Kuril Islands cruises, bird watching cruise, Russia

“Explore Kamchatka Peninsula, Commander and Kuril islands, on-board a 50-berth polar expedition ship and discover the wildlife that dwells within the Pacific Ring of Fire.”


Kamchatskiy | Commander Islands | likely sightings: fork-tailed storm-petrels, red-legged kittiwakes, rock sandpipers, Mongolian plovers, pechora pipits, Stellerís sea eagles and grey-crowned rosy-finch | potential marine sightings: whales, sea lions, seals and sea otters | Bering | Medny | Nikolskoye | Zhupanova River | Kamchatka Peninsula | Bukta Russkaya | Second Kuril Strait | Atlasova | Onekotan | Ekarma | Toporkovy | Simushir | Yankicha | Chirpoy | Urup | Iturup | Kunashir | Sakhalin |

Description of Kuril Islands cruises, bird watching cruise, Russia

Russiaís Far East is one of the most dramatic places on earth to observe the Pacific Ring of Fire which manifests itself at numerous points along our expedition route. Here, the Pacific plate sub ducts under the North American plate and the resulting volcanic and geothermal activity has built a unique and amazing landscape. Perfect conditions for seabirds and cetaceans are created by the up-welling from deep trenches formed by this action and the currents which surround the many islands. As a result this area is one of the richest in the world, both in terms of the number of species and their sheer abundance. The undoubted highlight for many birders are the auks, and during our voyage it is possible to see up to 14 species including tufted and horned puffins, parakeet, whiskered and rhinoceros auklets, as well as spectacled and pigeon guillemots.

Laysan albatross, mottled petrel, fork-tailed storm-petrel, red-faced cormorant, red-legged kittiwake and Aleutian tern are other seabirds we regularly encounter. Those keen on cetaceans should keep an eye out for blue, fin, sperm, humpback and grey whales, orca (killer whales), Bairdís beaked whale and Dallís porpoise.

The human history of this region is equally fascinating. The original Ainu and Itelmen settlers were displaced by the arrival of the Cossacks in the 18th century after the explorer Vitus Bering had put the region on the map. At the height of the Cold War the Soviet empireís formidable Pacific Fleet was based here and secrecy demanded the region be Ďclosedí even to Russians, who had to get special permits to visit the area. Two decades on from Perestroika people can now travel relatively freely, although there is still very little infrastructure to support visitors.

The region we explore on this expedition cruise is defined by three quite distinct and unique geographical regions. These are the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands (at the western extremity of the Aleutian Islands) and the Kuril Islands. Each region is very different and has its own unique story, endemic plants and birds. Join our small expedition ship as we go in search of those people, plants, animals and birds that make this part of the Pacific Ring of Fire so remarkable.

A special message for the keen birders and cetacean watchers reading this: Space doesn't allow us to list all species on a day-by-day basis in this itinerary. Please ask for an expedition dossier or a bird and mammal list from a previous expedition.

Travel Team

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Check dates, prices & availability

25 May 2021
US $7800
excluding flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 25 May 2021 departure
26 May 2021
US $7800
excluding flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 26 May 2021 departure
01 Jun 2022
US $7800
excluding flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 01 Jun 2022 departure
Our top tip:
Documenting your experience by diary, video or camera is one of the best ways to hold on to those all-too-fleeting memories.
Trip type:
Small group. Recommended min age 8. 48 passengers on-board.
Activity level:
Leisurely. Binocs and Zodiacs.
50-berth polar cruise ship with outward facing twin cabins with desk and washbasin (half cabins have private facilities). Ship also has bar/lounge and lecture room.
Accommodation, transfers and listed shore excursions.
All meals on-board or at local restaurants on shore.
Same sex singles share cabin.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

Our conservation activity on this trip includes visiting the wildlife rich Commander Islands, observing the significance of the Pacific Trench for cetaceans and allowing participants to discover the little known breeding grounds and diversity of many pelagics breeding in this region. Conservation within the Russian Federation is discussed and the work of various agencies is highlighted. Every season in Russia, we work with local researchers in the Commander Islands and the Kamchatka and Koryak Coast to assist with their research and supply transportation to these remote areas.
All of our cetacean sightings are logged and sent back to researchers to assist with the conservation of these mammals.

With our emphasis on natural history, we work principally in unpopulated areas. We visit a number of nature reserves where we work very closely with the government agencies responsible for managing the reserves.

Tourism to this part of the world is relatively new, so we prepare clients/passengers in advance of their expedition by providing extensive pre-departure information on the region they will be visiting, highlighting conservation issues and providing background information on the history and, where applicable, customs, religion and politics of the region they will be visiting.

All waste generated on our expeditions is disposed of in a responsible manner. The vessel complies with MARPOL where possible and allowable we practice recycling, otherwise all non-recyclable waste is brought back for disposal at approved sites.

Our goal in managing our vessel is to minimise fuel consumption and emissions with regular servicing and a proactive maintenance programme. We annually clean and antifoul our vessel's hull to reduce the risk of biofouling. When selecting our specialist expedition equipment, we research this carefully to ensure that they are the most suitable and environmentally responsible.

Group sizes are kept small to minimize impact and enhance visitor experience.

The Impacts of this Trip

During our Russian Far East voyages we visit local historic sites, Wildlife Management Areas, and use local guides wherever possible to support the local knowledge-base and economy. We provide opportunities for passengers to meet with villagers and townspeople and learn about their unique culture and life in remote areas, and encourage respect of local customs and traditions.

Every year we operate a conservation voyage in partnership with Forest & Bird where a portion of the voyage's profits go towards Forest & Bird's valuable conservation work. We have also operated a "Cruise for Conservation" to the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands and 5% of the fare is given to a specific conservation cause. The following agencies have benefited: Save the Albatross, Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust and Marine Mammal Research Trust. We have also raised money for the Last Ocean Charitable Trust.

Money is raised from the sale of photographs, books and DVDís onboard to support the reforestation of an area of native forest purchased by the company. The company employs a part-time Conservation Officer.

We partner with True Young Explorers to provide Scholarships for young people, who could not otherwise afford to travel, to join their expeditions. We also have active membership in a number of conservation and travel organizations, including IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators).

When a group visits a populated area a lot of care and attention is given to ensure that the interaction is meaningful and appropriate for both parties. Group sizes are kept small, local customs and traditions are respected and observed, and reasonable time is allocated to each visit. Passengers are encouraged to purchase local goods (always mindful of CITIES Agreements).


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