Wildlife & Marine Life North Spitsbergen Sailing Voyage
With Aqua-Firma Marine Scientist, Charlotte Caffrey
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.
We offer sailing voyages onboard three comfortable tall ships carrying between 20 and 32 passengers.
Onboard the tall ships you are invited to relax and enjoy the Arctic wilderness from spacious decks or a comfortable salon; share your memories of the day at the cosy wood paneled bar; or help the crew to hoist the sails - the choice is yours. Some departures are onboard a 104 year old classic schooner, full of character and reminiscent of vessels used by early polar explorers. This handsome ship carries just 20 guests in 10 twin bedded cabins, with hot showers, large open decks and good food. Her pilot house provides all round views from the comfort of a centrally heated wood paneled interior. Other voyages are onboard two different 3 masted barquentines - equally stunning and whose 16 cabins are all en suite.
Arctic Spring Voyages
Spring comes late to Spitsbergen. After months of darkness it is not until we experience Midnight Sun that Arctic sea ice has receded enough to allow access to south westerly parts of Spitsbergen. These areas melt first because in addition to heat from the sun, the tail end of the Gulf Stream warms the seas here.
From early May to early June you can join 8 day tall ship Arctic Spring South Spitsbergen Voyages. You will be able to feel a wave of optimism arriving in Spitsbergen amongst hundreds of thousands of seabirds flocking to their summer nesting and feeding areas, with good chances of spotting Arctic mammals and marine life.
Midsummer Sailing Voyages
From mid June to July our focus is North Spitsbergen Sailing Voyages. The sea ice should have receded sufficiently to provide access to some of the season’s best wildlife areas, stunning glacier, mountain and cliff coastlines and huge bird nesting areas. The Midnight Sun will be at its peak.
Late July to the first days of September is the season for the most complete navigation of Spitsbergen: 16 day Around Spitsbergen Sailing Voyages.
Late Summer & Autumn
As the short Arctic summer draws to a close, we enter a period of rapid change in which temperatures can oscillate above and below freezing point. It is also a period when opportunities to see the Northern Lights get better by the day as night time hours start to get longer. Sunsets during September can be spectacular.
Access to the north will become more difficult as sea ice starts to reform, so this is the season for 8 day West Spitsbergen & Northern Lights Voyages, focusing on areas where the Gulf Stream holds back the spread of sea ice. It is also an ideal time for the outdoor photographer to join a 9 day Spitsbergen Tall Ship Sailing Photography Voyage.
Daily guided programme
In Spitsbergen, you will often land by zodiac twice daily to make hikes and explore glaciers, tundra and historic sites on foot. There is no such thing as a typical day, but usually after breakfast your expedition leader / guide will provide a briefing on the day's schedule. All guests are then invited to prepare themselves for a walking trip ashore, transferred by zodiac. Depending on the guide to passenger ratio, the group may be split according to interests or length of walk desired. After the morning's on-shore activities you will return to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon you will explore onshore again, with wildlife opportunities or weather often being the deciding factors. Expert natural history guidance is an essential ingredient for sailing in the Arctic and your guides will share their knowledge of wildlife, history and culture both on land and through a series of onboard lectures and discussions. Safety is also key in the Realm of the Polar Bear, so groups necessarily need to stick close to their armed guide whenever on land.
Whilst we offer these sailing voyages as individual experiences, we can also integrate land based day trips before and after your voyage, both in Spitsbergen & mainland Norway. Activities include dog sledding (on snow and on wheels), fossil hunting, sea kayaking, mountain trekking and glacier walking.
At Aqua-Firma we tend to shout quietly about our environmental commitment and credibility. This is our background and our heritage being conservation professionals, marine and environmental scientists. Even though sailing ships emit less carbon than motor ships, we still offset the carbon emissions of your polar voyage and flights when booked through us, via our Rainforest4Climate programme.
Price promise and protection
Aqua-Firma is a fully ATOL bonded and financially protected travel operator. We have the knowledge and experience to arrange flights, hotels, and further extensions and activities to provide you with a seamless trip. We pride ourselves on a friendly personal service with 24 hours direct telephone support both before you depart and whilst you are away. Finally we promise not be beaten on price for a like for like voyage.