Waterproof Cruises

Russia's Ring of Fire

On this expedition we go in search of those people, plants, animals and birds that make Russia's portion of the Pacific Ring of Fire so special

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Russia's Ring of Fire

Kamchatka, The Commander & Kuril Islands

The region falls into three quite distinct and unique geographical regions: the Kamchatka Peninsula; the Commander Islands and the Kuril Islands. Each has their own story and in many cases endemic plants and birds. On this expedition we go in search of those people, plants, animals and birds that make Russia's portion of the Pacific Ring of Fire so special.

Stretching from Japan to the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands are a chain of over 30 volcanic islands bordering an oceanic trench which reaches depths of over 8,000 metres. This is one of the richest areas in the world for seabirds and potentially cetaceans. For birders the undoubted highlights in the region are up to 14 species of auks including Tufted and Horned Puffins, Parakeet, Whiskered and Rhinoceros Auklets, as well as Spectacled and Pigeon Guillemots.
Bering and Medny Islands which make up the Commander Islands were uninhabited when Vitus Bering landed there in 1741. The arrival of humans in the pursuit of furs decimated the population of otters, foxes and fur seals and led to the extinction of the Sea Cow. Today the islands are a protected and unique Nature Reserve.

The Kamchatka Peninsula which dominates the North Pacific is in turn dominated by a large number of volcanoes, dense forest and unforgettable scenery. We have chosen several landing sites which will give a good overview of the region. These locations include one of the hundreds of salmon-rich rivers for which the region is renowned and around which the infamous Kamchatka Brown Bear congregates. We plan to visit several idyllic bays renowned for cetaceans such as the Western Grey, Humpback and Sperm Whales.

Note:
This is a sample itinerary. We do our utmost to guarantee the best experience, unfortunately we have no control over the weather or wildlife behaviour. Ports of embarkation and disembarkation and sites may change depending on vessel and departure dates, weather- and ice conditions.

  • Day 1 -Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy

    You will be transferred to the vessel and we will depart for the Commander Islands. You are welcome on the bridge as we sail from what some people consider the best natural harbour in the world. There is also some good birding as we leave the shoreline behind.

    Day 2 - At Sea

    A day at sea as we cruise towards the Commander Islands. Enjoy several lectures and briefings as we 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.

    Day 3 - 4 - Commander Islands

    There are two main islands in the Commander group, Bering and Medny, and during our two days we will explore several sites combining the best of the 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. We include 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.

  • Day 6 - Bukta Russkaya, Kamchatka


    In this deep fiord on the Kamchatka Peninsula we will look for the critically endangered Kittlitz’s Murrelet as well as Long-billed Murrelet. We plan a short excursion at the head of the fiord where there is a chance of seeing brown bears. At the entrance to the fiord where we can Zodiac cruise there are almost always Orcas and Steller Sea Lions.

    Day 7 - Second Kuril Strait, Atlasova and Onekotan Islands

    Very early in the morning we will pass through Second Kuril Strait which has one of the highest densities of Sea Otters in the Kuril Islands. Our landing on Atlasova Island is great for birders and non birders alike. There is the remains of a Gulag to explore and numerous species to see. This evening on Onekotan Island we can stretch our legs through an amazing field of wild flowers as we walk to Black Lake.

    Day 8 - Ekarma and Toporkovy Islands

    During an early morning Zodiac cruise at Ekarma Island we should see various alcids, with close looks at Tufted Puffin and Whiskered Auklet. This afternoon at Toporkovy Island in the shadow of the active Matua Island volcano we can expect to find Harlequin Ducks, Red-faced Cormorants, Tufted Puffins and Brunnich’s Guillemots. Ashore we could encounter Grey-tailed Tattler, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler and Black-faced Bunting.

    Day 9 - Simushir and Yankicha Islands

    We will enter 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. Our 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.

  • Day 10 - Chirpoy and Urup Islands

    This morning depending on weather we will either Zodiac cruise or land on Chirpoy Island where there are some dramatic volcanic landscapes and headlands covered in breeding seabirds. This afternoons landing on Urup Island is a chance to stretch you legs on an extended walk, beachcomb and look for Sea Otters or bird in the forest behind the beach.

    Day 11 - Iturup Island

    This morning we land at the small settlement of Kurilsk from where local buses/trucks will take us into the volcanic highlands to thermal hot pools where you can enjoy a soak or go birding. Possible species include Brown Dipper, Arctic Warbler, Japanese Robin, Pine Grosbeak and Japanese Grey Bunting.

    Day 12 - Kunashir Island

    Kunashir is the largest island in the Kuril chain. We plan a landing in the Kurilsky Reserve and will explore an extensive area of woodland, where there are some good walks and birding. This afternoon while we are at sea there is a chance for birding and an opportunity to recap and pack.

    Day 13 - Sakhalin Island

    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.

Dates and Rates

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