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Spitsbergen –Polar Bears and Arctic wildlife

AT A GLANCE

FOCUS

Bird & Wildlife Cruise: Land mammals, birds, seals, whales, scenery & photography.

WHERE

Longyearbyen (Svalbard) – exploring west and northwest Spitsbergen and islands – Longyearbyen.

SAMPLE WILDLIFE

Polar Bear, Walrus, various seals, Arctic Fox, Reindeer, breeding seabirds, Ivory Gull, King Eider, Grey Phalarope.

CLIMATE

Spring Polar.

ACCOMMODATION

100+ passenger comfortable expedition cruise ship, all cabins with private facilities. 

Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, is only 600 miles from the North Pole.   About the same size as Ireland, its name means 'pointed mountains'.  It is the summer home for an abundance of special birds, mammals and plants in a land of spectacular scenery and fascinating history.

These voyages will appeal to all who have a spirit of adventure and who love wild, remote and peaceful places.  The bird and mammal list is small, but very special.   From the spectacle of teeming colonies of thousands of Brunnich's Guillemots and Little Auks, to the grace and beauty of Ivory and (if you a very lucky) Sabine's Gulls; with colourful Grey Phalaropes and drake King Eiders alongside breeding Purple Sandpipers and Snow Buntings; with nesting Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese and Arctic and Long-tailed Skuas; and where Ptarmigan and Red-throated Divers' calls echo across the tundra; Spitsbergen has a very special appeal to the birder.  Add Polar Bears, Walruses, Belugas, Minke Whales, Arctic Foxes and Reindeer, and over 170 species of flowering plants, and it’s appeal is irresistible to any naturalist.

We have been sending people to the region for over 15 years now and are pleased to offer this selection of ‘Polar Bear Specials’ aboard two ships, both of whom are staffed by the most experienced teams working in the Arctic. These voyages offer you the best wildlife experience, at the best possible prices. We can also offer longer duration voyages on these, and other hand-picked vessels, please ask for details or see our ‘Spitsbergen for the independent traveller’ details.

Our vessels for these expedition cruises will either be the Ortelius or the Plancius, both specially converted for expedition cruising. With a maximum passenger capacity of just over 100 passengers, you can expect to make two landings and/or Zodiac cruises each day. They are both stable and a often a ‘scope and tripod can often be used on deck, whilst at sea! They have lots of open deck space in all directions, at all levels, and are ideal for sea and landscape watching and photography. The ships are comfortable with good food. They both have large lounges with bar and library. Their highly experienced staff and crew are dedicated to ensuring that you have a successful, comfortable, safe and enjoyable trip and that you see as much of the wildlife as possible.  The Zodiac drivers will take you safely ashore, and also on more leisurely cruises as well, so you will gain an even more intimate and unique perspective of the seabirds and marine mammals in this stunning wilderness. 

The atmosphere on board is relaxing and informal and meals are taken at a single open sitting in the dining room (breakfast and lunch are buffet-style).  Western chefs produce an international choice of cuisine throughout the voyage. The cabins are comfortable and all have an outside view, lower berths, desk and chair plus storage space and power points. (the triple and quadruple cabins have upper and lower berths). All cabins have private shower/washbasin and wc.

 

WildWings have been sending people here for over fifteen years now and all have all been very successful, each seeing most of the wildlife described above.   No two years are the same in the Arctic, and the unpredictability of ice conditions and consequently of wildlife make for an exciting and unique trip every time.   With a well-run and comfortable ship, a very professional expedition team, and generally settled weather with light winds and sunshine, one could not ask for more. In previous years we have offered just one such departure but we are more than confident that we now can send you on any of the similar voyages, enabling you a benefit from a good cost saving too! The 2009 trip yielded five Polar Bears, with the best views being at close range from the Zodiacs, as one strode along the shoreline in front of us for about 30 minutes! Good numbers of Walrus were also seen again and several Arctic Foxes plus the usual bird species including some stunning King Eiders, a Sabine’s and two more Iceland Gulls plus very photographable Grey Phalaropes. Our 2010 voyage enjoyed no less than 16 Polar Bears including 13 on one day, three Arctic Foxes, 25 hauled out Walrus, Bearded and Ringed Seals, Minke Whales and two Belugas. All the expected birds were seen well plus a vagrant lesser Yellowlegs. Our 2011 trip enjoyed three superb Polar Bear encounters, one with a mother and two cubs, plus our best ever Beluga Whale experience with close views from the Zodiacs!  The 2013 voyage enjoyed up to 6 Polar Bears (including cubs), Walrus on ice and hauled out onshore, two pods of Belugas (one with about 100 animals), 4 Fin Whales close around the ship, a Humpback Whale close to the ship too, Ivory Gulls and a fantastically close Zodiac encounter with King Eiders amongst many highlights. Our 2014 departure enjoyed possibly our best ever Polar bear encounters, with a courting pair close to the ship two days in a row!  Our 2015 and 2016 passengers all enjoyed great bear encounters, plus unexpected highlights for some included Bowhead Whales and Steller’s Eider in 2016! A sample voyage report can be found above. The 2017 Ortelius voyages are due to have Rinie Van Meurs as the Expedition Leader, one of the region’s Polar Bear experts and a great guy to travel with.

Join either of these vessels for these fantastic voyages to the Land of the Midnight Sun and the Kingdom of the Ice Bear to experience for yourself the magic of Svalbard and its special wildlife.

 

 

 

(Day 0: Depart UK for Oslo and overnight at an airport hotel, on some days however, fly onto Longyearbyen and overnight, depending on airline schedules).

Day 1: (Morning flight to Longyearbyen). Transfer into town, afternoon at leisure then transfer to ship and sail early evening. An Eider and Arctic Tern colony is located a short walk from the centre of town by the dog kennels, from which other avian goodies such as Ivory Gull and King Eider are frequently seen.

Day 2: Krossfjorden for seabirds colonies and seals, afternoon Ny Alesund.

Day 3: Liefdeforden, Andoya and the Monaco Glacier.

Day 4: Hinlopenstretet and Alkefjellet, Brunnich’s Guillemot colony, a good sea area for whales and if sea ice a good chance of bears.

Day 5: Phippsoya, our most northerly planned point, only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole, a good area for bears again.

Day 6: Raudfjord and Ytre Norskoya.

Day 7: Prins Karls Forland or St John’s Fjord. Afternoon cruise through Borebukta.

Day 8: Disembark at Longyearbyen early morning. Morning at leisure in town or visit the dog kennels again. Lunchtime transfer back to the airport. (Fly Longyearbyen via Oslo back to London Heathrow arriving late evening or back to other UK airports from Oslo, subject to airline schedules.)

Exact sea itinerary subject to ice and local conditions on the day.

Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.

2017 

Dates

Ortelius    29th May – 5th June, 5th - 12th ,12th – 19th  & 19th – 26th June 2018

Plancius   4th – 11th , 15th – 22nd, 22nd  – 29th June and 29th June – 6th July 2018

The ship’s expedition team including birders and other naturalists

Cost:  From £2625 per person sharing a cabin

Single supplement: Bookings can be accepted on a share basis, if you would prefer a single cabin it will be 1.7 of the applicable twin share price.

Deposit:  20%

Prices per person, all cabins with private facilities. 

£2625    Quad berths (upper and lower) portholes & private facilities                     

£3249    Triple berths (upper and lower) portholes & private facilities           

£3665    Twin share (lower berths) portholes & private facilities                             

£3999   Twin share (lower berths) window/s & private facilities                                 

£4249   Twin deluxe (lower berths) windows, private facilities                              

£4789   Superior (double & single sofa bed) windows, private facilities

Prices based on £1 = Euros 1.2. Full payment at the time of booking will guarantee the price.

Price includes: Voyage including all meals on board the vessel in chosen cabin grade, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soup (24 hours), Zodiac shore landings accompanied by naturalist guides, lectures aboard ship, wellington boot loan aboard ship, services of the Expedition Leader and the ship’s expedition team, port taxes, transfers in Longyearbyen airport – town – ship and return (selected flights only), pre-voyage information pack and WildWings daily checklist of birds and mammals. 

Price excludes:  Air travel (from approx. £399 per person return), pre-voyage hotel accommodation in Oslo or Longyearbyen (depending on flight schedules, approx. £100 per room), travel insurance, meals in Longyearbyen, other drinks onboard, laundry, souvenirs and other items of a personal nature, crew and staff gratuities (suggested Euros 10-15 per passenger per day onboard ship).

Previous voyage/tour reports available on this website.

    Photo

    Tour Leader

    Dick has been leading birding and wildlife trips for WildWings for over 20 years in the Polar Regions, Oceania, Alaska, the Russian Far East, Spitsbergen, Galapagos, Colorado and Poland.

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“As enjoyable as it gets”

D&C.H. June 2014 - Spitsbergen

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“Dick went out his way to ensure everybody saw everything possible – can’t speak highly enough of him. 11 out of 10!”

M.T June 2014 - Spitsbergen

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”terrific wildlife encounters, the WildWings group were all great company and Dick was a really good leader, always at hand and helpful”

Spitsbergen M.I June 2013

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‘This was a very high quality trip that completely lived up to our expectations, it will give us lasting and wonderful memories. We saw everything we hoped to see.’

Spitsbergen Polar Bear Specials - B & A.G. June 2015

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“thanks for the fantastic Arctic trip – it was truly wonderful. Worth every penny and enhanced by Dick….Bloody great and I shall be singing it’s praises to all”

Spitsbergen R.C. July 2011

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