I am prone to getting seasick. Will I feel the ship move?
Our ship, the Aruran III, is not big, so you will probably feel it move during the whale watching season, except on days that are especially calm. If you are worried that you will get seasick, we recommend that you take medicines to prevent/alleviate motion sickness prior to boarding the ship. Once on board, standing on the deck and breathing in the fresh air will probably be better than staying in the cabin; another idea, however, would be to take a short nap inside the cabin, since it normally takes about 30 minutes for even the fast ship like the Aruran III to reach the whale watching area.
Please note that we may ask you to stay in the cabin, depending on the weather and wave conditions.
The local drugstore, Tsuruha Drug (Rausu branch), opens from 9 a.m. If you would like to purchase motion sickness medicines, we therefore recommend that you do so the day before you board the ship.
Is it cold above the water, even during summer? What should I wear?
It is quite cool in Rausu during summer (in fact, it is one of the coolest places in the country, literally speaking), with a high temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius (about 68 degrees Fahrenheit) even on hot days.
On top of that, you will feel strong wind while on the ship; you may therefore feel that the temperature is 5 to 10 degrees lower than when you are on the land. As such, we recommend that you wear long-sleeved shirts and jackets, as well as insulated items.
We lend out adult-sized long jackets at the Aruran III waiting room located in the Rausu Port. You are welcome to borrow them free of charge.
We do have some available for children too, but sizes are limited. We thus recommend that you bring your own.
Do I have to wear a life jacket?
The Aruran III is a sightseeing boat accredited by and built according to the standards of the Ministry of Transport (now the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism). As such, passengers are not required to wear a life jacket.
However, we do lend out life jackets and ask each passenger to wear one, just to be safe. We have jackets available for children too. Our staff will hand them out at the time of boarding.
Your understanding and cooperation would be much appreciated.
What should we do if we definitely want to see sperm whales?
The chances of encountering sperm whales are high during summer months (between the summer holiday season to the beginning of September) when the waves are calm. At the height of the summer, the possibility of seeing sperm whales may reach 80 to 90 percent.
We strive to increase our chances of encountering the whales by using underwater microphones, gathering information from our local fishermen community and observing from the land.
There are days, however, where the whales are swimming in the waters around Kunashiri Island, one of the islands claimed by Russia. In these rare instances, our only option would be to watch the whales blow in the distance.
Taking into account the possibility that the Aruran III may not cruise out due to bad weather and wave conditions, we recommend that you stay in Rausu for at least two days — if possible, three days — if your purpose of visiting Shiretoko is to see sperm whales.
On days when the ship does not operate, we suggest you take part in alternative activities, such as trekking around the Rausu Lake and enjoying bathing in Kumanoyu, Aidomari Onsen, Seseki Onsen and other local outdoor hot springs.
Why is the Aruran III a recommended whale-watching ship?
When it comes to watching whales, the most important thing is “to acquire the time to look for the animals.”
Sperm whales, once they go underwater, usually do not come up to the water’s surface for 30 to 40 minutes. On the other hand, the time they spend near the surface is quite short (they are sometimes seen floating on the water and sleeping — these instances are quite rare though). It is, therefore, important that we quickly locate where the whales are.
For that reason, it is necessary for us to speedily reach the waters (e.g., off the coast of Aidomari district , which is part of the World Heritage site) where sperm whales are spotted. Once the whale-watching tour is over, we return to the Rausu Port at the same high speed — meaning we can “maximize the time spent on searching for and observing the whales.”
We can proudly say that our ship, the Aruran III, is the fastest sightseeing boat in Rausu, with two screws.
On top of that, the ship’s captain used to drive a fishing boat and is highly knowledgeable about the waters around Rausu. He is known as “the first person to have started the whale-watching tour in Rausu,” and his long experience is definitely something we can count on.
Is there a bathroom or cabin on the Aruran III?
Yes, there is a cabin, carpeted and with chairs, as well as a bathroom.
We do recommend, however, that you use a public bathroom located adjacent to the Aruran III waiting room at the Rausu Port before boarding.
We also have some motion sickness bags on board, so please let a crew member know when you start to feel seasick.
How close can we get to the whales?
The Aruran III is the first sightseeing ship that started operating whale-watching tours in Rausu. It is accredited by the Ministry of Transport (now the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) and is a member of the Japan Passengerboat Association. In cooperation with the local NPO called “Shiretoko Ra-ushi,” it has established a set of rules to follow when operating whale-watching tours.
When the rules such as “the ship should not interfere with the whales’ path” and “no animals are put under stress” are being followed — and the weather and wave conditions are good — we may be able to get as close as tens of meters to the animals. We often hear our passengers say “we didn’t need to bring telephoto lenses” or “we got to take good enough pictures with our smartphones.”
But, please note that all of this depends on the mother nature. There may be instances where we can only see the whales in the distance.
As for killer whales, you may be able to see them swim under the boat — an experience you cannot easily gain anywhere else.
When can I find out if the ship will not operate on that day?
The whale-watching tours conducted during summer may get cancelled when the waves are high (even though it might sunny that day) or there is a dense fog and it is difficult to spot the whales.
On the other hand, the ship may operate even when it is lightly raining, if the waves are calm and we can clearly see into the distance. It thus is difficult to tell whether or not it is okay to sail out, and the final decision is made by the ship’s captain on the morning of the tour.
We therefore recommend that you call us at around 7:30 a.m. on the day of your tour reservation (an hour before the boarding time) to check if the ship will operate.
TEL: 0153-87-4477 (Shiretoko Aruran Corp.)
What happens if we cannot see any whales?
In instances where we could not see any whales from the boat, we are giving out “Rausu Kombu” seaweed, a local specialty, as a souvenir.
In addition, we are giving a 50% discount the next time you go on the Aruran III cruise (it can even be the next day).
Do I have to book in advance?
We normally request that you book in advance.
The Aruran III may carry up to 47 people, but in order to make enough space for our passengers to move freely, we limit the number of passengers per tour.
Last minute or same day booking may also be possible. We accept bookings via our website.
Please note that there may be cases where all the sightseeing ships operating out of the Rausu Port are fully booked — for example, when the Nippon Maru cruise ship stops by Rausu between the end of August and the beginning of September. If your main purpose of visiting Shiretoko is to take part in a whale-watching tour, we recommend that you contact us in advance to check if our ship, the Aruran III, is operating, and if so whether or not we are still accepting bookings.
TEL: 0153-87-4477 (Shiretoko Aruran Corp.)
Are there any places to eat nearby after the cruise?
Our ship, the Aruran III, departs from and returns to the Rausu Port.
If a light meal is what you are looking for, stop by the Seicomart convenience store located across from Hotel Sakaeya, situated near the town center. Grab one of Seicomart’s original bento lunch boxes or some onigiri rice balls, or choose from a large selection of breads.
If you would like to try some fresh local seafood, there is a diner called “Marumi Shokudo,” located a few kilometers from the town of Rausu (heading toward Shibetsu).
You can also find restaurants at Michi-no-Eki Shiretoko Rausu, a roadside station near the Rausu Port.
Are there any onsens (hot springs) I can stop by after the cruise?
One of the hot springs we recommend is Kumanoyu, located within a few minutes’ drive from the Rausu Port (toward Shiretoko Pass). It is a simple yet popular public bath with an open-air onsen and a changing area.
Be careful not to jump in, though, as the water temperature is quite high. This is because the local fishermen come here to warm up their bodies after a hard day of work out in the ocean.
As Kumanoyu is managed and maintained by volunteers, there is a box where you can put tips. Follow the basic rules of onsen etiquette and indulge in the rejuvenating sulfur-rich hot spring.
During the kombu seaweed harvesting season, you may also enjoy bathing outdoor at Aidomari Onsen and Seseki Onsen, the latter which appears and is accessible only during the low tide.
But, please keep in mind that there isn’t even a changing area around Seseki Onsen — so be prepared for a wild experience.