Wrangel Island with award winning BBC & National Geographic film producers


The remote Strict Nature Reserve of Wrangel island is a tale of superlatives. This Northern most UNESCO World Heritage Site is an appreciable effort to reach but once there you understand how unique an area it truly is, unlike any other High Arctic outpost:

- Home to the largest polar bear denning concentration in the World
- Boasting the World largest population of Pacific Walrus (the largest of the species)
- A shelter to many land mammals including Arctic wolves, Arctic Fox, Musk Oxen and lemmings
- A sanctuary for more than 169 bird species including Snow Geese, Snowy owls, Spoon-billed sandpiper and Peregrine falcon…
- Uncovered and undisturbed by glacier ice in the last age with 400 unique species of plant
- Fringed by seals and large populations of breeding gray whale
 

Multi award winning BBC and NatGeo wildlife producers and directors Neil Nightingale and Karen Bass are responsible for what are widely recognised as some of the World's best natural history documentaries.  Neil, as former head of BBC Natural History Unit brought us iconic series such as: The Natural World, Wildlife on One and Planet Earth, whilst Karen has generated many renowned documentary series including David Attenborough's Natures Great Events, Wild Carribean, Jungles and Andes to Amazon to name but a few.

Neil and Karen share Aqua-Firma's passion for Water, Wilderness and Wildlife and are delighted to be hosts on this incredible small group wildlife departure to explore Wrangel and Herald Island, home to polar bears, walrus and whales. Having travelled with Aqua-Firma marine scientists before in the High Arctic, we know the couple to be inspiring, informative as well as fun and entertaining travel companions. Onboard they will provide insights through presentations and informal chats about a lifetime of making the world's best loved natural history documentaries, revealing how they tackled and overcame the personal, creative and technological challenges which often stood in their path.


This voyage journeys through the narrow Bering Strait, which separates Russia from the United States of America, and then travels west along the Chukotka coastline before crossing the De Long Strait to Wrangel Island. There you will spend four to five days under the guidance of local rangers on the nature reserve. Untouched by glaciers during the last ice age, this island is a treasure trove of Arctic biodiversity and is perhaps best known for the multitude of Polar Bears that breed here. You can hope to catch many glimpses of this beautiful animal. The island also boasts the world's largest population of Pacific Walrus and lies near major feeding grounds for the Gray Whales that migrate thousands of kilometres north from their breeding grounds in Baja, Mexico. Reindeer, Musk Ox and Snow Geese can normally be seen further inland.

A visit to massive bird cliffs on nearby Herald Island is also planned. The ‘mammoth steppe' vegetation complex, a rich and diverse relic from the Pleistocene epoch nurtures over 400 plant species and never fails to astound visitors with its sublime beauty. The number and type of endemic plant species, the diversity within plant communities, the presence of relatively recent mammoth tusks and skulls, a range of terrain types and geological formations in the small geographical space are all visible evidence of Wrangel's rich natural history and its unique evolutionary status within the Arctic.



The human history of Wrangel Island is fascinating on its own. Highlights include a 3,400 year old Paleo-Eskimo camp in Krassin Bay, controversy over discovery and ownership of the island, the amazing story of the survivors of the Karluk, Ada Blackjack the heroine of the island, the Soviet occupation and militarisation and more recently, the establishment of this world class nature reserve. A host of similarly enthralling stories hail from several optional landings along the northern coasts of Chukotka. Our expert expedition team will take you on guided walks, Zodiac cruises and provide lectures to help you better understand and appreciate this unique High Arctic landscape.

Itinerary

Sample 15 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Embark in Adandyr

All expedition members will arrive in Anadyr; depending on your time of arrival you may have the opportunity to explore Anadyr, before getting to know your fellow voyagers and expedition team on board. You will depart when everybody is on board.

Day 2: Anadyrskiy Bay and at Sea

As you sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards the Bering Strait, there will be introductory lectures and a series of compulsory briefings and drills. Relax or enjoy some birding and cetacean watching with onboard naturalists and settle into ship life.

Day 3: Lavrentiya and Cape Dezhnev

You can expect to arrive in Lavrentiya Bay this morning to visit the Chukchi Region’s administrative centre of Lavrentiya. You will explore the township and visit the local museum which displays an interesting insight into Yupik and Chukchi cultures. There may be an opportunity to view Chukchi song and dance and to interact with the locals.

Sea conditions permitting, you will land at Cape Dezhnev this afternoon. The north-eastern most point of the Eurasian continent, it is sometimes possible to see the coast of America from this remote and lonely outpost. It is also an historic landmark named after the Siberian Cossack, Semyon Dezhnev, who in 1648 became the first European to sail from the Arctic to the Pacific.

Day 4: Kolyuchin Inlet and Kolyuchin Island

Kolyuchin Inlet is so huge that it is visible from satellite photos; this inlet contains vast numbers of waterfowl and migratory waders. You will concentrate your visit on Belaka Spit near the mouth of the inlet. It is a wild, desolate landscape that is strangely beautiful. You will search the dunes and tidal areas for birdlife including Emperor Geese and Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Gray Whales frequent the area and are sometimes spotted feeding only metres offshore.

Later today you will arrive at Kolyuchin Island; this small island was once an important Russian Polar Research Station and one of a number dotted across the Arctic. Near the derelict buildings are some of the most spectacular bird cliffs in the Arctic where puffins, guillemots and gulls can be observed and photographed up close.

Day 5: At Sea

You will continue your journey north across the Chukchi Sea, there may be sea ice to negotiate your way through as you get closer to Wrangel Island; this could offer your first opportunities to see Polar Bears, seals and walrus on ice.

Day 6 - 10: Wrangel and Herald Islands

Ice and weather conditions permitting, youwill spend the next few days on Wrangel Island and you will also attempt to make a visit to nearby Herald Island. There are many landings that you can make to search out wildlife, wild flowers and Arctic landscapes. Polar Bears will be high on your list of animals to see and with a little patience you should be rewarded with a number of encounters. Musk Oxen and reindeer were introduced to the island in 1975 and 1948 though reindeer numbers are low.

You will also have a chance to visit Dragi Harbour, where the survivors of the Karluk which was crushed by ice in 1914 scrambled ashore and lived until they were rescued. Wrangel Island is a Russian Federal Nature Reserve of international significance and importance, particularly as it is a major Polar Bear denning area. Also each summer thousands of birds migrate here to breed, including Snow Geese, Snowy Owls, skuas, Arctic Terns, Ross’s, Sabine and Ivory Gulls.

Day 11: At Sea and North Siberian Coast

As you sail through the Bering Strait you will pass the Diomede Islands, sometimes called the Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Isle because they straddle the International Date Line. Here Russia and America are separated by only 2.3 nautical miles of ocean. You will remain in Russian territory as you cruise south past the islands.

You continue along the North Siberian Coast, bounded by narrow sand ridges with numerous lagoons and inlets, this area offers plenty of places to land and explore this extensive coastline. You will be on the lookout for whales, walrus and other wildlife. You will see Chukchi villages whose residents survive in an unforgiving climate, hunting seals and whales just as their ancestors did.

Day 12: At Sea and Masik Village

This afternoon the plan is to visit Masik Village, an archaeological site at Mechigmen Bay, which is part of Beringia National Park. This site consists of subterranean dwellings, food caches and possible ceremonial structures, where materials used in construction were whale skulls, ribs and jawbones.

Day 13: Yttygran, Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands

Yttygran Island is home to the monumental ancient aboriginal site known as Whale Bone Alley. Whalebones stretch along the beach for nearly half a kilometre. Gray Whales are frequently seen around the island. You can also hope to cruise by Nuneangan and Arakamchechen Islands where seabirds nest and walrus can be found.

Day 14: Preobrazheniya Bay

Today you will be in the vicinity of Preobrazheniya Bay where there are some outstanding ‘Bird Cliffs’ which you can hope to explore via Zodiac cruise. The rock faces, ridgelines and soaring granite spires are home to an abundance of bird life. Species that can be seen include Common and Thick-billed Murres, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Least and Crested Auklets, Vega Gulls and Arctic Tern. Both Horned and Tufted Puffins are normally in vast numbers stretched along cliffside grasses.

This evening relax as you sail across Anadyrskiy Bay towards Anadyr.

Day 15: Disembark in Anadyr

After breakfast it will be time to say our farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to the airport or to a central downtown hotel.

Dates

Prices includes

Land transfers to and from port hotel
All Meals on-board, coffee and tea
Guided Excursions as per itinerary
Comprehensive pre-departure material

Prices exclude

Port Hotel
International & Domestic Flights
Items of a personal nature
Alcoholic Drinks
Tips
Personal travel Insurance
Passports & Visas
Travel Insurance
Laundry