This Wildlife and Marine Life voyage is planned to maximise chances of seeing Polar Bears, by taking an expert team to explore the Arctic sea ice edge. This is where polar bears can find their preferred prey: the ringed seal. Early summer is prime feeding season, especially for mothers who have brought their hungry cubs out into the open for the first time.
This itinerary has delivered incredibly memorable polar bear encounters year after year and our clients' photographs and feedback are the most valuable testament to this. Though the seasonal natures of the ice will largely determine our course, we will likely venture to North Spitsbergen and beyond in search of the edge of the Sea Ice. Along the way we will provide insights into the behaviour and breeding of polar bears and enhance your understanding of them through talks and presentations.
Timing is key and in June; walruses will be hauled out on shallow beaches and fox cubs will begin searching bird cliffs in search of food. Birdlife is prolific and breeding is at its peak, with a great diversity of species including Arctic Terns, Little Auks, Ptarmigan, Ivory Gulls and Grey Phalaropes to name but a few.
The scenery itself is simply stunning, with Winter snow melting, giving shore access for exploring deep into glacier filled fjords and on land.
Of marine life, we have been increasingly lucky to observe blue whales and the all white beluga in 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.
A full complement 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, providing excellent platforms for photographing wildlife, such as bearded and harbour seals in the water at close range.
Opportunities will also be taken to experience the Arctic on land, walking in places where we hope to avoid any contact with polar bears, but meet wildlife such as Arctic foxes, reindeer and birdlife. Snow shoe walking may be an option if conditions are right. This activity will require a brief introduction on how to use snowshoes which will be made freely available onboard.
Historical sites may also be visited, where we will relay the history of human endeavour in the region and the woeful tale of a whaling industry from which these creatures are still attempting to recover. A programme of inspiring talks are given as well as evening round up with more details on the species observed during the day. You can also refer to the onboard library of Arctic natural history guides and reference books.
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. The ship itself often provides the best vantage point for observing wildlife, especially as we move through sea ice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- All miscellaneous services taxes and port charges throughout the programme
- Comprehensive pre-departure material
- Photography workshops and assistance for our clients who pre-reserve
- Snowshoe walking
- 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
- Items of a personal nature (alcohol, laundry etc)
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.
Low to Medium