Kamchatka •Siberia • The bering sea • wrangel island
Exploring Russia's Far East by expedition ship
These are famous names and famous places that spark the imagination, yet also places that so few people ever have the opportunity to experience. We'd long been curious about the region, and on several occasions looked at options to experience it. This rugged and nearly forgotten coast has little infrastructure, so to explore it to the fullest an expedition ship is the way to go. In that way you can cover more area, in relative comfort, seeing and experiencing the best of the flora, fauna, scenery, and cultures. One company has been exploring the area for longer, with a proven track record of successfully dealing with the layers of Russian bureaucracy; Heritage Expeditions.
Each summer - June, July & August - their 52 passenger expedition ship traverses the coast here, starting in the south with Russia's Ring of Fire, then moving north to the Sea of Okhotsk, then Siberia's Forgotten Coast, and ultimately to the Top of the World and Wrangel Island. In early September as the seasons change and the birdlife departs the ship turns south again, heading for the great Southern Ocean and springtime in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Russian season is operated as a series of 12 to 15 day voyages, with a bit more emphasis on birds in the south and bears in the north, and sea mammals everywhere. Along the way there are some wonderful cultural visits as well - the remote communities in this part of the world don't see many visitors (Heritage Expeditions operates one of only two ships that regularly visit this coast).
SAMPLE VOYAGE: SIBERIA'S FORGOTTEN COAST
The routing is Peropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy (near the southern tip of the Kamchatka peninsula) to Anadyr far to the north, via the Commander Islands. It is an amazing coastline dominated by the volcanoes of Kamchatka in the south, the fjords of what was formally the Koryak region, and the rich estuarine areas and tundra of Chukotka. 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 to disturb them.
This voyage is early enough in the season (typically late June into early July) that the birding should be excellent. One of the most iconic species is the critically endangered Spoonbilled Sandpiper that is endemic to the region. This is just one highlight on an anticipated bird list that is tremendous. Other highlights might include diverse species such as Laysan and Short-tailed Albatross, several species of Petrel, Tufted and Horned Puffin, Steller’s Sea Eagle, Gyrfalcon, Sandhill Crane, Whooper Swan, Steller’s Eider, Harlequin Duck, Aleutian Terns, five species of Geese, and so many more.
This is also a section of coastline where the most frequent encounters with Kamchatka Brown Bears may happen. The possible mammal list doesn’t stop there however, with Red Fox, Mountain Sheep, Arctic Hare, Kamchatka Marmots, and Sea Otters on land. Whales seen on past voyages have included Grey, Beluga, Humpback, Sperm, Northern Minke, Orca, Bair’s Beaked, and Blue. In addition there might be Largha Seal, Northern Fur Seal, Ringed Seal, Harbor Seal, Steller Sea Lions, Walrus, and Dall’s Porpoise. That’s a lot of wildlife!
Siberia’s eastern coastline is undoubtedly one of the most remote and least visited regions of the globe. It is home to several groups of indigenous people, including the Itelmen, Koryak, Even and Chukchi. This voyage typically visits 3 or 4 of the coastal communities that dot this part of the coast.
Logistics of getting to Russia’s Far East present their own challenges. Again, Heritage Expeditions has done all of this before, many times, and will provide all of the paperwork travelers need to secure their Russian visas. We will be happy to make flight suggestions and on many departures there will be an optional charter flight between Anadyr and Nome (Alaska) further simplifying logistics.
The ship is the 52 passenger Spirit of Enderby.
If Russia’s Far East is calling you, like it did us, drop us a line and let us know. We'll be happy to send you the coming season's itineraries. We had an amazing time on Siberia's Forgotten Coast in 2015 and are sure you will find Russia's Far East equally mesmerizing!