Snowmobile into Polar Bear CountryLongyearbyen, Norway
Some adventures are tours with a mere flavouring of what an authentic experience would really be like. Others, like Hurtigruten’s multi-day snowmobile expeditions, are most certainly the real deal. Think hundreds of kilometres on a high-powered snowmobile covering mountains, glaciers, moraines and ice fjords. Add to this the variability of weather and wildlife and you have yourself the perfect mix of action and adventure.
Although not essential, previous snowmobile experience is recommended. Moments after leaving Svalbard’s largest town of Longyearbyen, it’s throttles open for a high-speed introduction to Svalbard exploration. This is an open ride into polar bear country, so pack binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens.
An attitude of flexibility is essential in the Arctic, since itineraries can change with the conditions, but opportunities exist to cross sea ice and visit impossibly blue glacial ice walls that present like a scene from Game of Thrones. Overnight stays at remote lodges far from any possible light pollution increase your chance to experience a dramatic northern lights show.
Although there are never any wildlife guarantees, polar bear sightings are common enough for safety to remain paramount. Should you come across one of these white giants on the move, know, with certainty, that as it fixes you within its gaze it genuinely sees an opportunity for a meal.
Pro tip: when your guide tells you to stop taking pictures and fire up your snowmobile as the bears lope towards you, just do it.
A two-day snowmobile excursion, operated between January and May, starts at about US$1100.
Days on snowmobiles cover long distances at speed. Visibility and conditions can vary markedly from pristine blue skies with perfect visibility to a total white-out with the tail light of your guide’s snowmobile the only thing you can see.