Summary : Spitsbergen and the Svalbard archipelago offer a tremendous wildlife 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 celebrated as a breeding ground for many seabirds, along with marine mammals and the elusive polar bear. Your expedition ship is the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, perfectly suited for remote polar exploration. With her high ice classification, you are able to push further to the north, along the edge of the ice pack. Here, the icon of the Arctic—the polar bear—is encountered hunting for seals and other protein sources to sustain them through the Arctic summer. Throughout your journey, enjoy a comprehensive series of presentations by polar experts, providing an excellent background to the expedition. Days are busy with shore excursions to places of historic interest, visits to wildlife colonies, viewing the exquisite native flora and soaking up the stunning landscapes. Short or long hikes on shore are another feature along with regular cruising in Zodiacs. Sea kayaking is another popular option. The voyage focuses on the western and northern coast of Spitsbergen, and as far north as the permanent pack ice. This area has the highest concentration of wildlife and places of historic and scenic interest in the archipelago.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark your expedition ship in Longyearbyen, throw the lines, and sail out of Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden during 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. On your shore excursion, an old hunting cabin and other artifacts are points of interest during your scenic hike to Ingebrigstenbukta. However, it is the massive piles of beluga whalebones that catch attention. The bones and all artifacts are protected by the Svalbard Government. While wandering on 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 seven kilometers and has a height of around 80 meters. Viewed from the ship or on a Zodiac cruise, come to 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 one small harbor and cruise in the Zodiacs 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 your ship allows you to 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 bear in this vicinity. Be sure to get up to 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." Hiking 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 this morning to explore the town before transferring to the airport for your onward flight to Tromso or Oslo.
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.
Medical Documentation: 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.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance. The travel insurance must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter), luggage and personal effects, and personal liability. It is strongly recommended that you purchase cancellation and curtailment insurance. 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. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Important Voyage Logistics:
This trip starts in Longyearbyen, the principal town in the Svalbard archipelago. Longyearbyen is easily accessed with several daily flights from Norway's capital city – Oslo. Flights are also available from Tromso in the north of Norway. It is recommended that you arrive in Longyearbyen at least one day prior to the scheduled voyage departure date. 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.
Artists-in-Residence: 6/19/2018, 6/28/2018
David McEown and Bruce Pearson collaborate by sharing their artistic skills on how to express wildlife encounters and breathtaking landscapes above 80 degrees North in Norway. As a landscape and wildlife artist, David McEown shares his knowledge about the medium of watercolor he has gathered for the past 25 years, exploring and expressing many of this earth's disappearing wilderness areas. His paintings from Antarctica to the North Pole are represented in collections worldwide. Bruce Pearson has worked for the past 20 years as a painter and printmaker. Pearson is an avid ornithologist and passionate about the Polar Regions. Guests will benefit from his excellent polar wildlife expertise and how to capture them in paintings.
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.
Photography Symposium: 6/19/2018
Unique to this departure is a custom program designed for photography enthusiasts. This program runs parallel to daily excursions and activities. The photography team, led by Nikon master and award-winning photographer Daisy Gilardini, provides practical guidance and deept insight. 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 open to photographers of all abilities and is included as part of the voyage. Please register your interest at the time of booking.
Transfer from the airport to the hotel upon arrival; transfer to the ship on embarkation day; transfer from the ship to the airport or local hotel on disembarkation; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lounge and in all cabins (replenished daily); expertise of experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides, and photographers; daily shore excursions by Zodiac boat in small groups; guided hikes; educational presentations and talks by polar experts; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained physician onboard every voyage; onboard sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center with personal trainer and massage options (additional charges apply for massage and spa treatments); well-stocked library with polar reference books; end of voyage video, photos, and take home USB; port fees and permits to access visited areas; and gear on loan (waterproof/windproof jacket, bib pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, and trekking poles). Subject to change without notice.
Any international or local airfare unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary; airport taxes; visa and passport expenses; pre- and post-cruise hotel accommodations unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged); personal expenses on board such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, extra meals, or laundry expenses; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation, or medical travel insurance-related expenses; travel insurance (mandatory on all trips); optional activities (i.e. kayaking); a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew (suggested amount $12-15 per day).
PHOTOS: © Boris Wise; © Daisy Gilardini; © Peter and Beverly Pickford