- Top Mammals: Polar Bear, White-beaked Dolphin, Narwhal, Bowhead (Greenland) Whale, Harp and Hooded Seals, Arctic Fox
- Habitats Covered: open ocean, shore-line, tundra, pack ice
- Expected Climate: mild to cold, rain, snow and strong winds possible
- Max Group Size: 20 with 1 Oryx leader and expedition leaders
- Tour Pace and Walking: very relaxed, some longer walks and climbs
- Accommodation: comfortable ship cabins
- Ease of Birding: easy
- Photographic Opportunities: brilliant
- Key Photographic Targets: Polar Bears, whales, seals, walruses, spectacular glaciers and landscapes, large bird colonies, wildflowers, historical sites and villages.
Our expedition begins at the richly historical former mining town of Longyearbyen, also the administrative capital of Spitsbergen, where we should have our first opportunities to photograph Svalbard Reindeer, a subspecies that is endemic to Spitsbergen.
After boarding our ship, we will then head north along the Spitsbergen west coast, where we enter vast fjords and find ourselves surrounded by towering peaks and glaciers. Arriving at Krossfjorden, Zodiacs allow for an exhilarating cruise along the spectacularly sculpted ice wall of the famed 14th of July Glacier. Nearby, countless Black-legged Kittiwakes and Thick-billed Murre (Brünnich’s Guillemots) breed on the huge cliffs, while Arctic Foxes patrol their bases, ever watchful for any chicks that may have fallen from their nest.
As we pass through this spectacular scenery, we will carefully scan the waters for possible sightings and photo opportunities of Humpback, Fin, Minke and Beluga Whales, as well as the rarer White-beaked Dolphin, Narwhal and perhaps Bowhead or Greenland Whale. Here we should also have some thrilling experiences of porpoising Ringed and Bearded Seals, and hopefully sightings of the rarer Harp and Hooded Seals; all of which we will attempt to capture on our cameras.
Our next destination is Raudfjorden in the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen. Select spots along the shoreline here offer excellent hiking in tundra vegetation where wildflowers abound. From macro to landscape photography, we can expect some truly stunning images from our time in this area. We then head to Alkefjellet via the productive Hinlopen Strait. More than 120,000 pairs of Thick-billed Murre nest on the cliffs here each summer; a truly amazing spectacle that offers excellent photographic opportunities.
Our next destination is Phippsoya, the northernmost point of our journey, where we will take time to absorb and photograph the area’s spectacular scenery. Our main target, however, and indeed the highlight of our journey, will be photographing the Polar Bears that roam this icy realm, and we hope for many great images of these magnificent beasts.
We then visit the imposing Monacobreen (Monaco Glacier), perhaps the most impressive of all the Svalbard glaciers. Its wide face makes for brilliant zodiac cruising, while the nearby coastal plain offers superb hiking and further chances for Polar Bears. Here we also have our best chance to photograph Greenland, or Bowhead, Whales; the only whales that live exclusively in the Arctic.
Our final destination is a well-known Walruses haul out on Prince Charles Island, where we hope to photograph these rather ugly yet endearing animals as they go about their daily business. This is a tour with enormous photographic potential, and we look forward to sharing this amazing voyage with you and your camera!
Spitsbergen Circumnavigation - Land of Arctic Dreams: 9 - 19 Aug 2012 (11 days):
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