Everyone we met in Petropavlovsk was really excited about us going to the Commander Islands. Our trip even inspired a guy from Moscow to take up diving! But during our long hours of waiting and our equally long hours of navigating through Russian bureaucracy we had one question: "exactly WHAT is so special about these 2 rocks in the Pacific Ocean that are a real pain to get to?". Granted we have travelled half the world because the Commander Islands were unknown with very little information and the bits that you can find sound like paradise but really?!!?!? THAT cool?
We set on our quest to find out what IS so special about these islands. Those who have been say the "nature, orcas, whales, seals, puffins and sea lions". Those (few) born and bred there say "the smell, there is something unique which we cannot explain about those islands".
Getting there and back is very uncertain due to sporadic and expensive connection with Kamchatka. We spent 4 days getting there on a small private sailboat. Already after 6 days on the islands we had to leave with the supply boat, otherwise risking that we will get stuck there as the boat has no schedule (unlike our visas!). Our way back took another 3 days, although it was meant to take only 14 hours. Despite all this hassle we didn't solve our mystery.
The Commander Islands are nice and pretty. The landscape is hilly and tundra-like. The beaches have black sand alternated with rocky areas. The surrounding waters are full of orcas, seals, sealions and the skies brim with birds. What is underwater we do not know but we'll leave that for another post.
On the island we went to see the North Western Rookery a breeding ground to 4000 northern fur seals and their super cute pups.
We then headed to see the red salmon spawning! It was amazing! There were sooooo many salmons everywhere and to get to the main waterfall we had to cross rivers so full of fish that we were worried we had squished them with the car! Barbora even managed to catch one with her bare hands (and isn't at all bitter of the fact that I didn't take a picture of her with her catch). As good vegetarians we did set the fish free again.
There is a long beach which reminds me a lot of the Outer Hebrides… actually in general the scenery is very similar to Isle of Lewis!
I guess what makes them so impressive is that over a relatively small surface area they have large colonies of very different animals.
Our conclusion is that they are nice but not worth the faff, stress and time. The mystery of what makes them SO AMAZING as Russians describe them remains unsolved.