North Spitsbergen & Beyond In Search of Polar Bears
Small Polar Ship Voyages to Spitsbergen
Spitsbergen's towering mountains, calving glaciers and majestic fjords provide a breathtaking backdrop for endless photographic opportunities, in this land of the midnight sun. This truly is the wildlife capital of the High Arctic; home to around 3000 polar bears, uniquely protected from hunting. This stunning Arctic wilderness invites memorable and often magical wildlife encounters with whales, seals, walruses, reindeer, arctic fox and others as well as the chance to be amongst thousands of migratory seabirds. The history of exploration and exploitation of the region is fascinating and during your voyage you will be guided by experts in their field, maximising your time on land and providing a true insight into this unique environment.
Small ice strengthened vessels
Based on years of on-location knowledge and expertise, Aqua-Firma polar specialists understand what makes a truly memorable Arctic trip. We offer an inspiring range of Spitsbergen voyages onboard a portfolio of the highest quality small ships; from comfortable informal 12 guest expedition cruises to elegant ice strengthened ships carrying between 50-189 passengers, exploring the polar wilderness within an intimate setting of like-minded people.
Our voyages invite you to maximise your contact with the Arctic environment, immersing your senses by expert led landings, zodiac cruising, walking and on some departures photographic workshops escorted by leaders in their field. If your passion is polar wildlife, history, birding or botany we have the knowledge and experience to help you find a trip to suit your interest and budget. Onboard you may enjoy the freedom of the ship - standing beside the captain as the navigates through the ice or find your own space in the bar or library.
For information about our Arctic voyages onboard our smaller sailing yachts and tallships of 12-32 passengers please click here.
For those seeking a little more adventure we can arrange activities which add a further unique element to your voyage: snow shoeing, mountaineering, exploring by kayak or even scuba diving.
Exploring on land
Whichever your vessel of choice, the trip objective is to offer an intimate exploration of the coast and onshore. Rigid inflatable boats serve as landing craft, perfect for guided twice daily landings to impressive glacier fronts, majestic icebergs and providing an essential platform for close up observations of the truly incredible wildlife of the polar regions.
Exceptional guiding and expertise
Our polar guides are amongst the most professional and personable in their field. These include in-house Aqua-Firma marine scientists, former staff of the British Antarctic Survey, former Director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, wildlife experts, historians, geologists and professional photographers, all primed to inform and inspire. Expert natural history guidance is an invaluable element of your experience and our guides share their knowledge of wildlife, history and culture both on land and through a series of onboard lectures and discussions.
Daily guided programme
Throughout our sailing voyages, we land by zodiac to make twice daily hikes and explore glaciers, tundra and historic sites on foot. There is no such thing as a typical day, but usually after breakfast our expedition leader / guide provides 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 numbers, the group may be split according to interests or length of walk desired. After the morning's onshore activities we return to the ship for lunch and then explore further in the afternoon, with wildlife opportunities or weather often being the deciding factors. 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.
Where and when to explore Spitsbergen
We offer many ways to explore the Arctic wilderness and wildlife highlights of Spitsbergen. After repositioning voyages from Scotland, through the Arctic Ocean to Spitsbergen, early season North Spitsbergen Voyages take advantage of the period of greatest early activity in the Arctic, with ice and snow still melting and breeding activity at its busiest. Mother and cub polar bears have left their dens and are looking for food often on the sea ice edge. These are magical voyages which explore the west coast and North Spitsbergen as far as sea ice permits.
A circumnavigation of the archipelago is usually not possible until later in the season when the ice has sufficiently retreated and the tundra is in full bloom. Around Spitsbergen Voyages take place throughout July to mid-August and provide wonderful opportunities to see Arctic wildlife, migratory birdlife and the Midnight Sun and, when conditions allow, to go around the main island group.
Further North some of our voyages head to very edge of the Arctic sea ice in search of polar bears hunting ringed seals. These may be early season and towards the end when the aim is to reach Kvitøya.
Later in August and into September, ships can combine Spitsbergen with the dramatic coastal mountains of North East Greenland. This is when we can begin to see the Northern Lights (Aurora borealis), far away from the light pollution of civilisation!
Our promise and your protection
Polar voyages are a major commitment for most travellers. Aqua-Firma is a fully ATOL bonded and protected travel operator with the knowledge and experience to arrange flights, hotels, and further extensions to your Arctic trip. Our polar consultants deliver a personal and professional service with 24 hours direct telephone support both before you depart and whilst you are away. Finally we realise that polar experiences can be an expensive undertaking and we promise that for any experience which is directly comparable we will not be beaten on price.
Expertise to extend your travel plans
We are a specialist at tailor made travel within Spitsbergen and operate some excellent day trips, both here and in nearby Tromsø. These include dog sledding, fossil hunting, sea kayaking or energetic full day treks. For those wishing to extend to Greenland or Iceland we can assist in exploration of the region's dramatic tectonic scenery and marine life.
For details about our inspiring polar experiences please click on a selected destination below or Contact Us to help decide which of our many experience options might best deliver the experience you are seeking.