Kamchatka eco tours, bear viewing, fishing, skiing, hiking and more


The Kamchatka Peninsulain the Russian Far East connects with the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a volcanic chain stretching from Japan to the Kuril Islands up to the Peninsula, and over to the Aleutians and Alaska. Indeed Kamchatka is 8 time zones away from Moscow and the place where the day begins in Russia. This fish-shaped territory is 1200 kilometers long (750 miles) and 450 km wide (470 miles) at its widest point.

Overall, Kamchatka has 159 volcanoes, most of them extinct. This land is still being formed and with 10% of the world's active volcanoes located here, there is almost always one erupting. Besides skylines ruffled by mountains and volcanoes, there are over 400 glaciers, more than 14,000 rivers, creeks, and many lakes. Among over 200 mineral water springs, about 150 are hot springs and Kamchatkans love to visit and bathe in the more accessible ones.

See a Map of Kamchatka HERE

Kamchatka's locationlocation between the Bering and Okhotsk Seas means that we have an unstable climate. Typically about a meter of precipitation annually falls but the varied terrain on the Peninsula itself makes for many microclimates with some areas dryer, warmer, or colder than others. Often a very short distance can separate these varied climatic zones. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky's proximity to the ocean brings brisk winds and sometimes fog. In winter, Petropavlovsk can receive huge quantities of snow, while Yelizovo just 25 km inland received less than half that amount. Inland summers are warmer and dryer and winters colder as well.

The Peninsula's population has diminished in recent years with many people departing for the mainland where costs of living and climate are easier, especially for retirees. The approximate population of the Kamchatka Region and Koryak Independent District is 322,000. More than half of the population lives in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (179500+ people) and Yelizovo (38,900).

Kamchatka's isolationfor many years helped protect a healthy and stable wildlife population with 37 species of mammals. The symbol of Kamchatka and the Yelizovo District is the brown bear (Ursos arctos). Kamchatka has the highest concentration of bears in Russia. Imagine a peninsula with 14,000 rivers and streams most of which support six species of salmon spawning and it is clear that Kamchatka's salmon provide the needed food base for this abundance of bears. Added to this abundance is the unusually long spawning season of some of the salmon for example sockeye, which spawn from July to March.

A big bear reaches 600 kg (375 pounds) and 2.5 meters from head to toe. Some of the other mammals on Kamchatka include: sable, mink, wolf, red fox, reindeer, moose, lynx, river otter, marmot, ground squirrel, tree squirrels, ermine, and wolverine. The sculptural stone birch forests, most common on Kamchatka, grow spaciously giving these forests a park-like view and make for very pleasant hiking. In the interior Milkovo area, there are white birch forests and near Esso and on the Kronotsky Preserve there are isolated stands of pine. Also in the Esso and nearby areas are abundant larch trees. Riverbeds are often lined with willows and some alders and hikers into the alpine tundra will cross patches of alder and Japanese pine. Over 1000 species of plants thrive in the short growing season.

Listed here are some of the rare plants of Russia that can be found on Kamchatka

Cypripedium macranthon Anelica ursine Oxytropis kamtschatica
Woodsia alpina Senecio Schistocus Primula xanthobasis
Gymnadenia camtschatica Nuphar pumila Rhodiola rosea
Poa radula Potentilla anadyrensis Chrysosplenium rimosum
Epipogon aphyllum Lilium dauricum Cardamine victoris
Abies gracilis Lilium debile Cardamine pedata
Isoetes asiatica Erigeron compositus Sieversia pusilla
Astrocodon kruhseanus Poa schumuschuensis Ophioglossum thermale
Cypripedium jatabeanum Taraxacum korjakense Fimbristylis ochotensis
Anemone drummondii Oreorchis patens  

History and Cultures

The earliest remnants of people on Kamchatka date from 9000 to 5000 BC in archaeological sites along the Kamchatka River. These Paleo-Indians were likely ancestors of North American Indians. Later cultures belonged to Proto-Eskimo-Aleutians who worked stone in a particular way, made knife-like blades, arrowheads, and drills. They also domesticated the dog. The earliest links to today's Native people are the Itelmen, a culture that can be traced back 5,200 years on the Peninsula. A complex and sedentary culture, they fished, hunted, gathered, and used wild plants. Itelmen people today live in Petropavlovsk and the Yelizovo District and are settled throughout Kamchatka. Kovran, an Itelmen village on the west coast of Kamchatka, is one of the oldest settlements on the Peninsula.

The Koryak people inhabited the northern regions of Kamchatka and adjacent mainland. They were divided into 2 groups, one reindeer herding and the other marine mammal hunting. They spoke different dialects. Fish were an important resource for all of the Koryak who caught and dried them. Maritime Koryak hunted sea mammals from vessels similar to Eskimo boats. Seals and small whales were chased into nets and then attacked with knives and lances. Today's Koryak people mostly live in the northern part of Kamchatka.

The Even settled in Kamchatka only 160+ years ago. Even culture and economy were based on reindeer herding and hunting. At the end of the 19th to the early 20th century, Even developed abundant herds. In the 19th century, they rarely slaughtered their reindeer for meat, but traded them for transportation. They subsisted on hunting game for wild reindeer, fox, and mountain sheep. After Russians settled in the area, fur trade became their main income. Today herding is still an important Even activity. Anavgai and Esso in the Bystrinsky District are the main Even settlements. A small population of Aleut-Russian people remain on the Commander Islands, ancestors of Alaskan Aleuts brought there to hunt sea otter and fur seals.

In 1697, it is believed that Vladimir Atlasov was the first Russian to trek to Kamchatka. As head of the Anadyr settlement, he and a group of 65 Cossacks and 60 Yukaghir Natives made their way to Kamchatka from Chukotka. Exploring the Peninsula for a year, he gave the first descriptions of Kamchatka to the rest of Russia. In 1741, Vitus Bering embarked on his second voyage under Tsar Catherine the Great to chart the unmapped North Pacific and to search for the fabled lands to the east. Bering and his companion boat captain Alexey Chirikov discovered Alaska but unfortunately they were separated in foggy weather and on their return, Vitus Bering, along with 32 members of his crew perished of scurvy on Bering Island just 185 kilometers (116 miles) from Kamchatka. This voyage led to the settlement of Kamchatka by Russians and particularly Cossacks who took special interest in Kamchatka's fine sables, the soft gold of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Until 1867 when Alaska was sold to the US for $7,200,000, Kamchatka was the last port of call in the motherland for Russian adventurers sailing the treacherous waters between Kamchatka and Alaska.

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskywas founded on the shores of Avacha Bay in 1741 although Bering and Chirikov built their ships north at Ust Kamchatsk. Named after Bering and Chirikov's ships the St. Peter and St. Paul, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is one of the largest ice-free ports in the Pacific. To this day it holds a Russian Navy submarine base across from the main city.  In 1779, Captain James Cook's “Discovery” and “Resolution” anchored in the bay following Cook's death in Hawaii. In 1787, Juan de la Perouse came to Avacha Bay. Yankee whalers and traders frequently stopped here for supplies and some Americans stayed behind, marrying Native and Kamchatka women.

After 1917's revolution, and as the Cold War developed, Kamchatka was restricted as a top-secret military zone. Russians without work or residency permits and foreigners without special invitations couldn't visit here. Besides the military, the huge Soviet commercial fishing fleets working out of Kamchatka's ports were the backbone of the work force.

In 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, international travel became possible to Kamchatka and many longtime residents had their first opportunity to meet and make friends with people from other countries.


Explore Kamchatka
420627 Pitzman Drive, Homer, Alaska 99603
Box 2378, Homer, Alaska 99603
Alaska Business License Number 2147805
Email: explorekam@gmail.com

Thanks to Igor Shpilenok Nature Photography for photos on this site