Saint Paul Wildlife—Alaska’s Pribilof Islands

View Full SlideshowView Full Slideshow

The four tiny Pribilof Islands lie 300 miles from the Alaskan mainland and to the north of the Aleutian chain.  Fourteen miles long and with an area of just 43 square miles—less than New York’s Long Island—remote and low-lying Saint Paul Island boasts precipitous sea cliffs, that are home to some of the most photogenic and species-diverse concentrations of colonial seabirds in the northern hemisphere.  During the breeding season, hundreds of thousands of birds nest in and on the sheer rocky walls rising at the water’s edge, and murres, auklets, kittiwakes and fulmars find their way here after spending the entire winter on the tempestuous open ocean.  For two of the regular summer visitors—red-legged kittiwakes and red-faced cormorants—the Pribilofs are the most accessible location for photography in the world.  On Saint Paul they share the cliffs with two of the most photogenic North Pacific seabirds—tufted puffins and horned puffins. 
tufted-puffin.jpgFor both species of puffins, the high cliffs are prime nesting habitat, affording protection and access to the productive nutrient-rich waters of the Bering Sea.  Capturing exciting images of puffins flying is one of our major goals—and there should be lots of flight activity during our visit.  Puffin photography of birds congregating on photogenic “loafing ledges” will be enhanced by three accessible species of auklets—least, crested and parakeet—which are unique to the Bering Sea region.  Auklets tend to disperse from their breeding colonies a bit earlier than puffins, so we have selected dates for this photo tour when maximum numbers of all species should occur.
In addition to the masses of seabirds, Saint Paul is the center of breeding activity for hundreds of thousands of northern fur seals.  Female seals come ashore on the island’s sandy beaches in the summer to give birth to a single pup.  Adult males, the beachmasters, jostle and fight each other to maintain their territory—and their harem of females.  We photograph the seals from seaside overlooks or from the safe areas in close proximity to the rookeries.  During windless days the roar of seals can be heard from almost any point of the island.
pribilof-islands-photography.jpgSaint Paul Island remains in a natural, mostly undisturbed state due to its generally inaccessible location where it is often affected by severe weather conditions—especially during the Bering Sea winter.  The island is at the epicenter of the Bering Sea crabbing fishery and is a shooting location for the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch television series.  But during the quieter summer months, delicate low-growing wildflowers abound.  Morning dew-covered buds of blue-purple arctic lupine and yellow arctic poppy open to showy afternoon blooms.  Verdant mosses and lichens carpet the treeless rolling tundra and inspire outstanding macro photography opportunities. During this more temperate season, diminutive arctic foxes give birth in their dens and may be closely approached.
Travel with us to discover one of the North Pacific’s principal nature photo tour locations, one that offers a peak Alaskan experience for nature photographers—remote and remarkable Saint Paul Island in the Pribilofs.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Jul 7)
We meet in the lobby of our Anchorage hotel at 6:30 PM for orientation and dinner.  (D)
Day 2
A 3-hour flight takes us to Saint Paul Island, the largest and most northerly island in the Pribilofs.  We transfer to our basic, but comfortable, hotel in the small Aleut community of St. Paul.  Teeming seabird cliffs are just a short walk from the hotel.  This afternoon we have our first opportunity to explore the island and begin to photograph the exceptional diversity of seabirds on Saint Paul.  (BLD)
Days 3–6
We have these four full days to explore, cameras in hand, Saint Paul’s beaches, rugged vertical cliffs and rolling tundra-covered hills.  We concentrate on the impressive numbers of seabirds on the island.  Both tufted and horned puffins can be photographed from ground level on most cliff sides.  The activity near the larger cliffs can resemble a beehive as thick-billed and common murres launch and land from precarious rock ledges.  Black-legged kittiwakes share the steep bluffs with the rarer red-legged kittiwakes, and northern fulmars, swooping and swirling, add to the cacophony of activity.  Smaller seabirds, such as parakeet, crested and least auklets, provide for additional exciting photography opportunities.
st-paul-pribilof-islands.jpgThe luxury of more than four days for photography allows us to take our time to fully explore the island and locate great photography subjects.  While nesting seabirds are our priority, the island is also home to blue phase arctic foxes and an established population of reindeer that roam the more remote areas.  We have time to capture the windswept treeless landscapes and create macro images of colorful arctic wildflowers.  The community of St. Paul is also home to the picturesque onion-domed Russian Orthodox Saints Peter and Paul Church built in 1907 and to the bustling commercial fishery of the biologically productive Bering Sea. 
In addition to seals and seabirds we shoot several interesting breeding birds, including rock sandpipers, red-necked phalaropes and semi-palmated plovers, and four species of songbirds, including Pacific wrens, Lapland longspurs, snow buntings and gray-crowned rosy-finches. (BLD)
Day 7
After a final morning on Saint Paul, we depart for Anchorage and transfer to our hotel.  Our farewell dinner is tonight.  (BLD)
Day 8 (Jul 14)
Depart for home at any time today.  (B)
Note Regarding Weather:  In the Pribilofs, the weather is always part of the experience.  Summer weather on Saint Paul Island is often windy and temperatures typically may hover in the 50s.  It is often said that two out of three days are cloudy with some form of precipitation, including fog—which can offer challenges for photographers and possibly affect our flight schedules.  Participants should plan for an additional day between trips if extending your Alaska itinerary following your Pribilof tour.
Go To
Print this Page

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Saint Paul Wildlife—Alaska’s Pribilof Islands

Jul 07, 2018 - Jul 14, 2018

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days priors to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Saint Paul Wildlife—Alaska’s Pribilof Islands
  • One of the best locations in Alaska to photograph tufted and horned puffins and a diversity of other photogenic seabirds
  • Trip fee includes all meals during tour, lodging in Anchorage on Day 1 and Day 7, lodging on Saint Paul, round-trip airfare from Anchorage to Saint Paul, exclusive transportation on Saint Paul, guide services
  • Photo tour timed for the height of the breeding season of seabirds and northern fur seals
  • Easy access to shooting locations
Jul 07 - Jul 14, 2018
Fee: $5,795 from Anchorage, AK
Deposit: $500
Limit: 12
Tour Leaders
eNews Signup