North Spitsbergen & Beyond In Search of Polar Bears


Depending on prevailing ice conditions, these departures will head to the fjords and coastline of North Spitsbergen and beyond in search of the edge of the Arctic Sea Ice. By pushing North, we hope to increase our chances of seeing Polar Bears as they migrate north from Spitsbergen, following their main prey: the ringed seal, out onto the vast sea ice.

These special voyages will provide fascinating insights into the behaviour and breeding of polar bears and enhance your understanding of them through talks and presentations.

Polar Bear on Pack Ice - Bjoern Koth

Spitsbergen has been proving very good for wildlife and marine life sightings generally in recent years. In addition to polar bears, we also hope to see walruses, ringed and bearded seal, Arctic fox, reindeer and for the early Summer departures, a great diversity of birds which include highly defensive Arctic Terns, Ptarmigan, Glaucous Gulls, Skuas and Grey Phalaropes.

Of marine life, we have been lucky in recent years to enjoy sightings of blue whales, humpbacks, fin, minke and the all white beluga in late June. Nothing is guaranteed, but with all eyes peeled on the horizon we have 24 hours when the sun never sets to see as much as possible.

To survive in the vast Arctic wilderness, wildlife and marine life often keeps itself concealed so you will have ample time to focus your attention (and camera lenses) on the stunning sea ice, glacier and mountainous landscapes of Spitsbergen and the Arctic Ocean. A full compliment of rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) on-board will provide opportunities to explore amongst the sea ice, close to dramatic glacier fronts and the shoreline of Spitsbergen. These can provide excellent platforms for photographing wildlife such as bearded seals in the water or polar bears if they come within close range. Whilst polar bears tend to be solitary in nature, the carcass of a whale or walrus can provide the best opportunities for prolonged encounters with larger numbers of polar bears; so noses will be held high in the hope of locating such an opportunity.

Opportunities will also be taken to experience the Arctic on land. For safety, you will be walking in places where we hope to avoid any contact with polar bears, but wildlife such as Arctic foxes, reindeer and walruses are sometimes best seen on walks. There are also historical sites you will visit on Spitsbergen, where guides will focus on the history of human endeavour in the region and the woeful tale of a whaling industry which caused a huge decline in the numbers of whales in these waters.

Snow shoe walking may be an option for the early season departures if conditions are right. This activity will require a brief introduction on how to use snowshoes which will be made freely available onboard.

Glacier Calving - David Slater

Your base for this voyage will be a modern and comfortable ice strengthened research vessel which has recently been refurbished and upgraded to the highest standard. Vessels are open to all; including the decks at all levels and the ship's bridge from which you can enjoy awe inspiring panoramic views. The ship itself often provides the best vantage point for observing wildlife, especially as we move through sea ice.

There will be a full compliment of expert guides onboard who in addition to joining you on walks and RIB cruises, will enhance your understanding of the Arctic through a programme of inspiring talks which might cover wildlife, birdlife, ecology, history, geology and conservation of the Arctic. You can also refer to the onboard library of Arctic natural history guides and reference books.

Itinerary

8 Day Sample Itinerary

This 8 day voyage explores the North & West coast of Spitsbergen in search of the King of the Arctic: the Polar Bear!

Day 1: Embarkation in Longyearbyen

Please note that our polar itineraries are written to provide a flavour of each voyage.  The actual route will vary according to choice of vessel, the captain and expedition team in accordance with prevailing ice, weather and sea conditions and opportunities to see wildlife and wilderness scenery.

Arrive in Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of the Spitsbergen. Before embarking there is an opportunity to stroll around this former mining town, whose parish church and Polar Museum are well worth visiting. We suggest you use the opportunity to visit the Svalbard Museum, which harbours an interesting collection on the history of Spitsbergen, the mining industry and polar exploration. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden.

Day 2: Raudfjord

Sailing to Raudfjorden, on the north coast of Spitsbergen, you take in an expansive fjord spilling with glaciers – and maybe even visited by ringed and bearded seals. The cliffs and shoreline of this fjord also support thriving seabird colonies, rich vegetation, and the possibility of polar bears.

Day 3: Liefdefjorden & Monaco Glacier

Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 5-kilometer-long (3.1 miles) face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen can be implemented.

Day 4: Hinlopen Strait

Today you sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded seals, ringed seals, and polar bears. At the entrance there is even the possibility to spot blue whales. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, you can view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, you may attempt a landing on Nordaustlandet. Here reindeer, pink-footed geese, and walruses are likely sights. You can take an alternate route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen.

Day 5: The Seven Islands

The northernmost point of your voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet, in the Seven Islands. Here you reach 80° north, just 870 km (540 miles) from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, so the ship may park for several hours among the pack ice before wheeling around west again.

Day 6: Sailing the Continental Shelf

While retracing your route west, keep watch for polar bears and elusive Greenland (bowhead) whales. About 40 nautical miles west of Spitsbergen, you sail the edge of the continental shelf. Here fin whales forage during the summer in the upwelling zones (where cold, nutrient-rich water wells up from below the sea’s surface) that run along the Spitsbergen banks. At the mouth of Kongsfjorden, you have a good chance of sighting minke whales.

Day 7: Forlandsundet & Alkhornet

Walruses sometimes haul out in Forlandsundet, your next stop. Alternatively, you might sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden, landing at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on these cliffs, Arctic foxes search below for fallen eggs and chicks, and reindeer graze the sparse vegetation. You arrive in Longyearbyen later at night.

Day 8: Disembark in Longyearbyen

Return to Longyearbyen and disembark for your transfer to the airport and the flight to Oslo then home.

Dates

05 - 12 Jun 2020 - from € 3,380

Longyearbyen - Longyearbyen (8 Days)
Bilingual Voyage: English & German

12 - 19 Jun 2020 - from € 3,380 € 2,705

Save up to 20% on new bookings!
Longyearbyen - Longyearbyen (8 Days)
Limited offer - contact us for details.

19 - 26 Jun 2020 - from € 3,380 € 2,705

Save up to 20% on new bookings!
Longyearbyen - Longyearbyen (8 Days)
Limited offer - contact us for details.

Notes:

Our price includes:
- Voyage as indicated in draft itinerary
- Group airport transfers to & from the vessel (when arriving/departing on
  recommended group flight)
- All meals, snacks, coffee and tea
- All shore excursions and zodiac activities
- Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced
  expedition staff
- All miscellaneous services taxes and port charges throughout the programme
- Comprehensive pre-departure material
- Snowshoe walking (if applicable)
- Aqua-Firma automatically offsets the Carbon Emissions of your polar voyage and flights booked through us in getting to and from your voyage

Price excludes:
- Airfares
- Pre and post land arrangements
- Transfers to and from the vessel (except when arriving/departing on
  recommended group flight)
- Cancellation and personal insurance
- Passports and visas
- Arrival and departure tax
- Meals ashore
- Baggage
- Items of a personal nature (alcohol, laundry etc)
- Tips

Single supplement:
There is no single supplement to pay if you are willing to share your cabin with someone of the same gender. For a cabin to yourself the supplement is from 1.8x  the per person rate

Potential Fuel Surcharge:
If the cost per Brent barrel price rises significantly then there may be an additional fuel surcharge applied to some voyages.

Activity Level:
Low to Medium

Trip Reviews: North Spitsbergen & Beyond In Search of Polar Bears

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