Wildlife Group Tour

Japan Group Tour - Winter Wildlife Photographic Tour with Sue Flood

Departing 24th February - 7th March 2020

13 days

from $10,950pp
  • Travel and learn from expert wildlife photographer Sue Flood
  • Photograph red-crowned cranes, white-tailed eagles, whooper swans as well as other wildlife
  • Explore the wild winter in Honshu and go in search of the famous Japanese snow monkey
  • Experience the best of Japanese hospitality with stays in traditional guesthouses and ryokans

This is a unique opportunity to join our Japanese winter wildlife group tour spending 13 days exploring Central Honshu and Northern Hokkaido with wildlife and travel photographer, Sue Flood. Sue will accompany the group on all excursions during the trip, with advice and workshops aimed at improving photography skills. The diversity of landscapes of Hokkaido are home to growing populations of red fox, sika deer, whooper swans and a surprising number of brown bear. Perhaps most famous of all, East Hokkaido is known for its breeding population of the red-crowned cranes. 

Known as the long-life bird with folklore suggesting the birds live for a thousand years, the revered red-crowned crane can be spotted not just on aircraft emblems and sake bottles, but in great gatherings across the snow layered winter landscapes forming what is arguably one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the world. Photograph the mesmerising, synchronized courtship dance of pairing adults or perhaps simply watch them stir from their gatherings, picking frogs and small invertebrate from the nearby streams.

Aside from the cranes, the extraordinary Steller's sea eagle is on most wildlife photographers' wish-list, with Hokkaido being one of the best places to photograph this rare species. There will also be the opportunity to get close to the famous Japanese macaques in Central Honshu.

Alongside wildlife viewing, the trip also takes in Japan's cultural attractions with a planned visit to Crow Castle in Matsumoto, one of the premier castles of the country and the Hokusai Gallery.


Located in the north-east of Hokkaido, Shiretoko Peninsula is one of the richest integrated ecosystems in the world. The site contains an extraordinarily high productivity of marine and terrestrial ecosystems due to the formation of seasonal sea ice at the lowest altitude in the northern hemisphere. Shiretoko has particular importance for globally threatened seabirds, migratory birds and marine species.


Winter brings a thick blanket of snow on the town of Rausu and a layer of drift ice on the sea allows for an ice-breaking cruise in search of the Steller's Sea Eagle, the largest eagle in the world, as well as other marine life. The flexible nature of the boats we use means we can adapt our itinerary to changing local weather conditions, maximising photography opportunities.


Mayumi Brazil will be the local leader for the tour. Born and educated in Hokkaido, Mayumi has many years of experience working in the field as a fixer for a wide range of wildlife photographers, naturalists and onboard cruise vessels where she has lectured on cultural matters, particularly Kimono and Japanese Cuisine.


Whether you have a simple point and shoot camera, or a sophisticated SLR, Sue Flood will be on hand to give you tips on how to improve your photography skills. Therefore, you don’t even have to be an experienced photographer to join. The maximum group size of just ten people will allow Sue to spend time with you at the different locations to help you get the perfect shot and develop your wildlife photography skills for future use. 


Aside from snow monkeys, we hope to see red-crowned cranes, white tailed sea eagles, Ezo owls and a host of other animals that inhabit Northern Hokkaido.


There will be several early starts during this tour, as the wildlife is mostly active during the morning. So be prepared to wrap up warm. We have allocated ample time at the various locations for optimum wildlife viewing opportunities. Some days will be spent travelling between the various locations, but will be interspersed with breaks at various photographic viewing spots along the way.


Most of the hotels will be traditional in style, simply designed with few furnishings and tatami matted rooms. They typically feature communal hot spring baths, and other public areas where you may wear a yukata (Kimono) around the hotel. You may also have the choice to opt for western style or Japanese futon beds in your room.

On our final evening, we will dine in the Michelin-starred Sazanka Teppanyaki restaurant which is also included in the cost of the trip.

Due to the remoteness of this tour, the accommodation whilst in Kambayashi Onsen and Kushiro only has 6 rooms, therefore we have to cap our single supplement to a maximum of 1 place, which has now been occupied. However, if you are willing to share, we will do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex.


Whilst you do not need to be particularly fit for the tour there will be long days on your feet in cold winter conditions in Hokkaido. In Central Honshu, walks will last up to an hour on forested footpaths to where the macaque viewing takes place. Please let us know if you feel you are not particularly steady on your feet.  


Whilst we expect cold winter conditions and shortened day light hours, February is a good time of year to visit Japan with dramatic conditions for photography and wildlife viewing. Whilst the weather remains cold, you can expect dry and sunny days with uncrowded sightseeing spots. 

Departing on:
  • 24th February 2020

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights $Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
24th Feb 2020 7th Mar 2020 $ 14,782.50 $ 1,417.50 $ 1,343.25 Sue Flood Limited
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • 12 nights accommodation
  • Accompanied by Sue Flood throughout
  • Admission to Matsumoto Castle on day 3
  • Boat in Rausu
  • Domestic Flight tickets from Haneda to Kushiro in economy class
  • English speaking guide throughout
  • Entrance to Hokusai Gallery
  • Entrance to Jigokudani Monkey Park on days 4 and 5
  • Transportation in a 24/28 seater bus

what is excluded

  • All drinks
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and porters
  • Internal flight from Nakashibetsu to Tokyo
  • International flights
  • Meals not mentioned
  • Personal expenses
  • Visa (if applicable)


Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

On arrival into Tokyo, make your own way to the Excel Hotel Tokyu, located within Haneda airport.

There will be a welcome dinner in the evening where you will meet with Sue and the rest of the group.

Japan is an intriguing blend of the resolutely traditional and the restlessly innovative - and nowhere typifies this more so than Tokyo. Look beyond its futuristic façade and you will discover a different Tokyo, where ancient traditions and customs are quietly maintained. An enthralling and captivating city of many layers, it is an essential place to visit for any keen traveller.

Welcome Dinner

You will be staying at Excel Hotel Tokyu, dinner only

Day 2

Tokyo to Haneda and onto Kambayashi Onsen
After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred by coach to Kambayashi Onsen. There will be a stop en route at a service area from which (if it is clear) there are distant views of snow-capped Mt Fuji.

Next visit Lake Suwa, near the northwest corner of which is a gathering of wintering waterfowl that includes Bewick's swan, northern pintail, Eurasian wigeon, tufted duck, eastern spot-billed duck and often several other species. If the lake is frozen they pack into a very small area which allows for close range photography. Continue along the highway to Matsumoto to visit and photograph the spectacular 'Black Crow Castle' donjon and moat. It is one of only a handful of surviving original castles in Japan and is very photogenic, especially if the weather is calm and reflected in the moat.

Finally, continue to Kambayashi Onsen.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Kanbayashi Hotel Senjyukaku, full board

Day 3

Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani
By having two full days here, we hope to experience changes in the weather, including falling snow and sunshine, and have plentiful opportunities to photograph monkey family behaviour. As this is a popular visitor site, there are also interesting opportunities to photograph people.

Leaving after breakfast, walk one mile, (taking 30 to 60 minutes) to the Yaen-koen monkey site for all day photography. The targets here are the endemic Japanese macaque (common and at close range) and the endemic Japanese serow (scarce and long range). This site is in a narrow valley, so the sun arrives late and leaves early. The best of the light will be gone by about 15:30.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Kanbayashi Hotel Senjyukaku, full board

Day 4

Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani
A full day of photography at the Yaen-koen monkey site.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Kanbayashi Hotel Senjyukaku, full board

Day 5

Kambayashi Onsen to Haneda, then Kushiro
After breakfast, our coach picks us up at Kambayashi Onsen and drives back towards Tokyo, and Haneda Airport. Depending on the flight time it may be possible to re-visit Matsumoto Castle or Lake Suwa if the weather has improved from our first visit, alternatively it may be possible to spend a short time at the Hokusai Gallery in Obuse, which showcases the splendid art of a famous Japanese wood-block printer.

Fly Tokyo to Kushiro

You will be staying at Hotel Taito Tsurui, full board

Day 6

Kushiro Marsh and Tsurui Village
You have a full day wildlife viewing in the Tsurui region. Time could be devoted to visiting roosting sites used by the Ural owl. We may need to visit several sites to find the owls in residence, although we expect to be able to shoot at close range.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Hotel Taito Tsurui, full board

Day 7

Tsurui to Kawayu
After breakfast drive north to Kawayu. Visit Lake Mashu for spectacular scenic photography of the most beautiful crater lake in Japan, then onto Iwo-zan to photograph the steaming sulphur holes and hot spring vents. Finally, visit Lake Kussharo to photograph whooper swans in close proximity.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Papilio, dinner only

Day 8

Kawayu Area
Visit Bihoro Pass for scenic photography across the volcanic landscape of Lake Kussharo. Visit Lake Mashu if the weather was poor on the previous day. The rest of the day will be spent looking for landscape opportunities around Lake Kussharo and Lake Mashu and re-visiting the whooper swan site on the lakeshore.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Papilio, dinner only

Day 9

Kawayu to Rausu
Leave after breakfast this morning for Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula. Weather permitting have a private charter boat ride out into the Nemuro Channel for photography of sea-ice (if present this winter) and the spectacular regional East Asian endemic Steller's sea eagle and the more widespread white-tailed eagle. If the sea ice does not cooperate it will likely be possible to photograph eagles along the snow and ice-covered harbour wall, which is excellent for flight shots.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Rausu Daiichi Hotel, dinner only

Day 10

Take two boat rides in the morning for the eagles and the ice. The first is for sunrise and the second follows immediately afterwards with a picnic breakfast. Eat lunch locally in Rausu or take a picnic. If the sea-ice is not present, travel along the Shiretoko Peninsula and down to the Notsuke Peninsula to seek out eagles, red fox and Japanese deer to photo.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Rausu Daiichi Hotel, dinner only

Day 11

Today will follow a similar pattern to yesterday, spending time travelling along the Shiretoko Peninsula searching for wildlife photographic opportunities.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Rausu Daiichi Hotel, dinner only

Day 12

Rausu to Tokyo
Leave Rausu for Nemuro Nakashibetsu Airport for an early afternoon flight to Tokyo.

Final dinner at the Michelin-starred Sazanka Teppanyaki restaurant.

Breakfast at Hotel. Lunch and Dinner at local restaurants.

You will be staying at Hotel Okura, full board

Day 13

Day at leisure in Tokyo

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Japan

Clare Higginson, Travel Expert

Read More

Paul Craven, Travel Expert

" I spoke to five different companies, but Paul was by far the most knowledgeable and empathetic."

"The service which I received from your Travel Expert Paul Craven was excellent, he was able to answer any queries I put to him."

"Paul must be congratulated on his expertise and great patience in dealing with all my programme changes. He must dread my phone calls!! A big thank-you from both of us to Paul and Carol."

Read More

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Local Guide

Mayumi Brazil

Mayumi Brazil
Mayumi Brazil will be the local leader for the tour. Born and educated in Hokkaido, Mayumi is a Nationally licensed Tour guide and trained reflexologist too. Her hobbies include: mountain hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, and nature watching. She has worked on board expedition cruise ships for various companies around Japan and South Korea (for Zegrahm Expeditions in 2010-2017, A&K in 2009 & 2016, Noble Caledonia in 2010, Natural Habitat Adventures in 2011, Orion expeditions in 2011 & 2012, Silversea Cruises in 2014) as an assistant administrative staff member and as a demonstrator/lecturer. Since 2009, she has worked as a fixer and an interpreter, travelling throughout Japan with families and groups of photographers, sight-seekers and naturalists.

Sue Flood

Sue Flood
Your guide on the trip is Sue Flood, a photographer, author, wildlife filmmaker and conservationist. Sue was an Associate Producer on the award winning BBC series 'The Blue Planet', and also more recently worked on Planet Earth. Both The Blue Planet and Planet Earth featured several animal behaviours which were filmed for the first time, and Sue obtained unique images for the series. Her photographic highlights include diving with humpback whales in the South Pacific, face-to-face encounters with leopard seals in the Antarctic, filming polar bears in the Arctic, and photographing the wildlife of Zambia. But above all, Sue is great fun to be with - while your photographic prowess will improve under her tuition, you are also guaranteed a fun and rewarding time in her company.

Other tours by this lecturer:

Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 5 / Max 10

Tour Expert:

Mayumi Brazil , Sue Flood

Departure Date (S):

  • 24th February 2020

  • Moderate Activity - The tour may occasionally involve slightly longer walks, but nothing over 4 hours. The tour will involve visits to a variety of sites throughout the duration of the itinerary and be at a moderate pace.

Holiday Ideas in Japan

You are unique, so we believe your holiday should be too.

We listen to what you want and create a personalised itinerary tailored around you.

Your holiday. Your experience. Your way.

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Call our Travel Experts on +01285 880 980
Start Your Journey


  • Established for over 25 years creating journeys across 100 destinations worldwide
  • Exclusive access to the best private guides


  • We negotiate the best rates with hotels and expert guides
  • Be protected from fluctuations in exchange rates


  • Each time you travel with us we donate £5 to a local charity in the UK and £10 to an international charity

Fully Protected

  • Your monies are financially protected
  • 24/7 Emergency UK contact whilst abroad

Featured in the Press

Financial Times
The Telegraph
Sunday Times logo

Our Partners

African Parks
Galapagos Conservation Trsut
Restless Development
Save The Rhino
Tusk Trust
World Land Trsut
Gorilla Doctors

© Steppes Travel, 51 Castle St, Cirencester, GL7 1QD, United Kingdom