Summary : Travel from peaceful Kristiansund, Norway, north through stunning fjordlands to the serene glacial frontier of Svalbard. With thousands of miles of coastline, vast wildernesses and lush forests, this journey is a joy for all adventurers in search of unforgettable birds and wildlife. Set within unrivalled beauty, this seldom visited part of the world is a melting pot of flora and fauna and every opportunity is optimized so that you make the most of your wildlife sightings. Don’t forget your camera!
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Once all guests have embarked, a safety briefing will be conducted and you will depart. This evening, you will be introduced to your Expedition Leader and the Expedition Team and attend a Zodiac briefing.
The Vega Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a myriad of islands scattered in the Norwegian Sea and home to one of Norway’s largest eider duck colony. Of the 6,000 Vega islands, 59 were once inhabited by families that made their living from fishing and from eider down harvesting. Today, there are no year-round residents, but the population returns in the summer to continue the 1,500-year-old tradition of caring for the eider ducks and harvesting their precious down. The eider ducks return to their breeding ground in the Vega Archipelago every year and lay their eggs from May into June. In the fishing harbor of Nes, visit the Eider Duck Museum, which provides insight into the islander’s unique traditions as guardians of these birds and describes the process of producing eiderdown duvets. Nearby exhibitions detail the archipelago’s UNESCO status and document the history of Lånan – the largest egg and eiderdown farm in Helgeland. Before returning to the pier stop in at the Coastal Museum to have a look at their motor collection and later make a brief visit to see the Vega Church in Gladstad, a wooden church dating from 1864.
Silver Cloud will then head north to cruise Vistenfjord and the Visten National Park. Much of the park’s bedrock is gneiss, which absorbs very little water, and the water flow in the streams and rivers may vary greatly causing many cascades and waterfalls to exist. Visten National Park is an incredibly varied wilderness, ranging from fjords to vast forests and towering mountains. There are some trails at the outskirts of the national park, and depending on conditions, hike or take Zodiacs to explore this enchanting area.
At the very southern end of the Lofoten Islands are bird cliffs that hold Norway’s largest colony of Atlantic Puffins, and also good numbers of kittiwakes, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, shags, Northern Fulmars and White-tailed Eagles. Storm Petrels and Leach Petrels can be seen from early July onwards. Characteristic shoreline species are Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope, Arctic Skua, Turnstone and Arctic Tern. Slightly further north is Værøy, an island with quite a few specialties. The Norwegian Lundehund was bred to hunt puffins. Islanders caught the White-tailed Eagles with their hands! Go ashore in Værøy and hike or perhaps Zodiac cruise along the rugged coast.
Silver Cloud will continue north just a short distance to reach Reine. This village with only 307 inhabitants was once selected as the most beautiful village of Norway. Go ashore and explore the village and the area.
The morning explore the area of Tysfjord by land or Zodiac. Take a long hike to a gigantic waterfall, or a short walk to a beautiful cascade in this “alpine” area. This is the narrowest part of Norway and was formerly used by Sami reindeer herders of Sweden and Norway.
During the morning Silver Cloud will head for the Gjesværstappan Nature Reserve, one of Europe’s most accessible and largest nesting areas for Atlantic seabirds. In the late morning Silver Cloud will anchor off the Gjesværstappan Islands. Use the Zodiacs to circumnavigate Storstappen, the largest of the islands, looking for European Shags, Common and Brünnich’s Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, White-tailed Sea-eagles and Europe’s largest Atlantic Puffin colony.
In the evening Silver Cloud will sail north, rounding North Cape with its impressive cliffs.
Arrive in Kirkenes, one option is to drive southward into the Pasvik Valley sitting between Russia and Finland. Go for nature walks to observe the valley’s unique birds and plants. The Pasvik Valley is one of the last wilderness areas in Europe and has Norway’s highest concentration of brown bears. The tour also includes a visit to Høyde 96, a former military observation tower dating from the Cold War affording good views of the Pasvik Valley.
Another option might be to head west along Munkefjord to visit Neiden, a small village near the Finnish/Norwegian border, and see Neiden church, St. George’s Chapel, and the Neiden Waterfall -and even briefly cross into Finland at Näätämö.
In the afternoon, as Silver Cloud sails through the Barents Sea towards Bear Island, a series of lectures will emphasize the special history and natural history of Norway’s Far North.
Coming up to Bear Island head out on deck to watch for whales as white-beaked dolphins and minke whales are known to frequent the area.
During the morning a special AECO Briefing will be given. This briefing concerns Arctic regulations that outline the environmental policies to adhere to in order to enjoy the privilege of visiting this pristine region at the top of the world of which Bear Island is part.
Near the southern tip of this arctic island, now a nature reserve, and see thousands of seabirds diving into and out of the island’s steep cliffs. With your Zodiacs and favorable weather conditions, explore the rugged coastline. Close to 9 kilometers of cliffs are home to some of the largest bird colonies of the Northern Hemisphere. Common Guillemots, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, and Glaucous Gulls are all found along the cliff. Other species have been observed, including Atlantic Puffins and Northern Gannets. Of the more than 120 species registered, slightly more than 30 actually breed on the island. The Expedition Team will provide insights into the environment, the terrain, and the wildlife that exist in these extreme conditions.
A flexible itinerary takes advantage of favorable ice and weather conditions. Whether cruising by Zodiac among ice floes and icebergs or heading ashore for a guided walk, your adventures will bring you up close to mystical settings. Each day your Expedition Leader and Captain will determine the best course depending on changing weather, ice conditions and the wildlife we encounter. Travel to see walrus haul-outs, possibly reindeer, and maybe even spot an Arctic fox or a bearded seal. Northern Fulmars will be your constant companions. You might even encounter a few whales. Several species frequent the area, in particular Minke and beluga.
Here are a few of the places you visit:
This is the southernmost fjord on the rugged west coast of Spitsbergen Island. Jagged mountain peaks tower above glacier-filled bays. Amidst floating icebergs, watch for bearded seals, the beluga whale and the king of the Arctic – the polar bear. Sightings are fairly common as the polar bear’s favorite food, the ringed seal, breeds in the fjord. The surrounding bird cliffs are home to thousands of pairs of nesting Little Auks. Perhaps visit the remains of whaling stations and trappers’ huts.
Found on Spitsbergen’s northwest coast, Magdalenefjorden was already seen by Willem Barents in 1596. Walrus was hunted here in later days and a whaling station was set up. The remains of blubber ovens and a cemetery can still be seen. Silver Cloud will enter this scenic fjord in Northwest Spitsbergen National Park and you might land at Graveneset for a short walk.
With the strengthened hull of the Silver Cloud, you have the perfect platform to search for walrus and polar bears and at least one day will be devoted to exploring the pack ice north of Spitsbergen. Conditions permitting, your Expedition Leader may choose to take out the Zodiacs for an even closer look.
At the entrance to Liefdefjorden are several small island groups. On the Andøyane (Duck Islands), encounter polar bears looking for bird’s eggs. With the Zodiacs, perhaps circumnavigate several of the islands, always on the lookout for active birdlife. When Arctic Terns circle in specific areas, it usually is a sign for polar bear presence on the islands.
Cruising past majestic red Devonian sandstone mountains reach the end of Liefdefjorden for a Zodiac cruise along the front of two different glaciers: Monacobreen and Seligerbreen. Monacobreen has a 5 kilometer long front and is a good place to look for seals, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Ivory Gulls.
The 14th of July Bay is located at the entrance of Krossfjorden. Go ashore for a hike up to the 14th of July Glacier. Conditions permitting, you can climb onto the glacier, or, alternatively walk to the Hanging Gardens, a beautiful plant oasis underneath a bird cliff.
After breakfast, disembark Silver Cloud.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions – and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.
Kayaking will be offered complimentary and will run on a first-come-first-serve sign up basis. Guests cannot pre book the kayak tours. It will be run by two professional kayak guides. Participation requires good physical condition and right of participation is reserved. The kayak guides will make the final determination if a guest is fit to participate. Kayaking will be weather dependent.
Ship accommodation; most onboard meals (Le Champagne Restaurant excluded); butler service; most wines, champagnes and spirits on the ship; tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water and soda; parka; onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Vista and Veranda Suites receive one hour of included internet access per guest/per day; Medallion, Silver, Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive unlimited internet access; Royal, Grand, and Owner’s Suites receive laundry service throughout the voyage as well as dinner for two in Le Champagne (one evening per voyage) and two hours of worldwide phone use from your suite, per voyage segment. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; meals on board at Le Champagne Restaurant unless mentioned above as included; some alcoholic premium beverages; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; internet use not mentioned as included; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry (unless mentioned as included) and spa options; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Elliott Neep (polar bear, gull, and 3 Zodiacs cruising), © Richard Sidey (flowers, single Zodiac), © Denis Elterman (arches), © Daniela Plaza (blue sky birds, reindeer)