Winter Wildlife Photography Tour in JapanImagine travelling through a winter landscape in a country heavy with tradition, where you can encounter & photograph entrancing snow monkeys, beautiful dancing red-crowned cranes, dreamlike swans on a snow covered frozen lake plus both Steller’s & White Tailed Sea Eagles on drifting pack ice, this is exactly what the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour offers. Our trip also accommodates chance encounters with Ural Owls, Red Foxes & more native wildlife.
This event is now closed for further bookings – please email us if you would like to attend the 2016 event & and be placed onto a list to be informed when we have an announcement to make regarding that photographic holiday.
Commencing in Tokyo & meeting at Narita Airport, the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour first travels to the Jigokudani Valley, to photograph the monkeys of “Hell’s Valley”, where steam & boiling water bubbles from small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs & formidably cold & hostile forests. Whilst we stay in the town of Yudanaka, our target is to photograph the Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata), more commonly referred to as Snow Monkeys, that descend from the steep cliffs & forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen or hot springs. The monkeys return to the security of the forests in the evenings. We will spend two full days in the valley. You will have the opportunity to photograph the monkeys in the onsen, or at play in the valley below the main area where intimate mother & baby shots are easily achieved. It is without a doubt a harsh environment in the winter months with snow on the ground for a third of the year, but the hot springs make it a paradise for the several of hundred monkeys that live in the valley & the surrounding forests. Whilst at the onsen or the valley, the monkeys simply ignore the photographers & simply get on with whatever it is they want to be doing. From Yudanaka, our Japanese winter wildlife tour returns briefly to Tokyo, then travels onwards to the island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost & least developed of Japan’s four main islands. Its weather is harsh in winter with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures & frozen seas. Our first main location is Akan National Park which is located in eastern Hokkaido. The park is well known for its three beautiful lakes: Lake Akan, Lake Mashu & Lake Kussharo. Akan National Park is composed of two separate parts. The smaller, western portion contains Lake Akan with the lakeside hot spring resort of Akankohan Onsen. The larger, eastern part contains Lake Mashu, Lake Kussharo, Iozan (Sulfur Mountain) & centrally located Kawayu Onsen. We stay in Akan for at least two full days of photography, at this location the focus is on photography of the red-crowned cranes; Red-crowned Cranes are the only crane species that have white primary feathers. Adult forehead & crown are covered with bare red skin, & a large white band extends from behind the eyes & meets sharply with the black lower neck. The majority of the body is pure white with the exception of black secondary & tertiary feathers. Eyes are black & legs are slatey to grayish black. Males & females are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger in size. Red-crowned cranes form flocks in winter but otherwise live in pairs. Once mated the pair will stay together for life. The crane has one of the most beautiful dances in the bird world; these dances help to strengthen the bond between the mated pair. We will visit a number of crane sites at varying times of the day from sunrise through to sunset, with the intention of watching & photographing the cranes perform their intricate courtship dances; the birds bow to one another, then throw their heads over their backs, then bow again. The pair leaps into the air, at the same time raising their wings. The Red-crowned Cranes’ unison dance is a ritual the pair will perform together many times over the years, to strengthen their lifelong bond. Lake Kussharo is a caldera lake in Akan National Park, eastern Hokkaidō, Japan. As with many geographic names in Hokkaidō, the name derives from the Ainu language. It is the largest caldera lake in Japan in terms of surface area, & sixth largest lake in Japan. It is also the largest lake in Japan to freeze over completely in winter. The lake’s central island, Nakajima, is a composite volcano. Volcanic gases render the lake water acidic, & it supports few fish except in areas where inflowing streams dilute the water. The lake is on the migratory path of the whooper swan. We spend two days at the various swan locations, undertaking photography of these beautiful birds at the various calderas around which they gather. In addition some amazing opportunities are presented for in flight, taking off & resting on ice shots, all within a dreamlike landscape. The area is rich with other wildlife, much of which we will spend time at leisure attempting to locate & photograph – this includes red squirrels, red fox & a particular favourite in the form of the roosting Ural Owls. From Lake Kussharo, the Japanese winter wildlife tour moves onto Rausu; Rausu is a small coastal fishing town, with a small population of approximately 6,500. Located on the Shiretoko Peninsula , it is the most northeasterly town in Japan. During the winter months the population of Steller’s Sea Eagles & White-tailed Sea Eagles hunt for fish on the pack ice, which drifts down from the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia. We will stay in Rausu for several nights, during which we will take advantage of the tour boats that operate from Rausu harbour. These boats are without a doubt the best manner in which to see these stunning birds. The Steller’s Sea Eagle is the heaviest eagle in the world. It breeds in northeastern Russia & winters further south, reaching Hokkaido where it spends its days hunting for fish around the pack ice. Packs or clusters of these immense birds gather in Rausu harbour & out on the pack ice waiting for the fish that the tour boats provide. The White-tailed Sea Eagle is another large eagle, closely related to the North American Bald Eagle. It is more widespread than Steller’s & breeds across northern Europe & Asia, & is a year round resident of Hokkaido. The NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour includes three days of photographing the impressive sea eagles, with a 5am & 9am cruises each day. The afternoon of each day is free for rest or photo advice & critique; however, one evening at least will be devoted to photographing the Blakiston’s Fish Owl from a local hide. The Blakiston’s Fish Owl is the largest living species of owl, it is in fact a large eagle owl, with a wingspan that can reach up to two metres long. Blakiston’s fish owl is found in Siberia, northeast China & the island of Hokkaido in Japan which is why the photographic opportunity afforded here is to be grasped, that said, the evening photography is harsh & adequate preparation is required. Additionally on the tour, we will include visits to a sea eagle feeding site on a frozen lake, this provides some amazing opportunities for shots of interaction between the sea eagles of both types, plus black-eared kites. The photographic opportunities afforded for bird in flights shots are equally excellent. Upon leaving Hokkaido, our tour to photograph Japan Snow Monkeys And Hokkaido’s wildlife will return to Narita airport, have a brief overnight stop in a local hotel near to the airport & from there depart homeward bound. The client to guide ratio on this trip will be 2:1 meaning that we can assure you of attention & that personal touch, we pride ourselves on this being a small group trip that will be fun & flexible.
NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour Outline Itinerary
Available upon booking the tour & placing a deposit.
Maximum 7 clients – Spaces available
Available upon booking the tour & placing a deposit.
Additional NotesNaturesLens photography holidays include only the travel stated on the event page, flights of any nature are not included. Flight details, where applicable, are made available to clients in plenty of time to allow for booking at the best prices available.
The photography holiday itinerary is subject to change & is to be considered provisional.
NaturesLens photography holidays require a minimum number of participants, if sufficient photography holiday places are not sold the photography holiday may not be run, this photography holiday has a minimum participant level of 4 plus NaturesLens guide(s).
Not all mentioned wildlife can be observed & photographed at all times of the year, thus some activities may be considered seasonal & not available.
Unless stated otherwise, most NaturesLens wildlife photography holidays are suitable for single travellers, we design our holidays so that each participant gets their own room, there is no sharing & no single supplement - if this is unclear for any event, please check the accomodation arrangements prior to making a booking.
Please note the cuisine on many of the NaturesLens wildlife photography holidays is authentic & typical of the region in which you are travelling, international or western cuisine is often NOT available - if this is unclear for any event, please check the cuisine arrangements prior to making a booking.
Since many of the hotels that this Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour will be making use of are small, accommodation is on a twin room basis. This Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour cost includes accommodation, breakfast & evening meals, entrance fees to parks, feeding stations & nature tour boat trips at Rausu, all transport to & from Japanese airports & within Japan – excluding flights. The NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Tour cost specifically excludes all flights, both international & domestic, alcohol & other items of a personal nature. A non-refundable deposit of £600 is required to secure a place on this trip with the balance being due 12 weeks prior to departure (mid-November 2014).