Arrive in Anadyr, the administrative center of the Chukotka region, before transfering to your ship and getting to know your fellow voyagers and crew on board.
There is more to this small town on the shores of Kresta Bay than first meets the eye. It was built by Gulag prisoners in 1946 as a port to supply the Lul’tin mining complex some 200km inland. The prisoners also constructed the road to the mine. Today the Lul’tin mining complex is closed but the town and Port of Egvekinot is the terminus for a new road through to Pevek and its associated gold mines. The town has an excellent museum which you can visit. Moreover, Egvekinot is only a few miles south of the Arctic Circle. Travel by Ural (a 6WD ‘go anywhere’ Russian truck) to the point where the Arctic Circle crosses the road to Lul’tin. Venture even further to experience the tundra habitat which dominates so much of Chukotka.
This coastline is rich in marine mammals and one creature to look for, in particular, is the walrus. The animals do regularly move between locations, so finding them is always very much a matter of luck. In the afternoon, try to visit a well-known walrus haul out lying between Meinypil’gyno and Cape Navarin.
A landing is also planned for Bukhta Gavriila. The bukhta (or bay) was named after Commander Vitus Bering’s ship, the St Gabriel, of the First Kamchatka Expedition. Behind the expansive beach there is a lagoon you can explore for waterfowl and waders. You may also visit what used to be the oldest weather station in Chukotka and the southernmost in the Arctic, which is now abandoned.
Cape Navarin marks the place where the land bridge to North America began when sea levels were much lower. Because of strong tides around the cape, there is an abundance of food and it is not uncommon to see large numbers of seabirds and good numbers of gray whales, which often congregate here too.
Start the day with a visit to the delta of the Pika River – a well known walrus haul out and one of the few places in the southern part of the range that still gets thousands of animals coming to rest on the beach.
Later in the day, visit Meinypil’gyno, a small settlement located on a 40km-long spit. It is a traditional village, although renovated under the recent Chukotka government. The spirit is still alive and the village ensemble performs some of their traditional dances, a chance to enjoy real Chukchi hospitality.
Meinypil’gyno is also an important breeding spot for many species of migratory birds. Even though the breeding season is over by September, there is a chance of viewing migrants on their way south and seeing the location where the research team is working hard to save the spoon-billed sandpiper.
Along the Koryak Coast there are many beautiful fjords (bukhtas or bays), and none are more beautiful than Bukhta Natalii. This fjord has two smaller fjords that drain into it from the south, called Bukhta Pavla and Bukhta Petra (named after St Peter and St Paul by Commander Vitus Bering). Hike from one bay to another while surrounded by the magnificent mountain landscapes and tundra vegetation.
Much of the southern Govena Peninsula was recently made into a state reserve. There are a number of fjords included in the reserve; one of the most spectacular is Tintikun Lagoon which is one of the most picturesque locations found anywhere in the world. There is also a large population of brown bears - these should be feeding in and around the river mouths that drain into the head of the lagoon.
Start the morning in brown bear country, an undisturbed habitat within the Koryakskiy Reserve, where you can go bear watching and Zodiac cruising along the coast. Bears come down to the sea coast and into the nearby hills very frequently, and the area is completely protected and rarely visited.
In the afternoon visit Verkhoturova Island, where you have a chance to climb to a seabird colony. The breeding season is over, however, some of the birds that may still be around the colony include tufted and horned puffins, pigeon, common and Brunnich’s guillemots, and also parakeet and least auklets. On nearby rocky islets there is a regular non-breeding haul out of Steller sea lions.
A few miles to the south of Verhoturova Island is the much larger Karaginskiy Island. Here encounter some of the first ‘forests’ of the voyage. This is a change from the tundra that you have seen, a sure sign that you are getting further south. There are a large number of red foxes that live on the island, and many migratory birds come here to their breeding grounds and on the way south. The autumn is the best time for the wild berries and you can marvel at the richness of the local flora, as many of them would be at their best.
The wildlife-rich Commander Islands were first discovered by Commander Vitus Bering when his ship was wrecked here in 1741. He perished on the island along with many of his men. The reports from those that survived led to a ‘fur rush’ and the settlement of the islands.
There are two large islands (Bering and Medny) with two smaller islands, Ariy Karmen and Toporkov. These islands are located at the western extremity of the Aleutian chain. Explore the islands through a combination of landings and Zodiac cruises. Stop at the village of Nikolskoye, visit the fur seal rookery at North-West Cape, and Zodiac cruise around the impressive bird colony at Ariy Kamen. Also possibly visit the gravesite of Commander Vitus Bering or the remarkable Medny Island.
Olga Bay is a part of the very large Kronotskiy Reserve, which also includes the world-famous Valley of the Geysers. The habitat is quite different from what you have seen thus far. The habitat has lush Kamchatka forests coming right down to the beach. The area around Olga Bay is frequented by large numbers of gray whales that are usually quite friendly to visiting boats. The rising volcanoes in the background provide a beautiful setting to explore real Kamchatka wilderness.
This morning make your way along the Zhupanova River by Zodiac. This journey allows you to explore a river habitat which is common in Kamchatka. The Kamchatka Rivers (of which there are over 1,800) are important ecosystems that support a wide variety of wildlife. They are especially important for salmon spawning. Steller’s sea eagles are known to nest in the lower reaches of the river.
In the afternoon, depending on permits, there is a possibility of visiting Cape Shipunsky and Bechevinskaya Bay, where there was a secret military submarine base during the Cold War. It was completely abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it provides an amazing image of the face of the Cold War. Alternatively, you may cruise nearby to Krasheninnikova Island – a rocky island that has a number of seabirds nesting on it, including spectacled guillemot and some other Bering Sea endemics. As you spend your last night at sea, celebrate and recap your voyage highlights with fellow passengers.
During the night the Spirit of Enderby enters Avacha Bay, which is one of the greatest natural harbors in the world. On the shores of Avacha Bay is Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, the capital and administrative center of the Kamchatka Region. After breakfast, disembark and take your complimentary transfer to a downtown hotel or the airport.
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|Landing fees: $500 per person|