Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Remote Island Escapes -

GOOD FOR: Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture and a bevy of birds

Flung out into the Ber­ing Sea, around 320km off the coast of Alaska, the Pribilof ar­chi­pel­ago con­sists of four specks of wild, craggy, tree­less tun­dra. Sounds un­promis­ing, but no – Pribilof is a wildlife haven, with a fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory.

The is­lands were un­in­hab­ited when the Rus­sians ar­rived in the late 18th cen­tury and forcibly re­lo­cated Na­tive Amer­i­can Aleut peo­ple to hunt the ar­chi­pel­ago’s fur seals. To­day, the two main is­lands, St Paul and St Ge­orge, are home to the world’s largest com­mu­nity of Aleut; vis­i­tors typ­i­cally stay on the larger, St Paul, where a small town num­ber­ing some 450 thrives. The richly dec­o­rated Rus­sian Ortho­dox church still re­calls the is­lands’ tur­bu­lent past.

How­ever, the main draw of the Pribilof Is­lands is the wildlife. More than 2.5 mil­lion seabirds – puffins, mur­res, auk­lets, ful­mars – nest on the cliffs, com­ing to­gether in a ca­coph­ony of feath­ered chaos. Mean­while, sum­mer sees up to one mil­lion north­ern fur seals (around 70% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion) lol­lop onto the black sands to breed, along with Steller sea lions, wal­ruses and sea ot­ters. Rough roads and hik­ing trails will help you ex­plore.

GET­TING THERE: Pe­nair (pe­ runs a sched­uled ser­vice from An­chor­age to St Paul and St Ge­orge; flights take 3.5 hours.

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