Fire & Ice in the Russian Far East

Fire & Ice in the Russian Far East

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The remote reaches of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and the distant and isolated Kuril Islands have fired the imagination of explorers and traders for centuries.

Our past travellers have enthused about the spectacular scenery, the incredible array of wildlife and the native cultures known to only a few privileged visitors. The wildlife is some of the richest in the world and the region is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise with puffins, guillemots, cormorants, Steller’s sea eagle, brown-headed thrush, Siberian Ruby-throats, black legged kittiwakes, and crested or whiskered auklets just some of the species we hope to encounter as we cruise through a pristine environment that calls to nature lovers, history buffs, photographers and the intrepid explorer within.

The Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia’s remote easternmost province is home to the brown bear and on arrival there we will be greeted by a dramatic landscape of fire and ice. Geysers, hot springs and active volcanoes set amidst towering mountains and fast flowing rivers make this area magnificently unique. Marvel at spouting whales, frolicking seals and huge populations of nesting and migratory seabirds. Following our time around the peninsula, we reach the Kurils, a necklace-like chain of volcanic islands where we will find vast forests and wildflower-dappled tundra, backdropped by soaring steam-breathing volcanoes. Basalt stacks rise from the sea, tailormade resting and nesting spots for an unimaginable number of seabirds. Once inhabited by the Ainu, who are thought to be descendants of migrating Mongolians, these islands are home to over 100 volcanoes, 35 of which are active.

Using our fleet of Zodiacs we can explore inlets, bird sanctuaries and land in otherwise inaccessible places and, although we set sail with a set itinerary, it is often the unscheduled events that become the highlight. Sailing in June, we will take full advantage of the mid-summer sun, travelling on nature’s terms, enjoying dramatic scenery and encountering the region’s ancient cultures and fascinating people whose lives are rarely touched by outsiders. We will be joined onboard by an expert expedition team including naturalists, marine biologists and ornithologists who will share their knowledge and enthusiasm during forays ashore and whilst on board.

Trip Name
Fire & Ice in the Russian Far East
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition Length: 90 metres Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites) Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012 The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows. If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere. Your Suite Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub. Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Your space The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your dining With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board. For your comfort, safety and security The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only. Gratuities Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.


Day 1 - Day 1 - London to Seoul, South Korea.
Fly by scheduled flight.
Day 2 - Day 2 - Seoul.
Arrive today and transfer to the Grand Hyatt Incheon (or similar) for an overnight stay. The remainder of the day and evening are at leisure.
Day 3 - Day 3 - Seoul to Petropavlovsk, Russia.
After breakfast in the hotel we will transfer to the airport to join our specially chartered flight to Petropavlovsk. On arrival transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky and embark. Enjoy Welcome Drinks and Dinner this evening.
Day 4 - Day 4 - Petropavlovsk.
Petropavlovsk, town of Peter and Paul, derives its name from the two sailing ships used by Vitus Bering when the great explorer reached Avacha Bay in 1740. It is the only major city on the peninsula and one of the oldest towns in the Russian Far East. A tour of the city will include the museum of ethnography and natural history, the art school, the gold-domed Orthodox Cathedral and the marketplace. Return to the ship for lunch as we sail this afternoon.
Day 5 - Day 5 - Kamenistaya Bay, Kamchatka.
Our exploration of Kamchatka will start this morning in Kamenistaya Bay located in the Kronotsky State Nature Reserve. The reserve was established in 1934 and is one of the oldest in Russia covering an area of almost 11,000 square kilometres which contains forest, tundra, taiga, mountains, volcanoes and geysers, a hugely diverse habitat for the abundant wildlife. The reserve is home to brown bears as well as caribou, otters, seals and multiple species of birds. If conditions permit we will offer walks with our expedition teams on land or Zodiac cruises to view the wildlife.
Day 6 - Day 6 - Ariy Kamen & Nikolskoye, Commander Islands.
The Komandorskiye or CommanderCommander Vitus Bering who had been commissioned by the Russian Tsar to search for a land bridge between Asia and America. After having been to Alaska he was forced to overwinter here. He was buried on the island, but some of the crew managed to return to Petropavlovsk. Our experiences will be determined by weather, wildlife and sea conditions. We intend to visit Nikolskoye, which was established in 1826 by fur traders. This fishing village on Bering Island has a small museum where we will learn about the Aleut people and their culture. During our visit we will enjoy a concert and be entertained by a presentation of local games. After lunch we hope to take a Zodiac ride to tiny Ariy Kamen Island, a habitat for vast numbers of birds.
Day 7 - Days 7 & 8 - Kamchatka Peninsula.
This morning we will cruise back to Kamchatka for a further day and a half of exploration including the Zhupanova River. The Zhupanova River Estuary is a scenic maze of moist bogs, serpentine river channels and ponds against a snowy backdrop. The tall volcanic cone of Kronoskaya Sopka (3528 metres) stands above this predominantly uninhabited land. The river is one of the most productive trout rivers in the world and is home to the richest rainbow trout habitat on Kamchatka. This afternoon we have the opportunity to take a long Zodiac cruise along the river looking for wildlife including Steller’s sea eagles, Aleutian terns, seals and of course the iconic Kamchatka brown bears. We hope to Zodiac cruise at Cape Kekurnyy, well known for the population of Steller sea lions that haul onto the rocks and maybe also make a landing in Tikhirka Bay.
Day 8 - Days 9 to 12 - Kuril Islands.
The Kuril Islands consist of a volcanic archipelago that stretches 1300 kilometres, through the Sea of Okhotsk, from northern Japan to the Kamchatka Peninsula. Our itinerary for these four days will be flexible as our Captain and Expedition Leader will plan landings based on weather and sea conditions. However we hope to visit Chirpoy Island. The origin of the names is uncertain, the original Ainu language name of the island was Repunmoshiri, a word meaning “place of many small birds”. During a Zodiac cruise we search along the coast for the profusion of wildlife that lives in the area including Steller sea lions, fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets. Yankicha Island is impressive, accessible only by Zodiac and only during high tide, it is actually a sinking volcanic caldera. Inside the magnificent lagoon with its fumaroles and hot springs, we can still see traces of the tremendous forces that created the island long ago. The number of auklets which breed here is truly incredible. Alaid on Atlasova Island is the highest volcano in the Kurils with a height of over 2000 metres. Together with our expedition staff, we will land by Zodiac on the black lava beach of the island from where we will begin our walk to see the remains of the Taketomi tufa cone.
Day 9 - Day 13 - Tyuleniy Island.
We arrive later in the morning to explore Tyuleniy Island. Tyuleniy means “seal” in Russian, and during the summer months the island is home to literally tens of thousands of northern fur seals and Steller sea lions. Our visit, at the height of the breeding season is well timed to see not only the seals and sea lions, but also tens of thousands of common guillemots and blacklegged kittiwakes that have made their nests in the cliffs above. Our lecture programme continues on board when we depart around mid-afternoon.
Day 10 - Day 14 - Korsakov.
Our last call in Russia will be at the port of Korsakov where we see Yuzhno- Sakhalinsk’s beautiful Cathedral of the Resurrection. The church was only completed in 1995 and the gold on the onion domes has very recently been laid, shining brilliantly. From the church continue to the Sakhalin Regional Museum, which is housed in a beautiful Japanese style structure, due to the previous ruling of its southern neighbour. The museum covers all the facets of Sakhalin Island, from its flora and fauna, to its geology and history. Return to the MS Caledonian Sky for lunch as we clear Russian formalities and sail this afternoon towards Japan.
Day 11 - Day 15 - Otaru to Tokyo, Japan.
Disembark this morning and transfer to Sapporo airport for our scheduled internal flight to Tokyo. On arrival transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay. This afternoon we will have a brief city tour before an evening at leisure to explore independently.
Day 12 - Day 16 - Tokyo to London.
After breakfast in the hotel we transfer to the airport for our scheduled flight to London. Arrive this afternoon.
Day 13 - Please Note:
Please note that flexibility is key to a successful expedition. Although we have outlined an itinerary below, this is subject to change. Our exact route will depend on weather conditions, the wildlife we encounter and permissions from the Russian authorities.

Trip Dates

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    • Travelling with You
    • Tony Crocker. Tony has spent many years living and travelling through the length and breadth of Europe, in the course of an extensive career in travel and tourism, including over a year spent in the High Arctic. He has a lifelong interest in ornithology and, in his native New Zealand, is acknowledged as one of the best birders.
    • Travelling with You
    • Dr Chris Edwards. A native of Scotland, after graduating from the University of Glasgow Chris was employed by the British Antarctic Survey and spent two and a half years in Antarctica as a field geologist. On return to the UK via a tour of South America he obtained a Ph.D. and published scientific papers based on his Antarctic work. Twelve years in the oil exploration industry saw Chris initially based in Aberdeen working both offshore and onshore before postings to South America and the Far East. On return to the UK he was based in London, Aberdeen and Glasgow. Since 1989 he has been the horologist in his own antique clock restoration business. This has allowed him the flexibility to leave the workshop for several months a year to work on expedition ships as an expedition leader and lecturer in the Antarctic, the Arctic and North-West Europe.
    • Travelling with You
    • Colin Baird. Colin grew up on the west coast of Canada and developed a love for the sea at an early age, sailing and scuba diving the local waters off Vancouver Island. He spent 10 years as a marine mammal trainer. In 2002 he was hired by Jean Michel Cousteau as the director of field operations for the Free Willy/ Keiko Project in Iceland and Norway. This was and remains today the only attempt to release a previously captive orca back into the wild.
    • Travelling with You
    • Dmitri Banin. Born in Moscow, Russia, Dmitri studied biology at Moscow State University (MSU) where he completed his Ph.D. in Zoology and then continued his work in MSU’s Laboratory of Ornithology. His research expeditions have taken him too many remote areas, such as White Sea, Central Asia, Siberia and Russian Far East. Subsequently Dmitri was invited to work for the USSR Ministry of Natural Resources as the Head of the Department of Science. There Dmitri developed research programs for all Natural Reserves of the former Soviet Union. Since coming to the U.S.A. at the invitation of the University of Washington, Dmitri has traveled throughout the North American and Eurasian Arctic regions, including Alaska, Chukotka, the North Pole, Franz Josef Land and Svalbard. Dmitri enjoys sharing his knowledge of the Arctic through lectures on marine biology and ornithology and always looking forward to visiting new remote destinations.
    • Travelling with You
    • Cheli Larsen. Cheli is a seasoned veteran when it comes to exploring the rich, breathtaking nature and animal life of the everchanging environment and has led passengers on more than 120 voyages to the Polar Regions. She got her first taste of polar adventure when she left her native New Zealand for the Russian Far East and continued on, leading expeditions to both well-known and “secret gem” locations across Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Svalbard, the North Pole, South Georgia, Antarctica and the South Sandwich Islands. A PADI Master Dive Instructor who also holds a Commercial Launch master Skippers Ticket, Cheli has been involved in orca studies, and worked as a field assistant with TVNZ Natural History Unit’s filming of the orca documentary Killers I Have Known, commissioned by The Discovery Channel, as well as on The Blue Planet.