SEA OF OKHOTSK:

SEALS, SEABIRDS & A LEGACY OF SORROW 

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12 DAYS

Perhaps no other sea in the world has witnessed as much human suffering and misery as the Sea of Okhotsk. Between 1932 and 1953 it is estimated that over 3 million prisoners (the vast majority of them innocent) were transported across the Sea of Okhotsk to the Gulags of the Kolyma Goldfields. It is estimated that only 500,000 of those prisoners survived to make the journey home. Despite this seemingly depressing history, the wildlife thrives, including the beautifully marked and rare Ribbon Seals. On three small islands within this sea hundreds of Steller Sea Lions haul out each year to breed. One of these, Tyuleniy Island, also is home to one of the largest concentrations and breeding colonies of Northern Fur Seals in the Russian Far East. Seabird numbers in the Sea of Okhotsk can only be described as spectacular.

ITINERARY SUMMARY

DayPlaceHighlights
Day 1Sakhalin Island, Port of KorsakovTransfer and embark on the Spirit of Enderby
Day 2Tyuleniy Island An island with a strong hold for Northern Fur Seals & Steller Sea Lions
Day 3Piltun Bay, Sakhalin Island Travel on zodiacs in the bay searching for the small population of Western Grey Whales that reside there
Day 4Iony Island Zodiac around the island (which more resembles a rock) in search of Steller Sea Lions and various sea birds
Days 5-6Shantar ArchipelagoThe last region of the Sea of Okhotsk to become free of ice, increasing chances to see the Bearded, Ringed, Largha and Ribbon Seals
Day 7Mal’minskie Islands Thousands of birds surround these mountains in the air, in the water and on the land
Day 8Okhotsk TownThis town is the centre of fishing in the region with significant quantities of salmon. See the cultural and hospitality of the town
Day 9Talan Island Internationally known and very difficult to get to bird island. It is famous for the hundreds of thousands of Crested Auklets that nest here.
Day 10Koni Peninsula This mountainous region includes the Magadanskiy Zapovednik Reserve, which protects brown bears and Snow Sheep
Day 11Yamskiye Islands Claimed by some biologists to be the largest bird colony in the North Pacific
Day 12MagadanArrive in the historical town with a tragic past that shows very little evidence of it. Farewell your fellow travellers and expedition crew as you disembark the Spirit of Enderby

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Ship Offering This Itinerary

Spirit of Enderby
Spirit of Enderby

The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for expedition travel. She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is very good and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.

The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you into zodiacs, or ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and experienced Russian Captain and crew.

Day 1 Sakhalin Island, Port of Korsakov

Spirit of Enderby
Overview:

This morning board a coach for your transfer to the Port of Korsakov, 40 minutes south of the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk where you will board the Spirit of Enderby. Once on board you will be shown to your cabins and there will be a chance to unpack and explore the vessel. There will be briefings and introductions to the ship, staff and crew as you sail towards the Sea of Okhotsk.

Day 2 Tyuleniy Island

Make a visit to little known Tyuleniy Island off the south east coast of Sakhalin Island. This small island is a strong hold for Northern Fur Seals and Steller Sea Lions. Fur seal numbers have increased since an International Covention signed in 1911 banned seal hunting here. In the 1990s Steller Sea Lions started breeding on the island and their colony now numbers around 2,500 animals. Sea conditions permitting, there is a planned landing here for an opportunity to photograph the seals and sea lions.

Day 3 Piltun Bay, Sakhalin Island

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It was the discovery of oil and gas in this region which put Sakhalin Island on many people’s maps. Piltun Bay is an important habitat for the small population of Western Grey Whales. Researchers monitor the population during the summer months. Go in search of the Grey Whales that live here, travelling by Zodiac inshore to the shallower waters where they are known to feed.

Day 4 Iony Island

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Iony Island lies in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk, it is really just a rock, but what it lacks in physical size it more than makes up for wildlife. Birds appear to take up all available space; there are guillemots, kittiwakes and various species of auklets, with Parakeet, Whiskered and Least being the most prominent. Zodiac cruise around the island as Steller Sea Lions occupy the few rocky beaches, making any landing impossible.

Days 5-6 Shantar Archipelago

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Lying in the western sector of the Sea of Okhotsk close to the continent, the islands in this archipelago are amongst the last place in the Sea of Okhotsk to become ice free each year. This late ice can sometimes restrict how far you can explore here but on the other hand increases your chances of seeing some of the seals including Bearded, Ringed, Largha and Ribbon Seals that breed here. If you can land there will be birding, botany and photography excursions led by the team of on board naturalists.

Day 7 Mal’minskie Islands

Heritage resized-® NRuss Steller's Sea Eagle

Here there are birds everywhere, in the air, in the water and on the land. Numerous species breed here including large numbers of Spectacled Guillemots. Other species include Ancient Murrelet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Parakeet Auklet, Horned and Tufted Puffin, Crested Auklet and both Common and Brunnich’s Guillemot. There is also a good population of Steller’s Sea Eagles on the island and on the adjacent mainland. Landing on the island is restricted to a small gravel spit; however on the mainland you can stretch your legs and explore the taiga forest.

Day 8 Okhotsk Town

This town has featured in Russian Far East history since the earliest Cossack explorers came from the west. Vitus Bering travelled overland from St Petersburg to Okhotsk in 1725 and again in 1733 travelling to Kamchtka and beyond. Today Okhotsk is the centre of fishing in the region. The port exports significant quantities of salmon and other fish. Visit the town, landing by Zodiac up the river near the town centre. The local people are generous and welcoming and will provide entertainment in the town centre and a cultural display.

Day 9 Talan Island

Internationally known, but a very difficult bird island to get to, Talan is famous largely because of the hundreds of thousands of Crested Auklets that nest there. There are also an extraordinary number of Black-legged Kittiwakes nesting along the cliffs and not surprisingly a large population of Steller’s Sea Eagles. Plan to circumnavigate the island by Zodiac before landing and then returning in the late evening to witness the huge flocks of Crested Auklets amassing at sea before coming ashore.

Day 10 Koni Peninsula

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This is a mountainous region to the south-east of the town of Magadan, part of which is included in the Magadanskiy Zapovednik Reserve. This reserve protects the brown bear and snow sheep among other animals. Many of the landings are expeditionary, in that although Heritage Expeditions have landed at a number of places along the coast, many will be new and unknown, so it is never quite knwon what you will find. That is part of what makes this style of travel so interesting.

Day 11 Yamskiye Islands

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These islands are claimed by some biologists to be the largest bird colony in the North Pacific. According to bird counts there are an estimated 7 million birds nesting on Matykil Island, the largest in the group. Birds include Common and Brunnich’s Guillemot, Crested, Parakeet and Least Auklets, Tufted and Horned Puffins and Northern Fulmars. The most abundant of these is the Least Auklet. Zodiac around the coast as no landings are permitted.

Day 12 Magadan

Spirit of Enderby

The name Magadan is synonymous with Stalin’s oppressive Gulags or prisons but there is very little evidence now of this town’s tragic past. The local museum has an excellent display about the Gulags but the most poignant reminder is the ‘Mask of Sorrow’ a large monument on a hill overlooking the town. Today Magadan is a town of about 100,000 people. Fishing is important and gold mining is experiencing a revival. The infamous Kolyma Highway or the ‘Road of Bones’ connects Magadan with Irkutsk and ultimately greater Russia. Plan to arrive here midday where your journey will end. You will be transferred to a central hotel or the airport.

To book this cruise contact us on 1300 784 794 or email: contact@arctictravelcentre.com.au

We will tailor the perfect holiday to suit your needs.