Thursday, October 6, 2016

Waiting for Bears

Day 7 (2016-09-18)

Our first shore excursion today was to Verhoturova Island where we approached a set of outer islands made out of rock on which we saw Steller Sea Lions. There were maybe a 100 of them sitting on the three or four rock islands making a lot of noise and many of them went into the sea when they saw us. Then we landed on the island which consisted of cliffs rising to a plateau. We started walking around the shore of the island which was strewn with thick mats of kelp but interspersed with plants which at this time of year in September were flowering, some with yellow daisy like flowers and others with little blue flowers. Many birds inhabit this island and there were dead birds and other bits of sea life scattered along the shore. We then proceeded to climb the cliff consistenting of mainly grasses and other plants, so while steep, the footing was not too bad. When we got to the top, there were meadows of plants; quite nice with a view below onto a small lake and then the sea. We slid back down on our behinds because it was steep and the footing wasn't so easy; it was fun: sort of like tobogganing on grass!

In the afternoon, we visited Koryakskiy Reserve, which is on the Koryak coast of the Kamchatka peninsula. It is an area with a large number of brown bears. A river runs through the area. We took the zodiacs to the shore and then hiked for about 20 minutes along the river surrounded by hills and mountains until we came to a small escarpment which we climbed to a plateau surrounded by the river and mountains. We crossed the plateau which was covered with tundra with multicolored plants with flowers and berries; it was soft underfoot and covered with hillocks making it difficult to walk quickly. It reminded one of a natural flowery oriental carpet. It began to rain and the wind became stronger. We (about 30 people) situated ourselves to wait for bears in what was increasingly difficult weather; blowing rain and getting cold and wet waiting for the bears. It was discouraging as the hour passed by that we were to wait. All of a sudden across the valley came three young bears playing and scampering across the face of the mountain. They moved across our line of vision, disappeared down an escarpment and then up again closer to where we were sitting. As we watched them, a larger bear, clearly their mother, was plodding across the mountain side. They seemed to be aware of us but did not pay much attention. In the meantime higher on the side of the mountain were another three bears, but they were too far to see what they were doing. After about 15 minutes of watching the bears they disappeared and we went back to our zodiacs to return to the ship, satisfied with a positive bear watching experience.

At dinner we set out for the next stop, but the weather was increasingly bad and we had quite the rocky night with what was a storm that affected our next day.

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