Spot Polar Bears in wild SvalbardSvalbard, Norway
Few creatures have been so fascinating to humans as the polar bear. The unofficial symbol of the Arctic, these critters – a cross between soft-and-cuddly giant and fearsome predator – are so prolific in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard that they outnumber people, making it the perfect destination to encounter them in their natural habitat, and Bentours' Complete Spitsbergen Expedition ensures you'll tick off this bucket list experience in all its wonder and glory.
Cast off in a Hurtigruten ship from the shores of Longyearbyen and cruise through the icy seas towards the archipelago's southernmost tip, marvelling at the monolithic glaciers of Kongsfjorden and the ruins of whaling settlements in Mitrahalvøya before sailing through the Hornsund fjord to Gnålodden, renowned for its bird and polar bear populations.
Thanks to its unique geology, the landscape here is a motley of mossy tundra and towering cliffs where a cacophony of nesting black-legged kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots – along with thousands of other bird species – can be seen and heard (the name, gnål, literally means 'nagging' in Norwegian) and ice pushed into the fjord draws out the polar bears seeking the perfect hunting block to launch from. Accompanied by your expedition leader, you'll disembark for an excursion on land where you'll learn about the area's fascinating history and topography and feel that heady rush as you stumble upon a polar bear's enormous paw prints trailing through the snow. The expedition team leader confirms what you already know – a polar bear was here not so long ago.
In between keeping an eye out for these majestic creatures you'll sail past bobbing icebergs, spot herds of wild reindeer and admire beautiful alpine flora, all while soaking up the rays of the midnight sun. Keep your camera at the ready, though – this is polar bear country and you can expect to hear sudden cries of excitement from the deck and the loudspeaker crackling into action, both announcing the sighting of a streak of golden fur amongst the blankets of snow and Arctic ice, sending you and your fellow adventurers into an excited frenzy as you spot a bear snoozing peacefully or a cub playfully snuggling in close to its mother. It's a moment that inspires a collective and heartfelt wave of awe and wonder; once you've captured a few snaps with your camera you'll revel in simply watching them in this epic landscape.
- Spending time on deck keeping your eyes peeled for polar bears and whales
- Sailing around the entirety of the Svalbard archipelago
- Trying out brevandring, the Norwegian way to cross a glacier
- Seeing the midnight sun and untouched Arctic wilderness in all its pristine glory
- Constant daylight can be somewhat disorientating for the uninitiated, but it’s a truly unique experience
The eight-day Complete Spitsbergen Expedition starts from US$6075.