Since 176,000 acres of the Shiretoko Peninsula, including the SHIRETOKO NATIONAL PARK (知床国立公園), gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2005, there’s been an increasing amount of investment in, as well as visitors to, this magnificent ecosystem 42km east of Abashiri. Even so, by any standards the park, which covers about half the 70km-long peninsula thrusting into the Sea of Okhotsk, remains virtually untouched by signs of human development: there are few roads or tourist facilities and wildlife is abundant – you’re almost guaranteed to encounter wild deer, foxes and even brown bears. Peak season is from June to September, the best period for hiking and viewing the five small lakes at Shiretoko Go-ko, most easily reached from the peninsula’s main town Utoro. In the winter, drift ice litters the shore, and some 2000 Steller’s sea eagles can be observed near RAUSU (羅臼) on the peninsula’s southeast coast. This remote fishing village has fewer facilities than Utoro but can still be used as a base for touring the park; it’s the only place offering cruises in winter too – try Hamanasu Kankō.

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