Kamchatka travel advice

Kamchatka travel advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN KAMCHATKA

Cassia Jackson, Sales Manager at our top supplier, Heritage Expeditions, is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to Kamchatka travel advice:

Advice on bird watching


“I think a lot of people have a preconception of bird watching that it’s not very interesting, but it entirely depends on the birds you’re watching – I’m not a birdwatcher, but I have an interest in nature and the birdlife in Kamchatka is something else. Being on a zodiac cruise and watching an enormous sea eagle survey from its and then take off and fly over you is completely captivating. Along the peninsula there is quite a deep marine trench and a huge amount of seabirds gather there, so there’s potential to see many other bird species too. The end of May beginning of June is the best time for birders to come out and visit.”

Advice on Wrangel Island wildlife


“Kamchatka's Wrangel Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to a large polar bear population, as well as Pacific walruses, Arctic foxes, snowy owls, snow geese, musk ox, reindeer and more. It is also believed to be the last home of the woolly mammoth. Mammoth tusks and bones are regularly unearthed in the riverbeds and interior of the island. When I was on Wrangel Island, I was lucky enough to spend some time with a group of mammothologists (best job title ever!) learning about their fascinating work uncovering more details about Wrangel Island's former inhabitants.”

Advice on local culture


“There is a strong sense of identity in Kamchatka and the proud locals consider themselves as very separate from the rest of Russia; when the time zone was amended to keep Kamchatka slightly more in line with Moscow, there were a lot of protests – they’re fierce about their independence. The Chukchi people are very much the native people of Kamchatka and they live slightly further north in the Chukotka area which is just above the coastline. They still have a very active local culture; on our voyages to Anadyr, we visit various settlements that are still very much steeped in tradition – they still hunt traditionally and produce a lot of carvings. To experience the indigenous culture is a very interesting addition to a wildlife cruise and one that I would recommend.”

Advice on what to pack


“Your packing requirements will vary depending on what time of year you visit Kamchatka. Our expedition cruises explore the Kamchatkan Coastline in summer. The weather can be quite variable, so the key is to pack layers, right through from light t-shirts to a warm, waterproof jacket. Heritage Expeditions provides a full suggested packing list for each journey. The wildlife of Kamchatka is incredible so you will want to make sure that you have spare camera batteries and memory sticks so that you don’t miss that perfect shot of a Kamchatka brown bear patrolling the shoreline, or a Steller’s sea eagle perching majestically in the trees of the Zhupanova River!”

Health & safety


TRAVEL SAFELY IN KAMCHATKA

Health


  • Contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
  • Travel insurance is mandatory when travelling to Russia and if cruising, you may be barred from embarkation if you have no proof of insurance. This should include full Medical Evacuation/Repatriation Insurance. If you require hospitalisation or medical treatment including evacuation, all costs associated with this are your full responsibility, so please check that your policy (particularly if it is issued by your credit card provider) covers this and covers any pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Double check that your travel insurance covers all activities that you may partake in such as landings, Zodiac cruising, charter flights, hiking and kayaking.
  • If you’re travelling in cold conditions, dress in comfortable, loose layers. For anyone out in the cold, it is far better to wear layers of relatively light, loose clothing than one thick, heavy item. Between each layer there is a film of trapped air which, when heated by your body, acts as an excellent insulator and keeps you from overheating.
  • Bring good quality, protective sunglasses and sunscreen. It might feel colder than it is and the sun’s rays can be harsh – made fiercer by reflecting off ice, snow and water.
  • Tour operators will provide detailed trip notes and packing lists. Follow them.
  • If you’ll be spending several days at sea, seasickness is a possibility. Look into remedies before you depart – there are patches, wristbands, tablets and of course, good old ginger.
  • Being in reasonable shape is highly recommended to get the most out of your Kamchatka trip - boats have steep stairs and boarding zodiacs down a steep gangway is physically challenging, as are other activities such as kayaking and trekking across uneven volcanic landscape – all will be enjoyed more if you are fitter, so prepare your body before you go!

Safety


Kamchatka is generally very safe – your biggest threats are active volcanoes and hungry bears! Listen to your guide at all times and exercise caution when hiking across uneven ground.
 
Polar bears are one of the most dangerous animals on earth. Obey your guide and never wander off alone – you will be safe if you respect the wildlife and listen to advice, but these are wild animals in their own habitats, so the threat of an encounter is real.

Other wildlife, including walrus and musk ox, may not have the polar bear’s fearsome reputation, but are still incredibly dangerous. Never approach any wildlife without instruction, and always follow your guide’s instructions.

For cruise passengers a lifeboat drill is held within 24 hours of embarkation on each voyage. Attendance at these drills is mandatory, so listen out!

For further information on health and safety in Kamchatka, please visit the FCO or the CDC websites.
Photo credits: [bird watching: Katya Ovsyanikova, Heritage Expeditions] [Local culture: A Terauds, Heritage Expeditions]
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