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Kamchatka: The Ring of Fire

AT A GLANCE

FOCUS

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

WHERE

Petropavlovsk – Commander Islands – Kamchatka coastline – Kuril Islands – Sakhalin

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.  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 may 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 a ship’s ornithologist. Subject to demand, we will also operate some land-based birding excursions around Petropavlovsk and Sakhalin. 

Day 1: Transfer from hotel and board the vessel.  

Day 2:At sea heading to the Commander Islands.  An opportunity to look for cetaceans (eg Blue Whale in 2007 and 2009), as well as Mottled Petrel and Red-legged Kittiwake.  

Day 3-4: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 5: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.

Day 6:Bukta Russkaya, Kamchatka Peninsula.  Likely species include Harlequin Duck, Long-billed Murrelet and Kamchatka Leaf-warbler.

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:Ekarma and Toporkovy Islands.  Two spectacular zodiac cruises with vast flocks of seabirds including Tufted and Horned Puffins.

Day 9: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 10:Chiripoy and Urup Islands.  Ashore we will look for Japanese Bush Warbler, Oriental Cuckoo and Japanese Grey Bunting.  

Day 11:Iturup Island.  A trip into the highlands with possibilities including Japanese Robin, Japanese Accentor and Black-faced Bunting and Spectacled Guillemot offshore.

Day 12:Kunashir Island.  Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Crested Kingfisher and Eastern Crowned Warbler could be found.

Day 13:Arrival at Sakhalin and disembark at Port of Korsakov.  Transfer to hotels and airport.


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

Dates:               30th May – 11th June 2017  

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 £649 (London – Petropavlovsk/Sakhalin - London), pre-cruise hotel (approx. £80pp sharing a twin, b&b with arrival airport transfer), optional land birding around Petropavlosk (approx £80 per excursion), travel insurance, onboard gratuities (suggest US$10 per day), Russian visa (c£98) and other drinks. Single supplement for hotel in Petropavlovsk £35. 


Contact us for the ship’s colour brochure and our previous trip reports.

Our other Russian Far East voyages are the Sea of Okhotsk 2017 and In Search of Spoon-billed Sandpipers 2017.

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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