Sea of Okhotsk:

Seals, Seabirds and a Legacy of Sorrow

Sea of Okhotsk: Seals, Seabirds and a Legacy of Sorrow

DAYS 12 / SHIP Spirit of Enderby

DEPARTURES 9 JUN 2020

PLACES VISITED Sakhalin Island / Sea of Okhotsk

PRICES FROM $6,590 USD (More Rates)

Perhaps no other sea in the world has witnessed as much human suffering and misery as the Sea of Okhotsk. Between 1932 and 1953 it is estimated that over 3 million prisoners (the vast majority of them innocent) were transported across the Sea of Okhotsk to the Gulags of the Kolyma Goldfields. It is estimated that only 500,000 of those prisoners survived to make the journey home. The town and port of Magadan were built to process these prisoners.

The upper regions of the Sea of Okhotsk remain frozen for much of the year and winter storms make it an inhospitable place. However the lure of a rich fishery and more recently oil and gas discoveries means this sea is still being exploited, so nothing has changed there. In 1854 no fewer than 160 American and British whaling ships were there, hunting whales. Despite this seemingly relentless exploitation the wildlife thrives, including the beautifully marked and rare Ribbon Seals. On three small islands within this sea hundreds of Steller Sea Lions haul out each year to breed. One of these, Tyuleniy Island, also is home to one of the largest concentrations and breeding colonies of Northern Fur Seals in the Russian Far East.

Seabird numbers in the Sea of Okhotsk can only be described as spectacular. There are islands like Talan where the sky darkens when the Crested Auklets start massing offshore of an evening. Other birds include guillemots, puffins, auklets and fulmars. But the richness of birdlife is not restricted to pelagic species. The Sea of Okhotsk has one of the highest concentrations of the majestic Steller's Sea Eagle of anywhere in the Russian Far East. Waterfowl are common as are many migratory species. Harder to see but not uncommon on this expedition are the magnificent Kamchatka Brown Bear and other mammals such as the Arctic Ground Squirrel.

This is a truly unique journey in that it travels through a little known and seldom visited region. A region with a rich history and very significant and important wildlife values, both terrestrial and marine. There are still discoveries to be made and so for the inquisitive, adventurous and open minded traveller this is a ‘must do' expedition.

 

Perhaps no other sea in the world has witnessed as much human suffering and misery as the Sea of Okhotsk. Between 1932 and 1953 it is estimated that over 3 million prisoners (the vast majority of them innocent) were transported across the Sea of Okhotsk to the Gulags of the Kolyma Goldfields. It is estimated that only 500,000 of those prisoners survived to make the journey home. The town and port of Magadan were built to process these prisoners.

The upper regions of the Sea of Okhotsk remain frozen for much of the year and winter storms make it an inhospitable place. However the lure of a rich fishery and more recently oil and gas discoveries means this sea is still being exploited, so nothing has changed there. In 1854 no fewer than 160 American and British whaling ships were there, hunting whales. Despite this seemingly relentless exploitation the wildlife thrives, including the beautifully marked and rare Ribbon Seals. On three small islands within this sea hundreds of Steller Sea Lions haul out each year to breed. One of these, Tyuleniy Island, also is home to one of the largest concentrations and breeding colonies of Northern Fur Seals in the Russian Far East.

Seabird numbers in the Sea of Okhotsk can only be described as spectacular. There are islands like Talan where the sky darkens when the Crested Auklets start massing offshore of an evening. Other birds include guillemots, puffins, auklets and fulmars. But the richness of birdlife is not restricted to pelagic species. The Sea of Okhotsk has one of the highest concentrations of the majestic Steller's Sea Eagle of anywhere in the Russian Far East. Waterfowl are common as are many migratory species. Harder to see but not uncommon on this expedition are the magnificent Kamchatka Brown Bear and other mammals such as the Arctic Ground Squirrel.

This is a truly unique journey in that it travels through a little known and seldom visited region. A region with a rich history and very significant and important wildlife values, both terrestrial and marine. There are still discoveries to be made and so for the inquisitive, adventurous and open minded traveller this is a ‘must do' expedition.

 

READ LESS

Send a message to an
Expedition Specialist:

DOWNLOAD
Expedition Brochure
2019 ITINERARY
Sea of Okhotsk: Seals, Seabirds and a Legacy of Sorrow
Expand All

Day 1: Sakhalin Island, Port of Korsakov
This morning we board a coach for transfer to the Port of Korsakov some 40 minutes south of the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk where we will board the Spirit of Enderby. Once on board you will be shown to your cabins and there will be a chance to unpack and explore the vessel. There will be briefings and introductions to the ship, staff and crew after we sail towards the Sea of Okhotsk.

Day 2: Tyuleniy Island
We visit little known Tyuleniy Island off the south east coast of Sakhalin Island. This small island is a strong hold for Northern Fur Seals and Steller Sea Lions. Fur seal numbers have increased since an International Covention signed in 1911 banned seal hunting here. In the 1990s Steller Sea Lions started breeding on the island and their colony now numbers about 2,500 animals. Sea conditions permitting we plan a landing here for an opportunity to photograph the seals and sea lions.

Day 3: Piltun Bay, Sakhalin Island
It was the discovery of oil and gas in this region which put Sakhalin Island on many people’s maps. Piltun Bay is an important habitat for the small population of Western Gray Whales. Researchers monitor the population during the summer months. We go in search of the Gray Whales that live here, travelling by Zodiac inshore to the shallower waters where they are known to feed.

Day 4: Iony Island
Iony Island lies in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk, it is really just a rock, but what it lacks in physical size it more than makes up for wildlife. Birds appear to take up all available space; there are guillemots, kittiwakes and various species of auklets, with Parakeet, Whiskered and Least being the most prominent. We will Zodiac cruise around the island as Steller Sea Lions occupy the few rocky beaches, making any landing impossible.

Days 5 to 6: Shantar Archipelago
Lying in the western sector of the Sea of Okhotsk close to the continent, the islands in this archipelago are amongst the last place in the Sea of Okhotsk to become ice free each year. This late ice can sometimes restrict how far we can explore here; on the other hand ice increases our chances of seeing some of the seals including Bearded, Ringed, Largha and Ribbon Seals that breed here. If we can land there will be birding, botany and photography excursions led by our team of on board naturalists.

Day 7: Mal’minskie Islands
Here there are birds everywhere, in the air, in the water and on the land. Numerous species breed here including large numbers of Spectacled Guillemots. Other species include Ancient Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Parakeet Auklet, Horned and Tufted Puffin, Crested Auklet and both Common and Brunnich’s Guillemot. There is also a good population of Steller’s Sea Eagles on the island and on the adjacent mainland. Landing on the island is restricted to a small gravel spit; however on the mainland we can stretch our legs and explore the taiga forest.

Day 8: Okhotsk Town
This town has featured in Russian Far East history since the earliest Cossack explorers came from the west. Vitus Bering travelled overland from St Petersburg to Okhotsk in 1725 and again 1733 and travelled to Kamchtka and beyond. Today Okhotsk is the centre of fishing in the region. The port exports significant quantities of salmon and other fish. We visit the town, landing by Zodiac up the river near the town centre. The local people are generous and welcoming and will provide entertainment in the town centre and a cultural display.

Day 9: Talan Island
An internationally known, but very difficult bird island to get to, Talan is famous largely because of the hundreds of thousands of Crested Auklets that nest there. There are also an extraordinary number of Black-legged Kittiwakes nesting along the cliffs and not surprisingly a large population of Steller’s Sea Eagles. We plan to circumnavigate the island by Zodiac before landing and then return in the late evening to witness the huge flocks of Crested Auklets amassing at sea before coming ashore.

Day 10: Koni Peninsula
This is a mountainous region to the south-east of the town of Magadan, part of which is included in the Magadanskiy Zapovednik Reserve. This reserve protects among other animals brown bear and Snow Sheep. Many of our landings are expeditionary, in that although we have landed at a number of places along the coast, many will be new and unknown to us, so we are never quite sure what we will find. That is part of what makes this style of travel so interesting.

Day 11: Yamskiye Islands
These islands are claimed by some biologists to be the largest bird colony in the North Pacific. According to bird counts there are an estimated 7 million birds nesting on Matykil Island, the largest in the group. Birds include Common and Brunnich’s Guillemot, Crested, Parakeet and Least Auklets, Tufted and Horned Puffins and Northern Fulmars. The most abundant of these is the Least Auklet. We Zodiac around the coast as no landings are permitted.

Day 12: Magadan
The name Magadan is synonymous with Stalin’s oppressive Gulags or prisons but there is very little evidence now of this town’s tragic past. The local museum has an excellent display about the Gulags but the most poignant reminder is the ‘Mask of Sorrow’ a large monument on a hill overlooking the town. Today Magadan is a town of about 100,000 people. Fishing is important and gold mining is experiencing a revival. The infamous Kolyma Highway or the ‘Road of Bones’ connects Magadan with Irkutsk and ultimately greater Russia. We plan to arrive here midday where our journey ends. You will be transferred to a central hotel or the airport. Enquire for a full itinerary.

Our ship: Spirit of Enderby

The Spirit of Enderby (Professor Khromov) is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel. She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in May 2019 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows o...

VIEW SHIP PROFILE

Pricing

Sea of Okhotsk - 9 Jun 2020 - Spirit of Enderby

Cabin Category Price USD Description Availablity
Main Deck Triple $6,590 One bunk (one upper and one lower) and one additional lower berth, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private washbasin. Shared shower and toilet facilities nearby with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole. Limited
Main Deck $7,750 Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private washbasin. Shared shower and toilet facilities nearby with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole. Available
Superior $8,270 One bunk (one upper and one lower berth), writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows. Available
Superior Plus $9,000 Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows. Available
Mini Suite $9,420 Separate bedroom with a double bed and a single bed or sofa in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Mini Suites have windows. Waitlisted
Heritage Suite $10,370 Large lounge area, separate bedroom with double bed, single bed in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe, drawers, and fridge. There is a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Large forward and side facing windows with great views. Available
Additional fees

Local Payment: $500.00pp

Includes:

Pre/Post cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation, meals and all expedition shore excursions.

Excludes:

All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.

Trip Reports

Looking for a taste of what you can expect on our expeditions or want to relive your voyage? Our Trip Reports offer a detailed, day-by-day account of all of our previous expeditions tracking the voyage route and highlighting the numerous wildlife and cultural encounters experienced along the way.

READ MORE

What out travelers are saying:

We have travelled to a great many countries over the past forty five years both working and laterally for pleasure. This trip was something quite different and special, a great experience from both a cultural and naturalist viewpoint. At the end of the sea voyage we were able to enjoy some of what Kamchatka has to offer including landing a few fish whilst rafting down the Bystraya River. Bears... READ MORE
MADGE & JESZ
The staff including the Russian crew were really great, personable, accommodating, competent and very interesting, and the chefs produced all sorts of terrific food with a smile despite any adverse weather. It far exceeded my expectations and I will be looking forward to learning more Russian and going on other trips in the future. READ MORE
HEATHER
It is really a fantastic trip. Nathan is an excellent expedition leader, what I especially appreciate is when he find the target ,he arrange all the zodiac sail in parallel that everyone can view the target. Adam is an really expert, he can recognize all the wild animal immediately. Meghan is so considerate that make everyone feel like at home. Lindsay is always busy in satisfy everyone`s stoma... READ MORE
JAMES
We had a fantastic time on the Spirit of Enderby, of course! The ship is so comfortable and our cabin (327) was ideally located in a quiet corner on Main Deck, but still so accessible to the loo and showers, dining area and lecture room. Rodney and his staff really took a lot of care in ensuring that the passengers had a great experience – the zodiac trips were exciting, the lectures were mo... READ MORE
SANDRA
Just returned from the 2014 Sea of Okhotsk voyage and wanted to say a big thank you to the Heritage Expeditions staff and crew onboard the Spirit of Enderby. The tour had many highlights, but the evening we spent around the Yamskyie Islands with the Least and Crested Auklets is something I will never forget - a magical wildlife moment and a privilege to see wildlife in such rich abundance. Thro... READ MORE
ROB MONTAGUE
Since I had such a wonderful experience traveling with Heritage Expeditions on their 2014 Birding Down Under-Sub Antarctic Islands trip I decided to take another adventure with them, this time to Russia's Far East, Sea Of Okhotsk (2016). In addition to all the incredible wildlife we saw (Ribbon seals, brown bears, millions of auklets and the impressive Steller's Sea Eagle), I really like they ... READ MORE
M. DUDLEY
25 Jul 2017
The recent 'Sea of Okhotsk' #1722 expedition aboard 'Spirit of Enderby' has concluded. The Species List for this voyage is now available through th...READ MORE
01 Jul 2016
The recent 'Sea of Okhotsk' #1623 aboard 'Spirit of Enderby' has concluded. The Species List for this voyage is now available through the link at t...READ MORE
29 Jun 2014
The recent 'Sea of Okhotsk' Voyage #1425 aboard Spirit of Enderby has concluded.  The Species List for this voyage is now available through the lin...READ MORE
Send Message
Call Us
Receive e-News
Download Brochure