Summary : Spitsbergen and the Svalbard archipelago offer a tremendous wildlife and birdlife experience, as well as a fascinating lesson in glaciology. The islands are the northernmost inhabited places on the planet and would be permanently locked in ice if not for the moderating influence of the Atlantic Gulf Stream current. First used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, the islands are now celebrated as a breeding ground for many seabirds, along with marine mammals and the elusive polar bear.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$999,999,999 to $0
Today you will embark on your expedition ship in Longyearbyen. With almost 24 hours of daylight at this time of the year, enjoy the views from the outer decks of the ship as you sail through Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden. Entering the vast expanse of the Greenland Sea, your ship heads south, hugging the main island of Spitsbergen.
Arrive at the southerly Bourbonhamna – well known for the beluga whales that transit the narrow sound. It is estimated there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population. Search for belugas from the ship and the Zodiacs and plan your first shore excursion at Bourbonhamna. An old hunting cabin and other artefacts are points of interest during your hike to Ingebrigstenbukta. However, it is the massive piles of beluga whalebones that catch everybody’s attention. While wandering amongst these relics hope to catch a glimpse of dozens of reindeer that inhabit the area.
Coming around the most southerly point of Spitsbergen, push into the broad expanse of Storfjorden. Exploring Dolerittneset near Kapp Lee, the lush vegetation of this region is remarkable given you are at 70° North in latitude. This area has a large scattering of reindeer antlers; however, it is the plethora of ancient whale bones that makes the excursion so memorable. Time and the elements have altered their original shape and sculpted them into works of art that make fascinating photographic subjects.
Returning to the west coast, glacier-filled bays surround you as you sail into Hornsund. With good ice conditions, you will be able to navigate close to the glaciers that are a feature of the area. The entire archipelago of Svalbard is a 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. Anchor the ship in a protected harbor, launch the Zodiacs and cruise along the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. Watch out for bearded and ringed seals 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 is around 80 meters high. 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, you might 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. Nearby Smeerenburgfjorden has a four-hundred-year history of whaling.
Continue north and east up into the ice, hoping to cross the 80° north parallel. As we approach the ice edge the ship slows down and all hands are either on the bridge or out on the outer decks as we start scanning for wildlife. Bearded seals, ringed seals, walrus, and polar bear may be found hauled out on the edges of the ice. Our ship is perfectly designed for near silent approach and our Captain takes great pride in bringing us in close enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it. At 81° degrees north latitude, Phippsoya 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. We have enjoyed excellent encounters with them in recent seasons in this area.
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 for our 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 adventure in Svalbard. Arctic fox can often be seen here, as well as reindeer. Towering above the 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.
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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
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. It must cover cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. 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.
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.
Sea Kayaking: $695 per person; pre-booking required
Participants will be accompanied by 3 kayak guides. This optional activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex dry suits, kayak-specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies and many other vital paddling accessories. Limited to 16 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; transfers between the designated meeting points and the ship; luggage transfer from designated locations to/from cabin; complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day; shore excursions; services of guides and naturalist staff; access to multimedia room and download stations; gear on loan (windproof/waterproof jacket, bib pants, rubber boots, water-resistant binoculars, waterproof backpack, and trekking poles). Subject to change without notice.
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.