Experience The Intrigue Of The Russian Far East

Published: Thu 11 Feb 2010 04:33 PM
Experience The Intrigue Of The Russian Far East With Heritage Expeditions
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND February 2010—Almost two decades after perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Far East is still a relatively unknown and unexplored region. During the Cold War, access to this remote region was restricted even to Russians; however, this isolation has protected one of Russia’s greatest assets and one of the world’s best-kept secrets—one of the last remaining pristine and most wildlife-rich wildernesses on Earth.
Heritage Expeditions is offering adventurers the opportunity to explore the history and mystery of the Russian Far East, with five voyages onboard the 50-passenger expedition ship Spirit of Enderby, departing between June and September 2010.
From the Kuril Islands in the south along the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula to Wrangel Island in the north, these voyages offer a chance to experience a side of Russia rarely seen by visitors, navigating spectacular coastlines and stunning bays ringed by snow-capped volcanoes, where alpine meadows, lowland forests and marine environments support a great diversity of wildlife in vast numbers—from brown bears to bird colonies numbering in the millions, and an abundance of marine animals such as seals, walrus, otters, whales and dolphins. The region also has the highest number of volcanoes in the world, many of which are still active, earning this region the title of the Land of Fire and Ice. Due to its location directly across the sea from the United States, during the Cold War it was also a site for Soviet military installations and missile testings, and the remnants of this era are still evident all along the coastline.
The emphasis of these voyages is on a combination of interactive experiences with the environment and a strong educational element. Frequent shore excursions and explorations, using inflatable Zodiacs and guided by a team of experienced naturalists, enable close-up wildlife encounters and extraordinary photographic opportunities. Heritage Expeditions has secured permits to visit many locations that are still off limits to foreign-registered vessels.
The 14-day Birding the Kuril Islands voyage departs on 22 June 2010 from Sakhalin Island in Russia, cruising through the 32 islands that make up the Kuril chain, which stretches across the Bering Sea between Japan and Russia, and ends in the town of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, a major Russian naval base during the Cold War. Travellers will have the opportunity to view many species of rare birds, visit communities of nomadic-reindeer herders and explore historical sites steeped in intrigue. The voyage also visits the remote Commander Islands, the final resting place of the famous explorer Vitus Bering after whom the islands are named. Prices start from US$6,823 per person for a triple-share cabin.
The 12-day Cruise the Ring of Fire voyage departs from Petropavlovsk on 4 July 2010 and explores the Kamchatka coastline including the Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve, home to more than 760 plant species, 230 bird species and 50 species of mammals. Prices start from US$5,736 per person.
The 15-day Across the Top of the World voyage departs from Anchorage, Alaska, on 12 and 25 August 2010 and travels across the Bering Strait to Chukotka in the Russian Arctic, homeland of the indigenous Chukchi people. The voyage includes two days at Wrangel Island, well known to naturalists as a polar-bear nursery. Prices start from US$7,367 per person.
A longer 19-day Jewel of the Russian Far East voyage departs from Anchorage on 7 September 2010, and ends at Sakhalin, Russia, and includes many of the highlights of the above voyages. Prices start from US$11,074 per person.
Prices include one night pre-voyage hotel accommodation, transfers, all meals, shore excursions, port charges, landing fees and permits. Heritage Expeditions is also able to assist with competitively-priced airfares and additional accommodation and touring pre and post the voyages.
New Zealand-based Heritage Expeditions was formed in 1985, as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel to the world’s wildest and remotest places. Its founder, biologist Rodney Russ, believes it is important to share wilderness areas with people so that they might become ambassadors, advocating and supporting conservation efforts. The family-owned company pioneered small-ship-expedition cruising to the Ross Sea region of Antarctica and the subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia, and more recently, the Russian Far East. Heritage Expeditions operates its own polar research vessel, the Spirit of Enderby
, which carries a maximum of 50 passengers enabling travellers to take full advantage of every opportunity to learn and experience as much as possible about these destinations, while at the same time minimising the impact on the environment.

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