8 Reasons To Visit The Russian Far East
Chukotka • Wrangel Island • Kamchatka • Kuril Islands • Commander Islands
- Isolated Wildernesses Very Few People Have Seen
The Russian Far East is sparsely populated and largely inhabited by wildlife. Foreigners were not even permitted to visit Kamchatka prior to 1992. Still today, the extremely limited infrastructure and lack of roads make travelling here nearly impossible for independent adventurers – but ideal for expedition cruising! Far-flung and pristine Wrangel Island receives the highest level of protection and very few people are allowed to visit. Expedition cruises departing from Anadyr are the only way to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, which hosts only a few hundred visitors each summer.
- Polar Bear Denning Capital of the World
UNESCO World Heritage site, Wrangel Island, is located well above the Arctic Circle, and accessible only by expedition cruise from Anadyr. One of Russia's most treasured wildlife sanctuaries, Wrangel Island is often referred to as the “Polar Bear Maternity Ward” due to having the largest density of denning polar bears in the world – averaging between 300 and 350 maternity dens each year! The Russian Government declared this island a Nature Reserve in 1976 to protect the Polar Bears, as well as the Snow Geese and Walrus which also flourish here. Wrangel Island provides a large landmass with diverse landscapes and productive marine habitats for optimal hunting. Thanks to the nutrient-rich Chukchi Sea, Polar Bears in this region are still able to feed, despite having one month less on sea ice. Viewing mother Polar Bears and her cubs on the Island as well as on floating ice is an experience like no other.
- Densest Population Of Brown Bears On The Planet
The Kamchatka Peninsula is home to around 15,000 Kamchatka Brown Bears – the densest population of brown bears on the planet. Fortunately, over 25% of this enchanting territory is protected in nature reserves. Among the largest bears in the world, they can weigh up to 700 kilograms. During summer months, June through September, they often congregate along Kamchatka’s riverbeds and coastline to mate, feed on salmon and raise their young. During an expedition cruise to this region, it’s typical to encounter between 40 and 80 Kamchatka Brown Bears per voyage from the safe vantage of the Zodiacs and ship. Enjoy a helicopter excursion to the massive, freshwater volcanic basin of Kuril Lake in southern Kamchatka. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and reserve is famous for the numbers of Brown Bears which bring their young to feed here.
- Amazing Marine Life
Wrangel Island and Chukotka are home to the highest concentration of Walruses on Earth, and surrounding waters are important summer feeding grounds for Grey Whales from California. Haul-outs of 300 to 450 Walruses may be found along these coastlines. Beneath the deep blue waters surrounding Kamchatka lives a bounty of marine life – thousands of Sea Otters, endangered Steller Sea Lions, Northern Fur Seals, Harbour porpoises and Dall’s porpoises, Largha Seals, and a range of whales including the critically endangered North Pacific Right whale, Orca, Beluga, Bowhead, Blue, Humpback, Fin, Minke and Sperm. The Commander Islands are a thriving hotspot for cetaceans, with an impressive 21 migratory whale species, including Orca, Fin, Humpback, Sperm, Fin and several species of beaked whales.
- Astounding Bird Life
The impressive scale of birdlife in the Russian Far East is an extraordinary privilege to experience. Witnessing hundreds of thousands of birds is an unreal sight to behold. In Chukotka, sparse population and lack of access help preserve a remarkable diversity of fauna. There are about 220 species of birds recorded from the region, a number of which are endangered, such as the Yellow-billed Loon and Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Other common species include Brunnich’s guillemot, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Little, Parakeet, Lesser and Crested Auks. Wrangel and Herald Islands are the last landfall for migratory birds flying north through Beringia in search of breeding grounds. There are 50 species regularly nesting on the islands with another 110 occasional visitors. The Russian Kamchatka Peninsula hosts a profusion of birdlife including half of the world’s population of majestic Steller’s Sea Eagles. Massive seabird colonies of Auklets, Puffins, Cormorants, Guillemots, Gulls, Fulmars and Kittiwakes circle and nest in the craggy cliffs.
- Remote Indigenous Cultures
Russia's rugged Siberian coast hosts a number of cultural highlights tucked in amongst a profusion of wildlife and dramatic tundra landscapes. Spend a day enjoying the colourful annual Beringia Arctic Games and Chukotka Cultural Festival which celebrates the indigenous communities of the Siberian Arctic through traditional song and dance performances, food, whale-skin boat regattas, hand-made art and physical strength competitions. Just south of the Arctic Circle sits the small native village of Uelen. The closest Eurasian settlement to North America, Uelen is mostly inhabited by Chukchi (along with some Yupik and Russian) and is known for its walrus tusk carvings. Visit the world's only museum of walrus ivory carvings and enjoy a carving demonstration. Archeologists have found artifacts of indigenous peoples here dating back to 500 BC. Visit Chukchi and Yupik villages whose residents still make their living hunting walrus, seals and whales. Meet the locals and hear their stories of their love for and strong connection with the land and the sea.
- The Land of Fire & Ice
Part of the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire,’ Kamchatka boasts 414 glaciers and about 300 volcanoes, of which 29 are still active. This dramatically beautiful peninsula hosts the highest density of active volcanoes in the world, many of which rise an impressive 4,000 metres or more above sea level. The volcanic Kuril Islands consist of at least 160 volcanoes, 40 of which remain active. Exploring these islands by expedition ship offers the opportunity to land and hike across uninhabited islands and Zodiac cruise along rugged coastlines. Visit Krenitsyn Volcano on Onekotan Island, the world’s largest volcano within a volcano. Born from the serene waters of the Ring Lake within the Tao-Rusyr Caldera, Krenitsyn is one of the natural sites of the 100 Wonders of Russia. Natural hot springs are found throughout the coastal Russian Far East. Swim and soak in some of these soothing mineral-rich pools, like Gil'mimyl Hot Springs on Yttygran Island, surrounded by exquisite scenery.
- Fascinating Historical Sites
In Chukotka, explore the most significant and intriguing archaeological site in the Arctic. Believed to be constructed in the 14th century, ‘Whale Bone Alley’ derived its name from the large number of whale skulls and jaw bones erected along the beach. The site’s origins and purpose, however, remain in debate. Land at Cape Dezhnev, the northeastern most point of the Eurasian continent. Wander through the derelict subterranean house remnants to the monument to Semyon Dezhnev. On Wrangel Island, walk in the footsteps of the last living Woolly Mammoths and Ada Blackjack – the 23-year-old Inupiat seamstress and sole survivor of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s ill-fated 1921 expedition to claim Wrangel Island for the British Empire. Discover remnants of whaling and fur trading stations in the Kuril and Commander Islands. On Bering Island, visit the site where Arctic Explorer and Commander Vitus Bering and his crew were stranded for nine months.
Experience the wonder and magic of the Russian Far East first-hand this summer aboard Spirit of Enderby on an expedition cruise of a lifetime.
01 Jun 2021
Pioneering New Zealand-based expedition cruise company Heritage Expeditions is proud to announce it will be operating the world-renowned Polar ex...READ MORE
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The recent 'Galapagos of the Southern Ocean' #2178 expedition aboard Spirit of Enderby has concluded. The Species List for this voyage is now avail...READ MORE
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The recent 'Unseen Fiordland, Stewart Island and the Snares' #2168 expedition aboard Spirit of Enderby has concluded. The Species List for this voy...READ MORE