Summary : Begin the exploration of the Svalbard archipelago in Longyearbyen, capital city of this Norwegian Territory. Following embarkation of the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, sail out of Isfjorden (Ice Fjord) and begin exploration down the west coast and around the southern end of Spitsbergen, the larger of the two principle islands that make up the bulk of the Svalbard archipelago. From the start of the voyage, immerse in the land of the polar bear, beluga, walrus and reindeer. This voyage features an onboard wellness program, excellent cuisine prepared by a culinary team, and a kayaking option.
Activities : Birding, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Today, embark your expedition ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov in Longyearbyen and as the crew throw the lines, sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during the early evening. With almost 24 hours of daylight at this time of the year, enjoy the views from the outer decks of the ship as you depart. Meet your expedition team during an introductory briefing and then enjoy a welcome dinner in the ship's comfortable dining room. Entering the vast expanse of the Greenland Sea, your ship heads south, hugging the main island of Spitsbergen to port.
Arrive at the southerly Bourbonhamna – well known for the beluga whales that transit the narrow sound. Adults are pure white and the younger calves a mottled gray color. It is estimated there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population. The beluga has no dorsal fin, a feature of whale species that live in the high Arctic such as the narwhal and bowhead. Since a dorsal fin could be damaged when the animal surfaces in areas with ice, it has been postulated the lack of dorsal fin is an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice.
Search for belugas from the ship and while zodiac cruising and then plan your first shore excursion at Bourbonhamna. An old hunting cabin and other artifacts are points of interest during our hike to Ingebrigstenbukta. However, it is the massive piles of beluga whalebones that catch everybody’s attention. The bones and all artifacts are protected by the Svalbard Government and cannot be removed. While wandering amongst these relics, you may catch a glimpse of dozens of reindeer that inhabit the area.
Coming around the most southerly point of Spitsbergen, we push into the broad expanse of Storfjorden. Landing at Dolerittneset near Kapp Lee, the lush vegetation of this region is remarkable given the fact you are at 70° North in latitude. This landing site has a large scattering of reindeer antlers, however it is the plethora of ancient whalebones that makes the landing so memorable. Some 400 years ago whales were hunted almost to extinction in the waters surrounding Svalbard. Now nature has turned the decaying old bones into items of beauty. Time and the elements have altered their original shape and sculptured them into works of art. They are covered in blankets of green mosses and grasses, spattered with blotches of black and orange lichen, and framed with purple saxifrage, yellow cinquefoil and white sandwort flowers. They are fascinating photographic subjects. Now, even after death, the noble whale supports life by robustly protecting the delicate flora from the harsh winds and providing nutrients to ensure their survival.
Returning to the west coast, glacier-filled bays surround you as you sail the ship into Hornsund. With good ice conditions, you are able to navigate close to the glaciers that are a feature of the area. The entire archipelago of Svalbard is a giant lesson in glaciology and your onboard guides will use your hikes and zodiac cruises to explain the formation of this fantastic landscape.
The rocky shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and a range of species. The ship's anchor in a protected harbor before you launch the zodiacs and cruise along the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. Bearded and ringed seals are known to frequent the waters here and you keep an eye out for them in the dark waters of the fjord.
Lilliehook Glacier, at the northwestern head of Krossfjorden, is an incredible sight. The glacier face stretches almost seven kilometers and has a height of around 80-meters. Viewed from the ship or on a zodiac cruise you come to appreciate the enormous scale of your surroundings. Later in the day as you sail out of Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden, you may be fortunate enough to see the historic airship anchor pylon near the scientific community of Ny Ålesund.
This remote outpost earned its place in aviation pioneering history as a starting point for North Pole aviation exploration. Notable pioneer aviators including Zeppelin, Amundsen, Ellsworth, Byrd and Nobile all passed through Ny Ålesund. Nearby, Smeerenburgfjorden has a four hundred year history of whaling and is a favorite spot as you round the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. A wander along the beach looking at the blubber cookers, or an hour behind a tripod shooting landscapes on your camera might be on the schedule, all the while looking for wildlife that can appear anywhere in Svalbard.
Continue north and east up into the ice, hoping to cross the 80° north parallel. As you approach the ice edge the ship slows down and all hands are either on the bridge or out on the outer decks as you start scanning for wildlife. Bearded seals, ringed seals and walrus may be found hauled out on the edges of the ice. Harp seals swim in herds of 10 to 20 through the open water channels in the ice. A buttery colored lump miles away on the ice metamorphoses into a polar bear as you slowly approach while working your way through the ice toward it. Your ship is perfectly designed for near silent approach and your Captain takes great pride in bringing you in close enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it.
At 81° north latitude, Phippsoya - one of the Seven Islands - is only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. Because of its proximity to the permanent pack ice, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing. This area has offered excellent encounters in recent seasons. Be sure to get up to the bridge and take a picture of the ship's GPS showing this incredibly high polar latitude as you near the top of the world.
From the ice edge, turn south into the main strait separating Svalbard’s two main islands: Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. In Hinlopen Strait the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to more than a hundred thousand breeding Brunnich’s guillemots, as well as thousands of kittiwakes and black guillemots. It is a spectacular site and a challenging one zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or cruise as you navigate the waterways between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here which take you up to high points affording staggering views and further opportunities to encounter Arctic wildlife.
Entering Leifdefjorden, slowly cruise towards the Monaco Glacier. This vast sweep of ice more than seven kilometers wide provides a fabulous backdrop for a zodiac cruise. Miles of ice face broken up by ice caves and tumbling seracs are a sight to behold, as are the thousands of black-legged kittiwakes feeding on the upwelling of rich nutrients found near the sub-glacial outflow. A morning of cruising in the ice is best followed by a hike on the tundra. Red phalaropes, purple sandpipers and vibrant tundra provide plenty of viewing and photography opportunities. As you explore the landscape on foot, the remains of fox traps and sun bleached seal bones speak of both human interaction and wildlife predation.
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers breathtaking views and an incredible tundra walk as you near the end of your Svalbard adventure. Arctic fox and reindeer can often be seen here. Towering above the landing site is a horn-shaped mount covered in guillemots and kittiwakes. Only as you approach and stop to listen will you hear the chorus of thousands of birds, all singing at the same time. This evening, celebrate your journey with a special dinner attended by the ship’s Captain. It's a great time to reflect on a wonderful voyage in this wild and remote place.
Arriving back into Longyearbyen this morning, disembark after breakfast and say farewell to your expedition team and fellow passengers. A transfer into town is provided for those choosing to stay a few days. If you are departing today, enjoy a few hours this morning to explore the town, before transferring to the airport for your onward flight to Tromso or Oslo.
Specific sites visited will depend on ice and weather conditions experienced and the itinerary will be updated throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favorable conditions.
Once you have booked your voyage to the Polar Regions, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.
Enhanced Photography Program:
Join the expedition team and specialty photographers for an extended shore excursion aimed at capturing specialty subjects with a remarkable backdrop. An onboard photographer is available to work with you throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography and encourage you to look at scenes or events in a different way in order to capture them digitally. Also available is an onboard multimedia download studio with computers, cables, and hard-drives for back-up storage and for creating DVDs of your images.
Sea Kayaking Option: $695 per person
Pre-booked option. If you have experience sea kayaking and are interested in doing this activity during the expedition, you will need to book this option prior to departure from home. You cannot book this activity once onboard. There is a separate document for sea kayakers that you will need to review beforehand.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.
Accommodations onboard; meals; complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day; shore excursions; services of guides and naturalist staff; access to multimedia room and download stations; use of onboard expedition rubber boots; use of wet weather gear; transfers as applicable.
International airfare; pre- and post-cruise hotel nights; passport and visa fees; excess baggage charges; airport taxes; travel insurance; all gratuities; extra meals; items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks; medical expenses; optional activities and trips; kayaking supplement.