A Journey in Japan and Russia aboard the Silver Discoverer

Overview

Take advantage of the brief summer thaw and travel to one of the least visited places on the planet. Extraordinarily far from mainland Russia, the Russia Far East is a geothermal playground of hot springs and volcanoes, not to mention chock full of wildlife. Be on the lookout from your Zodiac for thousands of Northern fur seals and Steller sea lions, as well as parliaments of puffins and pods of breaching whales.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Note: Expedition highlights and wildlife listed here are possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed. Your Expedition Leader and Captain will work together to ensure opportunities for adventure and exploration are the best possible, taking into account the prevailing weather, wildlife activity and ice conditions. Expedition Team members scheduled for this voyage are subject to change or cancellation.

Day 1, Jun 18, 2020
Otaru, Japan

This afternoon you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and participate in the safety drill. Tonight, you can familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.

Days 2-3, Jun 19-20, 2020
Korsakov, Russia

The next two days you will clear into Russia, and will also have time to explore part of Korsakov, founded in 1853 as Sakhalin’s first Russian military post. Highlights include a visit to the modern Russian Orthodox Church built in the traditional style without using nails. This lovely light-brown wooden building is elaborately decorated inside with metal panels and painted wooden icons. The Natural History Museum has very varied exhibits ranging from Kamchatka brown bears (stuffed!) to military relics of the many wars fought in the region. There are also beautiful examples of pottery and clothing from the indigenous Ainu people including a coat made entirely of fish skins. The museum is housed in a beautiful Japanese-built mansion with lovely fountains in the forecourt. To see part of everyday life we will have a look at the bustling market. At the Community Hall, you will see an excellent and colorful cultural presentation by a local Cossack music and dance troupe. The variety of modern and traditional songs and dances is quite entertaining and some onlookers will even have the opportunity of joining in the dancing.

Day 4, Jun 21, 2020
Tyuleniy Island, Russia

Thousands of Northern fur seals and Steller sea lions call Tyuleniy Island their home. The island is appropriately named, as the word tyuleniy means “seal” in Russian. During the summer months, tens of thousands of seals and sea lions haul ashore here during the breeding season. The cacophony of their barks, belches, grunts and groans is difficult to imagine. Bulls, their harems, and many thousands of young black pups all jostle for space on the crowded beaches that flank the small rocky island. Alongside the marine mammals, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Slaty-backed Gulls, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres and Pelagic Cormorants summer on the busy shores in the thousands. The profusion of wildlife is offset by a few abandoned and decaying wooden buildings that harken back to a productive Russian fishery that used to operate here.

Day 5, Jun 22, 2020
Piltun Lagoon, Sakhalin Island, Russia

Piltun Lagoon is tucked into the remote northeastern shores of the immense Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Okhotsk. The shallow waters at the mouth of Piltun Lagoon are known to harbor a rare gray whale population. It is believed that the relatively warm waters are favored calving grounds for the whales. In the distance, across the slate-colored lagoon sits a tall lighthouse that acts as an excellent landmark on explorations ashore to find Steller Sea Eagles, Aleutian Terns, Pine Grosbeaks, Siberian Rubythroats and Dusky Warblers.

Day 6, Jun 23, 2020
Iona Island, Russia

During the morning Silver Explorer will still be heading north, en route to Iona (or Jonas) Island. This small and isolated island in the Sea of Okhotsk is home to a Steller sea lion colony, but great numbers of northern fulmars and Brünnich’s guillemots will be the first sign of the island.

If conditions permit, you will circumnavigate the island by Zodiac. While the sea lions are taking up every single space imaginable close to the water, guillemots and kittiwakes will circle the cliffs by the thousands. Another highlight for the birders will be the whiskered, least, and parakeet auklets in the air and floating as rafts in the water.

Day 7, Jun 24, 2020
Okhotsk, Russia

The city of Okhotsk is on the banks of the Okhota River (giving its name to the town and the sea), and for many years was the most important port in the Russian Far East. It was from here that Vitus Bering left for his two expeditions in the early 18th century, but the town had lost its importance in the 19th century and today counts only some 4,000 inhabitants.

Taking the Zodiac up the river mouth, you will land in Okhotsk and will explore the town and its highlights. Strolling down the puddled unpaved street, it seems as if you step back in time. There are few signs of any 21st century conveniences, but there are monuments honoring Russia’s Communist past, which include a large statue of Lenin towering over the town square.

The local museum has quite an interesting collection featuring items of the area’s history: a stuffed tufted puffin in winter plumage, a Steller’s sea eagle hanging from the ceiling, weaponry, old photographs, and exhibits covering recent events. The Ethnic Cultures Center shows tents of the local tribes, and traditional household objects. You can also expect to see some local dances.

Days 8-9, Jun 25-26, 2020
Yegrineyskaya Bay / Ushki Bay, Talan Island and Zavyavialova Island, Russia

Today you explore several bays and islands. Zavyalov Island is a large island in the northern portion of the Sea of Okhotsk. Zavyalov is mountainous and vegetated by Siberian dwarf pine and dwarf birch. Both are hardy species that can endure the bitter winters and short summers. The diminutive vegetation offers little shelter for brown bears that can be seen grazing the island’s shores in search of berries, roots, and feasting at low-tide on the shellfish at the shoreline. The coasts of Zavyalov also support breeding populations of Steller’s sea lions.

Day 10, Jun 27, 2020
Day at Sea

Today you have an opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with photo edits and travel companions. It's a great time for whale watching from the Observatory Lounge, a work out in the fitness cener, or sitting back in the lounge with a cup of tea and a good book.

Day 11, Jun 28, 2020
Opala River, Russia

The Opala is one of Kamchatka’s clear and cold rivers flowing in the southern part of Kamchatka into the Sea of Okhotsk. The river has a length of 161 km. From the headwaters, which occupy an area of 4070 square km, this spectacular river winds down south of the great Opala Volcano -at 2460 meters one of the volcanoes dominating the landscape. King salmon, sockeye salmon, silver salmon, chum salmon, and pink salmon come to the spawning grounds which start about 10 - 12 km above the mouth of the river and rainbow trout is found there too.

Day 12, Jun 29, 2020
Utashud Island and Kekurnyy Point, Russia

The three islands that form Utashud are quite small, but seem to be the remnants of a former volcano rising 80 meters out of Vestinik (Messenger) Bay. Although the island is deprived of forest fragments, giant petrified trees have been found on the island. Utashud is one of the richest islands on the southeastern side of Kamchatka and is notable for its population of sea otters (up to 300 individuals), as well as the Stejneger’s harbor seal and spotted seal rookeries.

From spring until late December, gray whales feed here. There are 10 species of marine birds with a total of over 22,000 pairs, including one of the largest colonies of slaty-backed gulls (4,000 pairs) and tufted puffins (10,000 pairs). Steller’s sea eagles and brown bears are known to frequent the islands, while native people from Kamchatka used to visit this island to hunt for sea otters. A small cabin has been set up to be able to observe birds and marine mammals.

Day 13, Jun 30, 2020
Shumshu Island and Atlasova Island, Russia

The near-perfect cone of Alaid volcano dominates Atlasova Island with its 2000-meter (6,500-foot) peak. It is the highest volcano in the Kuril Islands and over time generated the black lava beaches and the eroding Taketomi tufa limestone cone near the landing site. At one time a women’s prison, or gulag, was located on Atlasova. The women, many of them political prisoners during the Soviet rule, were sent here to raise foxes for fur. Peregrine Falcons can sometimes be spotted flying above the beach, while buzzards, Eurasian Wigeons, and Tufted Ducks have all been observed on the island. The symmetrical volcanic island also plays a key role in the region's native folklore.

Day 14, Jul 1, 2020
Nemo and Krenitsyna Point, Onekotan Island

Near the northern end of the Kuril chain the two stratovolcanoes Nemo and Krenitsyn form Onekotan, with 425 square kilometres one of the larger of the Kuril Islands. Both the volcano and Krenitsyna Point at the southern end of Onekotan are named after Piotr Krenitsyn, a Russian Imperial officer in command of an expedition to explore and map the islands of the Bering Sea and Alaska during the mid-18th century. Under good conditions the peak of Krenitsyn, actually an island within the volcano’s caldera, can be seen.

Day 15, Jul 2, 2020
Yankicha Island, Russia

Any articles published about the Kuril Islands are likely to linger over the impressive Yankicha Island. It is the southernmost of two islets forming Ushishir Island. Yankicha is distinct in having at its center a caldera that is accessible by small boat only during high tide. Inside this extraordinary lagoon are fumaroles and hot springs, both traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago. Fortunate visitors may encounter an Arctic fox or the rare Whiskered Auklet. Ashore it is also possible to see Arctic Warblers and Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warblers. From the sea, the number of auklets around the island is truly incredible. The island is a nature reserve for birds, and crafty foxes contentedly live off the vast number of breeding birds that nest on the slopes between craggy boulders and stones.

Day 16, Jul 3, 2020
Chirpoy Island, Russia

The oftentimes fog-shrouded coasts of Chirpoy Island teem with a profusion of wildlife including Steller sea lions, Northern Fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets. Whales, and specifically orcas, have also been seen around Chirpoy. The dramatic volcanic nature of the island is apparent in the subtly shaded layers of sediment flanking the sides of the active Snou volcano.

Days 17-18, Jul 4- 5, 2020
Days at Sea / Disembark

At the end of your journey you'll have time to relax and enjoy the ship as you make your way towards Japan. Disembarkation is in Otaru on day 18.

Highlights

Highlights

Marvel at spectacular natural landscapes, pristine tundra, and massive volcanoes
Travel along the historic routes of explorers and traders
Identify countless birds: puffins, guillemots, cormorants, Steller’s sea eagle, brown-headed thrush, Siberian ruby-throats, black-legged kittiwakes, and crested or whiskered auklets
Photograph a variety of wildlife including brown bears, fur seals, sea otters, and Arctic foxes
Cruise and explore by Zodiac, watching for whales, seals, and sea otters at play in the surrounding waters

Details

Length: 19 days
Cost From: $16,900  
Arrive: Sapporo, Japan
Depart: Sapporo, Japan
Lodging: 18 nights aboard a 144-passenger expedition vessel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Small Ship Cruising, Cultural Adventures, Wildlife & Natural History, Whale Watching
Trip Level:

18-day expedition cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours, Zodiac cruises
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