Sea of Okhotsk
AT A GLANCE
Bird & Wildlife Cruise:
birds, whales & dolphins, other marine mammals & photography.
Sakhalin – Sea of Okhotsk and islands – Okhotsk – Koni Peninsula – Yamskiye Islands - Magadan
birds including 14 species of auk, Steller’s Sea-Eagle, Aleutian Tern, cetaceans including a chance of Bowhead and North Pacific Right Whales plus Western Gray Whale, seals including Ribbon, Ringed, Largha and Northern Fur Seal plus Steller’s Sea Lion.
Temperate to cool.
50+ passenger expedition ship, cabins with and without private facilities.
Located in the north-west corner of the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Okhotsk is almost unknown to anyone outside Russia and when WildWings Tour Leader Chris Collins returned from our 2012 trip, he described it as “probably the most amazing wildlife expedition I have ever been on”.
The wildlife of this rarely visited region is truly incredible and a spectacular list of seabirds, Siberian landbirds and marine mammals can be expected on our 2014 expedition. Potential cetaceans include North Pacific Right, Bowhead, Western Grey, Northern Minke and Sei Whales, as well as Orca and Dall’s Porpoise. The 2012 expedition encountered an incredible selection of seals including Ribbon, Bearded, Ringed and Largha Seals, as well as Northern Fur Seals and Steller’s Sea Lions and we hope to see all of these in 2014.
The birding was equally impressive with fourteen species of auks including Tufted and Horned Puffins, Crested, Whiskered, Least and Parakeet Auklets, Long-billed, Kittlitz’s and Ancient Murrelets, as well as Brunnich’s and Spectacled Guillemots. Ashore an excellent range of species were seen including over 150 Steller’s Sea-eagles, Kamchatka Gull, Aleutian Tern, Siberian Rubythroat, Middendorf’s Grasshopper Warbler and Pine Grosbeak.
Our voyage starts on the oil and gas rich island of Sakhalin and we will cruise north visiting two tiny islands, Tyuleniy and Iony, which are crammed with wildlife. We can expect to see tens of thousands of auklets, as well as Northern Fur Seal and Steller’s Sea-Lions. We also plan to visit Piltun Bay in the north-east of Sakhalin where there is an excellent chance of finding the highly endangered Western Grey Whale (seen in 2012), whilst ashore we should see both Aleutian Tern and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.
Two days are scheduled for exploring the western corner of the Sea of Okhotsk and even in mid-June, it is highly likely that we will encounter vast areas of sea-ice and it is here that we will search for an isolated population of Bowhead Whales. North Pacific Right Whale has also been recorded in this region and whilst both of these species remain rare and difficult to find, we can expect to see good number of seals on the ice including the stunning and highly localised Ribbon Seal. In 2012, we found at least a couple of hundred of these gorgeous creatures as well as Bearded, Ringed and Largha Seals.
Our journey then takes us in a more easterly direction along the northern shore of this sparsely populated land, with our next destination being the Malminskiye Islands. This small archipelago is home to one of the largest known populations of the highly localised Spectacled Guillemot and we can expect to get some great views of these birds, as well as Crested and Parakeet Auklets. There are also good numbers of Steller’s Sea-eagles here and we should get some stunning views of what is surely the world’s ultimate raptor.
The following day will be largely devoted to visiting the historical town of Okhotsk which is where Vitus Bering sailed from on his great expeditions of the 1720s and 1730s and we will have an opportunity to interact with the local people.
The final three days of our voyage, however, will be full on wildlife and we plan to visit some incredible islands in the north-east corner of the Sea of Okhotsk where the number of seabirds is breathtaking. On Yamskiye Island, for example, which is only about 5 miles long, there are believed to be seven million nesting seabirds and at dusk there can be over one million Least Auklets in the sky at the same time !!
After what will be a spectacular eleven nights aboard the Spirit of Enderby, we will disembark in Magadan where there will be some optional extensions.
Day 1: Transfer from hotel to Port of Korsakov and board the vessel. Rest of day at sea with an opportunity to look for Dall’s Porpoise, as well as Rhinoceros Auklet, Fork-tailed Storm-petrel, Short-tailed Shearwater and Pelagic Cormorant.
Day 2: Tyuleniy Island. This small island is a stronghold for Northern Fur Seal and Steller’s Sea-Lion and we can expect to see good numbers of both species. We should also find Crested Auklet and Tufted Puffin.
Day 3: Piltun Bay, Sakhalin Island. We will zodiac cruise for Western Grey Whales and Largha Seals and ashore should find Steller’s Sea-Eagle, Aleutian Tern, Pine Grosbeak, Dusky Warbler and Siberian Rubythroat.
Day 4: Iony Island. This tiny island is only half a mile long but is home to spectacular concentrations of wildlife. We should see thousands of Brunnich’s Guillemots, as well as Least, Crested and Whiskered Auklets. Several hundred Steller’s Sea-Lions come ashore here to pup and the beaches are likely to be crammed with animals.
Days 5-6: Shanter Archipelago. Our plans will be entirely determined by the state of the sea-ice but we should see good numbers of the spectacular Ribbon Seal along with Bearded, Largha and Ringed Seals. Bowhead and North Pacific Right Whales can also be found here but both species are extremely rare. We do, however, stand a good chance of finding Northern Minke Whale and Orca, as well as Horned Puffin, Ancient Murrelet and Crested Auklet.
Day 7: Mal’minskie Islands. There will be a zodiac cruise around this small archipelago which is home to large numbers of Spectacled Guillemots and a high concentration of Steller’s Sea-eagles. We should also see Parakeet Auklet, Tufted Puffin and Brunnich’s Guillemot and ashore will be looking for Brown Shrike, Olive-backed Pipit, Siberian Accentor and Long-toed Stint.
Day 8: Okhotsk Town. Today will be largely devoted to a visiting the town of Okhotsk which is where Vitus Bering sailed from when he first explored this area in the 1720s and 1730s. Birds could include Black-tailed and Kamchatka Gulls, Far Eastern Curlew and Aleutian Tern.
Day 9: Talan Island. Another tiny island where tens of thousands of seabirds breed and we plan to zodiac cruise and then land. Ashore we should find Middendorf’s Grasshopper Warbler and Siberian Rubythroats, whilst out on the water, there should be spectacular numbers of Tufted Puffins, Crested Auklets and Black-legged Kittiwakes.
Day 10: Magadanskiy Reserve, Koni Peninsula. A day of expedition landings in this isolated nature reserve, where the possibilities include Brown Bear, Steller’s Sea-eagle, Harlequin Duck and Nutcracker and whilst cruising we may find Dall’s Porpoise.
Day 11: Yamskiye Islands. It has been suggested that this archipelago has the largest colonies of seabirds in the north Pacific, with an estimated seven million birds nesting on the main island of Matykil. We plan to zodiac cruise the shoreline (as landings are not permitted) and should find Least, Crested and Parakeet Auklets, Horned Puffins and Steller’s Sea-Lions. As evening approaches, the concentrations of birds are truly incredible and in 2012, we estimated that there were over one million Least Auklets in the sky – a truly impressive end to what should be a spectacular expedition.
Day 12: Arrive at Magadan and disembark, transfer to city or airport
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant Russian authorities.
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.
Dates: 9th – 20th June 2020
Sakhalin to Magadan
Leader/s: Chris Collins and the rest of the ship’s expedition team.
Enquire for up to date 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/s and the expedition team, day by day bird and mammal checklist.
Price excludes: Landing fees and port taxes (currently US$500, payable onboard the ship), return economy class flights from £849 (London – Sakhalin, Magadan – London), pre/post cruise hotel nights and transfers in Russian Far East (approx £195pp twin share), travel insurance, onboard gratuities (suggest US$10 per day), Russian visa (c£98) and other drinks.
Contact us for the ship’s colour brochure and a more detailed planned itinerary.
9th – 20th June 2020
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.
Chris has birded in over 80 countries and territories around the world and now spends the 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.