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.
We offer two itineraries of differing durations to this fascinating Arctic destination, including an express 9 night trip and one offering a dedicated photography symposium. Let us find the perfect trip for you – contact us and we’ll happily talk your options through with you.
Today we embark our expedition ship in Longyearbyen. With almost 24 hours of daylight at this time of the year, we enjoy the views from the outer decks of the ship as we sail through Adventfjorden and into Isfjorden. Entering the vast expanse of the Greenland Sea, our ship heads south, hugging the main island of Spitsbergen.
We 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. We search for belugas from the ship and the zodiacs and plan our first shore excursion at Bourbonhamna. An old hunting cabin and other artefacts are points of interest during our hike to Ingebrigstenbukta. While wandering amongst these relics we hope to catch a glimpse of dozens of reindeer that inhabit the area.
Coming around the most southerly point of Spitsbergen, we push into the broad expanse of Storfjorden. Exploring Dolerittneset near Kapp Lee, the lush vegetation of this region is remarkable given we are at 70° North in latitude. This area has a large scattering of reindeer antlers; however, it is the plethora of ancient whalebones 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 us as we sail into Hornsund. With good ice conditions, we are 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 our onboard guides will use our 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. We anchor the ship in a protected harbour, launch the zodiacs and cruise along the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. We 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 kilometres and is around 80 meters high. Viewed from the ship or on a zodiac cruise you come to appreciate the enormous scale of our surroundings. 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. Nearby, Smeerenburgfjorden has a four hundred year history of whaling and is a favorite spot as we round the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen.
We 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 we 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 we navigate the waterways between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here which take us up to high points affording staggering views and further opportunities to encounter Arctic wildlife.
Entering Liefdefjorden we 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.
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers breathtaking views and an incredible tundra walk as we near the end of our 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 we approach and stop to listen will we hear the chorus of thousands of birds, all singing at the same time.
Arriving back into Longyearbyen this morning, we disembark after breakfast and say farewell to our expedition team and fellow passengers. A transfer into town is provided for those choosing to stay a few days. If you are departing today, we have a few hours this morning to explore the town, before transferring to the airport for your onward flight to Tromso or Oslo.
Outings onboard zodiacs, or from the bow of the ship: here is the chance to see these majestic giants up close and personal as they float asleep like semi-submerged submarines, fluke, 'spy hop', breach, hunt and feed.
There will be numerous opportunities to photograph and capture truly wonderful moments. From multimedia presentations to group workshops on the outer decks or in a Zodiac, our on board photographer will offer advice and instruction.
Hiking / Trekking
Hiking / Trekking
There is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and even smells of a place than by taking a walk through its landscapes - there are ample opportunities for hiking, walking or trekking, for any level of fitness, at each of our destinations. Yes, even in Antarctica!
For our latest discounts and exclusive deals see our special offers page.
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Included in the price of this voyage:
- Comprehensive pre-voyage information package including details to help you prepare for your trip
- Transfers to the ship on embarkation day and from the ship to the airport or local hotel on disembarkation
- Shipboard accommodation in your selected cabin category with daily housekeeping. Cabins feature outside views with windows or portholes that open on each deck
- High quality, eco friendly, Canadian made natural amenities in every cabin
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners onboard throughout your voyage with daily afternoon tea 24-hour tea, coffee, hot chocolate in bar lounge plus in-cabin tea, coffee, hot chocolate replenished daily
- Experienced Expedition Leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, adventure guides and photographers
- Daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac boat breaking into small groups for shore landings
- Guided hikes and walks on shore of various durations for guests of all abilities
- Visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty and community visits
- Educational presentations and talks by polar experts in their field (ie. marine biologists, naturalists, historians etc).
- Onboard or onshore Resident photography guide available to assist all guests Access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up and management
- An emergency trained medical physician onboard every voyage
- Dedicated hospitality team including Hotel Manager, four chefs, professional bar staff and Adventure Concierge staff Onboard sauna, plunge pool, jacuzzi and fitness centre including personal trainer and massage options (charge applies for massage and spa treatments)
- Sea Kayaking programme available (additional charge of $695pp) – must be reserved at the time of booking your voyage and you must have some prior paddling experience
- Access to well stocked library full of polar reference books End of voyage slideshow and take home USB Port fees and all permits to access visited areas
Not included in the price of this voyage:
- Any international or local airfare unless otherwise specifi ed in the voyage itinerary
- Visa and passport expenses
- Pre or post-cruise hotel accommodation unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged)
- Pre or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the itinerary (or pre-arranged)
- Personal expenses onboard such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges or laundry expenses
- Telecommunication charges (ie. email, satellite phone)
- Baggage, cancellation or medical travel insurance related expenses (comprehensive travel insurance is mandatory on all One Ocean Expeditions trips)
- A voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew