Japan Wildlife Photo Tour

Indulge your spirit of adventure as you join this 14 day photographic tour to visit breathtaking parts of Japan, far from the usual tourist haunts, to photograph many of the species of wildlife found there, all in a picturesque, magnificent mountain and coastal countryside. From Snow Monkeys to Steller’s Sea Eagles this safari offers the best of Japan winter spectacle.

This 14 night Winter Photo Tour is tailored for nature photography enthusiasts, allowing enough time to capture the Snow Monkeys as they bathe in the warm springs and capture magical images of the Whooper Swans at the volcanic Lake Kussharo. We travel to the city of Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula which is a Unesco World Heritage site to capture the unbelievable Eagle action of the Steller's Sea-Eagles and White-Tailed Eagles. We end the tour with the beautiful Red-Crowned Cranes that are caught up in their graceful mating dances as they announce the early arrival of spring.

During the trip, you will also have the opportunity to photograph Sika Deer, Ural Owls, Red Fox and possibly the world’s largest owl species, Blakiston’s Fish Owl ~ all of these back dropped by a beautiful, majestic winter panorama.

Tusk Photo uses one of the top guides in Japan who, together with your award-winning ODP host will ensure that you have unequaled opportunities to capture these Japanese wildlife spectacles.

Tour Itinerary

  • Arrive Tokyo and over night

  • Jigokudani for Snow Monkies / Japanese Macaques

  • Lake Kussharo (Hokkaido) for Whooper Swans

  • Rausu for Eagles & Fish Owl

  • Tsurui for Red-Crowned Cranes

  • Back to Tokyo and over night

  • End of tour

Japan Wildlife Photo Tour

Arrival in Tokyo

Please make your way to the Narita Tobu Hotel for the night prior to the start of the tour (this hotel is included in the tour price). The bus will depart from this location early on the morning of DAY 1. The hotel offers free wifi in all rooms, a free shuttle service to and from Narita Airport and most staff speak English. Please see the Airport Transfers section of this itinerary for further information.

18h30 Convene in the hotel Reception/Lobby for a “meet & greet” with your tour guides and fellow travellers.

Day 1 – Tour begins ~ Depart from Tokyo for Jigokudani

06h30 Check-out and meet in Reception.

07h00 Embark chartered tour bus and travel to Jigokudani Monkey Park, which is part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park in Nagano Prefecture, north west of Tokyo. The name Jigokudani, meaning “Hell’s Valley”, is due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, surrounded by steep cliffs and formidably cold and hostile forests.

Lunchtime check-in at traditional Japanese style “Ryokan” Lodge located at the trail head of the Monkey Park. Walk to the park and spend the afternoon with the Japanese Macaques (Snow Monkeys). They descend into the valley during winter days to bathe in the hot spring pools, returning to the hills at sundown to roost. We stay here for 3 nights.

Day 2 to 3 – Jigokudani Monkey Park

Each morning starts with a relatively gentle 30 minute walk into the Monkey Park for two full days photographing the Snow Monkeys. Late afternoon walk back to the lodge.

Day 4 – Leave Jigokudani and transfer to Lake Kussharo

Morning transfer by tour bus to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport for a domestic flight to the island of Hokkaido. Transfer to the town of Kushiro on the northern part of the island and then on to our lodge located on the shores of picturesque Lake Kussharo. Depending on flight arrival time, we may have the opportunity for late afternoon photography. 

Day 5 – Lake Kussharo

At Lake Kussharo, we will photograph large flocks of Whooper Swans in the misty waters of the hot springs. As well as having the opportunity to obtain good behavior and flight shots during the day, there is also beautiful evening back light through the mist rising off the shoreline.

Day 6 – Transfer to Rausu

Early morning photography of the swans and then travel to the Shiretoko Peninsula, located on the Easternmost portion of Hokkaido, and the port town of Rausu. Timing permitting, we may have the option of an afternoon cruise for your first Sea Eagle experience. We will visit two Ural Owl nesting sites on route to hopefully find and photograph this beautiful bird. The peninsula was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. It is the southernmost point at which sea ice usually forms in the Northern hemisphere, where the Oyashio Current causes fog on the southeastern coast and winter sea ice. We stay in Rausu for four nights.

Day 7 to 9 – Rausu

Two days for dawn charter cruises to take us out to the sea ice floes where we’ll do our best to get up close and personal with Steller’s Sea Eagles and White-tailed Eagles. These ice floes are used as resting places for these eagles and provide a beautiful backdrop to what should be a very busy day’s photography. We will secure two nights to visit the Blakiston’s Fish Owl location. One back-up day is included to allow for possible adverse weather conditions. Depending on the ice conditions, we will either have the opportunity for additional boat charters (at extra cost) if we wish, or we can go into the Shiretoko National Park to photograph Sika Deer, Ural Owls and hopefully Red Fox. We also have the option to photograph the beautiful landscapes of the area, as well as some additional photography of Whooper Swans in their natural habitat.

Day 10 to 12 – Tsurui

Depart Rausu and travel to Tsurui, located in the Akan District – a breeding ground for Red-crowned Cranes. The Cranes’ mating dance becomes active as the day warms, so we are likely to get fantastic afternoon images at both Tsurui and Akan. There are White-tailed Eagles, Black-eared Kites and various other raptors that take advantage of the crane feeding times, so photographic opportunities are abound. We also have the flexibility of visiting the famous Otowa Bridge for potential cranes roosting in the morning mist along the river. We stay here for 3 nights.

Day 13 – Tsurui to Tokyo

After a final morning of photography, we depart from Tsurui and fly to Tokyo’s local Haneda Airport. Overnight at the JAL City Hotel in Tokyo.

Day 14 – Tokyo ~ Tour ends

Final breakfast together before we all depart on our respective transfers to Narita International or Haneda Airports.

A free shuttle operates to Haneda Airport from the JAL City Hotel. There is also a shuttle between Haneda Airport and Narita Airport for those that are flying out of Narita Airport. (Cost aprox JPY3000) 

This Japan Winter Safari includes

  • Services of Tusk Photo Pro Photographer’s
  • Services of our Japanese guide/s
  • 14 nights accommodation (including Tokyo hotel nights at start and end of tour)
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
  • Return flights from Tokyo to Hokkaido

This Japan Winter Safari does not include

  • Alcoholic drinks and additional items ordered at meal times
  • Costs for visas (if applicable)
  • Telephone calls, laundry charges
  • International flights to and from Japan
  • Purchases and expenditure of a personal nature

Optional Extra

  • Extra day’s boat charter over and above the 2 days included in the package when in Rausu

Our main target species will be:

  • Japanese Macaque / Snow Monkey
  • Whooper Swan
  • Steller’s Sea Eagle
  • White-tailed Eagle
  • Red-crowned Crane
  • Blakiston’s Fish Owl

Other possible species we can expect to see:

  • Black-eared Kite
  • Sika Deer
  • Red Fox
  • Ural Owl
  • Harbour Seal
  • Orca
  • Various waterfowl such as Goldeneye Duck, Pintail and more
  • Various bird species such as Nutcracker, Woodpecker and more
  • Various Sea Birds such as Gulls, Terns and more

Dates & Prices

Departure Date Return Date Tour Cost SADC Rate Availability Location
20 February 20195 March 2019USD 7960N/A10Book View More
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4 February 201818 February 2018USD 8750N/AfullView More
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Client Feedback

Jethro Mbau from South Africa wrote

…I returned last week from a very successful Japanese Photo a Safari.I take this opportunity to thank you and the ODP team for a well organised and well managed trip….…

Sven Olaf Arp from South Africa wrote

WOW!!!!!  Words cannot describe how brilliant the trip was for me. It was most definitely one of the best experiences of my humble lifetime.
The photographic experience way exceeded any of my expectations and I certainly hope to have captured …

Frank Kolver from Australia

We had a wonderful trip and enjoyed it very much. The accommodation was great, the food was fantastic and one of the highlights of the whole tour. The Guys did a great job and I see some great shots on …

Johan Beyers – from Western Cape, South Africa

Just a big thanks on a fantastic Japan tour.This is one of the most productive photographic tours that I ever had and thanks for the camaraderie.

I am very pleased with the results.…

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