Transferred to the vessel and depart for the Commander Islands. You are welcome on the bridge as the ship sails from what some people consider the best natural harbor in the world. There is also some good birding as you leave the shoreline behind.
Spend the day at sea as you cruise towards the Commander Islands. Enjoy several lectures and briefings as you prepare for the days ahead. It is also a good time to be on deck as the birding is good with fork-tailed storm petrel and red-legged kittiwake amongst the likely sightings.
There are two main islands in the Commander group, Bering and Medny, and during your two days you have the opportunity to explore several sites that combine the best of the area's natural and cultural history. There is an excellent chance of finding rock sandpiper, Mongolian plover, pechora pipit, and grey-crowned rosy-finch, as well as the endemic subspecies of arctic fox. Zodiac cruising can be extremely rewarding here with several species of auklets as well as the red-legged kittiwake. The area is also extremely rich in marine mammals. Potential species include sperm, humpback, northern minke, and Baird’s beaked whales, as well as orcas, Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, and sea otters. Plan for a visit to the small settlement of Nikolskoye and the local museum, and if weather permits, Commander Bay, where Vitus Bering was shipwrecked and is buried.
Spend several hours in the Zodiacs cruising on the scenic Zhupanova River, where you should get great looks at Steller’s sea eagles, as the birds often perch in the trees adjacent to the river. Other highlights may include Pacific diver, far eastern curlew, glaucous-winged gull, Aleutian tern, and yellow-breasted bunting. There is also a major salmon fishery on the river which you can visit.
In this deep fjord on the Kamchatka Peninsula, look for the critically endangered Kittlitz’s murrelet as well as long-billed murrelet. Plan for a short excursion at the head of the fjord where there is a chance of seeing brown bears. At the entrance to the fjord where you can Zodiac cruise, there are almost always orcas and Steller sea lions.
This morning on Onekotan Island you can stretch your legs through an amazing field of wild flowers as you walk to Black Lake. The landing on Atlasova Island is great for birders and non birders alike. There are the remains of a Gulag to explore and numerous species to see. Later today pass through Second Kuril Strait which has one of the highest densities of sea otters in the Kuril Islands.
This morning at Toporkovy Island in the shadow of the active Matua Island volcano you can expect to find harlequin ducks, red-faced cormorants, tufted puffins and Brunnich’s guillemots. Ashore you can encounter grey-tailed tattler, Middendorff’s grasshopper warbler and black-faced bunting.
Today your ship enters a flooded caldera at the northern end of Simushir Island where a once top secret Soviet submarine base lies abandoned. In the surrounding area look for the Siberian rubythroat, Eurasian nutcracker, pine grosbeak, and Japanese grey bunting. Your visit to Yankicha Island is likely to be one of the highlights of the voyage as the number of alcids which breed here is incredible, with spectacular concentrations of crested and whiskered auklets.
This morning explore Urup Island, a chance to stretch your legs on an extended walk, beachcomb, and look for sea otters or birds in the forest behind the beach. This afternoon depending on weather you can either Zodiac cruise or land on Chirpoy Island where there are some dramatic volcanic landscapes and headlands covered in breeding seabirds.
This morning you land at the small settlement of Kurilsk, from where local buses/trucks take you into the volcanic highlands to thermal hot pools where you can enjoy a soak or go birding. Possible species include Kamchatka leaf-warbler, Japanese robin, Siberian accentor, pine grosbeak and Japanese bush-warbler.
Kunashir is the largest island in the Kuril chain. Plan for a landing in the Kurilsky Reserve where you can explore an extensive area of woodland. Here you find some good walks and birding. Species you could encounter include Latham’s snipe, oriental turtle-dove, oriental cuckoo, Japanese bush-warbler, eastern crowned warbler, Narcissus and brown flycatchers, Siberian stonechat, and long-tailed rosefinch.
Day 13: Disembark | Port of Korsakov
Arrive at the Port of Korskov on Sakhalin Island. There will be transport to a central hotel and the airport in the town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
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Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private washbasin. Nearby shower and toilet facilities are shared with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole.
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One bunk (one upper and one lower berth), writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.
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Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.
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Separate bedroom with a double bed and a sofa in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Mini Suites have windows.
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Large lounge area, separate bedroom with double bed and a sofa in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Large forward and side facing windows allow great views.
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Main Deck Triple
One bunk (one upper abd ibe lower berth) and one additional lower berth, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private washbasin. Nearby shower and toilet facilities are shared with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole.
Cruise fare includes:
- Pre & Post cruise transfers
- All on board ship accommodation and meals
- All expedition shore excursions, excluding kayaking
Cruise fare does not include:
- Government landing fees
- All items of a personal nature: laundry, drinks, and gratuities
- International/domestic flights
- Travel insurance
Everything was amazing! The planning with Adventure Life went smoothly. The actual trip was fantastic! One of the best trips I have experienced. The cruise staff members were knowledgeable and attentive. I will be writing more about this on the blog!