Summary : The Norwegian territory of Svalbard and the islands that make up the archipelago offer a tremendous wildlife and birdlife experience, as well as a fascinating lesson in glaciology. The islands were first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries and are now celebrated as a breeding ground for many seabirds, along with marine mammals and the elusive polar bear. This voyage focuses on the western and northern coast of Spitsbergen, and as far north as the permanent pack ice. Your expedition vessel is perfectly suited for remote polar exploration. With her high ice classification, she can push further to the north along the edge of the ice pack. It is here you may encounter the icon of the Arctic—the polar bear—hunting for seals and other protein sources to sustain them through the Arctic summer. Throughout the journey, enjoy a comprehensive series of presentations by polar specialists, providing an excellent background to the expedition. Days are busy with shore excursions to places of historic interest, visits to wildlife colonies, viewing native flora, and soaking in the stunning landscapes. Short or long hikes onshore are another feature along with regular cruising in Zodiacs. Sea kayaking is another popular option.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$5,895 to $12,695
Embark your expedition ship in Longyearbyen, throw the lines, and sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden in 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 fellow passengers and the expedition team during an introductory briefing and enjoy a welcome dinner as you set sail.
Beluga whales are frequently seen transiting 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 a dorsal fin is an adaptation to living in waters that are frequently covered by ice. During 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 catch one's attention. The bones and all artifacts are protected by the Svalbard Government. While wandering the shore, you might glimpse the dozens of reindeer that inhabit the area.
Lilliehook Glacier, at the head of the northwestern arm of Krossfjorden, is an incredible sight. The glacier face stretches almost 4.5 miles and has a height of around 262 feet. Take in the view from the ship or on a Zodiac cruise and you'll appreciate the enormous scale of your surroundings. The shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and a variety of different species. Anchor off a small harbor and cruise in a Zodiac along the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. Cruising the dark waters, stay on the lookout for bearded and ringed seals—both species are known to frequent this fjord.
No trip along the north coast of Spitsbergen would be complete without a visit to Monacobreen (Monaco Glacier). A wide glacier face at the head of the fjord makes for spectacular kayaking and Zodiac cruising. The coastal plain near the mouth of Liefdefjorden offers superb hiking and is often a great place to spot polar bears that come here to hunt for ringed seals or feed on bird's eggs.
At 81° north latitude, Phippsoya is just 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. The high ice classification of the ship allows an approach the edge of the pack ice in safety and comfort. Because of its proximity to the permanent Arctic ice pack, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing. In recent seasons visitors have enjoyed excellent encounters with polar bears in this vicinity. Be sure to visit the ship’s bridge and take a picture of the GPS showing your latitude or, better yet, take your own handheld GPS with you and mark in the way point so close to the North Pole!
From the ice edge, enter the main channel separating Svalbard’s two main islands. 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 Zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or Zodiac cruise between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here, affording breathtaking views.
As your Zodiac approaches the shore of Fuglesangenoya, it becomes apparent there are thousands of birds nesting on the island. Home to a large dovekie colony, the formation of the island allows for excellent viewing without impacting upon the perimeter of the colony. Just a few miles from Fuglesangen is the old whaling station of Smeerenburg, literally translated as "Blubber Town." As you hike the shoreline of the old station, learn about the importance of whaling in the discovery and exploration of the Svalbard archipelago. The blubber ovens stand as a reminder to this harsh industry in an equally harsh environment.
The sight and sound of a walrus haul-out spells Arctic like nothing else can. Visit the walrus colony on Prince Charles Island and hope to see these odd looking animals ashore. Tonight, 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 to explore the town before transferring to the airport for your onward flight to Tromso or Oslo.
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.
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.
Important Voyage Logistics:
This trip starts in Longyearbyen, the principal town in the Svalbard archipelago. It is recommended that you arrive in Longyearbyen at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure date to provide 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 for your onward flight is provided, or to your local hotel if staying in Longyearbyen.
A range of guided hiking options are available for passengers, from contemplative, relaxing shore walks to two- to three-hour treks with challenging terrain.
The photographer-in-residence provides presentations, critiques, informal instruction, and a photographer Zodiac to assist with each passenger's photographic goals.
Photography Symposium: 6/19/2019
Unique to this departure is a shipboard photography symposium open to all guests and not to be missed by photography buffs. This program runs parallel to the ship's regular series of presentations on history, ornithology, geology and the natural world, daily excursions, and activities. Travel with a team of up to five highly experienced professional photographers who will offer 1-on-1 support, providing practical guidance, deep insight, and personal photographic critique. You will focus on ideal light conditions while having access to heightened opportunities on deck and on designated Zodiacs for photographers. Special excursions will include early mornings and late evenings chasing the gorgeous Arctic light. You will make regular use of the shipboard multimedia studio for breakout sessions and to review and critique your images throughout the voyage. The program is designed for all skill levels and different camera types, and no extra charges apply. Participating in the photography symposium is optional. Please register your interest at the time of booking.
Sea Kayaking: pre-booking required
Limited to 16 participants. Kayakers will be accompanied by highly experienced kayak guides. This optional activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport or local hotel on disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; resident photography guide available to assist all guests (6/19/2019 departure includes onboard photography symposium); emergency-trained medical physician onboard every voyage; daily off-ship excursions and guided hikes ashore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and community visits; educational presentations and talks onboard or ashore; use of library, sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; 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. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the itinerary; visa and passport expenses; pre- or post-cruise hotel accommodation and transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); optional paid activities such as sea kayaking; personal expenses onboard such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, massage, spa treatments or laundry charges; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation or medical travel insurance related expenses; a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Boris Wise; © Daisy Gilardini; © Peter and Beverly Pickford