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Lying to the east of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands are known for the vast colonies of seabirds that line the coastal cliffs, and large numbers of various marine mammals.

Discovered by Commander Vitus Bering in 1741, the islands are unique for their wildlife of both American and Asian origin. In 1993, the islands were declared a zapovednik (Federal Nature Reserve), and have since been included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The only permanently inhabited area is the village of Nikolskoye, which has a population of fewer than 1000 people.

Due to the remoteness from human influence, the area supports an abundance of wildlife. Significant numbers of northern fur seal, Steller’s sea lion, sea otter and spotted seal are found along the shores, while the surrounding waters are an important habitat for many whale species. Sperm whale, beaked whale, orca and right whale all feed and migrate here. The islands’ terrestrial mammals are much less diverse, but include two endemic subspecies of Arctic fox.

One of the main highlights is the large colonies of seabirds which nest on the coastal cliffs. More than 200 bird species have been recorded, including the impressive Steller’s sea eagle, while common visitors include Brünnich’s guillemot, horned and tufted puffin, cormorant and red-legged kittiwake.

View suggested itineraries

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: red-legged kittiwake, northern fur seal, Steller’s sealion, Arctic fox, horned puffin
  • Where: East of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itineraries:

Kamchatka Whale Watch with Mark Carwardine

This unique voyage in the Russian Far East takes us from Sakhalin to the Shantar Islands and across the Sea of Okhotsk, through the northern Kuril Islands, then along the Kamchatka Peninsula and across the Bering Sea to the incredibly remote Commander Islands to see a wealth of cetacean life.

  • When to go: Jun
  • Duration inc. flights: 20 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £12,995 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Kamchatka’s Forgotten Coast

Explore the diverse assemblage of wildlife and habitats of Kamchatka, home to one of the world’s most endangered waders: the spoon-billed sandpiper. This 13-night cruise aboard the Spirit of Enderby explores the stunning volcanic landscapes, coastlines and remote wilderness of the Commander Islands.

  • When to go: Jun
  • Duration exc. flights: 14 days
  • Price exc. flights: From £7,132 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour
Recommended cruise vessel:

Spirit of Enderby

The ice-strengthened Spirit of Enderby accommodates a maximum of 50 passengers in comfortable twin cabins, all of which have an outside view. She makes an ideal expedition vessel for visiting remote locations such as the Kamchatka Peninsula or the South Pacific in search of wildlife.