Pacific puffins

Siberia's forgotten Coast: Heritage Adventurer

Russian Far East

This coastline has one of the most diverse assemblages of wildlife and habitats of anywhere of a similar latitude on the globe and virtually no people or visitors to disturb them. One of the most iconic species is the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper that is endemic to the region. This expedition supports Birdlife International with their research into seabirds and waders to monitor potential changes in their populations and distribution due to a variety of reasons including climate change

  • Rarely-visited Kamchatka and Siberia Region
  • Remote Commander Islands
  • Stunning birdlife including Steller’s Eider, Red-necked Phalarope, Parakeet, Crested and Whiskered Auklets and Tufted Puffins.
  • Great whale watching opportunities to see Humpback, Sperm, Northern Minke, Orcas and Baird’s Beaked Whales
  • Forest and cliff-top walks along remote coasts and deep forested fiords
  • Wildlife such as brown bears, Red Fox an

Siberia's eastern coastline is home to several groups of indigenous people, including the Itelmen, Koryak, Even and Chukchi. Fur trappers and sealers plundered the regions natural resources in the name of the Tsar in the early 17th Century. Stalin and subsequent leaders encouraged economic development in this part of the Soviet Union. Soviet towns were built, bonuses were paid to those who would immigrate and work there and attempts were made to collectivise the traditional way of life.

As the iron curtain was drawn and the Cold War escalated, this region became forbidden territory. Travel to and within the area was strictly controlled, the number of military installations increased, early radar warning stations proliferated and Russia's Pacific fleet patrolled the coastline.

This all changed in the early 1990s with Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Military installations were abandoned, there were mass migrations of workers back west and towns and industries were simply abandoned. As the heavily subsided economy collapsed the indigenous people were forced back to traditional ways of life but permits to travel through the area did become a little easier to obtain.

Twenty five years on, travel through this region is still heavily regulated and virtually impossible for the independent traveller. There is little or no infrastructure, only a few kilometres of road, no hotels apart from in the main towns of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and Anadyr. These towns have scheduled air services, but access to the rest of the region either by air or sea even for locals is at best ‘unpredictable'.

Throughout its chequered human history its rich natural history has largely gone unnoticed and unknown by the rest of the world. It is an amazing coastline dominated by the volcanoes of Kamchatka in the south, the fiords of what was formally the Koryak region and the rich estuarine areas and tundra of Chukotka.

Stewart's Take

Undoubtedly one of the most remote and least visited regions of the globe

Overview

This coastline has one of the most diverse assemblages of wildlife and habitats of anywhere of a similar latitude on the globe and virtually no people or visitors to disturb them. One of the most iconic species is the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper that is endemic to the region. This expedition supports Birdlife International with their research into seabirds and waders to monitor potential changes in their populations and distribution due to a variety of reasons including climate change.
Day 1: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy Arrive into Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, the capital and administrative centre of the Kamchatka Region and transfer to the port to board your ship. We suggest you arrive at least a couple days earlier and spend some time exploring the area. We can help you with accommodation and tour options including the world famous Valley of the Geysers. It is an historic town and there are a number of museums and monuments worth visiting. Please enquire about your pre-voyage packages. Day 2: Zhupanova River We plan to spend the morning Zodiac cruising on the Zhupanova River. Our main target here is the Steller’s Sea Eagle and there are usually some occupied nests close to the river. Good numbers of Largha Seals are also often hauled out on sandbars in the river and we should see a good variety of waterfowl and waders. By late afternoon, we should be over deep water heading for the Commander Islands and new species to look for include Laysan Albatross, Mottled Petrel and the Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel. The Kamchatka Trench can also be excellent for cetaceans and we have previously seen Blue Whales on this crossing. Days 3 to 4: Commander Islands The wildlife-rich Commander Islands were first discovered by the Commander Vitus Bering when his ship was wrecked here in 1741. We intend to explore the islands through a combination of landings and Zodiac cruises and our first stop will be the village of Nikolskoye, where there is an interesting museum. Zodiac cruising is often spectacular and we hope to encounter Red-faced Cormorant, Red-legged Kittiwake, Pigeon Guillemot, Horned Puffin, as well as Parakeet, Crested and Whiskered Auklets and Sea Otters. Our plans also include a ship cruise along the southern coast of Bering Island, as this area is excellent for cetaceans with Humpback, Sperm, Northern Minke, Orcas and Baird’s Beaked Whales all regularly encountered. Day 5: Karaginskiy Island Our proposed landing site is a patchwork of boggy tundra, ponds and shingle spits where an interesting range of waders can be found including Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint and Red-necked Phalarope. We also hope to see Bluethroat and Pallas’ Reed Bunting. Day 6: Verkhoturova Island and Govena Peninsula Verkhoturova Island has some huge seabird colonies and by following a short trail to the cliff top we should be able to enjoy some fantastic views of Tufted Puffins, Brunnich’s Guillemots, Pelagic Cormorants and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Both Steller’s Eider and Harlequin Duck occur here too and we may also see some Steller Sea Lions, as they are often hauled out on some offshore rocks. Later in the day, there will be either a Zodiac cruise or landing on the Govena Peninsula. Good numbers of brown bears can often be found here. Days 7 to 9: Koryak and Chukotka Coast During these days of the expedition we will travel along this largely unknown part of the coast. It comprises deep forested fiords where we should see brown bears, Red Fox and with luck, mountain sheep and Kamchatka Marmots. In the many lagoons and shallow bays there is a vast array of birdlife including Tundra Bean Goose, Steller’s Eider, Great Knot, Long-tailed Stint, Gyrfalcon, Siberian Accentor and Asian Rosy Finch. This area is also a stronghold of the Kittlitz’s Murrelet and we should see several during our journey. In our previous expeditions we have explored much of this coastline, documenting the distribution and abundance of many species. In 2011 we recorded a previously unknown breeding population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Working alongside researchers from BirdLife International and Birds Russia who will be travelling with us, we plan to revisit many of these areas to monitor changes and search for new breeding colonies. There will be unique opportunities for photography, for hiking and ‘birding’ in country where literally only a few ‘westerners’ have ever been and we know there is a rich diversity of species. Day 10: Meinypil’gyno Meinypil’gyno, located on a 40km long shingle spit is the most important site in the world for breeding Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Here about fifteen pairs are monitored by members of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Taskforce. We will be guests of the Taskforce and if possible we may be guided to one of their monitored nests. The area is extremely rich in other wildlife, so we may also find Emperor Goose, Pacific Diver, White-billed Diver and Sandhill Crane. The lagoon entrance often has Largha Seal, Gray and Beluga Whales and a spectacular number of gulls. Day 11: Preobrazheniya Bay At Preobrazheniya Bay we look to Zodiac cruise its spectacular towering granite cliffs home to thousands of nesting birds including Black-legged Kittiwakes, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Common, Brünnich’s and Pigeon Guillemonts, Glaucous and Vega Gulls, Parakeet and Crested Auklets, Northern Fulmars, White Wagtails, Shorttailed Shearwaters and Redthroated Pipit. We will also be looking for Resident Killer Whales/ Orca, known to frequent the coastline. Day 12: Yttygran Island & Bukhta Penkingney Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley, where whale bones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. There are many meat pits used for storage and other remains of a busy whaling camp that united several aboriginal villages at a time. In one location, immense Bowhead Whale jawbones and ribs are placed together in a stunning arch formation. Gray and Humpback Whales are frequently seen around the island. This afternoon we plan to visit Bukhta Penkingney. This long fiord, cut into the coastline by glaciers, is a popular spot for whale watching. Exploring this scenic location we will be looking for wildlife including brown bear. Day 13: Provideniya Today there will be an opportunity to explore this fascinating former Soviet military port and administrative centre. After clearing Russian Customs and Immigration in Provideniya we will set sail for Nome across the Bering Strait. One of the world’s most nutrient-rich stretches of water, each spring the Bering Strait is the scene of one of the planet’s largest wildlife migrations. Beluga, Bowhead and Gray Whales, walrus, Ringed Seals and numerous seabirds are all known to frequent the strait so there is plenty of opportunity for wildlife encounters. Join the expedition team for a recap and disembarkation briefing before enjoying a farewell dinner to celebrate our journey as we sail back across the International Date Line. Day 14: Nome, Alaska After breakfast and clearing US Immigration and Customs formalities it will be time to say our farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to take you to the airport or a designated central location. 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.

Luxury Expedition Vessel: Heritage Adventurer

Heritage Adventurer

The purpose built polar expedition vessel Heritage Adventurer provides a most capable, safe, and exclusive expedition cruise experience.  Designed for comfort, there are public spaces ideally suited for each and every need. Two separate bar and lounge areas featuring 180 degree views and a wonderfully stocked library provide ideal places to relax or catch up on some reading. Heritage Adventurer has the highest ice class (Lloyds 1AS).  Equipped with propellers of stainless steel, high density steel plating and small frame spacing on her hull, Heritage Adventurer continues into the ice, when others simply cannot.  The ship is very stable and her stability and strength are features greatly appreciated in ice laden large waters.  Unmatched stability, coupled with superior speed allows for more time at your destination and more flexibility with itinerary planning – a critical factor in polar waters where ice and weather conditions sometimes dictate daily plans. All cabins feature outside viewing ranging from deck three traditional with port holes, up to decks 4 through 6 offering expansive panoramic windows.  Cabins all have lower berths that have the ability to be single beds, or 1 double bed depending on our guests needs. 

For full information about this vessel click here:

Included
  • Pre/post cruise transfers
  • On board ship accommodation and meals
  • Expedition shore excursions, excluding optional kayaking programme.
Excluded
  • All items of a personal nature: laundry, drinks, gratuities.
  • International/domestic flights
  • visas and travel insurance.
  • Local Payment US$500
Deposits - Reservations require a deposit of 25% at the time you receive a booking confirmation from Expeditions Online. A payment link will be sent to you and this may be paid by major credit card. Bookings within 90 days of departure require full payment. Final Payments - Balances are due 90 days prior to departure. Cancellations - All requests for cancellation must be received in writing to Expeditions Online. Cancellations received 180 days or more prior to departure, are refunded less a $US750.00 per person administration fee. For cancellations received within 179 and 91 days of the embarkation date the full deposit will be forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 90 days prior to the departure date the total price is forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 90 days and full payment has not yet been received, the total price will still apply and any unpaid monies are due immediately. We strongly recommend that you obtain adequate trip cancellation insurance. Booking Terms - Please read carefully the General Booking Conditions for Expeditions Online. This voyage is operated by Heritage Expeditions and you additionally travel under their terms and conditions as the operator as well as of the Shipping Company/transport carrier. Details will be forwarded to you at the time of booking.
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