Kuril Islands Expedition

Kuril Islands Expedition

From AUD $19,495


Draped across the north Pacific Ocean from Hokkaido, Japan, to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, the 22 islands and 30 islets of the Kuril Islands form a necklace of active volcanoes and sea-sculpted coastlines waiting to be explored. Nutrient-rich waters washing this ‘Pacific Rim of Fire’ teem with marine life, from sea otters to harbour seals, Steller sea lions to orca, Dall’s porpoise to beaked and sperm whales. The islands form a natural ‘flyway’ for migratory birds including both horned and tufted puffins, whiskered and rhinoceros auklets and exquisite little murrelets. You’ll Zodiac into flooded calderas, beneath soaring bird cliffs, to landings where brown bears fish for salmon. The fittest may even attempt to attempt to climb a volcano. Every day brings new adventure.

Trip Name
Kuril Islands Expedition
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition Length: 104 meters Passenger Capacity: 126 Built / Refurbished: 2020/2021 Due to sail in October 2021 our new ship honours the highly accomplished marine biologist, oceanographer and explorer, Sylvia Earle. As the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998 – this vessel pays tribute to Sylvia’s long standing conservation efforts for marine protected areas and ocean wildlife. Sylvia Earle will be actively involved in the development of her namesake. Designed for rugged, remote areas Crossing the notorious Drake Passage or the Denmark Strait, our expeditions face some of the most intense conditions nature can throw at us. The Sylvia Earle is at the cutting edge of nautical technology: robust, powerful and up to the task. Ulstein X-BOW® & Lounge The streamlined Ulstein X-BOW® cuts through the swell so you feel fewer vibrations and disturbances*, and makes quicker transits through waves. It also helps reduce our fuel consumption by up to 60%^. Experience the Glass Atrium Lounge inside the bow, featuring huge windows and superb views to the front of the ship. Swimming pool & wellness centre In between landings, enjoy the heated saltwater open air swimming pool and jacuzzis on board the Sylvia Earle and watch the world go by, or experience our gym, sauna or enjoy a massage (additional cost) in the Wellness centre. Safety features The Sylvia Earle will feature industry-leading safety technology that exceeds the requirements for a ship of this size with a world class return-to-port equipment, which duplicates the propulsion system, enabling the ship to maintain operating systems and comfort in the event of engine failure. The ship will also feature a fully-stocked medical clinic designed for use in remote areas. Responsible travel features We believe that preserving and protecting the environment is of the utmost importance and this is reflected in several features of the Sylvia Earle. The Sylvia Earle will boast one of the lowest polluting marine engines in the world due to low energy consumption, high fuel-efficiency and a streamlined design to deliver an 80% reduction in emissions. The ship can also utilise virtual anchoring to hold its position using a combination of GPS, steering technology, propellers and thrusters. This protects the sea floor and minimises the damage caused by conventional anchors. Zodiac launching platforms Our ships carry many Zodiacs, which you can board via four dedicated, sea-level launching platforms. These platforms make boarding the Zodiacs as quick, efficient and safe as possible, minimising wait times and getting you closer to the action for longer. Whether you’re Zodiac cruising through awe-inspiring fjords in search of wildlife or making a quick transit from ship to a shore landing site, these sturdy crafts will play an integral role in your expedition experience. Activity preparation area We offer a range of add-on adventure activities from kayaking and diving to climbing and ski touring, and your ship is designed to support these activities, making the transition from ship to sea or shore as smooth as possible. We built the spacious activity preparation areas and loading platforms in consultation with our expert activity guides. You will also have access to lockers and rapid drying areas for dry suits and wet suits, to give your gear the best chance to dry between excursions.


Day 1 - Day 1 Tokyo
Upon check-in at Hotel Nikko Narita Airport, reception staff will provide you with Aurora Expeditions cabin tags. Please fill out the luggage tags clearly, showing your name and cabin number to allow us to deliver your luggage to your cabin ahead. At our voyage briefing, enjoy a welcome drink and meet fellow expeditioners, before spending the night in preparation for your charter flight to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.Accommodation: Hotel Nikko Narita Airport
Day 2 - Day 2 Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy
Board our charter flight to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy to embark the Sylvia Earle. After boarding, there is time to settle into your cabin before our important safety briefings. This evening meet your expedition team and crew at the Captain’s Welcome Dinner.
Day 3 - Days 3-4 Russkaya Bay & Vestnik Bay
Lush valleys and snow-capped volcanoes welcome you to Kamchatka’s east coast, where brown bears feast on berries and salmon. In Vestnik Bay, we explore the coast of Utashud Island by Zodiac, home to shy otters, Steller sea lions, seabirds and Kamchatka brown bears. Rounding Cape Lopatka, Kamchatka’s most southern point, you land in Kambalnyi Bay, to stretch your legs beneath the magnificent 2,161m volcano, Kambal'naya Sopka. Across Kuril Strait, cruise kelp beds off Shumshu Island in search of curious otters ferrying pups, and the bobbing heads of spotted seals. Explore the bird cliffs of Ptichi Islands alive with puffins.
Day 4 - Day 5 Shumshu Island, Ataslova Island
Ashore, on Shumshu, a peaceful river snakes through grassy wetlands where lady-slipper orchids and wild roses bloom. On Atlasova, you land beneath a wind-sculpted hill of volcanic ash to explore remains of a Soviet gulag in the shadow of a near-perfect 2,339m volcano, Alaid, the highest in the Kurils. You’ll watch for nesting cormorants, buzzards, Eurasian wigeons, and tufted ducks, while peregrine falcons sometimes soar above the beach.
Day 5 - Day 6 Onekotan Island
Hike across Onekotan’s tundra, as it wakes to summer, and through bonsai pine forests to Black Lake, watching for red foxes and remains of Ainu dwellings. From Onekotan Island, we explore the coastline of nearby volcanic Kharimkotan or Makanrushi Islands by Zodiac.
Day 6 - Day 7 Ekarma Island; Shiashkotan Island
Explore Ekarma, sanctuary to many birds, including puffins, auklets, fulmars and cormorants. Sea otters swim just off the northeastern cape. Vast nesting colonies of storm petrels and remains of Ainu villages await you on Shiashkotan.
Day 7 - Day 8 Srednego Islands; Lovyshki Island
Zodiac cruised around the rugged columnar stacks of the Srednego Islands, home to thousands of nesting seabirds including northern fulmars, guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, and whiskered auklets. Nearby Lovyshik Islands are small, often fog-bound, rocky islets where you are approached by boisterous Steller sea lions northern fur seals.
Day 8 - Day 9 Yankicha Island
Intriguing and beautiful, this uninhabited island hides a flooded volcanic caldera of emerald green waters. Accessible by Zodiac only at high tide, the lagoon, offers you fumarole fields, hot springs and bubbles rising from the sea floor. Walk to the crater rim in search of blue foxes, while at dusk, watch as spectacular concentrations of crested and whiskered auklets stream back from the sea.
Day 9 - Day 10 Brat Chirpoyev, Chirpoy Island
Evocative mists often engulf Chirpoy islands, lifting to reveal dramatic basalt columns of Brat Chirpoyev as you approach by Zodiac, surrounded by thousands of northern fulmars, kittiwakes, the odd puffin and sea otters. Otherworldly roars herald the Steller’s sea lion colony on Chirpoy, with the promise of a hike up the flanks of an active volcano when you land.
Day 10 - Day 11 Bliznecy Island, Novokuril'skaya Bay (Urup Island)
Urup offers 120 kilometres of stunning volcanoes, lush vegetation, lakes and rivers. Cruise the ‘Twins’, a geological wonderland of twisted basalt sea cliffs, hike to Japanese bunkers with spectacular views and tufted puffin nests. On the west coast, you may Zodiac through basalt tunnels of Petroskov Rocks.
Day 11 - Day 12 Tyuleniy Island
Meaning seal in Russian, Tyuleniy attracts as many as 250,000 individuals that gather here each summer during their breeding season. You’ll be greeted by a cacophony of barks as you approach the island by Zodiac. Search the sea cliffs for nesting black-legged kittiwakes; crested, whiskered and rhinoceros auklets; tufted puffins, common and thick-billed murres, and ancient murrelets.
Day 12 - Day 13 Moneron Island
Located in Sakhalin Oblast region, Moneron Island is an uninhabited nature reserve that features a fascinating mix of both Russian and Japanese monuments and landmarks including a Japanese Shinto temple, pedestrian bridge, a Russian cemetery and the remains of a Soviet frontier post dating back to the 1940s. The clarity of the water surrounding Moneron Island comes from the pure water that flows directly from the mountains into the sea. On walks and by Zodiac, we discover the island’s waterfalls and rock shelters, and search for kittiwakes, black-tailed gulls, cormorants horned puffins, and the rare long-billed sea parrot.
Day 13 - Day 14 Korsakov
At Korsakov, at the southern tip of Sakhalin Island, we clear Russian customs for entry into Japan. For much of its history, control of Korasakov oscillated between Japan and Russia, until the town was ceded to the Soviet Union at end of World War Two. You might explore the port town while the Sylvia Earle finalises its exit clearance before departing for Otaru, Japan.
Day 14 - Day 15 Otaru
Disembark in the harbour city of Otaru, Hokkaido. Transfer to Sapporo to continue your journey.
Day 15 - Important note:
In the genuine spirit of expedition travel, we encourage exploration and adventure offering flexibility in challenging environments. This itinerary is only a guide and is subject to change due to weather, sea and other conditions beyond our control.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
29-08-202212-09-2022AUD $19,495Aurora Stateroom Superior
29-08-202212-09-2022AUD $19,995Balcony Stateroom Category C
29-08-202212-09-2022AUD $20,995Balcony Stateroom Category B
29-08-202212-09-2022AUD $22,595Balcony Stateroom Category A
29-08-202212-09-2022AUD $24,695Balcony Stateroom Superior
29-08-202212-09-2022AUD $30,995Junior Suite
29-08-202212-09-2022AUD $36,795Captain’s Suite


    • Marvelling at the sun-kissed beauty of snow-capped volcanoes, slowly revealed by rising sea mists
    • Supercharged birdwatching along a migratory flyway alive with Siberian ruby throats, rough legged buzzards, snow buntings, spectacled pigeons, tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets
    • Zodiac cruising through waters boiling with Steller sea lions and pups, thousands of crested auklets and into the flooded caldera of Broutana Bay, an abandoned, secret submarine base from Soviet time
    • Trekking through a kaleidoscope of landscapes, from megaherb and coniferous forests to grasslands, lava fields and the flanks of active volcanoes. Watch for brown bears and cubs, and historical remains of Ainu (indigenous Japanese) settlements and World War II battles