Today you will arrive in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk and at the airport you will meet your zoologist escort for the tour as well as your local guide; the fantastic and knowledgeable Alexei Shevelev. Today you will probably arrive late and just be taken to the accommodation, level – 3* hotel for a evening of rest, you will be briefed on the tour around dinner.
Today you will be picked up from the accommodation, level – 3* hotel, in the morning and taken around the very picturesque city of Khabarovsk; as well as visiting the Lenin Sqaure, Transfiguration Cathedral and walk along the stunning Muravyoy-Amursky street as well as visiting the fish museum and local aquarium. Fishing is a huge part of the history of this city and the museum and aquarium are great places to visit and get an idea of the history of this part of the world.
Chkalov & Baydukov Islands
This morning you will be transferred to the airport to catch the short flight to Nikolaevsk on the banks of the huge Amur River. Once here you will board the vessel that will take you around the Shantar Archipelago which will also act as your accommodation, level – live aboard cruise (Miracle). Today you will head out towards the Chkalov and Baydukov Islands. It is important to note that at any time at sea you could see whales, dolphins or seals so we advice to always keep your eyes peeled. Around the north side of the Chkalov Island beluga whales are relatively common, whether or not any are seen is just a matter of luck, but commonly seen birds around the island include great knot, red-necked stint, dunlin, whimbrel, bar-tailed godwit and common sandpiper. Baydukov Island is one of the few islands in the area where long-billed and marbled murrelets can be found. You will spend the night in the wonderfully named Happiness Gulf before heading further towards Shantar tomorrow.
Today is mostly a day of travel as you will be taken around to Reynike Island. This is one of the smallest islands in the Primorsky Krai and is home to only 23 people. Today we will try and spot of sea birds and marine mammals as we cruise through the Sea of Okhotsk and then the evening will be spent moored close to the very photogenic Reynike Island and your accommodation will once again be onboard the Miracle.
Late today you will reach the first of the Shantar Islands, but first you will head out past the Wrangler Cape. This is deep open water and your first real chance of spotting whales and possibly orca. Commonly seen whales around here include the humpback whales and the north Pacific right whales. There is also the chance of bowhead whales, grey whales, minke whales and slim chances of spotting rare visitors such as blue whales, fin whales and sei whales. But arguably the most impressive species that inhabits this water is the orca. This part of the sea is productive and the summer months produce huge plankton blooms. Very similar to the famous blooms of Alaska and as a result huge numbers of fish and predators arrive to take advantage. The orcas here are little understood and are believed to be primarily fish and squid feeders and if we get close enough to them in the next few days you will have the chance to board the smaller zodiac and get closer to these incredible predators. Then as the day turns to evening and the first islands of the archipelago come into focus we will moor in the midst of a Stellers sea lion colony. These large sea lions will have young black furred pups in the summer and the females will divide their days between nursing the pups and feeding out at sea. Whilst the males will be fighting each other for possession of females as they come into the breeding season. The sea lions make a great backdrop for your evening meal onboard your accommodation the Miracle.
Over the next four days you will be taken around some of the Shantar Islands. Firstly Belichiy Island and then Maly Shantar Island, the former of the two islands being quite small and rocky in nature with Maly Shantar Island covering around 100km2 in total. You will progress through the Gulf of Lindgolm where bowhead whales, grey whales and bearded seals can all be seen. The seas around here are frozen solid with sea ice for around 8 months of the year and so all the wildlife floods into these rich waters during the ice free summer months. It is also possible to see sea otters here as they wrap themselves in the kelp near shore and feed on bivalves and molluscs. During these days you will also be taken to the largest of the Shantar Islands; Bolshoy Shantar Island. Whilst cruising around the large bays of Bolshoy Shantar Island there is a very good chance of seeing the Kamchatka subspecies of brown bear. It is these islands where the largest of Russian brown bears can be found and they are regularly seen foraging along the beaches in large numbers, they find food that has been washed up by the sea and lies hidden in the seaweed. You will also have the opportunity to meet the only people that permanently live on the islands, they are meteorologists who will give you a great insight into what it takes to live on these remote islands. Whilst being taken out in the zodiacs and exploring the waters around the main islands you should see what is widely regarded as the most impressive eagle species in the world. There are large numbers of Stellers sea eagles here, these huge fish eating eagles are stunning with their brown and white plumage and striking, enormous yellow bills. But the bird watching is not just confined to this magnificent raptor as murres, puffins, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and dozens of other marine bird species all nest on the islands in huge numbers. As well as taking the zodiacs around the bays and beaches to get closer to whales, orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions, sea otters and marine birds; you will also use them to get on shore and we will explore some of the forests here. There are many species of endangered birds present on the islands including the worlds largest species of owl, Blakistons fish owl, as well as Siberian grouse, solitary snipe, osprey, black stork, red-necked grebe, gyrfalcon. Over these 4 days we are confident of some exceptional whale watching, bird watching and also getting good sightings of brown bears, sea otters, sea lions, seals and maybe sable or martens that inhabit the island forests. As well as wildlife you will be shown the unique geology of the Shantar Archipelago where huge jasper and white marble crags dominate and help to form features such as Diomod Rocks (Dragons Teeth) and Seneca Hole Rock as well as the spectacular Prokofievs waterfalls. Each night you will return to the main boat for your evening meal and nights accommodation onboard the Miracle.
Shantar Islands & Wranglers Cape
On day 10 you will begin your journey back towards Wrangler Cape and the mainland. Before leaving the Shantar Archipelago completely you will have the chance for good views of the Prokofievs waterfalls and also one last day of wildlife watching as we head east. Most of the next 2 days will be spent travelling so once again it will be worth keeping an eye out for whales, dolphins, orca and other marine life as you travel back to Wrangler Cape and then to Nikolaevsk. You will not land on day 11 but instead spend the night again onboard the Miracle.
This morning you will land in Nikolaevsk and taken to the airport to catch your return flight back to Khabarovsk. Once here you will be taken to the accommodation, level – 3* hotel and a nights relaxation back on dry land.
This morning we will be used as a rest and sightseeing day, the reason for this extra day is to counter any possibilities of bad weather hindering our progress whilst at sea. Whilst unusual the weather can delay travel by a day in the Sea of Okhotsk so we find it better to have a delay day in case. During the evening you will have your farewell meal at the accommodation, level – 3* hotel; or a nearby restaurant.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport in time to catch your return flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.