Russian Far East
Due to its position on the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ Kamchatka has more than 30 active volcanoes including Klyuchevskaya Sopka which has been emitting steam and smoke for at least 8,000 years.
The peninsula is the home of the Itelmen, Eveni and Koryaks, some of whom live by their traditional ways of hunting, fishing, reindeer herding and gathering wild plants. It is also home to the largest brown bear in Russia.
Kamchatka’s rivers teem with at least five species of spawning salmon and its rugged coastline is home to thousands of seabirds, including tufted and horned puffins, guillemots, cormorants and harlequin ducks, as well as seals, sea lions and sea otters. There are many endemic plants which, in the valleys, grow at an incredible rate during the summer due to the volcanically-warmed and minerally enriched soil. On the tundra, cassiope and dwarf willows grow alongside the crimson rhododendron camtschaticum and Lapland buntings breed there. Valleys and hillsides are clothed in mixed woodlands with many wild flowers including fritillaria camtschatcensis, tiger lilies, yellow rhododendrons and wild roses. The astonishing birdlife ranges from migrating waders through black-billed capercaillie, rosefinches, rough-legged buzzards to the auks and Steller’s sea eagle which has a wingspan of three metres.
“Bears (we lost count how many) eating salmon just as on wildlife programmes, amazing helicopter journeys, bathing in hot springs, active and ancient volcanoes, kilometres of birch forest and berries, the friendly people…. I talked for two days after this trip!”
Fiona’s travel tipsTop fact: If you’ve sledged in Russia in winter you’re in an elite club!
Temperature: we should warn that winter dog sledging expeditions are for the hardy as it can be extremely cold!
Take with you: Dried fruit, nuts and chocolate to vary your diet.
Best time to go: June to September for summer adventures, January to March for winter activities.
“A great time with lots of good memories and photos. The driver was excellent on all terrains, our vehicle old, but completely reliable and added to the experience. The last day was packed, but otherwise there was a relaxed and unrushed attitude. It was all very well organised, staff were pleasant and good fun and the trip was tailored well for everyone. I didn’t want for anything.”
Mrs Elizabeth (Tilly) Smith, Kamchatka – Bears, volcanoes, native people, reindeer herders, autumn colours
“Everything was fantastic. So many bears, loads of volcanoes and spectacular views. Great company, good food, cannot fault a thing apart from a dodgy zip on the tent!” Paula Slater, Kamchatka
Sue Hynard, Arcturus Kamchatka group
“Wonderful, beyond expectations, well organised and always a Plan B if Plan A didn’t work out. Lorraine was a superb leader. Pre-departure information was thorough and clear.”
“Our local guide, Irina, was great – nothing seemed to be any trouble for her and she always seemed to have ideas about what we could do every day. We really enjoyed her company and felt that our days had good pace and rhythm about them. Irina was knowledgeable about the area and had obviously spent time developing good relationships with local people who took us about on boats and in trucks – we definitely benefited from this. We are keen birdwatchers and saw plenty including sea and great eagles, osprey and divers.”
Mr and Mrs James Nangle, Solovetskis and the White Sea
“It was truly unforgettable and, if anything, exceeded expectations. Thank you for a wonderful trip!
Chris Robb and Karen Murphy, Dog sledging with the reindeer herders and native people