Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Cruise Weekly Comment: Kamchatka


Cruise Weekly – Comment by Roderick Eime

Expedition cruising has evolved somewhat from the hard-core voyages that rekindled this travel sector in the 1960s and ‘70s. Today, some ‘adventure cruises’ are simply hedonistic boutique yachts with champagne on tap, but just last week I was reminded that the core product is still alive and well.

At a recent industry function I caught up with travel doyen, John Borthwick, and asked him about his recent trip to Kamchatka aboard Aurora Expeditions’s 100-berth Marina Svetaeva, a trusty former Russian survey vessel of the type that helped springboard Antarctic and Artic tourism after the fall of the USSR.

“There’s not much out there?” I inquired, recalling my own visions of bleak Siberian plains. John nearly choked on his entrĂ©e.

“Well,” he spluttered indignantly, “if you overlook the volcanoes, grizzly bears, walruses, sea otters, reindeer and Koryak shaman!”

John then proceeded to enthrall the table with dizzying accounts of vast stampeding herds of reindeer, packs of marauding brown bears and the graceful antics of the sea otters.

The Kamchatka Peninsula, asserts John, is Russia’s Alaska or Kimberley without a tourist in sight.

“It’s at the extreme of remote wilderness beauty, totally unpopulated and bursting with wildlife,” he finished, leaving us agog.

This was Aurora’s first Kamchatka expedition and NZ’s Heritage Expeditions is also exploiting the region, but the seasonal window is narrow and access complicated, so it will remain, for the time being at least, a niche destination to be savoured by a fortunate few.