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Shantar Islands 2-16.08.2022

Shantar Islands 2-16.08.2022


The 1st group 2-16.08.2022 - 4 spots available

The 2nd group 17-31.08.2022 - 3 spots available


Who is this tour for?
First of all, it is for people who are in love with life, with new emotions and discoveries, for those who want to see the beauty of our big country, who appreciate the company of like-minded people living a bright and daring life. Of course, if you like to pick up a camera, you will have many reasons to do so in our program. And our guide will be happy to show and tell you how to make your photos causing genuine envy among your colleagues and friends.
But even if you haven’t ever been really keen in photography, you will never feel bored with us. Leave along “feeling bored”!  You will feel v-e-e-e-ry excited staying with us. To see the virgin landscapes of the Shantar Islands, to swim on a board next to a family of bowhead whales, to collect a bucket of cloudberries on reserved islands, and to catch your first salmon... Haven't you been dreaming of such an adventure?
A Yacht Expedition to the Families of Greenland Whales
Far, far away, many thousands of kilometers away from large cities, in the western waters of the Okhotsk Sea, stretches the archipelago of the Shantar Islands. The remote and hard-to-reach protected area has become home to many thousands of seabirds, colonies of seals and sea lions. Bears and foxes come to the mouths of rivers and streams, hoping to enjoy fresh fish going to spawn. And in the bays which are rich in plankton and fish, you can meet belugas and fast killer whales.
But the bowhead (Greenland) whale is considered to be the most unique inhabitant of the harbours of the Shantar archipelago.
Here, to the Shantar Islands, families of Greenland whales come to socialize their young and to communicate with adults in mid-July. Dozens of families of these giants, being scared of carnivorous killer whales, stay in shallow bays for a long time and do not leave when small ships appear. It is the bowhead whale that will become the main object of interest during this expedition.
We will travel to the archipelago aboard a modern yacht equipped with all the necessary navigation and rescue facilities, at the best time of the year when the changeable weather of the Okhotsk Sea gives the best chances for a comfortable and safe journey.
There will be light and convenient SUP-boards on our yacht on which you will be able to approach whales safely and watch these giants at arm's length.
For those participants who are fond of shooting wildlife, there will be a unique opportunity to take pictures of whales under water and from drones.
Diving with a camera and communicating with whales will be much more comfortable if you are wise enough to bring along a wetsuit, from your own wardrobe or rented, because the water temperature in the Okhotsk Sea is only +8C.
This sea trip is for all those who seek non-trivial leisure. And please forgive me my high-pitched syllable, but these 15 days will forever remain in your memory as the brightest and most outstanding adventure that could ever happen to you.
So, our unique expedition to the families of Greenland whales is almost ready to start! Who knows, maybe we are waiting for you!
A short three-minute video edited by Valentin Grachev summing up the results of the expedition in August, 2020, proves the popular wisdom that it is better to see once with your own eyes than to read ten times.
Enjoy the video!

Have some questions? You can write to us in WhatsApp  or Telegram  




Day 1. 2.08. (17.08) Arrival in Nikolaevsk-on-Amur (airport code NLI) from Khabarovsk. Self-service transfer and check-in at the hotel. At dinner we will talk in detail about the upcoming route of the trip. The cost of the flight from Khabarovsk is about 9500 rubles. (//)
Day 2. 3.08. (18.08) Early in the morning we will leave for the port and get aboard our expedition yacht. Meeting the crew, instructions and our yacht starts its voyage along to the Amur River. The Amur Estuary where we are going to spend most of the day is famous for its bird rookeries.  On our way we can see seals and belugas. We expect to reach the Okhotsk Sea by night. (/L/D)
Day 3. 4.08. (19.08) Travelling along the west coast of the Okhotsk Sea to the archipelago of the Shantar Islands. By the evening, we will be at the place of our first stay, Wrangel Bay. No place on earth can boast of such a concentration of whales in a relatively small area.
The shallow bay with a rocky and sandy bottom attracts bowhead whales that come here to molt and to meet their relatives. At a comparatively shallow depth, whales rub against the sandy bottom, getting rid of their old cover. Baby whales, communicating with each other, make up large dancing rings in the shallow water, which you will be able to see clearly from the yacht or a SUP-board.
Adult whales make a big show: they lie still in the same place for a long time and keep hitting the water with their huge fin. Even scientists do not know for sure what these games might mean. However, what we are going to observe is undoubtedly part of the ritual of these sea giants communication, socialization and making new friends.
If we are able to make it to the bay before it gets dark, we will launch our inflatable boat and SUP-boards and try to get to the whales as close as possible. (B/L/D)
Day 4. 5.08. (20.08) We will spend the whole day in the bay shooting whales from the air, on board the yacht and from SUP-boards. Those who are ready to shoot underwater will be able to dive near the whales. And of course, if you are not going to shoot underwater, you will be able to go snorkeling with whales, “armed” with a snorkel and a mask. You can read more about the necessary equipment below, in the EQUIPMENT section. (B/L/D)
Day 5. 6.08. (21.08) Today we will explore the Bay of Nicholas. The water of the bay is rich in plankton, which attracts whales here. The abundance of pink salmon and bulltrout going to spawn creates a rich food base for seals and sea lions. And colonies of pinnipeds, in turn, attract predators foxes and bears to the shores of the bay. We will spend the daylight hours in the Bay of Nicholas and in Ulbansky Bay. Night journey to Ongachan Bay. (B/L/D)
Day 6. 7.08. (22.08) We will explore Ongachan Bay in search for whales. In the afternoon we will go to the island of Bolshoy Shantar. We'll get ashore and visit the ruins of an old fat-melting factory that was built by whalers many, many years ago. There is a meteorological station on the island of Bolshoy Shantar, and only three people live there all the year round. If we have time, we will definitely the visit people who know absolutely everything about the weather and the history of the archipelago. (B/L/D)




Day 7. 8.08. (23.08) We will continue to explore the island of Bolshoy Shantar. Cape Raduzhny is a unique natural resort. It consists of jasper shale and limestone. The colours which nature has used to paint the rocks will amaze you with their variety from green and yellow to red and burgundy. (B/L/D)
Day 8. 9.08. (24.08) The Island of Feklistov. It consists of a different type of jasper shale. Its colour changes from pink to purple, and in rainy weather colours become even more saturated. (B/L/D)
Day 9. 10.08. (25.08) Utichiy and Arka Islands. Utichiy Island. As the name suggests, the island has become home to colonies of guillemots, puffins, loons and other birds of the Okhotsk Sea region. Seals have arranged their rookery on its banks. The inhabitants of this island almost never see, and therefore, are not afraid of people. In the evening we will approach the Arka Cliff. If the sea is favourable and there are no waves, we will get ashore and take some pictures at that place. (B/L/D)
Day 10. 11.08. (26.08) Maly Shantar Island and Belichy Island. Bowhead whales and killer whales are very common in the area of these islands. In the evening we will arrive in Ongachan Bay and anchor there. We also have a backup plan for this day to move to Wrangel Bay and have another photo session with bowhead whales there. (B/L/D)
Day 11. 12.08. (27.08) We are staying in Wrangel Bay at anchor or in free drift. The main characters of our expedition families of Greenland whales are somewhere nearby. (B/L/D)
Day 12. 13.08. (28.08) This is a spare day. The Okhotsk Sea often prepares weather surprises for travellers. (B/L/D)
Day 13. 14.08. (29.08) Early in the morning we will weigh anchor and start moving along the coast towards the Amur Estuary. (B/L/D)
Day 14. 15.08. (30.08) Arrival at the port of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur. Our journey has come to an end. The group will leave the ship after a farewell dinner on board. Self-service transfer and check-in at the hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 15. 16.08. (31.08) Self-service transfer to the airport, departure home. (//)

Have some questions? You can write to us in WhatsApp  or Telegram  


The Rout Map

The above route is basic but not mandatory. We will be choosing and adjusting our way, depending on the weather conditions, the state of the sea and the wave height by the western part of the archipelago, and of course, on interesting "models" for shooting, especially bowhead whales. The time of stay in the areas where the Greenland whale congregates can be extended and the rest of the route can be changed. 


Special Conditions and Restrictions
If you have chronic diseases that tend to have temporary exacerbations and spikes in well-being, this trip is not for you. The nearest localities where you can get qualified medical care are 250-350 kilometers away from the route.
Top priority on our route is the safety of the participants and the crew. All decisions on safe progress on the route are made only by the ship's Captain. His decisions are final and are not subject to discussion by the group.
Travelling on a private yacht allows us to take into account and unite the interests of a small group of like-minded people. But at the same time, you should not expect the space and comfort of a hotel room from accommodation on a yacht. If you have an idea of this sea trip as a cruise on an Atlantic liner through the Mediterranean, it won’t meet your expectations.
During the entire trip, except for days 1 and 15, there will be no cellular communication and no internet. There is a satellite phone on the ship for emergency calls. You will be able to use it privately, with a per-minute tariffication from the operator providing the satellite communication services.
We will cover about 500 nautical miles on the route. The Okhotsk Sea may sometimes be calm, but even in August it is more of a pleasant exception to the rule, rather than a common phenomenon. If you are prone to seasickness and do not tolerate pitching, stock up on the appropriate medicine (Dramina, Aviamarine, etc.).
The Yacht    
Our expedition yacht is equipped with everything necessary for a comfortable journey of a small group of eight people. There are three small but cozy heated cabins and a toilet and a shower to share. Also, there is a spacious lounge and a small kitchen area where our cook will prepare delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
The weather in the Okhotsk Sea region is unpredictable, just like in most of the northern seas areas in the world. Daytime temperatures range from +10 C to +20 C, and night temperatures range from +5 C to +10 C. Rains and lingering fogs are possible.
You should prepare yourself and your clothing for the specified temperatures. The temperature of +10 C to +15C will feel like +5 C to +10 C on board the boat due to the wind and high humidity. Please take this into account when making a list of things to bring with you.
The cost of participation in the expedition includes:
  • The group guidance by a professional photographer-guide with many years of experience on the route;
  • An escort of the group by an armed guide during landings;
  • Yacht rental, crew work and ship's cook (day 2-14);
  • Accommodation in 2-, 3- or 4-person cabins on board;
  • Bedding on board;
  • Meals according to the program (B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner);
  • Registration and payment of permits to visit the nature reserve;
  • Fuel for the yacht and motorboat;
  • Rent of 5 SUP-boards for whale watching and swimming;
  • Fishing gear rental.
The cost does not include:
  • Flight to Nikolaevsk-on-Amur (NLI) and back;
  • Transfer from the airport to the hotel on the day of arrival and from the hotel to the airport on the last day;
  • Hotel in Nikolaevsk-on-Amur (Day 1, 14);
  • Food in Nikolaevsk-on-Amur;
  • Personal expenses;
  • Medical insurance;
  • Alcoholic beverages;
  • Satellite communication;
  • Visa fee;
Cost of participation: €4450 EUR
Group 7 people.
Payment terms:
A deposit of €1450 EUR will reserve your place in the program. The second payment of €2000 EUR is due by October, 2, 2021. The final payment of €1000 EUR is due by May, 2, 2022. If you book the Program after May, 2, 2022, the full cost of participation is paid immediately.
Cancellation of booking:
If you are unable to participate in the program, or if you cancel, provided that there is another person to take your place, we will refund the full amount you have paid. If, after your cancellation, your place remains vacant, we will refund the amount you have paid in accordance with the following schedule based on 100% of the tour price:
>180 days before the start of the tour: full refund;
>90 days: 75% refund;
>60 days: 50% refund;
<60 days: non-refundable.
List of photo equipment for those who will shoot:
  • A camera;
  • A standard zoom 24-70/24-105 in a full-frame equivalent, a wide-angle lens 14-24/15-30/16-35;
  • A telephoto lens at least 100-400, and better 150-600 or 60-600;
  • A drone for photo and video shooting (optional);
  • An action camera for underwater shooting or a camera with a box (optional).
  • Trekking boots with a hard fluted sole, preferably ankle-high;
  • Light shoes for hotel and the yacht;
  • Slippers or rubber flip-flops for shower;
  • A wind- and water-proof jacket (preferably with a membrane and a hood);
  • Trekking pants;
  • A raincoat (recommended, in case of bad weather);
  • Repellents and anti-mosquito grids;
  • A fleece or knitted hat, wind-proof;
  • A fleece jacket;
  • Fleece gloves;
  • Thermal underwear;
  • A swimsuit or swimming trunks for diving in a wetsuit (if you are going to do this);
  • A wetsuit, a mask, a snorkel, fins (optional);
  • A headlamp;
  • Rubber boots or UGC shoe covers for landings (required);
  • Personal toiletries;
  • Medicine to protect from seasickness, if you can't stand the pitching;
  • A warm sleeping bag (in case of cold weather).


Tour Leader 


Vladimir Kushnarev
Professional photographer and guide, mastermind and organizer of a travel project for keen photographers and photo enthusiasts. Works with groups from the USA, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries.
Travel photographer of the year by the TRIERENBERG SUPER CIRCUIT 19, 21.
Articles and publications in the following magazines: Aeroflot, Aeroflot Premium, Siberia, the Evening Moscow.
Contest-winner and prize-winner of international competitions:
  • First place, National Geographic 2017, Night Landscape section;
  • First place, National Geographic 2017, Planet Summer Competition;
  • First place, 35PhotoAwards, Daytime Landscape section;
  • Third place, PSA Arctic Awards, 2016;
  • Second place, Epson International Pano Awards, 2017;
  • Winner of the RGO international contest "The Most Beautiful Country", in the section “Indigenous Peoples of Russia”, 2018;
  • Third place, 35PhotoAwards, 2020, in the section of serial works “Everyday Life of People”.
Have some questions? You can write to us in WhatsApp  or Telegram  



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