A sighting of majestic Polar Bear should be the highlight of the tour. Photo: Richard Campey
The Norwegian island of Svalbard, or Spitsbergen, is full of spectacular landscapes and wildlife. It lies within a stone’s throw of the North Pole, at around 80 degrees latitude, with 24 hours of sunshine for the entire summer. Our cruise, with Oceanwide Expeditions (see Notes below), will explore this wonderful destination, with a particular focus on finding two of the planet’s most stunning Arctic residents: Polar Bear and Ivory Gull. The supporting cast will include numerous Skuas, Reindeer, Walrus, millions of seabirds, and a sprinkling of whales and seals.
Day 1: The tour begins at 6 p.m. with a meeting in the lobby of our hotel in Longyearbyen, Norway. Flights to Longyearbyen are via Oslo. Night in Longyearbyen.
Day 2: We’ll spend the morning birding around the town of Longyearbyen, where Red Phalaropes (in full breeding plumage), Purple Sandpipers, and Common and King Eiders potentially await us. The diversity here is slightly higher than it will be during our cruise, so we’ll look for various other waders and waterfowl before we set sail. Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese are among the breeding species around town, and we’ll surely see many attractive Snow Buntings.
Day 1 (extension Day 2): In the late afternoon we’ll board our ship and set sail. Night on board m/v Ortelius.
Days 2–9: We’ll have nearly eight days to explore the nooks and crannies of Svalbard from our ship. Flexibility is important: our exact itinerary will be dependent on the weather, ice conditions, and recent wildlife sightings. This is a dynamic ecosystem and we’ll be confident in the experience of our crew to lead us to the best areas, both on land and water, to look for birds and mammals.
At these high latitudes, bird diversity is very low - we are likely to see fewer than two dozen species - but what the high Arctic lacks in quantity it makes up for in exceptional quality. Svalbard is one of the most reliable places in the world to see Ivory Gull. This enigmatic ice-dweller, pure angelic white with an orange-tipped bill, will be at the forefront of our minds as we cruise up to the northern part of the island. With some luck, we hope to be rewarded with a sighting or two. Other enticing possibilities include high-latitude breeders such as all Great, Arctic, Pomarine, and Long-tailed Skuas, Little Auk, and Brünnich’s Guillemot.
The spectacular mammals of this region are certainly on an equal footing with the birds. Two big targets are Polar Bear and Walrus, and our trip is well-timed for both of these special beasts. Additionally, there are several species of seal in the region and quite a few whales: we’ll keep our eyes out for Blue, Fin, Humpback, Minke, and Beluga.
Even during lulls in wildlife action the scenery of Svalbard is remarkable. The dramatic fjords and icebergs are a delightful backdrop for our birding; indeed, just being in such a beautiful location is sure to rank among the highlights of the trip. Nights on m/v Ortelius.
Day 9: This morning we’ll return to Longyearbyen, where the tour will conclude with a farewell breakfast before we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Oslo.
Quadruple berth with porthole: 2 portholes, 2 upper / lower berths, private shower & toilet, desk & chair, ample storage space.
Cost: £3,910 per person sharing
For a group of 4: £15,640
Twin berth with porthole: 2 portholes, 2 lower berths, private shower & toilet, desk & chair, ample storage space.
Cost: £5,640 per person sharing
Single occupancy: £9590. 2 people: £11,280
Twin berth with window: 2 windows, 2 lower berths, private shower & toilet, desk & chair, small sofa, ample storage space.
Cost: £6,090 per person sharing
Single occupancy: £10,350. 2 people: £12,180
Twin Deluxe: 3 windows, 2 lower berths, private shower & toilet, desk & chair, small sofa, refrigerator, coffee & tea maker, flatscreen TV, ample storage space.
Cost: £6,500 per person sharing
Single occupancy: £11,050. 2 people: £13,000
Superior: 2 windows (minimum), 1 double bed, 1 single (sofa) bed, private shower & toilet, desk & chair, flatscreen TV, refrigerator, coffee & tea maker, ample storage space.
Cost: £7,270 per person sharing
Single occupancy: £12,560. 2 people £14,540
Updated: 16 December 2019