Summary : The Norwegian territory of Svalbard and the islands that make up its archipelago offer a tremendous wildlife and birding experience as well as a fascinating lesson in glaciology. First used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, the islands are now a celebrated breeding ground for many seabirds, marine mammals, and polar bears. Push far to the north along the edge of the ice pack in hopes of encountering polar bears hunting seals and other protein sources to sustain them through the Arctic summer. Days are busy with onboard presentations, shore excursions, visits to wildlife colonies, viewing exquisite native flora, and soaking up stunning landscapes. Opt for short or long hikes onshore or take a Zodiac cruise. Sea kayaking is another popular option. This voyage focuses on the western and northern coast of Spitsbergen, and as far north as the permanent pack ice for the highest concentration of wildlife and places of historic and scenic interest in the archipelago.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$8,195 to $17,795
Embark in Longyearbyen. Sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden then out into the Greenland Sea. So begins your Arctic cruise, 24 hours of daylight and hopefully some great photographic opportunities and memories.
Beluga whales are frequently seen as they transit the narrow sound near Bourbonhamna. It is estimated there are approximately five to ten thousand belugas in the Svalbard population. The beluga has no dorsal fin; a diagnostic feature of whale species that live in the High Arctic such as the narwhal and bowhead. It has been postulated that the beluga's lack of dorsal fin is an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice. On a shore excursion, an old hunting cabin and other artifacts are points of interest during a scenic hike to Ingebrigstenbukta. However, it is the huge piles of beluga whale bones that stand out—a reminder of Svalbard's hunting past. The bones and all artifacts are protected by the Svalbard Government. While wandering on shore, hope to catch a glimpse of the reindeer that inhabit the area.
Coming around the most southerly point of Spitsbergen, the ship will push into the broad expanse of Storfjorden. Exploring Dolerittneset near Kapp Lee, the lush vegetation of this region is remarkable given the latitude at 70° North. This area has a large scattering of reindeer antlers; however, it is the plethora of ancient whale bones that makes the excursion 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 sculpted them into works of art, covered in blankets of green moss and grasses, 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, explore the glacier-filled bay leading into Hornsund. The entire archipelago of Svalbard is a lesson in glaciology and your onboard guides will explain the formation of this fantastic landscape during hikes and Zodiac excursions. Hornsund is home to the Polish Polar research station and a good place to see reindeer and Arctic foxes.
The rocky shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and a range of species. The ship will anchor in a protected harbor. Board a Zodiac and cruise along the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. Bearded and ringed seals are known to frequent the waters here—watch 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 just over four miles and has a height of around 262-feet. Viewed from the Zodiac, you come to appreciate the enormous scale of your surroundings. Large colonies of birds including kittiwakes and ivory gulls can be seen diving at the front of the glacier when chunks calve off, stirring up the nutrients in the water. Polar bears can often be seen patrolling here because of the number of seals on ice.
Sailing 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 400-year history of whaling and is a favorite spot as the expedition rounds the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. Spend time wandering the beach looking at the blubber cookers or spend an hour behind a tripod shooting landscapes on your camera, all 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. Approaching the ice-edge the ship slows down and all hands are either on the bridge or out on the outer decks 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 morphs into a polar bear as the ship slowly works its way through the ice toward it. The ship is perfectly designed for a near silent approach and the captain takes great pride in bringing you in as close as possible to the wildlife without disturbing it for some great photographic opportunities.
At 81° degrees 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 viewings. Be sure to visit the bridge and take a picture of the ship's GPS showing this incredibly high polar latitude 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. The huge basalt cliffs and skies are thick with birds as they hurl themselves off the rockface.
Polar bears are common in the Hinlopen area and there are a few different walrus haul-outs. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or cruise as the ship navigates the waterways between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here up to high points with spectacular views and further opportunities to encounter Arctic wildlife.
Enter Leifdefjorden and slowly cruise towards the Monaco Glacier. This vast sweep of ice more than four miles wide provides a fabulous backdrop for a Zodiac cruise. Ice caves and tumbling seracs are an impressive sight 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 photo opportunities. The geology is fascinating, and this is a great chance to see reindeer and Arctic foxes.
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers breathtaking views and an incredible tundra walk. Arctic fox and reindeer can often be seen here. Towering above the site is a horn-shaped mount covered in guillemots and kittiwakes. This evening, celebrate the 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.
Return to 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, you'll have a few hours in the morning to explore the town before transferring to the airport for your onward flight.
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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must obtain a valid and enforceable policy of travel and baggage insurance including full coverage for medical, dental, accident, repatriation/evacuation and baggage, together with (for all insurances) any coverage extensions required for the region and activities of the travel. Passengers must be able to provide evidence of insurance to the shipping company upon request. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for polar trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage, and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
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.
Important Voyage Logistics:
This trip starts in Longyearbyen, the principal twon in the Svalbard archipelago. It is recommended that you arrive in Longyearbyen at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure date. This gives you a buffer in the event of any unexpected travel delays between home and trip departure time. An airport transfer shuttle to your hotel is provided upon arrival. At the conclusion of the trip a transfer to the airport or a local hotel is included.
Limited to 30 guests. Pre-booking required. Must have prior sea kayaking experience. All intending kayakers must complete a questionnaire outlining their paddling experience and also attend several compulsory onboard meetings prior to the first kayak excursion. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
An onboard photographer is available throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography skills. Attend presentations, receive hands-on tips and advice, and use the onboard multimedia studio to edit your images.
Departures are family-friendly with additional programming for 'Young Explorers.' There will be hands-on activities in the field with binoculars and journals provided, a miniature laboratory, and social events such as movie nights with popcorn, game nights, and on-deck wildlife identification. Families can expect to learn about the early explorers during their voyage, see hundreds of seabirds, spot whales and seals, take Zodiac trips to get up close to wildlife, and visit traditional communities within the region. Children will receive a membership to the Young Explorers Club, an embroidered badge and certificate, and specialized pre-departure information.
Transfer to the ship on embarkation day; transfer from the ship to the airport or local hotel upon disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; adventure concierge staff; dedicated hospitality team; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac; guided hikes and walks onshore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks by polar specialists; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained physician on every voyage; use of onboard library, Finnish sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center; end of voyage video, photos and take-home USB; gear on loan (waterproof/windproof jacket, bib pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, and trekking poles); all meals onboard the ship; daily housekeeping; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lounge and in all cabins (replenished daily); port fees and permits to access visited areas. Subject to change without notice.
Additional Inclusions for Suites:
Exclusive check-in service on day of embarkation; deluxe welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); single brew coffee machine; mini-stereo; private in-room One Ocean Adventure Concierge service; in-room dining menu; early morning in-room café service; evening après dinner drink service; premium in-room mini bar replenished daily (including spirits); complimentary 1-hour massage/spa experience. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Charter flights or any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); meals and transfers in arrival/departure cities; massages from registered therapist; personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, spa treatments or laundry expenses; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation, or medical travel insurance-related expenses (travel insurance is mandatory on all voyages); voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew.
PHOTOS: © One Ocean Expeditions