Ring of Fire: Kamchatka & the Kuril Islands

Amazing wildlife in the Russian Far East: Seabirds, Siberian landbird specialities and cetaceans

At a Glance

FOCUS:

Bird & Wildlife Cruise:  birds, whales & dolphins and remote islands.

WHERE:

Kamchatka – Commander Islands – Kamchatka – Kuril Islands – Sakhalin

SAMPLE WILDLIFE:

Numerous auks including Tufted and Horned Puffins, Crested, Parakeet, Whiskered and Rhinoceros Auklets, Ancient, Long-billed and Kittlitz's Murrelets, as well as Red-legged Kittiwake, Laysan and Short-tailed Albatross, Red-faced Cormorant and Short-tailed Shearwater.

Landbird possibilities include Steller's Sea-eagle, Siberian Rubythroat, Japanese Robin, Pechora Pipit, Kamchatka Leaf-warbler, Narcissus Flycatcher, Japanese Accentor, Long-tailed Rosefinch and Japanese Grey Bunting.

Some fantastic marine mammals are also possible including Blue, Fin, Humpback, Sperm and Northern Minke Whales, Orca, Baird's Beaked Whale as well as Steller's Sea-lion, Northern Fur Seal and Largha Seal. Ashore Brown Bear and Arctic Fox.

Dates and Prices:

Dates: Wednesday 15 - Tuesday 28 June 2022

Leader: Chris Collins (TBC) and the rest of the ship’s expedition team

Prices: from £6,750 (plus onboard local payment of US$500 per person)

For more information please click here and visit the Limosa website or call us on 0117 965 8333





  • Rock Sandpiper, Commander Islands
  • Sea Otter, Kuril Islands
  • Eastern Common Tern, Kamchatka
  • Japanese Bush Warbler, Kuril Islands
  • Laysan Albatross, Kuril Islands
  • Crested Auklets at dusk, Kuril Islands
  • Red Fox, Kuril Islands
  • Kamchatka Lily, Russian Far East
  • Northern Hawk Owl, Kamchatka
  • Short-tailed Shearwater
  • 'Kuril' Pigeon Guillemot
  • Medney Island, Commander Islands
  • Grey-crowned Rosy Finch, Commander Islands
  • Steller's Sea-lions, Kuril Islands
  • Olive-backed Pipit on the ship, Kuril Islands
  • Steller's Sea-eagle nest, Kamchatka
  • Aleutian Terns, Kamchatka
  • Sea Otter, Kuril Islands
  • Red-faced Cormorant, Kuril Islands
  • Crested Auklets at dusk, Kuril Islands
  • Whiskered Auklet, Kuril Islands
  • Mongolian (Lesser Sand) Plover, Commander Islands
  • Black-billed Capercaillie, Kamchatka
  • Rock Sandpiper, Commander Islands
  • Siberian Rubythroat, Kuril Islands
  • Red-legged Kittiwake, Commander Islands
  • Horned Puffins, Commander Islands
  • Orca, Kuril Islands

Tour overview

The Russian Far East has only been accessible since the mid 1990s and remains rarely visited despite the amazing wildlife.  The species list is exceptional and is headed by one of the world’s ultimate raptors, Steller’s Sea-eagle.  Seabirds are also here in abundance, with the potential alcids including Whiskered, Rhinoceros, Crested, Parakeet and Least Auklets, Tufted and Horned Puffins, Spectacled, Brunnich’s and Pigeon Guillemots and Ancient, Kittlitz’s and Long-billed Murrelets.  Black-tailed, Glaucous-winged and Slaty-backed Gulls are all present, along with the range-restricted Red-legged Kittiwake, highly distinctive Kamchatka Gull and Aleutian Tern.

Whilst Laysan Albatross is the commonest albatross, there is a good chance of both Black-footed and Short-tailed, with the latter seen most years and all three species recorded on the last voyage in 2019.  Other likely tubenoses include Mottled Petrel, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel and Short-tailed Shearwater.  Japanese, Pelagic and Red-faced Cormorants, Harlequin Duck, Black and Stejneger’s Scoters can all be expected and ashore, we will search for shorebirds such as Red-necked Stint, Latham’s Snipe and Rock Sandpiper.

Our landings add many more birds including Oriental Turtle Dove, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Buff-bellied and Pechora Pipits, Brown-headed Thrush, Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler, Eastern Crowned and Kamchatka Leaf Warblers, Siberian, Asian Brown, Narcissus and Red-throated Flycatchers, Rufous-tailed Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Rubythroat, Pine Grosbeak, Long-tailed Rosefinch and Rustic, Black-faced, Japanese Grey and Yellow-breasted Buntings.

Some of Japan’s special birds also occur in the Southern Kuril Islands and we will search for Japanese Robin, Japanese Bush Warbler and Japanese Accentor whilst ashore.  On Sakhalin Island itself, both Sakhalin Leaf Warbler and Sakhalin Warbler can be found and an optional extension is usually offered to look for these two species.

There will also be excellent chances for some exciting mammals including Brown Bear, Arctic Fox, Largha Seal, Northern Fur Seal, Sea Otter and Steller’s Sea Lions.  Cetaceans could include Orca (regular), Blue (last seen in 2018), Sperm, Northern Minke, Humpback and Fin Whales plus Baird’s Beaked Whales and the seemingly ‘turbo-charged’ Dall’s Porpoise.  The opportunities for photography will generally be superb throughout.

The expedition offers an opportunity to explore one of the most geologically active and biologically rich parts of the planet and due to the large number of active volcanoes, this region has become known as the ‘Ring of Fire’.  The Kamchatka Peninsula is a land of stunning bays and snow-capped volcanoes where alpine meadows and lowland forests support a great diversity of wildlife, whilst the Kuril chain comprises 32 islands that stretch for 700 miles between Russia and Japan.

Whilst the Southern Kuril Islands are sparsely inhabited, most of the other slands have no permanent human presence and we can expect to go for days without seeing other people.  The voyage also visits the remote Commander Islands which are rich in bird and marine mammals and the final resting place of the famed Danish explorer Vitus Bering.

Depending on your flights, you may have the opportunity to stay in Petropavlovsk and/or Sakhalin pre and/or post cruise.  The vessel will have a full expedition team and Chris Collins is often on board.  Subject to demand, some land-based birding excursions around Petropavlovsk can be organised to look for specialities such as Black-billed Capercaillie.

Itinerary

Day 1: Board vessel in Otaru, Japan and sail

Day 2: Clearance into Russia at Korsakov, Sakhalin Island

Day 3: Kunashir Island, Kuril Islands

Day 4: Iturup Island, Kuril Islands

Day 5: Simushir and Yankicha Islands, Kuril Islands

Day 6: Ekarma and Onekotan Islands, Kuril Islands

Day 7: Atlasova and Ptich'i Rocks, Kuril Islands

Day 8: Bukhta Russkaya, Kamchatka

Days 9: Zhupanova River, Kamchatka

Day 10: Olga Bay, Kamchatka

Days 11-12: Commander Islands

Day 13: At sea

Day 14: Sakhalin Island


NB: As applies to all expedition cruises, the exact itinerary will be subject to weather and local conditions. All landings are subject to government permissions.

Potential Seabirds (selected species only)

Harlequin Duck, Stejneger's Scoter, Black Scoter, Red-legged Kittiwake, 'Kamchatka' Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Slay-backed Gull, Aleutian Tern, Brunnich's Guillemot, Pigeon Guillemot, Spectacled Guillemot, Long-billed Murrelet, Kittlitz's Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet, Parakeet Auklet, Least Auklet, Whiskered Auklet, Crested Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Horned Puffin, Tufted Puffin, Laysan Albatross, Black-footed Albatross, Short-tailed Albatross, Fork-tailed Storm-petrel, Mottled Petrel, Short-tailed Shearwater, Red-faced Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant and Japanese Cormorant.

Potential Landbirds (selected species only)

Black-billed Capercaillie, Rock Ptarmigan, Oriental Cuckoo, Oriental Turtle Dove, Mongolian (Lesser Sand Plover), Far  Eastern Curlew, Long-toed Stint, Rock Sandpiper, Latham's Snipe, Steller's Sea-eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Northern Hawk-Owl, Crested Kingfisher, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, Large-billed Crow, Japanese Tit, Japanese Bush Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Sakhalin Grasshopper Warbler, Middendorff's Grasshopper Warbler, Brown-headed Thrush, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Robin, Japanese Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Narcissus Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Japanese Accentor, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Pechora Pipit, Pine Grosbeak, Asian Rosy Finch, Grey-crowned Rosy Finch, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Grey-capped Greenfinch, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Black-faced Bunting and Grey Bunting.

Potential Cetaceans and other Marine Mammals (selected species only)

Sperm Whale, Blue Whale, Fin Whale, Northern Minke Whale, North Pacific Right Whale, Baird's Beaked-Whale, Orca, Dall's Porpoise, Largha Seal, Northern Fur Seal and Steller's Sea-lion.