Russia’s Ring of Fire aboard Heritage Adventurer

Russia’s Ring of Fire aboard Heritage Adventurer

From USD $9,450


The Pacific Ring of Fire manifests itself in numerous places on the rim of the Pacific Ocean – but nowhere more dramatically and spectacularly than in the Russian Far East. Here the Pacific plate subducts under the North American plate and the resulting volcanic and geothermal activity has built a unique and amazing landscape.

Upwelling from the deep trenches formed by this action and currents around the many islands creates perfect conditions for seabirds and cetaceans. Consequently, this area is one of the richest in the world both in terms of the number of species, which can be seen, and their sheer abundance. For many, the undoubted highlight is the auks, and during this voyage it is possible to see up to 14 species including Tufted and Horned Puffins, Parakeets, Whiskered and Rhinoceros Auklets, as well as Spectacled and Pigeon Guillemots. Other seabirds regularly encountered include Laysan Albatross, Mottled Petrel, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, Red-faced Cormorant, Red-legged Kittiwake and Aleutian Tern.

For those keen on cetaceans we can reasonably expect to see Fin, Sperm, Humpback Whales as well as Orca (Killer Whale), Baird’s Beaked-Whale and Dall’s Porpoise. The region’s human history is equally interesting and fascinating. The original settlers were the Ainu and Itelmen. They were displaced with the arrival of the Cossacks in the 18th Century after the Explorer Vitus Bering put the region on the map. The Soviet empire encompassed the region and at the height of the Cold War, Russia’s formidable Pacific Fleet was based here. The secrecy surrounding the fleet resulted in the region being ‘closed’ even to Russians who were required to get special permits to travel to and within the area. It is only now, three decades since Perestroika, people can travel relatively freely here, although there is still very little in the way of infrastructure for visitors.

The region we explore on this expedition falls into three quite distinct and unique geographical regions: the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands (the western extremity of the Aleutian chain of islands), and the Kuril Islands. Each region is very different, has its own story and, in many cases, localised plants and birds. Join us as we go in search of those people, plants, animals and birds that make this part of the Pacific Ring of Fire so special.

Trip Name
Russia's Ring of Fire aboard Heritage Adventurer
Vessel Type: Expedition Ship Length: 124 metres Passenger Capacity: 140 Built: 1991 Heritage Adventurer is a true pioneering expedition vessel of exceptional pedigree. Often referred to as the ‘Grande Dame of Polar Exploration’ due to her celebrated history and refined design, she was purpose-built for adventure in 1991 at Finland’s Rauma shipyard and specifically designed for Polar exploration.Setting a peerless standard in authentic expedition travel, Heritage Adventurer (formerly known as MS Hanseatic) combines the highest passenger ship ice-class rating (1A Super) with an impressive history of Polar exploration. Having held records for the most northern and southern Arctic and Antarctic navigations, and for traversing both the Northwest and Northeast Passages, makes Heritage Adventurer perfect for pioneering New Zealand-based Heritage Expeditions signature experiential expedition travel.Originally designed to accommodate 184 guests, Heritage Adventurer now welcomes just 140 expeditioners ensuring spacious, stylish and comfortable voyages, while a fleet of 14 Zodiacs ensures all guests are able to maximise their expedition adventure. Heritage Adventurer proudly continues our traditions of exceptional, personalised expedition experiences as Heritage Expeditions flagship. Observation Lounge – One of the most celebrated and best-known features of Heritage Adventurer is the awe-inducing Observation Lounge, Library and Bar. Located on Deck 7 and perched directly above the Bridge, enjoy sweeping 270-degree views through floor to ceiling windows, perfect for wildlife spotting and quick access to the outer deck. Bring your binoculars to spot wildlife, observe the ever-changing landscape, write in your journal or relax with a book. Observation Deck – Enjoy 360-degree views from the highest point on the ship. The Observation Deck sits above the Observation Lounge and provides exceptional outside viewing options. Stretching the full width of the vessel, this is the perfect spot to take in the surrounding land and seascapes. Perfect on a sunny day, recline in the comfortable sun loungers protected from the wind and elements and watch your voyage unfold.  The Bridge – No expedition is complete without visiting Heritage Adventurer’s busy nerve centre. Located on Deck 6, Heritage Expeditions’ Open Bridge Policy means you are welcome to observe the Captain and crew at work while enjoying some of the ship’s best views. It’s a fascinating place to learn about navigation and vessel operations, however please note the Bridge will be closed when departing or arriving at port. Dining Room  – Indulge in fine international cuisine from our talented chefs in the lavish surrounds of our Dining Room on Deck 4. Sensational 270-degree views provide a stunning backdrop to meals here along with an international wine list featuring many outstanding regional wines. With relaxed seating arrangements, all guests can enjoy dining in a single sitting from hearty breakfasts setting you up for the day’s adventure to sumptuous lunches and multi-course evening dining. Bistro  – Simple fast and delicious meals and snacks are on offer in our relaxed Bistro on Deck 6. Perfect for early risers to enjoy tea, coffee and light breakfast options the Bistro provides great views and opens directly onto a covered and heated teak-deck outdoor dining area. The Bar and Lounge  – The social hub of  Heritage Adventurer, the Bar and Lounge on Deck 5 features seating for all guests. Enjoy a beverage at the bar, sink into an armchair, relax on one of the many spacious loungers and watch the world go by through the panoramic windows or make new friends at the communal seating. This multi-tasking space also doubles as the location of daily briefings and evening recaps with the expedition team. The Gym – Featuring spectacular ocean views, the well-equipped gym is adjacent to the pool, hot tub and sauna in Deck 7’s wellbeing zone. Maintain your routine with an elliptical cross trainer, treadmill, rowing machine, stationary bikes, TRX as well as free weights, yoga mats and fitness balls. Towels are provided with change room and shower amenities nearby. Sauna and Steam Room – True to her Nordic origins, Heritage Adventurer features a dry-heat Finnish sauna and European steam room on Deck 7. Perfect for warming up post Polar plunge or unwinding after a day’s adventures, the sauna and steam room include change room facilities, showers and towels. Swimming Pool and Hot Tub – Surrounded by relaxed teak seating including sun loungers, the open-air saltwater pool can be heated or chilled. Encased in glass the hot tub ensures all-weather use, perfect for those who like to relax with a view following a day of exploring. Lectures and Presentations – Enjoy informative and entertaining lectures on history, biology, wildlife, and ecology in the comfort of the Presentation Theatre. With state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, our world-renowned expedition team will bring your adventure to life through interactive presentations and discussions.


Day 1 - Day 1: Otaru, Japan
Our expedition begins in Otaru,a port city in Hokkaido knownfor glassworks, music boxes, sakedistilleries and picturesque OtaruCanal flanked with shops andcafes built within repurposed 1920swarehouses. Make your way to thedesignated meeting point for yourtransfer toHeritage Adventurer(times and meeting point willbe confirmed with your voyagedocuments) where the captainand expedition team will bewaiting to welcome you aboard.After clearing Japan Customs andImmigration, join the expeditionteam in the Observation Loungeor up on the Observation Deckas we set sail for Sakhalin Island.Once clear of the harbour therewill be an introduction to the staffand ship, and a series of briefings.However we’ll aim to keep theseas short as possible to allow youample time to settle into yourcabin and get out on deck to lookfor seabirds.
Day 2 - Day 2: Sakhalin Island, Russia
We arrive at the Port of Korsakovon Sakhalin Island where wewill clear Russian Customs andImmigration before setting sail forKunashir Island. If the weather isfavourable we should get greatviews of Tyatya Volcano, whichat almost 1,819 metres dominatesthe landscape.
Day 3 - Day 3: Kunashir Island
Today we have an early morningbeach landing planned atKunashir Island, the largestin the Kuril chain, to exploreKurilsky Reserve alongside localrangers. The reserve covers thenorthern and southern portionsof the island with 70 per centof it forested. Species we couldencounter here include Latham’sSnipe, Oriental Turtle-Dove,Oriental Cuckoo, JapaneseBush-Warbler, Eastern CrownedWarbler, Narcissus and BrownFlycatchers, Siberian Stonechatand Long-tailed Rosefinch.Overhead and along a nearbyriver, we should find goodnumbers of White-tailed Eagle.We will also be on the lookout fortwo special species that occurin the reserve, namely Blakiston’sFish-Owl and Crested Kingfisher.
Day 4 - Day 4: Iturup Island
If conditions are suitable we willenjoy an early morning Zodiaccruise looking for the SpectacledGuillemot and the Long-billedMurrelet. Today we plan to boardthe Zodiacs once again for theshort ride to the community ofKurilsk where local buses will takeus into the volcanic highlandsof Iturup. Passing through somespectacular scenery as westeadily climb up towards theBaranskiy volcano, there maybe an opportunity to soak innatural hot pools high in themountains. The higher altitudeand different vegetation givesus an opportunity to look for arange of new birds includingEastern Buzzard, Japanese Robin,Grey-bellied Bullfinch, SiberianAccentor, Pine Grosbeak andKamchatka Leaf-warbler. On ourreturn to Kurilsk there should be anopportunity to explore the villageor explore the coastal habitatsof Iturup with your naturalistsincluding a Zodiac safari. BothRusset Sparrow and Chestnut-cheeked Starling are known tooccur here and, depending onthe tide, we may also find a goodselection of gulls; there is often agood-sized roost here that caninclude Black-tailed, Slaty-backed,Glaucous-winged, Glaucous andBlack-headed Gulls.
Day 5 - Day 5: Simushir and Yankicha Islands
After an early breakfast we planto board the Zodiacs and cruiseinto a vast flooded caldera at thenorthern end of Simushir Island.Only a quarter of a century agothis was the location of a topsecret Soviet submarine stationwhere hundreds of mariners werebased. This haunting reminderof the Cold War has now beencompletely abandoned and wecan wander around what remainsof the base, which is steadilybeing reclaimed by nature.Within the stunning setting of thishuge caldera, we can expectto find a good range of specieswith one of the most commonbirds likely to be the spectacularSiberian Rubythroat which canoften be seen singing from thetops of scrubby bushes. EurasianNutcrackers also breed on theisland and other species we havea good chance of encounteringinclude Arctic Warbler, Brown-headed Thrush, Pine Grosbeakand Japanese Grey Bunting.Over lunch we plan to cruise toYankicha Island, the summit of asubmerged volcano. Invariablythis is one of the highpoints ofthe entire voyage as the numberof alcids breeding here is trulyincredible. Subject to weatherand sea conditions, we will usethe Zodiacs to circumnavigatepart of the coastline and thenenter the flooded caldera.The concentrations of Crestedand Whiskered Auklets here aresimply spectacular and we canalso expect to get great viewsof Brunnich’s and CommonGuillemots and both Tufted andHorned Puffins. We should alsosee the snowy race of PigeonGuillemot. While inside the calderawe will pass the breeding coloniesof Crested and Whiskered Aukletsand are likely to also find Harlequin Ducks. We also stand an excellentchance of seeing Arctic Foxes thatcan be pretty inquisitive as theypatrol the auk colonies looking fortheir next meal. As we return tothe ship in the late evening manyof the alcids will be returning totheir colonies. Being surroundedby clouds of birds darkening thesky is an experience you will neverforget.
Day 6 - Day 6: Ekarma and Onekotan Islands
This morning we expect to be offEkarma Island which, like so manyof the islands in the Kuril chain, isan active volcano. The island ishome to hundreds of thousandsof breeding Northern Fulmars andwe plan to Zodiac cruise alongthe coast enjoying the multitudeof birds. Other species that breedhere include both Tufted andHorned Puffins, we may evensee some of the island’s residentPeregrines hunting alcids. This afternoon we plan to makea landing at the northern endof Onekotan Island from whereit is a relatively easy walk toBlack Lake. Our walk will take usthrough stunted areas of SiberianStone Pine, Dwarf Birch and PolarWillow. At the time of our visitconditions should be spring-likeand, as we make our way to andfrom the lake, there should beplenty of wild flowers in bloomincluding the possibility of somestunning orchids. On the lake aselection of wildfowl can usuallybe found including GreaterScaup and Goosander, whilein the scrub we will be lookingout for Buff-bellied Pipit, Brown-headed Thrush, Middendorff’sGrasshopper Warbler, SiberianRubythroat and Pine Grosbeak.On the beach where we land,and throughout the walk,there is extensive evidenceof fortifications built by theJapanese during World War II. TheRussians defeated the Japanesein the closing days of the warand although the islands havebeen considered Russian territoryever since, Japan still disputesRussian ownership of some of theSouthern Kuril Islands.
Day 7 - Day 7: Atlasova Island, Second Kuril Strait Ptich’i Rocks
This morning we will arrive atAltasova Island. On the shorenear our landing site are theremains of a Gulag and some small marshy ponds where itmight be possible to see Long-toed Stint and other waders. Onsome nearby low cliffs there is acolony of Red-faced Cormorantsand, out in the bay, there is achance of finding HarlequinDucks, Black and White-wingedScoters, Greater Scaup, EurasianWigeon and Falcated Ducks aswell as Pacific Sea Otters.We then plan to sail throughthe Second Kuril Strait betweenShumshu and Paramushir Islandson route to Ptich’i or Bird Rockswhere Alaid, the tallest volcano inthe archipelago with an elevationof 2,340 metres, can be found.The plan is to Zodiac cruise thewildlife rich Ptich’i Rocks wherean abundance of birds, sealsand Sea Otters reside at thesefascinating formations. Sea Otterswere hunted to almost extinctionin Russia, but now number backto almost two-thirds of theirhistorical range. Harbour andLargha Seals are often seen hereas well as a healthy population ofTufted Puffins.
Day 8 - Day 8: Bukhta Russkaya, Kamchatka
If the weather is fine, fantasticviews of the many snow-coveredvolcanoes that dominate thesouthern part of the peninsulagreet us as we sail up this fiord.Bukhta Russkaya is an isolatedfiord roughly 150 miles north of the southern tip of Kamchatka. Nearthe entrance there have beensightings of both the Long-billedMurrelet and the endangeredKittlitz’s Murrelet.We plan to make a landing atthe head of the fiord where thebirding can be very rewardingwith many species singing andLanceolated Warbler, Brambling,Common Rosefinch, OrientalGreenfinch and Rustic Buntingamong the possibilities. We willneed to exercise care as brownbears are not uncommon here.We also plan to Zodiac cruisethe entrance to the fiord wherethere is an excellent chance ofobserving Sea Otters, LarghaSeals, Steller Sea Lions and Orcas.
Day 9 - Day 9: Zhupanova River, Kamchatka
We anchor off the mouth of theZhupanova River where we willZodiac cruise up the river forseveral hours looking for birds andother wildlife. The combinationof smoking volcanoes and mileupon mile of untouched forestmake this area very special, but itis also home to some exceptionalwildlife including a high densityof Steller’s Sea Eagles. There areusually several massive stick nestsimmediately adjacent to theriverbank and, consequently,we have an excellent chance ofgetting some exceptional views of this majestic raptor. There shouldbe plenty of other wildlife too.Species we have seen on previousoccasions include Pacific Diver,Falcated Duck, Wood Sandpiper,Aleutian Tern, Eastern YellowWagtail, Arctic Warbler, Willow Titand both Yellow-breasted andRustic Buntings.
Day 10 - Day 10: Olga Bay
Olga Bay is a part of the verylarge Kronotskiy Reserve, whichalso includes the world-famousValley of the Geysers. The habitatis quite different to what we willhave been experiencing beforewith lush Kamchatka forestscoming right down to the beachline. There is a possibility we willsee brown bears and other forestfauna, as well as multiple birdspecies that live in this habitat.The seas around Olga Bay arefrequented by large numbersof Gray Whales that are usuallyquite friendly to the visiting boats,if the conditions are right we willtake a Zodiac whale-watchingcruise. The rising volcanoes inthe background here provide abeautiful setting to explore realKamchatka wilderness.
Day 11 - Days 11 to 12: Commander Islands
The Commander Islands formthe western extremity of theAleutian Islands and are the onlyislands in the chain that belong to Russia. They are named afterthe legendary Danish explorerCommander Vitus Bering whodiscovered the islands when hebecame the first European to sailbetween Asia and North America.Unfortunately Bering’s ship waswrecked and he died here alongwith many of his crew, thoughlittle evidence of their time on theisland remains, except for a simpletombstone marking Bering’s grave.During our two days in theCommander Islands we planto visit both Bering and Medny,but our first stop will be at thevillage of Nikolskoye on BeringIsland. While ashore we will havethe opportunity to visit the smallmuseum (one of the few placesin the world to have a skeletonof the Stellar’s Sea Cow). There isalso some excellent birding to beenjoyed here. Along the shorelinethere are often hundreds ofGlaucous-winged Gulls as well assmaller numbers of the far morelocalised Red-legged Kittiwake.We should also see both RockSandpiper and Mongolian Plover(or Lesser Sand Plover) here, aswell as both Lapland and SnowBunting which invariably showvery well. We should also have anopportunity to explore an area oftundra behind the village wherethe highly-prized Pechora Pipit isknown to breed. All landing sites in theCommander Islands are weatherdependent, so our preciseitinerary will vary depending onthe prevailing conditions. Possiblesites include a colony of over2,000 Northern Fur Seals wherewe should also see Steller SeaLions and as many as 200 PacificSea Otters. There are also severalsites where Zodiac cruising canbe highly productive and it ispossible to get close views ofRed-legged Kittiwake, ParakeetAuklet, Horned Puffin and PigeonGuillemot (a very different-lookingrace to the birds in the KurilIslands).We also plan to ship cruise alongthe southern coast of BeringIsland as this is a superb areafor seabirds and cetaceans.We could potentially see Short-tailed, Black-footed and LaysanAlbatrosses, Mottled Petrel,Red-legged Kittiwake, Least,Parakeet and Whiskered Aukletsand Horned and Tufted Puffins.This area is also renowned forcetaceans including Sperm,Humpback, Northern Minke,Baird’s Beaked Whales and Orca.
Day 12 - Day 13: At Sea
We have a day at sea as wecruise across the KamchatkaTrench towards Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy which is located at one of the greatest naturalharbours in the world, AvachaBay. These waters are renownedfor cetaceans as the trenchborders between two majortectonic plates creating deepcanyons where these animalsfeed. Blue, Fin, Humpback, Spermand Baird’s Beaked Whales haveall been recorded here, as haveDall’s Porpoise and Orca, sothere is real potential for somegreat cetacean sightings. Therewill, of course, also be birds towatch. Look out for Red-leggedKittiwake, Tufted Puffin, AncientMurrelet and Fork-tailedStorm-Petrel.
Day 13 - Day 14: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy
This morning we arrive in thehistoric city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, it will be worthwhilewatching from one of the manyvantage points as we sail intoAvacha Bay. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy is the main city ofthe Kamchatka Peninsula and thecapital and administrative centreof the region. This city and thesurrounding areas offer a greatamount to see and explore. Weencourage you to take a fewextra days after the expedition toexplore this amazing area, ask usabout post travel opportunitieshere. After a final breakfast,a coach will transfer you to acentral city point or the airport.
Day 14 - Please Note:
During our voyage,circumstances may make itnecessary or desirable to deviatefrom the proposed itinerary.This can include poor weatherand/or opportunities for makingunplanned excursions. YourExpedition Leader will keep youfully informed.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $9,450MAIN DECK TRIPLE CABINS
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $9,950SUPERIOR TRIPLE CABINS
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $11,950SUPERIOR CABIN DECK 4
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $12,450SUPERIOR CABINS DECK 5
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $14,440MAIN DECK SINGLE CABINS
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $15,040SUPERIOR SINGLE CABINS
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $15,450WORSLEY SUITES
15-06-202228-06-2022USD $21,450HERITAGE SUITES


    • Visit Sakhalin Island & Kunashir Island
    • Enjoy Iturup Island, Simushir and Yankicha Islands
    • Explore Ekarma and Onekotan Islands
    • Travel to Atlasova Island, Second Kuril Strait Ptich’i Rocks
    • Sail to Bukhta Russkaya, Kamchatka
    • Discover Commander Islands