Russia | Heritage Expeditions | Siberia’s Forgotten Coast

Combining the best of our ‘In Search of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’ and ‘Wake of Bering’ Expeditions with new added opportunities.

Siberia’s eastern coastline is undoubtedly one of the most remote and least visited regions of the globe. It is home to several groups of indigenous people, including the Itelmen, Koryak, Even and Chukchi. Fur trappers and sealers plundered the regions natural resources in the name of the Tsar in the early 17th Century. Stalin and subsequent leaders encouraged economic development in this part of the Soviet Union. Soviet towns were built, bonuses were paid to those who would immigrate and work there and attempts were made to collectivise the traditional way of life.

As the iron curtain was drawn and the Cold War escalated, this region became forbidden territory. Travel to and within the area was strictly controlled, the number of military installations increased, early radar warning stations proliferated and Russia’s Pacific fleet patrolled the coastline.

This all changed in the early 1990s with Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Military installations were abandoned, there were mass migrations of workers back west and towns and industries were simply abandoned. As the heavily subsided economy collapsed the indigenous people were forced back to traditional ways of life but permits to travel through the area did become a little easier to obtain.

Twenty five years on, travel through this region is still heavily regulated and virtually impossible for the independent traveller. There is little or no infrastructure, only a few kilometres of road, no hotels apart from in the main towns of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and Anadyr. These towns have scheduled air services, but access to the rest of the region either by air or sea even for locals is at best ‘unpredictable’.

Throughout its chequered human history its rich natural history has largely gone unnoticed and unknown by the rest of the world. It is an amazing coastline dominated by the volcanoes of Kamchatka in the south, the fiords of what was formally the Koryak region and the rich estuarine areas and tundra of Chukotka.

This coastline has one of the most diverse assemblages of wildlife and habitats of anywhere of a similar latitude on the globe and virtually no people or visitors to disturb them. One of the most iconic species is the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper that is endemic to the region.

For the past 8 years we have supported BirdLife International and Birds Russia research teams working on this species. Our 2019 expedition not only continues that support but it expands it to include other seabirds and waders as researchers monitor potential changes in their populations and distribution due to a variety of reasons including climate change.

Top Five Birds

  1. Spoon-billed Sandpiper
  2. Steller’s Sea Eagle
  3. Red-legged Kittiwake
  4. Kittlitz’s Murrelet
  5. Siberian Accentor

Ethics

At Terra Incognita we support tours that do good in the world. They must help to conserve the environment, support local people, and educate their guests. Here’s what David Bowen from Heritage Expeditions said to us…

What conservation activities do you support through the tour, and your wider operations?

In 2011 Heritage Expeditions embarked on a very important mission in partnership with BirdLife International to arrest the rapid acceleration of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper towards extinction. The idea was to re-establish the population by taking fertile eggs from nests where they breed in northern Kamchatka and Chukotka in the Russian Far East and rear the chicks in protective captivity, keeping them safe from predators and ensuring an optimum food supply. The resulting captive breeding population would then be a back-up to safeguard the species in case of catastrophe while in the meantime producing new generations which could in time return to the wild. Efforts will continue to be made by all involved to ensure this species avoids extinction.

Each season researchers from the Spoon-billed Sandpiper project continue to travel on ‘Siberia’s Forgotten Coast’ to revisit areas monitoring changes and searching for new breeding colonies. Passengers are able to join this valuable conservation and search effort. The expeditioners also visit Meinypil’gyno where they can speak with the Sandpiper Recover Taskforce based here.

As Ambassadors for conservation, pioneers of discovery, and leaders in expedition travel to the world’s best-kept secrets Heritage Expeditions has pioneered conservation-driven voyages to some of the most wild, least-explored and biologically rich regions on the planet from Antarctica to the Arctic.

How does the tour support local people?

In the isolated Russia Far East we visit far flung indigenous communities steeped in tradition. Passengers have the opportunity for cultural exchanges, and to view/purchase local arts and crafts. By travelling to small indigenous communities it offers employment opportunities to locals.

What type of environmental education activities do you incorporate into your tour?

Expedition Cruising is low impact and an excellent means of developing sustainable tourism in regions where there is limited infrastructure such as roads, transport and hotels. Expedition staff inform, enthuse and create ambassadors for conservation sharing their knowledge throughout the expedition to educate.

Review

“My most memorable moment was seeing a spoonbilled sandpiper on its nest. This tour operator stood out because of the relaxed but efficient running of the tour keeping us all well informed. To anyone considering this tour I’d say it’s expensive but well worth every penny”. Hilary Woodhead – Siberia’s Forgotten Coast June/July 2018.

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to local communities = 4/5
• The education the tour = 5/5

This is an amazing trip to undertake with a first class company for safety. Not only do you get to explore a rare part of the globe, but you get the opportunity to undertake some worthwhile conservation work during the trip. The itinerary visits some amazing places like the Commander Islands and the passengers are allowed to spend time searching for the very rare Spoon-billed Sandpiper on a few days during the trip.

Even if you are unlucky enough not not find active nesting sites the ship calls into Meino where the conservation team of Birds Russia endeavour to give you a sighting of these rare, Critically Endangered wild birds nesting in the area. 

Russia is the best place on earth to get these birds in their full breeding plummage. The food is very good on board ship and the viewing areas on deck and from the Bridge are excellent. This is such an extraordinary trip that I did it twice!” Helena – In Search of the Spoon-billed SandpiperJuly 2011 and 2012.

• Experience of the tour = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to conservation = 5/5
• Tour’s contribution to local communities = 5/5
• The education the tour = 5/5

Images

Contact

Tour Operator | Heritage Expeditions
Contact Name |  David Bowen
Contact Email | [email protected]
Website | https://www.heritage-expeditions.com/
Tour Info | https://www.heritage-expeditions.com/trip/Kamchatka-siberias-coast-june-2019/

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