The Commander Islands

Trip code: SOV005
Expedition Rating: Explorer Travel
Leaving: 20 Jun 2019 Starts: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Returning: 04 Jul 2019 Ends: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Hiking, Birding, Photography, Botany, Cultural, History, Cetacean watching

There are many very special places on our planet, but Commander Islands stands head and shoulders above “the many”. If you have been there you will want to go again (and again). If you haven’t been there you should.  The history, landscapes and abundance of wildlife are overwhelming.  These Islands are home for thousands of seabirds, which breed there during summer time, when the surrounding waters are supercharged with food. The amount of food in these waters also attracts many marine mammals. Over 20 species of cetaceans can be encountered including dozens of orcas, sperm whales, hundreds of humpback whales, number of minke whales- all of these species can almost be guaranteed to be encountered during summer months. The majority of the Islands are included in a Nature Reserve and special permits to visit are required. 

Our expedition will depart from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, affectionately known as PK, the “capital” of the Kamchatka region of which the Commander Islands are part of. As we leave PK our course takes us north along the Kamchatka coast. This region is also well known for incredible whale watching opportunities. Rare whales as blue, northern right and gray whales have been observed here recently. 

It will take about two days to reach the Commander Islands. Our first landing will have to be Nikolskoe village to compete formalities. This is the only permanent settlement on the islands where about 700 people live. About half of local residents are Aleuts (whose ancestors were brought here in 1825). Many of the inhabitants trace their ancestor back to early sealers and fur trappers. 

There are extensive Northern fur seal rookeries just 20-25 km north of the village. Thousands of fur seal will be occupying the rookeries at the time of our expedition. You will be able to enjoy photographing and observing these animals from a few meters without any disturbance. Steller sea lions - the largest eared seal will also be hauled out on the beaches. Dozens harbor seals will be relaxing on the reefs and sea otters feeding and swimming nearby. 

The Islands of which there are two main and a number of smaller ones were discovered in 1741 by Commander Vitus Bering. Bering and 28 of his crew perished on the Island after their ship was wrecked on their return from discovering America and they are buried in a remote bay on the Northern Eastern Coast of Bering Island. We plan to visit their lonely graves. 

Medny Island which is located 28 nm east of Bering Island has very different landscape. It is dominated by cliffs and mountains. The Medny Island landscapes are unforgettable. It is impossible to forget the carpets of flowers, blooming during the Arctic short summer, the fog which rolls in from the Bering Sea to the Pacific Ocean, the whales breathing so close to shore that you can hear them. There is an endemic Arctic Fox species on the island, which are very curious and often try to communicate with the few visitors by sneaking some food or playing with your clothes. 

We have been to the Islands many times, yet we are drawn there again and again and again. This is one of these “again” expeditions and we plan to simply enjoy everything that makes these Island so special.



$6000.00 USDpp

Trip Info

Proposed expedition leader: Rodney Russ
Visas required: Russian

Requirements may vary depending on what passport you are travelling with. It is your responsibility to check to ensure you are compliant.

Trip Map

Map for trip: The Commander Islands

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