Sea of Okhotsk

onboard Silver Explorer

June 17 – July 6, 2020

Russian Far East cruise image of Steller's Sea Eagle in flight

Steller’s Sea Eagles breed only in far eastern Russia, along the coasts and islands of the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk.

Far East Russia image of Red Foxes

Red foxes are usually spotted in pairs or small family groups as they stalk their prey along the volcanic slopes and beaches. © Richard Sidey

Russian Far East cruise photo of auklets near Yankicha Island

Large colonies of auklets can be found on Yankicha Island. Watch the auklet haze as the birds return to their nests for the evening. © Adrian Wlodarczyk

Sea of Okhotsk photograph of Sea Otter

Sea Otters are the heaviest members of the weasel family but are among the smallest marine mammals. © Peter Harrison

Sea of Okhotsk photo of Silver Explorer near Chirpoy Island in the Kuril Islands

The Silver Explorer, your home away from home, has been designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations.

Sea of Okhotsk image of Killer Whale pod

The southeastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula is home to several hundred resident orcas that come to feed on salmon, mackerel, and cod.

Russian Far East Cruise

Far up in the frozen north, an ocean away from mainland America and nine time zones from Moscow, lies the spectacularly wild Russian Far East. Here, on the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, one is more likely to encounter a Brown Bear than a foreign tourist. The only traffic occurs at sunset, when rafts of auklets fill the sky on their return to nest atop active island volcanoes, and gray whales congregate to cavort in tiny Piltun Lagoon. Climb aboard the Silver Explorer, expertly engineered to allow access to rugged coasts beyond the reach of ordinary vessels, and join Apex for this 20-day Russian Far East cruise through the “Land of Fire and Ice.” Learn of Vitus Bering’s visits to the same shores 300 years ago, meet locals living in harmony with their awesome and often brutal surroundings, and settle in among the innumerable seabirds and cetaceans who still own this corner of the earth.

Sea of Okhotsk graphic showing location on globe
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    • Travel by Air
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    • Wednesday, June 17: Arrive Sapporo, Japan

      Arrive late tonight in the lively capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, and transfer to your hotel. Rest up for the adventure to come. Overnight at Keio Plaza Hotel.

    • Thursday, June 18: Sapporo / Otaru / Embark Silver Explorer

      Meet your expedition team this morning over a welcome breakfast and briefing at the hotel. Travel to Otaru for a city tour highlighting this historic trading port. Start with an exploration of the Old Aoyama Villa, built by Masakichi Aoyama, a herring millionaire. No expense was spared in its construction and the large building is filled with traditional calligraphy, Japanese paintings and intricate woodwork. Stroll along the restored historic Otaru Canal lined with Victorian-style gas lamps, and shops and museums in repurposed brick warehouse buildings. Enjoy a sake tasting at Tanaka Sake Brewery before transferring to the port to embark the Silver Explorer, your home away from home for the next 18 nights. Settle into your suite, then join your fellow travelers on deck to watch the ship pull away from the harbor and head north.

    • Friday, June 19: At Sea / Korsakov, Sakhalin Island, Russia

      Enjoy the morning at sea with lectures by your expedition team on the seldom-visited Russian Far East. There is so much to learn about its flora, staggering fauna, geology and history. This afternoon, arrive at Korsakov, Sakhalin’s first Russian military post. Enjoy a traditional welcome of bread and salt as you clear into Russia.

    • Saturday, June 20: Korsakov / Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

      After breakfast, disembark and transfer by vehicle to Yuzhno, Sakhalin’s capital. Founded by Russian convicts in 1882, Yuzhno became a Japanese prefecture in 1905, then returned to the Soviets when they occupied it at the end of WWII. To this day, Yuzhno remains a multicultural haven, with active indigenous communities like Ainu, Oroki, and Nivkh, as well as Russians, Japanese and Koreans. Visit the Russian Orthodox Church and attend a choir performance, tour the impressive Regional Museum and the bustling market. Enjoy a performance of traditional Cossack song and dance over lunch. You may opt to join a separate group, which will bypass the city tour in favor of a bird walk to look for Pelagic Cormorants, Black-tailed and Slaty-backed Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and possibly Glaucous Gulls. The two groups will meet at lunch and head back to Korsakov and the Silver Explorerin the afternoon.

    • Sunday, June 21: Tyuleniy Island

      You will know you’ve arrived at this tiny island off the southeast coast of Sakhalin by the cacophony of pinniped barks, huffs and wails that rise to greet you. Tyuleniy means “seal” in Russian, and it’s a fitting name—a 1911 International Convention banned seal hunting here, and Northern Fur Seal numbers have grown steadily since. In the nineties, Steller Sea Lions started breeding on the island, and their colony now numbers about 2,500. Zodiac excursions around the island will afford you many opportunities for up-close viewing of these magnificent beasts, which will be arriving on the beaches to pup at this time of year. The visit is also well timed to see Black-legged Kittiwakes, Tufted Puffins, and Common Murres.

    • Monday, June 22: Piltun Lagoon, Sakhalin Island

      Piltun Lagoon lies in a remote corner of northeastern Sakhalin. Its protected, relatively warm waters provide a rare haven for calving Western Gray Whales, which number just a couple hundred individuals, as well as Harbor, Ringed and Bearded Seals. Travel by Zodiac to the shallower waters for close encounters with whales as they feed and frolic. Venture ashore for a walk and search for the magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagle, Aleutian Terns, Pine Grosbeaks, Siberian Rubythroats, Dusky Warblers and rare Long-billed Murrelets.

    • Tuesday, June 23: Iony Island

      Iony is essentially a small rock, far out in the center of the Sea of Okhotsk. Yet, this rock manages to harbor a staggering array of wildlife. Birds take up all available land—Guillemots, murres, kittiwakes and Parakeet, Whiskered and Least Auklets crowd Iony’s cliffs in jaw-dropping concentrations. Steller Sea Lions occupy the few rocky outcroppings, to the point where a Zodiac landing is impossible. Still, you can cruise the perimeter of the island, feasting your eyes on these creatures and the few lost passerines that inevitably dot its shores.

    • Wednesday, June 24: Okhotsk

      This storied town on the north shores of the sea by the same name has been a feature of Russian history since the first Cossack explorers ventured east. When famed commander Vitus Bering was commissioned to search for a land bridge between Asia and America in 1725, he established his headquarters here. Today, Okhotsk is the center of commercial fishing in the region, exporting significant quantities of salmon worldwide. Still, walking through town, one gets the feeling that little has changed since Bering’s time—modest clapboard houses stand surrounded by small gardens. Friendly locals greet you from shop windows. Visit the museum, thenhead to the mouth of the Okhota River, frequented by thousands of terns, Glaucous, Kamchatka, Vega and Black-headed Gulls, and dozens of Steller’s Sea Eagles.

    • Thursday, June 25: Yegrineyskaya Bay / Ushki

      Disembark at the tip of this small peninsula, and choose from several walks, varying in length and focus. Some may choose to follow game trails into the pine forest beyond the tundra, while others stick close to the beach and the abandoned hut at the landing site. Look for bear prints and scat as you go. Enjoy a bonfire on the beach before returning to the ship for dinner.

    • Friday, June 26: Talan Island / Zavyalov Island

      Take the morning to explore Talan, the smallest of the Spafaryev Islands off the mainland, and a research center for Russian ornithologists monitoring annual migrations. Best known for having the world’s largest Crested Auklet colony, with over a million individuals nesting here in the summer, Talan also harbors an extraordinary number of Black-legged Kittiwakes and Steller’s Sea Eagles.  Circumnavigate the island by Zodiac and get up close and personal with the thousands of Brunnich’s and Common Guillemots bobbing in the surf. This afternoon, visit Zavyalov Island, larger and more mountainous than Talan. Siberian Dwarf Pines and Dwarf Birches grow plentifully here, but their diminutive height offers little shelter for the hulking Kamchatka Brown Bears that may be seen foraging for berries and roots, and feasting on shellfish at the shoreline.

    • Saturday, June 27: At Sea

      Take the day to rest as we travel east toward the Kamchatka Peninsula. Learn about the region at informal lectures and watch for sea life with the expedition team on the observation deck.

    • Sunday, June 28: Opala River, Kamchatka

      The Opala Riveroriginates on the southwestern slopes of the still-smoking Gorelyj volcano, and flows through mountain tundra and marshlands, forests of Stone Birch and grasslands, into the Sea of Okhotsk. Fish abound here, and June marks the start of salmon season. Take Zodiacs upriver to see Chinook, Sockeye, Pink and Coho Salmon, as well as char and trout. Where there is salmon, there are bears, and the population of Brown Bears here is hearty, allowing for a good possibility of sightings.

    • Monday, June 29: Utashud Island / Kerkurnyy Point

      Early this morning, visit Utashud, which is comprised of three small islands, remnants of a volcano that stood in Vestinik Bay, around the southeastern tip of Kamchatka. Although the island is not forested, fragments of giant petrified trees can be seen on its shores, along with the remains of a half-sunken ship. Utashud is known for its population of Sea Otters—up to 300 individuals—as well as its Steinneger’s Harbor and Spotted Seal rookeries. In the summer, a group of gray whales often feeds here. Ten species of marine birds inhabit the island, including one of the largest colonies of Slaty-backed Gulls, with 4,000 pairs counted. Weather permitting, take a Zodiac cruise along the stunning cliffs of Kekurnyy Point this afternoon. Resident Orcas are often seen feeding along the coastline while otters bob in the surf.

    • Tuesday, June 30: Shumshu / Atlasova, Kuril Islands

      This morning, visit Shumshu, one of the northernmost of the Kurils, which consist of 56 islands that separate the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific. Shumshu is the lowest lying of the islands, and is covered with lakes and marshland. Sea Otters and Largha Seals abound along its shores. Vestiges of World War II are everywhere, including a preserved Japanese airfield with runways, hangars and fragments of planes. Shells and cartridges can still be found strewn about, as well as evidence of pits and scars from bombings. Due west from Shumshu is Atlasova, the highest of the Kuril Islands, with its almost perfect (still active) volcanic cone standing at 7,674 feet. Onshore, see the remains of a Soviet-era Gulag where female political prisoners were taught to farm foxes. Peregrine Falcons, Eurasian Wigeons and Tufted Ducks have been spotted flying above the black lava beach.

    • Wednesday, July 1: Onekotan Island

      Moving south down the Kuril chain, arrive at Onekotan, one of the largest Kurils, comprised of the two stratovolcanoes, Nemo and Krenitsyn. This morning, land below Nemo on the northern end of the island. A beautiful walk to Black Lake will reveal wildflowers carpeting the meadows and, if it is clear, a truly magnificent view of the volcano. Birders, look for Rough-legged Buzzards, Long-toed Stints and Common Reed Buntings. Later in the day, head south toward Krenitsyn, a rare geological phenomenon—within its caldera lies a vast lake, out of which peeps the cone of a new volcano. Hike around the base of the volcano before returning to the ship.

    • Thursday, July 2: Yankicha Island

      This morning, climb aboard Zodiacs for a landing on impressive Yankicha Island. One of the highlights of the Kuril Islands, Yankicha consists of a sinking volcanic caldera only accessible by Zodiac during high tide. Inside the magnificent lagoon, witness Yankicha’s ongoing volcanic activity with smoking fumaroles and hot springs. The number of auklets that breed here is truly incredible, and Arctic Foxes are often spotted scurrying about the shore. Although Crested Auklets are relatively common, more elusive Whiskered Auklets feed offshore, forming rafts outside the caldera. At sunset, watch the “auklet haze” as the birds return to their nests and settle for the evening.

    • Friday, July 3: Chirpoy Island

      Chirpoy consists of three overlapping stratovolcanoes. Cruise around the island in Zodiacs and feast your eyes on the staggering number of breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, puffins and auklets on Chirpoy’s black lava cliffs. Explore the sizable Steller Sea Lion rookery on the island’s west side and, conditions permitting, land on the Pacific side and hike the foothills of the smoking volcanoes.

    • Saturday, July 4: At Sea

      Today, scan the water for Sperm Whales, Orca and Sea Otters as you head back toward Japan. Laysan Albatross, and with luck, the exceedingly rare Short-tailed Albatross, may be spotted soaring in your wake.

    • Sunday, July 5: Korsakov (Clearance) / At Sea

      This morning, enjoy a traditional performance onboard as we clear out of Russia at Korsakov. This evening, share tales of your adventures over a farewell dinner.

    • Monday, July 6: Otaru / Disembark Silver Explorer / Sapporo

      Arrive today in Otaru and disembark the ship. Transfer to Sapporo for your international flights home.


    • June 17 – July 6, 2020
    • Leaders Peter Harrison, Shirley Metz, Kevin Clement, Jonathan Rossouw, Gerald Broddelez, John Buchanan & Duke Brady
    • Rates starting from $16,690 per person Rate details
    • 20 days Trip Length
    • 144 guests onboard Silver Explorer
    • Sapporo Start/End

    In addition to all accommodations, meals, activities, and excursions and transfers, as noted in the itinerary, the tour rate includes all gratuities; complimentary room service onboard the vessel; select wines and premium spirits onboard the vessel; services of five Apex Expeditions leaders, as well as the full onboard lecture team and expedition staff; Russian Letter of Invitation; permits and taxes.

    Call us to reserve your spot on this exciting expedition!

    Have a question? Call us at 206.669.9272 / 800.861.6425. Prefer online?

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    Apex Expeditions leader Peter Harrison

    Peter Harrison

    Peter finds this voyage fascinating for the rich variety of seabird species you’ll find here, from elusive Whiskered Auklets to magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagles.

    Apex Expeditions leader Shirley Metz

    Shirley Metz

    Shirley loves this itinerary for the stunning landscapes, abundant wildlife, and the local people you’ll meet along the way.

    Apex Expeditions leader Kevin Clement

    Kevin Clement

    You’ll find Kevin out on deck scanning the horizon for Orcas, Humpbacks, and Blue Whales, and the shoreline for foraging Brown Bears.

    slide of expedition leader Jonathan Rossouw

    Jonathan Rossouw

    The staggering selection of wildlife—whales, walrus, otters and bears to innumerable seabirds—draws Jonathan to the Sea of Okhotsk.

    Apex Expeditions photo of Tour Leader Gerald Broddelez

    Gerald Broddelez

    From bear viewing by Zodiac to hiking the foothills of smoking volcanoes, Gerald anticipates an expedition filled with rich experiences.

    John Buchanan

    John is excited to share his insights and passion for the geological wonders you’ll see in the “Land of Fire and Ice.”

    Duke Brady

    Join Duke as you follow a trail into the pine forest or for a walk along the beach, seeking treasures large and small.

    binocular icon show facts about Sea of Okhotsk

    The Largest Raptor of Them All

    Regarded by many as the world’s largest and most powerful raptor, the Steller’s Sea Eagle breeds only in the Russian Far East. With a wingspan of more than eight feet and weighing up to twenty pounds, they dwarf their smaller cousins, the American Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle. Primarily fish-eaters, their huge size enables them to easily pluck a 15-pound salmon from the water’s surface. They also predate heavily on such water fowl as ducks, geese, swans and the occasional puffin. Mammals too are often taken, including baby seals and full-grown Arctic and Red Foxes!