Luxury Expedition Ship
The Arctic is a place I have always envisioned as mysterious and adventurous, truly one of the most untouched places on earth. Traveling to this remote region has been a lifelong dream of mine ever since I can remember! Many travelers go for the polar bear, walrus, reindeer, and perhaps sightings of Arctic fox, belugas, or an elusive narwhal. Indeed it is a wildlife wonderland, and one of the best places on the planet for seeing polar bears on ice, yet I was surprised to experience such deep joy from being surrounded by the incredible beauty and the vast expanses of ice, snow, and breathtaking scenery in what is aptly called the Frozen North.
As I explored Svalbard on my 9-day voyage, searching for wildlife in one of the most remote wilderness regions on the planet, I felt like I was in a nature documentary. Among the more dramatic locations we visited was Alkefjellet, home to one of the largest Guillemot rookeries. Nesting upon the rocky cliffs and spires, amid colorful moss and lichens, were over 120,000 distinctive black and white seabirds. Sometimes the birds took flight and nearly darkened the sky, seemingly blending in with the cliffs. The graceful and agile Arctic tern made an appearance as it chased the polar summer. Traveling between the Arctic and Antarctica, Arctic terns log an astounding 22,000 miles round-trip each year! We even had the thrill of sighting polar bears. Until we were up close, I never really understood how truly massive they are. At one point, an Arctic fox trotted right past a resting polar bear yet neither of them seemed to care about the other at all. Amazing!
Activities were offered for many fitness levels, from contemplative walks to more strenuous hikes on shore. Kayaking, which offered a unique way to view the wildlife and scenery on a completely different level, was one of my personal highlights. Humpback whales and curious harp seals popped up right at the edge of several of our kayaks! Paddling amongst small icebergs called growlers (huggable sized bergs) as we made our way to the front of the glacier was extraordinary. We were ¼ mile away, and it still seemed like it was towering over us! I’ll never forget my serene experience of a gentle paddle through the Arctic waters. It was a fabulous experience, and I cannot emphasize enough how highly I recommend it.
My home away from home in the Arctic was the comfortable 112-passenger Sea Spirit, which offers some of the largest cabins available for small-ship travel in the polar regions. The lecture room, dining area, and public spaces all have wonderful large windows, so there is always an opportunity for scenic viewing. Even though the expert naturalists onboard had been to the Arctic many times, they seemed as excited as if they were seeing everything for the first time…yet they had all the answers! Between the fantastic staff and the wonderful accommodations, I found the Sea Spirit to be a fantastic platform for exploration.
I have traveled to the land of the midnight sun, and have come away amazed by the sheer size and beauty of the polar desert. The life that can withstand its severity is nothing short of extraordinary. I can’t wait to visit the incredible Arctic again soon!