiper, Pechora Pipit and Glaucous-winged Gull.  Zodiac cruise Arij Karmen Island for Parakeet Auklet and Brunnich’s Guillemot.  Explore further east for Horned Puffin, Red-faced Cormorant, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch, Pacific Sea Otter and Baird’s Beaked Whale.

Day 12:At sea heading back to the mainland.  A final opportunity to look for cetaceans (eg Blue Whale in 2007 and 2009), as well as seabirds such as Mottled Petrel and Red-legged Kittiwake.

Day 13:Disembark Petropavlovsk, transfer to hotel, airport or optional birding excursion.   


Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.

Dates:    14th – 26th June 2018   

Leader/s: Chris Collins and the rest of the ship’s expedition team. 

Cost: 

£5035              Sharing a triple basic (upper & lower berths)                  

£5865              Sharing a twin basic (lower berths)      

£6345              Sharing a twin with facilities(upper and lower berths)   

£6759              Sharing a superior twin with facs. (lower berths)       

£7035              Sharing a suite with facilities from (beds)


Single cabin supplement 1.8 twin share price.                      

Deposit: 25% 

These are ‘special’ Sterling prices. Payment may also be made in US$, please ask for rates.

Price includes: Voyage with accommodation as booked, including all meals, tea/coffee, shore excursions, lectures and services of WildWings leader and the rest of the expedition team, day by day bird and mammal checklist & transfers hotel to ship, ship to airport.  

Price excludes: Landing fees and port taxes (currently US$500, payable onboard the ship), return economy class flights from £749 (London – Sakhalin/Petropavlosk - London), pre-cruise hotel (approx. £100pp sharing a twin, b&b with arrival airport transfer), optional land birding around Sakhalin & Petropavlosk (approx £85 per excursion), post-cruise hotel, if required (approx. £105pp sharing a twin, b&b, with departure transfer) , an overnight in Moscow maybe required on the outward journey, twin room approx. £50pp, travel insurance, onboard gratuities (suggest US$10 per day), Russian visa (c£98) and other drinks.

Contact us for the ship’s colour brochure, for previous voyage reports, please click the trip report tab above.

Our other Russian Far East voyages are the In Search of Spoon-billed Sandpipers 2017 andWrangel Island (Top of the World) 2018.

Spirit of Enderby (Prof Khromov) 

Russian, former research vessel carrying up to 54 passengers. Officers and crew professional and friendly. Western expedition staff. Comfortable with good food. A real expedition feel. All cabins with portholes or windows. The most pioneering expedition vessel currently out on the oceans, she often conducts voyages of true exploration and is also one of the last of the well-loved “Molchanov’ class of ships.

    Photo

    Tour Leader

    Chris has birded in over 50 countries around the world and now spends quite a lot of his time at sea. Although professionally qualified as a Chartered Accountant, these days Chris concentrates on wildlife-related projects and was very instrumental in setting up the Western Pacific Odyssey and also guides our Russian Far East voyages.

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‘Amazing scenery, lots of good birds, staff and crew on ship excellent!’

Kamchatka G&J.C.June 2012

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‘Thank you for all that you (& Chris) did to make this a remarkable experience’ 

Kamchatka J&V.S.July 2011

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