Discover tiny islands. Feast your eyes on the snowy majesty of Atlasov. Hike along black lava beaches, search the air for Siberian Rubythroat, go in search of walrus in Anastasiya Bay. The startling beauty of this journey across the Bering Sea offers another vision of the Russian Federation, one of stunning scenery and warm local hospitality.
Discover huge concentrations of seabirds during breeding season
Cruise along rocky islets and remote shores to search for prolific wildlife
Explore rivers churning with salmon
Follow in the historic wake of legendary explorer Vitus Bering
Embark and depart on your exciting expedition –“Across the Bering Sea”. After settling in attend a safety briefing and be introduced to your Expedition Team. Weather permitting, enjoy a sail away cocktail on deck.
Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and have an aperitif to relax after your travels. In the evening enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.
Take this first sea day to relax. Start the day with a leisurely breakfast before attending the mandatory Zodiac briefing. The expedition team will present lectures to prepare you for the Russian Far East, and will enhance your knowledge of flora, fauna, geology and history of this seldom visited part of the world.
Tonight your Captain would like to invite you to the Captain’s Welcome cocktail party where he will present his senior officers, while the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager would like to invite you to the Welcome Dinner in The Restaurant.
Day 3: Korsakov (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), Sakhalin Island, Russia
Today clear into Russia. Once the formalities are concluded you will be welcomed with the traditional bread, salt and local fruit alcohol. Time permitting, explore part of this city founded in 1853 as Sakhalin’s first Russian military post.
From Korsakov drive to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of the island with a population of just over 160,000. Founded as a small Russian settlement in the 1880s, the city became a Japanese prefect capital when the southern half of Sakhalin was declared a Japanese colony in 1905; after WWII it was returned to Russia. Highlights include a visit to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Regional Museum housed in an impressive former Japanese mansion, and the bustling market. Enjoy a performance of traditional Cossack song and dance.
This morning you will be in front the small Tuleniy Island. Tuleniy means “seal” in Russian, and during the summer months the island is home to literally tens of thousands of Northern fur seals and Steller sea lions who come to breed. Your visit at the height of the breeding season is well timed to see not only the seals and sea lions, but also Black-legged Kittiwakes, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres and Pelagic Cormorants that summer on the island.
During the afternoon cross the Sea of Okhotsk in an easterly direction while listening to a lecture or seminar.
During the morning scan the waters for marine mammals or attend one of the lectures preparing you for the Kuril Islands, part of the very active ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’.
In the afternoon a Zodiac cruise will best permit you to see huge numbers of fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins, auklets and Steller sea lions that are regularly seen in the area surrounding Chirpoy.
During the morning land on impressive Yankicha. Featured in many magazines as one of the highlights of the Kuril Islands, Yankicha’s sinking volcanic caldera is accessible only by Zodiac — and only during high tide. Inside the magnificent lagoon with its fumaroles and hot springs, we can still see traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago and a visit here is invariably one of the highlights of the entire voyage. The number of Crested and Whiskered Auklets which breed here is truly incredible, and if you are lucky you may also catch a glimpse of an Arctic fox. Although Crested Auklets will be seen almost everywhere the more elusive Whiskered Auklets tend to form rafts outside the caldera. Look for wildflowers and, if conditions permit, climb part of the slope for panoramic views of the caldera.
During the early afternoon the ship repositions to Matua, home to one of the Kuril’s most active volcanoes, with more than 14 documented eruptions in the past 250 years. A Japanese military base had been set up here during WWII and the runway was heated capturing geo-thermally heated water from Sarychev, one of the active volcanoes, and running the heated water through underground pipes to keep the runway open, which normally would freeze over during winter.
Hikers will be rewarded with good views of the abandoned military positions and hopefully get a glimpse of the island’s population of Brown-headed Thrush and Siberian Rubythroats in the alder thickets.The newest building on Matua is a tiny Russian Orthodox Church –with room for 4 to 5 people inside. Standing on the edge of the main plateau of the island and commanding a marvellous view of the bay the church has been beautifully constructed of wood.
Day 7: Lovyshky Islands and Makanrushi Island, Russia
At the Lovyshky Islands search for Northern fur seals and Steller sea lions around this cluster of small islands and rocky outcrops. Here you should have excellent views of auklets! Aboard Zodiacs, drift among them — Whiskered, Crested and Parakeet Auklets. Tufted Puffins with their flowing yellow head plumes are also here, as well as many Northern Fulmars.
Makanrushi is an uninhabited volcanic island of 49 square kilometres, rising more than 1100 metres out of the sea. The island has steep cliffs sides and no sandy beaches. Cliffs of extensive columnar basalt have been uplifted and tilted 90 degrees. A Zodiac cruise along its shore might reveal some of the birdlife seeking these cliffs to nest.The weather is sometimes a bit wet but should not deter you from getting views of sea otters that assiduously groom their pups as they swim together through massive kelp forests. Largha seals are also present, sometimes mother-pup duos, and the pups always swimming very close to their mums. Tufted Puffins can be seen on the water, as well as members of the Kurils-specific race of the Pigeon Guillemot, and Pacific Loons. Peregrine Falcons streak through the air to snatch chicks of Slaty-backed Gulls.
Arrive at Atlasov in the early morning. Almost completely covered in snow, and lit by the sun, Alaid it is a sight to behold and praised by the Japanese for it almost perfect volcanic cone. Due to its beauty and symmetry, Atlasov is thereby a favourite volcanic island of the Japanese. It is remarkably reminiscent of Mt Fuji in shape and stature, and it is also the highest of the Kuril Islands, standing at 2,339 metres.
Land by Zodiac on the black lava beach to begin guided hikes starting at the remains of the Russian Gulag that was once situated on this isolated island. Female political prisoners were sent here during the Soviet era, and taught to farm foxes. Evidence of the buildings and fox coups are abundant. On your walk see the remains of the Taketomi tufa cone.
Birders will be looking Siberian Rubythroats.
During the afternoon head north to Kamchatka. Lecturers will want to inform you through talks and briefings or might test your knowledge with a team trivia.
Petropavlovsk is the only major city on the peninsula and one of the oldest towns in the Russian Far East. It is also the scientific and cultural center of the region, visit the Museum of Ethnography and Natural History with its very interesting exhibits of wildlife and the more modern history (including Lenin and Stalin), the Art School, the gold-domed Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the marketplace.The fish market features king salmon whether whole, in steaks, as roe, or smoked. King crab and scallops are also on offer.
At the edge of the town is a beautiful stone birch forest where you will see an outdoor kennel that houses dozens of sled dogs. These are Siberian and Alaskan huskies and Greenlandic dogs, each with its own house. Several locals dressed in traditional reindeer-skin outfits festooned with beads will greet you with a performance of dancing and singing giving an insight into the Russian and native roots of Kamchatka.
During the morning take the Zodiacs into Zupanova River. Depending on the fish runs you might see brown bears feasting on this once yearly (extended) banquet. In late June/early July you can expect king salmon, cherry salmon, pink salmon, dog salmon, and sockeye to enter the river. A hike along the river’s shore will reveal the lush vegetation and birdlife. If the salmon are plentiful the immense Steller Sea Eagle might be spotted here.
Back on board a lecture might introduce you to the life and times of Vitus Bering.
The Komander Islands are named after famed commander Vitus Bering who had been commissioned by the Russian Tsar to search for a land bridge between Asia and America. Visit Nikolskoye, a settlement of around 750 inhabitants established in 1826 by fur traders. This fishing village on Bering Island has a small museum where you will learn about the Aleut people and their culture. The museum contains much information on Bering, as well as the bones of a Steller’s sea cow. During your visit enjoy a cultural performance and be entertained by a presentation of local games. The songs and dance reflected both the Aleut and Russian ancestries of the settlement’s inhabitants.
You can walk up to the Orthodox Church – one of Russia’s newest and one of the eastern-most – before making your way back to the Zodiacs for the short transfer back to the ship.
During the afternoon head for the Karagiskiy Gulf and Kamchatka with time for more lectures.
Spend the morning at sea while approaching Tymlat Village. The village is close to the entrance of the eponymous Tymlat River.
The native population, known as Koriyak, will welcome you with drums and singing and you will all partake in a cleansing ceremony before reaching the dance ground. Here traditional songs and dances are going to be performed and close by you will see how the locally caught fish is fileted and prepared. Generous helpings of roe on black bread and fish soup will help you decide what kind of souvenir you would like. A walk into the village will give an insight into life in rural Kamchatka.
Day 13: Yuzhnaya Glubokaya and Lavrova Bay or Tintikyn Lagoon, Chukotka, Russia
In the early morning go ashore at the sweeping crescent beach of Glubokaya Bay to stroll along verdant tundra. The scene is striking – a gently undulating river valley appearing to go on for miles bordered by hills with thickets of alder trees and talus slopes of lichen-covered boulders. The small river is crystal clear. Underfoot a dense carpet of crowberry, bunchberry, and other plants all growing fast in the long days of summer. White-tailed Sea Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Kittlitz’s Murrelets can sometimes be seen right next to the landing.
Depending on the tide, either take Zodiacs into Tintikyn Lagoon, looking for brown bears on the slopes and the choice of a longer or shorter hike at the end of the lagoon, or go ashore at Lavrova Bay for a nice and easy tundra walk. Approaching the coastline at Lavrova Bay see the remains of a former fishing village. Directly inland from the beach lush vegetation is covering the remains of the crumbling wooden houses.
Take the Zodiacs up the bay. The presence of bears can be expected, but it is intended to offer a walk through the former fishing village and perhaps hike up a hill for some spectacular views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Enjoy the solitude and listen to the song of Arctic Warblers.
Two alternative expeditions will be organized, the first a Zodiac landing and hike to some small lakes, and the second a Zodiac cruise around the coast looking for birds and seals. A spectacular waterfall leads to the first lake, dammed behind a moraine ridge and looking inviting after the climb. The more adventurous can head on upwards towards the second lake. During the Zodiac cruise you will pass a small bay known to be a Largha seal haul out. Close by is a lighthouse, and a landing would reveal lush vegetation and wildflowers.
The bays are known to be used be the reindeer herders during their nomadic life in Kamchatka. The herds of hundreds of reindeer are driven for several hundred kilometres from their inland grazing areas down to the coast for 3 days every year so that they could graze the coastal grasses and get sufficient salt in their diet. You can hope to spot them here or in one of the adjacent bays and valleys, but since these are nomads, it is impossible to predict the exact days they reach the coast.
Day 15: Bogoslav Island and Anastasiya Bay, Chukotka, Russia
During the early morning reach Bogoslav Island and drop the Zodiacs to cruise along the spectacular sea cliffs spotting Pigeon Guillemots, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Common Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Harlequin Ducks, Horned Puffins, White Wagtails, Pelagic Cormorants and Slaty-backed Gulls. There are so many nesting sites that each Zodiac can have a colony to itself.
At Anastasiya Bay the whole mountain range with its cliffs presents a steeply dipping cyclic succession of alternating sandstones and mudstones. While heading further into the bay groups of walrus can usually be spotted. The ship will also be surrounded by seabirds including Horned Puffins, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Slaty-backed Gulls.
A scout Zodiac will be deployed to reconnoitre a possible landing site and walrus haul-out beaches. A Zodiac cruise might head for nearby Kruglaya Bay with its many kittiwakes and gulls.
Across the mouth of the bay large groups of walrus can be observed, both hauled-out on small beaches and in the water. The large males are quite curious about the Zodiacs, and sometimes approach them, snorting out clouds of spray from their nostrils as their heads come out of the water. Landing near a river mouth onto a black gravel beach you can hike on a large flood plain of coarse gravel extending out on both sides of the river. This plain displays a rich flora of flowering plants.
Cruising north, there are more opportunities to see grey whales and orcas known to frequent Gabriela Bay. Attend lectures wrapping up your experiences or enhancing your knowledge about native people and wildlife of Chukotka. Today will be a good time to sort through the hundreds of photos taken and to edit them.
Unfortunately, it will be time for the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner — but rest assured, the Executive Chef and his team will have prepared another gastronomic highlight of the voyage!
Day 17: Provideniya, Chukotka, Russia (Crossing the Dateline)
Stop in Provideniya to clear out of Russia and leave the harbor. Your journey across the Bering Sea will take close to 19 hours, but you will get into Nome before you left Provideniya — because of the International Dateline, gain one day heading east.
Today the Photographer/Videographer will present the voyage on DVD. Enjoy those marvellous takes and moments.
Beyond expectations! Then again we weren't sure what to expect. Lovely stay at the lodge, met other like-minded travelers (many had their trips planned by Adventure Life) and the owner was a gracious hostess. It felt like you were one happy family, visiting with a favorite aunt.