Jewel of the Russian Far East Dates & Rates
The eastern seaboard of Russia dominates the North Pacific and yet very few people know anything about it, let alone have experienced it. Its isolation has protected one of its most valuable assets – its wilderness and to some degree, its wildlife.
The area was considered an important ‘frontier or border zone’ during the Cold War it was off-limits to foreigners and even Russians had to get special permission to travel within this zone. This, of course, changed in 1992/93 with Perestroika but, it doesn’t mean that it is more accessible. It is probably less accessible now than it was as there are fewer people living there and the State-subsidised transport system has collapsed. There is no money to replace the ageing fleets of aircraft and ships and few people can afford the prices that are charged today.
In the winter much of the shoreline is choked by ice, in the summer the lack of roads, scheduled air or shipping services and a lack of infrastructure means it is equally inaccessible. During spring and summer the region will have been a hive of activity. The thousands of birds that migrated here to take advantage of the phenomenal abundance of food will be preparing to leave. The reindeer and Mountain Sheep will be feeding in preparation for the harsh winter while the Brown Bears, which will have fed extensively on berries in the early summer, will be concentrated on the rivers and creeks and feeding on salmon. Late summer/early autumn is one of the best times to discover this wilderness. The late summer sun and the onset of the autumn colours will make the landscape look like a picture postcard.
With an option of joining from Nome, Alaska, our expedition begins in Anadyr, the administrative centre of the Chukotka Autonomous Region. We then travel south along the Koryak and Kamchatka coastlines to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. Along the way we will make numerous landings, including two full days at the Commander Islands.
dates & prices
There are no trips scheduled for this expedition.
NOTE: You can join this expedition either in Anadyr or in Nome, Alaska. Those starting in Nome will fly by a Heritage Expeditions charter flight to Anadyr and will join the ship and the expedition members who have travelled direct to Anadyr.
Day 0 Nome
Those departing from Nome, Alaska, should arrive in Nome before midday and preferably the previous night.
On arrival, you should check in with Bering Air at the Nome Airport who will have details of our charter flight. During this flight you will cross the International Date Line, arriving into Anadyr on Day 1 of the expedition. You will clear Russian Customs and Immigration.
Day 1 Anadyr
All expedition members will arrive in Anadyr; depending on your time of arrival you may have the opportunity to explore Anadyr, the administrative centre of the Chukotka region, before getting to know your fellow voyagers and crew on board the Spirit of Enderby.
Day 2 Bukhta Gavriila
This coastline is rich in marine mammals and one creature we will be looking for, in particular, is the walrus. 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. In the afternoon we hope to visit a well known walrus haul-out lying between Meinypil’gyno and Cape Navarin.
We also plan a landing in 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 we can explore for waterfowl and waders. We 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 Grey Whales which often congregate here too.
Day 3 Pika River & Meinypil’gyno
We start the day with a visit to the delta of Pika River – a well known walrus haul-out and one of the few places in the southern part of the range that still get thousands of animals coming to rest on the beach.
Later in the day, we visit Meinypil’gyno, a small settlement located on a 40 kilometre long shingle spit. It is a traditional village although renovated under the recent Chukotka government. But the spirit is still alive and the village ensemble will perform for us 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, including Red Knot and critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Even though the breeding season will be over by September, we have a chance of getting migrants on their way south and see the location where the research team is working hard to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
Day 4 Bukhta Natalii
Along the Koryak Coast there are many beautiful fiords (bukhtas or bays) and none are more beautiful than Bukhta Natalii. This fiord has two smaller fiords that drain into it from the south; called Bukhta Pavla and Bukhta Petra (named after St Peter and St Paul by Commander Vitus Bering).
We will cruise to the head of Bukhta Pavla and make a landing. This will be a great opportunity to explore the inland as we hike from one bay to be picked up by the ship in another. The magnificent mountain landscapes and tundra vegetation will surround us, along with the possibility of sighting Snow Sheep, as they were often seen in the area. There is a historic walrus haul-out on Bogoslova Island which guards the entrance to these fiords.
Day 5 Tintikun Lagoon
Much of the southern Govena Peninsula was recently made into a State Reserve. There are a number of fiords included in the Reserve; one of the most spectacular is Tintikun Lagoon.
This fiord was blocked by a large terminal moraine during the last period of glaciation. A shallow river surrounded by jagged mountains, glaciers and forested slopes has breached the moraine, allowing access to one of the most picturesque locations found anywhere in the world. We take the Zodiacs onto the lake and intend to make several landings with Eurasian Nutcracker, Dusky Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat and Siberian Accentor amongst the possibilities. There is also a large population of Brown Bears and these should be feeding in and around the river mouths that drain into the head of the lagoon.
We will start the morning in Brown Bear country, an undisturbed habitat within the Koryakskiy Reserve, where we will go bear watching and Zodiac cruising along the coast. Brown 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 we go to Verkhoturova Island, where we have a chance to climb over to a seabird colony. The breeding season will be over, however, some of the birds that should still be around the colony include Tufted and Horned Puffins; Pigeon, Common and Brunnich’s Guillemots and also Parakeet and Least Auklets. Pelagic Cormorants also occur in large numbers.
On nearby rocky islets there is a regular non-breeding haul-out of Steller Sea Lions.
Day 7 Karaginskiy Island
A few miles to the south from Verhoturova Island is the much larger Karaginskiy Island. Here we encounter some of the first ‘forests’ of the voyage. This is a change from the tundra that we have seen so far depicting a sure sign that we 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 we can marvel at the richness of the local flora, as many of them would be at their best.
A proposed landing site is a patchwork of boggy tundra, ponds and shingle spits. 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 8 & 9 Commander Islands
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 Medney) with two smaller islands Ariy Karmen and Toporkov. These islands are located at the western extremity of the Aleutian chain. We intend to explore the islands through a combination of landings and Zodiac cruises.
We plan to stop at the village of Nikolskoye, the museum is reputedly one of the best in the Russian Far East and amongst many other items it has one of the very few preserved full-size Sea Cow skeletons. 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.
After the culture visit to the village we make several landings exploring the natural wonders of the Commander Islands. We visit the Fur Seal rookery at North-West Cape and Zodiac cruise around the impressive bird colony at Ariy Kamen. We will also possibly visit the gravesite of Commander Vitus Bering or the remarkable Medney Island with its bird cliffs and numerous Sea Otters.
Day 10 Olga Bay
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 to what we will have been experiencing before with lush Kamchatka forests coming right down to the beach line. There is a possibility we will see Brown Bears and other forest fauna, as well as multiple bird species that live in this habitat.
The area around Olga Bay is frequented by large numbers of Grey Whales that are usually quite friendly to the visiting boats, if the conditions are right we will take a Zodiac whale-watching cruise.
The rising volcanoes in the background will provide a beautiful setting to explore real Kamchatka wilderness.
Day 11 Zhupanova River and Bukhta Bechevinskaya
This morning we make our way along the Zhupanova River by Zodiac. This journey allows us 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 – one of Kamchatka’s valuable natural resources. Steller’s Sea Eagles are known to nest in the lower reaches of the river. And we are very likely to see many young of the year as well as a few adults still hanging around their nesting sites. Other birds that breed here will have finished breeding at the time of our visit but some of them should still be present; there will be waterfowl, gulls and terns, possibly including the Aleutian Tern. There is also the possibility of spotting Brown Bears, Red Foxes and Musk Rats.
In the afternoon, depending on the 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 we 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.
Day 12 Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy
During the night the Spirit of Enderby will enter Avacha Bay which is one of the greatest natural harbours in the world. On the shores of Avacha Bay is Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, the capital and administrative centre of the Kamchatka Region. The town was founded in the 1700s by Commander Vitus Bering during the Second Kamchatka Expedition. All through the Cold War it was home to a significant part of Russia’s Pacific Fleet which included a large submarine base. The city and region was ‘closed’ to all foreign visitors until 1992.
Disembark the vessel today where there will be a complimentary transfer to the airport. Alternatively you have the option to remain on board for one further night and disembark on Day 13*. The day is free for exploring and we will be offering a number of optional excursions including a trip into the world-famous Valley of the Geysers, an excursion to one of the nearby volcanoes or a day exploring the city, including the museums and markets.
Day 13 Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy
For passengers who stayed on board in port last night, after breakfast disembark the ship and transfer to a hotel of your choice in the city or to the airport with our complimentary transfer today.
To allow time for disembarkation procedures, whether you depart the ship on day 12 or 13 we do not recommend booking flights before 13:00hrs.
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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