This inspiring voyage combines over a decade of Aqua-Firma Arctic knowledge and experience, with the opportunity to explore onboard a handsome three masted sailing ship. The experience will be escorted by Aqua-Firma marine scientist Charlotte Caffrey who has guided in Spitsbergen for the past decade, but originally fell in love with this vessel in West Greenland. Carrying just 32 passengers in en suite comfort, this is small ship High Arctic exploration at its best with good food, central heating, hot showers and a welcoming, spacious interior.
Sailing in Spitsbergen provides an expeditionary sense of exploring the polar wilderness with like-minded people. Memorable and often magical wildlife encounters can include polar bears, walruses, beluga and other whales, reindeer, Arctic fox and literally thousands of migratory seabirds. Sailing between the towering mountains, calving glaciers and majestic fjords of Spitsbergen can be breath taking, providing endless photographic opportunities.
Over 11 days our ship will hug the spectacular coastline of Spitsbergen, a panorama of mountains, glaciers and ice filled fjords. You are invited to sit back and relax or help the onboard professional crew to set the sails and man the sheets as you travel through this magnificent scenery. Knowledgeable natural history guides will take every opportunity for zodiac cruises and guided walks on land in search of magnificent wildlife including polar bears, walrus, reindeer, arctic fox and high Arctic birdlife.
The northern limit of Spitsbergen is just 600 miles from the North Pole. As summer arrives, the ice flows recede so that by the middle of June we can gain access to some of the most biologically-rich parts of this Arctic Archipelago. In this early season we hope for encounters with some of Spitsbergen's 3000 strong polar bear population. Both harbour seals and the charismatic walrus are to be found along this coast. Sometimes walruses are found on their own on the sea ice. At other times you may come across a community of them at a haulout site. Along with bearded seals and fin whales breaking the surface, you may be lucky to have chances of seeing beautiful beluga whales.
Opportunities to see Arctic birdlife abound. Species such as the king eider, Sabine's gulls and Arctic skuas are all found alongside the more common guillemots, puffins and little auks. Birds nest in colonies exceeding one hundred thousand and come to this coast every year to breed and feed in the rich coastal waters. Nothing is guaranteed in the High Arctic and Nature will reveal what she wants - but mid to late June when this voyage takes place is usually a prime time for spotting polar bears. It is important always to go with an open mind. Whilst wonderful sightings of polar bears and other wildlife take place on many voyages, they can be fleeting, it is better to keep your camera close at hand, or just absorb the moment!
Alongside the stunning landscapes and incredible wildlife are sites of historical and cultural significance. You may sail to the famed research station at Ny Ålesund to see the site from which Amundsen set off to conquer the North Pole in his air ship. Your voyage may enter Kongsfjord, often said to be the most beautiful and picturesque fjord on Spitsbergen. As you sail through the iced waters to the end of the fjord, you reach a pair of immense glaciers which meet and share a calving icefront. As the boat slows to a halt, you are left to stare up at the towering wall of ice in a silence only punctuated by the deep rumbling from within the glaciers themselves.
Photographic opportunities are plentiful. Whilst that doesn't mean that the Arctic's enigmatic mammals will always be on hand to photograph (they try to keep a low profile across this vast Arctic wilderness), the scenery and the stunning ship are always there. Throughout June, the Midnight Sun offers twenty four hours of daylight so there is always a chance of spotting wildlife - you just have to be awake and on watch to see it! Whilst the ship and the Arctic wildlife provide wonderful photographic subjects, it is probably the vast, desolate surroundings which shall leave the greatest impression.
11 Day Sample Itinerary
This 11 day itinerary explores the North & West coast of Spitsbergen, you will be accompanied by two expert natural history guides. The ship carries three zodiacs to allow all passengers to be off the ship together. You will enjoy a variety of zodiac cruises and shore landings throughout the trip.
Day 1: Embarkation in Longyearbyen
Please note that our polar itineraries are written to provide a flavour of each voyage. Sailing rather than motor-only will be undertaken where and when conditions allow. The actual route will be decided by the captain and expedition team in accordance with prevailing ice, weather and sea conditions and opportunities to see wildlife and wilderness scenery. The onboard team aim to provide you with the most rewarding experience possible and as a result, our itinerary may need to change at short notice. Itineraries have been changed in the past on account of instances such as impassable pack ice and the discovery of a dead whale with numerous polar bears feeding on it. Please remember that any changes in our itineraries are made with you in mind.
After arriving in Longyearbyen, the 'capital' (actually the administrative centre) of Spitsbergen, you may wish to visit the Svalbard Museum which has an interesting collection on the history of Spitsbergen, the mining industry and polar exploration. The ship will sail in the early evening, leaving Isfjorden and sailing for Trygghamna where you will see the remains of an 18th century Russian Pomor hunting settlement and a 17th century English whaling station and where some of Spitsbergen's best-preserved 'blubber ovens' can be seen, which you will visit the next morning.
Day 2: Alkhornet
From Trygghamna you will walk to Alkhornet a large seabird cliff, where a large colony of kittiwakes and Brünnichs guillemots come to breed and are prospecting their breeding places. Below the cliffs you can often catch a glimpse of the Arctic foxes emerging from their dens around the base of the cliffs to look for fallen eggs or chicks, and Reindeer graze on the lush vegetation.
Day 3: Fuglefjorden with views of Svitjodbreen and Birgerbukta
Today you will sail into Fuglefjorden with views on Svitjodbreen and Birgerbukta, with breeding places for Great Skuas and good chances for bears. In Birgerbukta you will find blubber ovens of the Basques. You will try to visit Ytre Norskøya, a small island which was used for many years as a lookout point for Dutch whalers. There we can follow the trails made by whalers to the summit of the island, passing by cliffs with nesting birds along the way. Close to the shore, the remains of 17th century blubber ovens can be seen. Arctic skuas and eiders breed among the graves of 200 Dutch whalers, which have been pushed to the surface by the permafrost.
Day 4: Raudfjord
Raudfjord on the north coast of Spitsbergen is a beautiful fjord with spectacular glaciers and an exceptional variety of wildlife. It is a favourite for Ringed and Bearded Seals and offers chances for spotting Polar Bears and Belugas.
Day 5: Reindyrsflya
If conditions allow, you might land on the northern-side of Reindyrfla, the largest tundra area on Spitsbergen. Its vast undulating plain provides good grazing for Reindeer and several species of waders also breed here. On the tundra lakes there is a good chance of spotting Red-throated Divers and King Eiders, whose breeding plumage is delightfully colourful.
Day 6: Monaco Glacier
Depending on the weather, you will aim sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometre-long (3.1 miles) face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favourite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice can be a good place to spot a hunting polar bear.
Day 7: Fuglesangen
In the morning you will land at Fuglesangen, where you can sit near the Little Auks. Sailing southwards you might visit Magdalenafjord - one of the most picturesque places on Spitsbergen, with many impressive glacier fronts. During a shore visit you can see the remains of 17th century English whaling activities and hopefully get some great sightings of little auks.
Day 8: Ny Ålesund
You will head north, aiming for Kongsfjorden and Krossfjorden. The landscape is likely to show signs of winter, the crags and slopes still blanketed with snow. Here there are rich opportunities for snowshoeing or hiking and visiting places of historic interest: Ny London, where you can see the remains of early 20th-century marble mining, and Ny Ålesund, the northernmost community in the world. There are also research stations and the famous anchor mast of the dirigible Norge, which took the first flight across the North Pole to Nome, Alaska in 1926. Krossfjorden offers views of colossal glaciers and lofty mountain peaks, but ultimately the extent of fjord ice dictates the itinerary here.
Day 9: Fuglehuken
On your way south, you will try to make a landing on Fuglehuken, where you can see many remains from the Polar Bear hunting era. There are large seabird colonies and a haul out place for harbour seals. Alternatively you will land on the coast of Forlandsundet at Engelsbukta or Sarstangen, where walruses are sometimes hauled out. The tundra offers some great walking in a beautiful setting.
Day 10: Bohemanflya
Bohemanflya is an expansive tundra with its own avifauna and spectacular geological formations along the coast. In Gipsvika you can go on shore near Templet, a mountainous location of eroded sedimentary rock from the Upper Carboniferous period – around 290 million years ago.
Day 11: Disembarkation in Longyearbyen
After a farewell breakfast, you will be free to catch your flight from Longyearbyen airport.
Longyearbyen - Longyearbyen (11 days)
With Aqua-Firma Marine Scientist, Charlotte Caffrey
Three-masted sailing schooner: 33 passengers
Price per person in a triple share cabin with private bathroom
Twin cabin upgrades are available
Single supplement: This supplement can be avoided if you are willing to share with someone of the same gender. The single occupancy price is 1.85 times the 'per person sharing cabin' price.
Our prices include:
Voyage as indicated in draft itinerary.
Group airport transfers to & from the vessel (when arriving/departing on recommended group flight).
Programme of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff.
All shore excursions and zodiac activities.
All miscellaneous services taxes and port charges throughout the programme.
All meals, snacks, coffee and tea.
Comprehensive pre-departure material.
Passports and visas.
Pre and post land arrangements.
Transfers to and from the vessel (except when arriving/departing on recommended group flight).
Items of a personal nature (alcohol, laundry etc).
Cancellation and personal insurance.
Arrival and departure tax.
Activity Level: Low to Medium