In the Wake of Bering – In Search of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Dates & Rates
Run as a co-operative venture with BirdLife International, this unique expedition follows in the footsteps of the Danish Explorer Commander Vitus Bering whose instructions from Tsar Peter the Great were to “sail north by north-east... chart the coast and collect information”
Our journey starts in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, the city which is named after two of Bering’s ships, and we will also travel north by north-east, along what is still one of the remotest coastlines on earth.
Our voyage is dedicated to looking for birds and wildlife and we can expect to have some truly spectacular experiences, however, there is one bird which makes this trip very special and that is the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. This species is classified as ‘critically endangered’ and it is believed there are now less than 200 pairs which make the annual migration to Northern Kamchatka and Chukotka to breed.
Very few people have had the privilege of visiting this region to see this species and we hope to repeat the success of our previous expeditions when we not only saw birds at Meinypil’gyno, the only monitored breeding site, but also made ornithological history by finding a new population further south.
Whilst the Spoon-billed Sandpipers are the central focus of our voyage, there will be plenty of other highlights and some of the special wildlife we will look for whilst ashore includes Steller’s Sea Eagle, Emperor Goose and Pechora Pipit, as well as Brown Bear, Kamchatka Marmot and Arctic Fox. The seas also support a rich diversity of species and Blue, Grey, Humpback, Sperm and Baird’s Beaked Whales are all possible, along with 13 species of auks and other regional specialities such as the Red-faced Cormorant and Red-legged Kittiwake
dates & prices
There are no trips scheduled for this expedition.
Day 1 Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy
Arrive into Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy the capital and administrative centre of the Kamchatka Region and transfer to the port to board the Spirit of Enderby.
After an opportunity to settle into your cabin we will set sail through Avacha Bay, one of the greatest natural harbours in the world and head north-east along the lower Kamchatka coastline.
As we cross the bay, we will look for Spectacled Guillemot, an uncommon species which breeds here in small numbers. Other birds we could see include Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemot, Ancient Murrelet and Tufted Puffin.
Day 2 Zhupanova River
We plan to spend the morning Zodiac cruising on the Zhupanova River. Our main target here is the Steller’s Sea Eagle and there are usually at least three occupied nests close to the river. Other species we could see include Long-toed Stint, Aleutian Tern, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler and Yellow-breasted Bunting. Good numbers of Largha Seals are also often hauled out on sandbars in the river.
By late afternoon, we should be over deep water heading for the Commander Islands and new species to look for include Laysan Albatross, Mottled Petrel and Fork-tailed Storm- Petrel. The Kamchatka Trench can also be excellent for cetaceans and we have previously seen Blue Whales on this crossing.
Days 3 & 4 Commander Islands
The wildlife-rich Commander Islands were first discovered by the Commander Vitus Bering when his ship was wrecked here in 1741. We intend to explore the islands through a combination of landings and Zodiac cruises and our first stop will be the village of Nikolskoye, where there is an interesting museum. Birding around the village is also excellent and we should find Rock Sandpiper, Mongolian Plover, Glaucous-winged Gull and Pechora Pipit, with the possibilities on subsequent landings including Rock Ptarmigan, Buff-bellied Pipit and Grey-crowned Rosy Finch.
Zodiac cruising is often spectacular and we hope to encounter Red-faced Cormorant, Red-legged Kittiwake, Pigeon Guillemot, Horned Puffin, as well as Parakeet, Crested and Whiskered Auklets.
Our plans also include a ship cruise along the southern coast of Bering Island, as this area is excellent for cetaceans with Humpback, Sperm, Northern Minke and Baird’s Beaked Whales all regularly encountered.
Day 5 Karaginskiy Island
Our proposed landing site is a patchwork of boggy tundra, ponds and shingle spits and an interesting range of waders can be found here including Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint and Red-necked Phalarope. The ponds also support a range of waterfowl and previously we have encountered Red-throated Diver, Bean Goose, Greater Scaup and Long-tailed Duck. Potential passerines include Kamchatka Leaf-Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Bluethroat, Red-throated Pipits and Eastern Yellow Wagtail.
Day 6 Verkhoturova Island and Govena Peninsula
Verkhoturova Island has some huge seabird colonies and by following a short trail to the cliff top we should be able to enjoy some fantastic views of Tufted Puffins, Brunnich’s Guillemots, Pelagic Cormorants and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Both Steller’s Eider and Harlequin Duck occur too and we may also see some Steller Sea Lions, as they are often hauled out on some offshore rocks. Later in the day, there will be either a Zodiac cruise or landing on the Govena Peninsula. Good numbers of Brown Bears can often be found here, as well as King and Common Eiders and Black and Stejneger’s Scoters.
Day 7 Tintikun Lagoon and Olyutorskiy Bay
Tintikun Lagoon is one of the most scenic places in the Russian Far East and the lake is surrounded by jagged mountains, glaciers and forested slopes. A shallow river allows us to drive the Zodiacs onto the lake and we intend to make several landings with Eurasian Nutcracker, Dusky Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat and Siberian Accentor amongst the possibilities.
Later in the day, we will explore Olyutorskiy Bay, where we should encounter a range of seabirds which could include Aleutian Tern and the critically endangered Kittlitz’s Murrelet.
Days 8 & 9 Chukotka Coast
We plan to spend two days with members of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Taskforce searching remote bays looking for unknown populations of this critically endangered species. The experts estimate that there may only be 200 pairs left, however, the birds are very specific over the habitat they require for breeding. In 2011 we made ornithological history by locating three territories at a location which had not been previously surveyed. We will be assisting the Taskforce again and hope to repeat our success elsewhere.
Other possibilities include Mongolian Plover, Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Red-necked and Long-toed Stints, as well as Gyrfalcon and Sandhill Crane.
Day 10 Bukhta Petra and Bogoslova Island
Another beautiful fiord possessed of a dramatic allure in the low sun of the Subarctic. A walrus haul-out guards the entrance and we make a landing to explore the hinterland, surrounded by imposing mountain landscapes and verdant tundra. Nomadic reindeer herders are sometimes encountered in this region.
Days 11 & 12 Meinypil’gyno
Meinypil’gyno is located on a 40 kilometre long shingle spit and is the most important site in the world for breeding Spoon-billed Sandpiper, as there are about ten pairs which are monitored by members of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Recovery Taskforce.
We hope to take you to at least one territory, although as we always put the welfare of wildlife first, viewing is likely to be at a range of at least 25 metres. Nevertheless, we hope to show everyone this iconic bird which is one of the most critically endangered on the planet.
Meinypil’gyno is extremely rich in other wildlife too and we may also find Emperor Goose, Pacific Diver and Sandhill Crane, whilst just offshore Grey Whales and Belugas often gather to feed. We anticipate offering a Zodiac cruise to watch these animals and the sheer number can be breathtaking and are certainly comparable with some of the best known whale-watching sites in the world.
Day 13 Cape Navarin
This coastline is rich in marine mammals and one creature we will be looking for, in particular, is the walrus, as there is a known haul-out. The animals do regularly move between locations, so finding them is always very much a matter of luck, although we have had success here in the past.
Good numbers of Grey Whales often congregate here too, and we may well end the activities of the expedition by Zodiac cruising some spectacular cliffs where tens of thousands of seabirds breed, giving us a final chance to watch birds such as Tufted Puffin and Black-legged Kittiwake.
Day 14 Port of Anadyr
As we cruise into Anadyr Bay, there is an excellent chance of seeing more Belugas and after a final breakfast on board the Spirit of Enderby, it will be time to disembark. We will provide complimentary transfers to a downtown hotel and the airport.
How to Prepare
How many people on the ship?
Polar Pioneer sleeps 54 passengers. We believe that small groups are the best way to experience our destinations.
Where do passengers come from?
The majority of our clients come from Australia, the UK/Europe and America, however we do often have a mix of other nationalities on board, including our expedition staff.
How much room is there for luggage?
There is ample storage space in your cabin on all our ships. Your empty baggage can be stored safely elsewhere on the ship if need be.
Does the crew speak English?
The crew are all Russian. They are undoubtedly the ice-masters of the world. The Captain and most of the watch officers speak English. Whilst some of the crew speak only a little English, they do like to practice their English skills on our willing passengers.
Is the ship air-conditioned? What is the temperature?
All our ships are air-conditioned and the temperature ranges for 15°C to 25°C. You can control the temperature of your cabin by adjusting the airflow through the roof vent and turning your heater on or off.
How do we dry wet clothing?
Clothing dries very quickly inside your cabin. There are no passenger laundry facilities for you to do your own washing, but there is a laundry service on board all our vessels. Prices are listed in your cabin. All cabins have a sink.
What clothes do I take to wear on the ship?
Shipboard clothing is informal and casual. Depending on your destination; jeans, jumpers, long sleeve shirt and enclosed shoes are ideal in our polar regions. However be sure to keep your jacket close for unexpected sightings!
Some people like to take a nice outfit or something a bit special for the Captain’s welcome and farewell drinks, but formal clothing is not necessary.
What type of jacket should I take?
You can get away without a padded ski jacket or down parka, if you don’t have one; however a wind and waterproof jacket is a must!
Do you provide parkers or jackets?
We do not provide parkers or jackets on board.
What kind of footwear do I need for our shore visits?
It is most important that you bring a good pair of walking shoes. Gumboots will be provided on board in our polar destinations.
Do you provide gumboots?
Yes. All passengers will be provided with gumboots. If you have concerns regarding extra small or large sizing, or hard-to-fit feet, we recommend you bring your own pair.
How often do we get off the ship?
We aim to get off the ship as much as possible, usually two, sometimes three times a day depending on weather and itinerary. Weather permitting we spend between one to four hours at each location. We come back to the ship for meals.
What is not included in the price of the voyage?
In general items that are not included in the cost of your voyage are flights to and from your voyage, pre and post accommodation, transfers, drinks from the bar (alcohol and soft drinks), gratuities, ship-shop items, laundry costs and other items of a personal nature (unless stated in your voyage inclusions).
Some voyages do include certain pre and post arrangements, so please check your specific voyage inclusions in our brochure, website or call our Expedition Experts on + 61 2 9252 1033 .
Do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance, including medical evacuation cover, is mandatory for all Aurora Expeditions’ voyages. We advise you have insurance for voyage cancellation to ensure you will be covered financially if you are forced to cancel your voyage due to circumstances beyond your control. It is in your best interest to read carefully the General Terms & Conditions on your booking form or on our website here. http://www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/terms-and-conditions
How much should I tip?
People often ask us what they should do about tipping. Tipping is a very personal matter, however if pressed we recommend $US10-12 per passenger, per day that you are on the ship. It is better for our Russian crew if you can give them US dollars cash. Our Russian crews work extremely hard to ensure you have the best possible experience. They are paid by the Russian ship owners and do not receive large wages. We are continually lobbying on their behalf for better pay.
Should I bring along my own walking poles?
Yes, it’s a good idea, especially if you have trouble walking over uneven ground. Some of our landings can be on slippery rocks or deep snow, and we may go for extended walks to see different parts of our landing point. We recommend the telescopic poles, with the optional snow-basket tips for polar voyages. You can purchase these poles in most outdoor stores.
Do you have facilities on board to download digital images from my camera?
No, we do not provide a computer to download your digital images. We recommended you bring a laptop computer or similar downloading device to download your images, either between landings, in the evenings or during sea crossings.
What is the electrical supply on board? Do I need a converter?
The electrical supply on board is 220 volts, 50 hertz. You will need a European round two-prong plug adapter available at duty free or electrical supply shops.
Do you cater for special meal requests?
Yes. Our talented chefs will take your requirements into their meal planning and ensure you receive tasty, healthy meals. Please ensure you list any dietary requirements on your personal details form.
What if I need to go to the toilet when ashore?
Our expedition staff will instruct you with these types of rules on board. Generally on our polar voyages we avoid going to the bathroom ashore, however in an emergency we ask you to find a discreet location near the shoreline to relieve yourself.
How fit do I need to be?
To make the most of our voyages, you should be in good general health and able to walk reasonable distances, sometimes over uneven terrain. However, if you have problems walking on rough ground, you can enjoy the scenery closer to shore. Should you have any physical limitations please notify us well in advance of your departure, but this should not discourage you participating.
How do we pay for our bar bill at the end of the voyage?
Our hotel manager will organise this on board. We accept all major credit cards, or if you are paying cash we except US dollars.
Can I smoke on board?
There is a ‘No Smoking’ policy throughout the interior of our ships. Our expedition leader will advise you on designated smoking areas.
Are there hairdryers on board?
There are no hairdryers on board.
Will I get sea sick?
Many people ask us if they will get seasick. It is a very difficult question to answer because it depends so much on the individual. Our experience is that a small percentage of people are seasick on any trip and most of these people are fine after a day or so at sea. If you feel that you are particularly susceptible to seasickness then it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. Come with motion sickness tablets. There will be a doctor on board to assist with any bouts of sea sickness.
Will I see a polar bear in the Russian Arctic/ brown bear in the Russian Far East?
As with all wild animals, we cannot guarantee you will see polar bears. However, the time of year we visit is when bear numbers are at their peak, and our experienced leaders and crew are aware of the bear’s habitats and are well trained to spot these marvellous creatures in the wild.
Is tipping expected in Russian hotels, bars and restaurants?
Tipping is common at about 5-10% in most places. Consider about 10% in some more up-market restaurants. As far as tour guides are concerned, about US$5 to US$10 a day is suitable. Sometimes a small gift, such as chocolates or a CD, is a nice gesture.
Is bargaining acceptable?
Items that you purchase in store will usually have a fixed price. However, you may make a counter bid at markets and souvenir stalls, although Russia is not really a country for vigorous haggling.
What sort of money do I take and how much?
Australian dollars are difficult to exchange in Russia. We recommend that you exchange your Australian dollars in Australia or take US dollars for exchanging in Moscow or St Petersburg. It is better to carry US dollars for tipping and payment of bar bills on board the ship. You can also pay with all major credit cards including Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
Can I swim or snorkel in Russia?
Although you cannot swim or snorkel in Russia, some of our voyages stop at hot springs where you will have the chance to have a soak. Check your voyage itinerary for details.
Do I need a visa for Russia?
Please also note at check in to each hotel, you will be charged a visa registration fee for the hotel to register your stay. This cost may be included in the cost when booking or may be charged upon arrival to the hotel. The cost can be up to EUR8 per person, per room.
How do I get to Russia?
There are a number of airlines that can get you to Russia, however within Russia itself, the choice is limited. View a list of airlines on page #. Common airline routes (from Sydney, Australia) are listed below. Contact our reservations team if you would like flight information travelling from your nearest city.
To Sakhalin Island
Sydney- Seoul -Yuzhno
How to Book
If you are interested in an Aurora Expeditions voyage, please contact our sales team to check availability.
Either email an expert here or call our experienced consultants direct on + 61 2 9252 1033 or 1800 637 688 (Freecall within Australia).
Complete a booking form
Once availability is confirmed, please download, print and complete the booking form. Please return it to us, along with your deposit to secure your berth. Please ensure you read the Terms and Conditions of contract before sending us your signed booking form.
Terms & Conditions
Click here to view the terms and conditions.
Preparation for your voyage
On receipt of the booking form, we will contact you to confirm your booking and our reservations staff will send you a comprehensive pre-departure kit. This kit will contain all necessary pre-departure information including visa information, insurance information, a medical and personal details form, comprehensive gear list and information tailored to your voyage.
Aurora Expeditions - Your Personal Travel Agent
Aurora Expeditions is a licensed travel agent. Our experienced reservations consultants all have specialised expertise on the destinations we travel to. Each voyage has a dedicated travel expert solely working on developing dynamic itineraries for our passengers. Contact our reservations team and allow us to create a personal itinerary to compliment your voyage, including airfares, accommodation, travel insurance and pre and post voyage travel options.
We look forward to assisting you with your journey of a lifetime.
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