Kamchatka’s Critters and Craters

Kamchatka's best seller
©Photo by Anton Agarkov
Walk among Kamchatka's giants – brown bears and active volcanoes. Immerse yourself in the semi-nomadic culture of the region and explore the wildlife-rich waters of the Pacific coast
This Kamchatka nature and wildlife tour will take place in the prime summer wildlife viewing season, allowing you to experience the incredibly rich flora, fauna, and geology of the region. This compressive 15 day tour gives us time to take in many of the most spectacular volcanic landscapes and prime wildlife spotting locations on the peninsula, despite the challenges of travelling in a largely undeveloped region defined by vast distances and the virtual absence of sealed roads. We’ll also visit remote Koryak and Evens settlements in Central Kamchatka and be welcomed into the summer camps where they graze their reindeer herds in the tundra. At times exhausting and frequently exhilarating, these unforgettable two weeks in Russia’s Eastern frontier will send you home with a newfound appreciation of the raw power and beauty of Mother Nature and the importance of preserving these last remaining tracts of untouched wilderness.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Take a breathtakingly scenic flight on an Mi-8 helicopter to Kurilskoye Lake, with a bonus flyover of the summit of Kusdach volcano. With a bit of luck, we’ll land near the summit and walk to the deep blue lake in the crater of the volcano, where’s its actually possible to swim for short periods in the lake’s ‘hot beach’
  • Spend 2 incredible days among the brown bears of Kuril Lake. As the bears’ only interest is in gorging themselves on the salmon swimming upstream to breed, visitors can observe wild bear families at unbelievably close proximity. We’ll observe the bears both from boats and from a special viewing platform overlooking prime fishing grounds 
  • A Russian Mi-8 helicopter will drop us off at the banks of the Khodutka River to bathe in thermal hot springs. After a relaxing soak, our joy flight continues with a breathtaking pass over the crater of the active Mutnovsky volcano.
  • Camp for a night under a star-studded sky along the banks of the Kamchatka River. Our campsite is located within the Klyuchevskoy Nature Park,  containing 13 of Eurasia’s largest and most spectacular volcanoes
  • Visit the eerily beautiful Dead Forest and lava fields beneath Tolbachik volcano. The result of an enormous eruption between 1975 and 1976, the larch trees at the volcano’s foothill have become petrified ghosts of their former selves
  • Travel to Central Kamchatka, home of the Even and Koryak, the “people of the reindeer”, who set up their summer camps near the village of Esso. You’ll be granted the extraordinary privilege of experiencing traditional nomad life, spending a night camped out with the herders in their tents

Kamchatka’s remoteness has allowed many iconic large animal species under threat elsewhere to thrive in pockets of protected wilderness. These same factors have also helped the peninsula’s nomadic indigenous tribes and reindeer herders hold on to much of their traditional way of life. Combined with rugged volcanic peaks interspersed with lush river valleys, desolate lava plains and ancient glaciers, Kamchatka seems to be of another era, or even, at times another planet.

This 15 day Kamachata summer tour is the ultimate adventure travel experience for nature lovers and wildlife watching buffs. While you’ll spend many evenings camping in wilderness preserves, forest cabins and even sleeping in traditional nomadic tents, this tour delivers plenty of high end thrills, including spectacular scenic helicopter flights to the summits of active volcanoes.

In addition to the included activities, this tour offers several amazing optional excursions, including a cruise on Avacha Bay from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to the seabird colonies of the Three Brothers Rocks. On the way, you’ll gain a new perspective of the city, looking back at the beautiful volcanic mountain range that partly encircles the town. Locals regard these volcanoes as benevolent protectors rather than unpredictable forces to be feared.

You can also choose between a free day exploring the humble but surprisingly lively port city of Petropavlovsk, or keep the adventure going with a chopper flight over the World Heritage Valley of the Geysers, a cluster of 90 highly active geysers, steam vents and boiling hot springs, creating a bizarre, primeval and hauntingly desolate, hostile landscape.

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Arrival

Departure

Accomodation

Trip style

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Mixed (hotels, cabins, tents)

Wildlife, Nature, Culture

Duration

Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

15 days / 14 nights

     

up to 16 people

Guaranteed Departures

Itinerary View map

Day 1:Arrival to Kamchatka

Arrive in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the administrative, cultural and industrial centre of Kamchatka and home to around 180,000 people. It is a remote city with little infrastructure, in a dramatic and beautiful setting; built on a series of high hills on the Pacific harbour of Avachinskaya Bay, it’s surrounded by a chain of five towering volcanoes, two of which are still active.

From the airport, you’ll be transferred to your hotel in town, where you will take your time to relax and acclimatise. You’ll be welcomed to Kamchatka this evening with a group dinner in a city restaurant.

Day 2:Ksudach volcano by helicopter

This morning our journey kicks into high gear, with a morning flight by MI-8 helicopter to Kurilskoye (Kuril) Lake, deep in the heart of brown bear country!

One hour into our flight we’ll make a stopover at the Ksudach Volcano (if weather permits). We’ll take a walking excursion visiting the deep blue crater lake of Schtubelya, situated inside the volcano, and to a lovely waterfall where water cascades from the crater. Volcanic hot springs create a ‘hot beach’ on the lake’s shore, where it’s possible to take an invigorating swim. Following your dip, our chopper flight continues the short distance to Kamchatka’s famed Kuril Lake.

Our home for the next two nights is in a very basic but cozy wooden lodge. A wraparound deck affords a gorgeous view of the lake and surrounding mountains. It’s quite often possible to watch bears fishing along the lake’s edge without even leaving the grounds of the lodge! In the afternoon, you’ll have time to enjoy excursions along the lake’s pumice rock beach, where you’ll be briefed about the next day’s activities.

Days 3-4:Kurilskoye Lake: brown bears watching

Kuril Lake is without a doubt one of the best places on earth to spot and photograph brown bears in their natural habitat, so the next two days are devoted to observing these mighty mammals as they hunt the salmon that gather here in their millions during the summer months.

We’ll use a mix of a motorboat and walking excursions with experienced local wardens in order to maximise our chances of seeing bears up-close and observing different behaviours.

The bear viewing platform (250m from our lodge) is located at the mouth of the many rivers that drain into the lake, providing awesome opportunities to take Nat Geo worthy photos of the bears fishing for migrating salmon. Our longer walking excursions will lead us to a lush summer meadow where the bears feed on wild berries and visit other spawning streams further from the lodge. Along these streams, you’ll be able to see the spawning salmon in shallow water and many signs of a large number of birds in the area. There’s a good chance of spotting bears fishing only metres away as you walk along the banks of the streams.

Day 5:Flight over Mutnovsky volcano

In the morning we’ll take a final stroll around Kurilskoye Lake and head up to the bear-viewing platform for a final opportunity to bag a prize-winning shot of the magnificent beasts in their element.

Our afternoon MI-8 helicopter flight will drop us off on the banks of the Khodutka River for a bath in the thermal hot water springs – the largest in Kamchatka. The water bubbles out on to a section of tundra located just under the Khodutka Volcano, forming a small stream. Further, from the source, the water slowly cools, so bathers are able to find a location where the temperature is just right for a warm, soothing swim. We board the MI-8 once more for a flight over the crater of Mutnovsky volcano plateau, before heading back to the city.

Day 6:Valley of Geysers (optional)

Today the choice is yours to either enjoy a free day exploring Petropavlovsk at your leisure or join an optional* scenic helicopter flight to the World Heritage site of the Valley of the Geysers and the crater of the mighty Uzon volcano.

The Valley of Geysers is the only geyser field in Eurasia and the second largest concentration of geysers in the world. This cluster of around 90 geysers, fumaroles and hot springs in this valley were only discovered in 1941. They lie above the marginal fractures of the oldest Uzon caldera and periodically expel hot water in spectacular jet streams.

Day 7:On the way to Klychevskoy Nature Park

Today begins with a full day’s journey to a typical Russian village of Milkovo. We’ll cover a total distance of appx 300km on an unsealed road. Here we enjoy a hot lunch and take a short stroll around the village to get a feel for Russian rural life.

Heading further north of Milkovo, we reach our base camp located in the wilderness of a mixed evergreen and deciduous forest along the banks of the Kamchatka River (Kamchatka's largest river which runs northward through the central valley of the peninsula).

Day 8:Tolbachik volcano

Travelling further 60 km, from where we stayed overnight, we arrive at our first base camp located on a slope of Tolbachik volcano plateau.

Tolbachik volcano is located in the Klyuchevskoy Nature Park, which was registered into the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List in 1999. It covers an area of 376,000 ha with Eurasia’s most grand and active Klyuchevksaya group of volcanoes in its centre. It consists of 13 volcanoes, including 4 active ones (Klyuchevskoy, Plosky Tolbachik, Besymyanny, Ushkovsky) and 9 extinct ones (Kamen, Krestovsky, Ostry Tolbachik, Ovalnaya Zimina, Ostraya Zimina, Bolshaya Udina, Malaya Udina, Sredny, and Gorny Zoub).

Once the camp is set up, we can relax and enjoy the surrounding wilderness and wildlife.

Days 9:Lava fields and dead forest

Stroll above Tolbachik's solid lava flows of 2012-2013 eruptions, where we can see lava formed into various shapes, many moon slag cones, and moon-like sceneries. We also visit the "Dead Forest" - an area that was destroyed by ash clouds in 1975. Today we explore the "Dead Forest" – an area that was destroyed by an enormous eruption between 1975 and 1976. The territory around turned into a burnt desert, lakes and rivers disappeared, and the animals that had survived left the area for the best.

Devoid of life, the ancient larch trees here are now eerie skeletons of their former selves, surrounded by a burnt desert landscape and set against the backdrop of the magnificent Tolbachik.

Day 10:Esso village

Get ready to jump to our truck as we are heading to Esso settlement in Central Kamchatka (route will take up to 7h). Here we will check into the hotel, finally take a hot shower and relax in the thermal pool.

Esso is a charming village of about 1,500 residents nestled in the Central Mt. Range and inside of the Bystrinsky Nature Park, the largest of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka’s Nature Parks. This village’s spectacular setting and unique population of Russians and Kamchatka aboriginal people welcome visitors to a cozy accommodation, warmed by natural geothermal waters.

After some rest in the hotel, enjoy a traditional folk performance and immerse yourself in the Koryak and Even people culture and hospitality.

Day 11/12: Reindeer herders

After breakfast at the hotel, explore Esso's surroundings or relax in the thermal pool. In the afternoon we will board a helicopter for a flight to the reindeer herders camp, where we will stay in tents for overnight.

Here, we will visit their chums, the cone-shaped, portable tents they call home and experience a way of life that is now in danger of completely dying out. In the morning of day 13, we will fly back to the village of Esso, where we will stay overnight.

Day 13:Return to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Having spent a week in the wilderness, it’s time for a brief return to civilization. We embark on a drive back to the city of Petropavlovsk. Along the way, we’ll make another pit stop at Milkovo village. Retire for a well-earned rest at our hotel.

Day 14:Avacha bay cruise (optional)

An *optional boat trip (6 hours) out into the bay is a very relaxing way of gaining an alternative view of the splendid setting of Petropavlovsk and its dramatic volcanoes.
Departing from a pier near the centre of town, the expanse of the hilly city soon falls into perspective. Further toward the middle of the bay, both Koryaksky and Avacha volcanoes come into view behind the city.

When Avacha erupted in 1991, people living in Petropavlovsk could watch the red stream of lava coming down the slope towards the city, while hot ashes were shooting into the skies above the summit crater. Near the mouth of the bay, the Three Brothers are tall finger-like sea stacks, whose rock faces rise vertically out of the water. The cliffs around the bay house many colonies of seabirds in their natural habitats, and puffins are commonly seen among many other types of seabird. Hot lunch is aboard.

Day 15:Departure

It's time to say goodbye to Kamchatka! Transfer to the airport for your departure back home.

Inclusions

Accommodation

  • 3* hotel  (7 nights)
  • wooden lodge on Kuril Lake (3 nights)
  • tents (4 nights)

Meals

All meals during the tour

Transportation

All transportation on tour according to the itinerary (coach, 6WD truck-bus, helicopters, boats)

Guides

Local English-speaking guide, helper, chef, experienced drivers

Other

  • Kuril Lake photography fees
  • Permits in Kluchevksy Nature Park and Kronotsky Reserve
  • Russian visa support documents

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Flights, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, individual transfers, tips

Dates & Prices

DatesAvailabilityPriceSingle sup. 
15 Aug - 29 Aug 2019
Guaranteed Departures
Available US $5,680 US $460 Reserve
15 days
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
from
$
5,680
USD
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If you have any urgent questions or enquiries, please give us a call +61 2 9388 9816