There are many jewels to experience in the Russian Far East – it is a place of mystery and wilderness, snow-capped volcanoes and uninhabited islands, alpine meadows and lowland forests.
The Kamchatka Peninsula and Kuril islands are some of the most geologically active and biologically rich parts of the planet and support a wide diversity of birdlife. It is only really in this century that the region has been open to visitors at all, and because of the lack of infrastructure, the best way to explore is by ship and boat.
Chukotka is in the very north eastern part of Eurasia and has one of the harshest environments on anywhere in the world. Despite this there is plenty of wildlife to see, including the extremely rare spoon-billed sandpiper. You will also have the opportunity to meet the local Chukchis who make their life in this untamed wilderness.
Some of our voyages also take in the remote Commander Islands where the famous Danish explorer Vitus Bering and 28 men of his company died in 1741, and Wrangel Island whose nature reserve is often referred to as the maternity ward for polar bears!
“Generally, I think our memories are of experiences rather than particular places – walking or running the Solovetski trails and paths, seeing a beaver while on the rowing boat trip, the long daylight hours and strolls after dinner, the friendly hotel in the Solovetskis (Irina, who seemed to cook, clean and do everything basically was wonderful); the banyas and soups in the Solovetskis; drinks in the courtyard in the Helvetia hotel; the amazingly sunny weather in St Petersburg and appreciating just how much restoration has been done at the palaces; the superb picnic we had on the train on the way up to the islands; The Marriage of Figaro as part of the White Nights Festival; a really great restaurant on the last night called Mechta Molokhovets. We really do love Russia, and the Solovetskis, Kizhi and St Petersburg were all wonderful”
Kenneth Donaldson and Cathy Dean, Solovetski Islands, June 2013
“This was a wonderful trip. Getting there and back was slightly trying, not because of the airlines (both Transaero and Yakutia were good) but because of the length of the flights, the hassle of boarding, stopping over in Irkutsk on the way back, and of course the time changes (3 hours London/Moscow, nearly 9 hours Moscow/Petropavlovsk, and the reverse on the way back. The voyage itself was splendid. There were some early starts and late finishes, a few rather optimistic ‘dry landings’ from zodiacs (I always wore rubber wellingtons and always needed them) and one optimistic ‘walk’ through a pass between bays which involved ploughing through deep/very deep snow for about a mile while on a slope most of the way. But we took these in our stride. We saw tons of wildlife – literally; at least two dozen whales, more than 5,000 hauled-out walruses, about 50 sea-lions, dozens of seals, and at least 15 brown bears. We were successful in finding the spoon-billed sandpiper, and the scientific element of the trip was both enlightening and exciting.”
Chris Meader, In Bering’s wake, in search of the spoon-billed sandpiper, June/July 2011