Travel along the same routes as famous polar explorers such as Andrée, Nordenskiöld, Amundsen and Nobile. Trek along beaches blanketed with walruses, get to know the indigenous reindeer, and maybe even spot the Arctic fox or bearded seal. Seabirds, such as Ivory gulls, auks and puffins, will be your constant companions as you admire their playfulness and grace. You might even encounter a few whales. A variety of known species frequent the area, in particular the Minke and beluga.
Your flexible itinerary allows you to take advantage of favorable ice and weather conditions. Search for walruses, seals, reindeer, Arctic foxes and polar bears. Shore walks and Zodiac landings will bring you up close to the mystical settings and passing icebergs. Each day your Expedition Leader and Captain will determine the best course, depending on changing weather, ice conditions and the wildlife encountered. In the true spirit of adventure cruising, your Expedition Leader will provide daily updates. Here is a list of places you may visit:
• Ice Cruising – With the strengthened hull of the Silver Explorer, have the perfect platform to search for walrus and polar bears as your crew devotes at least one day to exploring the pack ice north of Spitsbergen. Conditions permitting, your Expedition Leader may choose to take you out in the Zodiacs for an even closer look.
• Bellsund – Pushing about 50 miles (80 kilometres) into Spitsbergen is the more than 12-mile wide Bellsund. At the entrance of the fjord you are likely to encounter some Common eiders, Arctic terns, and Arctic skuas. Snow bunting and Purple sandpipers are also common in the area. The plan is to explore the seldom-visited Van Keulenfjord, where you can witness awe-inspiring landscapes while trekking along the tundra.
• Prins Karls Forland – Off the west coast of Spitsbergen, encounter the island home of Forland National Park with craggy mountains, massive glaciers and remarkable wildlife. The entire island and the surrounding seas make up Forland National Park. Members of the Expedition Team take you ashore at Poolypnten, a well-known walrus haul out, where your marine biologist explains the habits and habitat of these amazing creatures.
• Edgeøya – Enter the realm of the polar bear on the third largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Conditions permitting, go ashore at the hard to get to Diskobukta, where you will discover interesting fauna and flora and take a walk amongst thousands of Kittiwakes and Arctic foxes. The coastal waters often provide fantastic opportunities to see walrus and polar bear on the ice floe.
• Barentsøya – Just north of Edgeøya lies the fourth largest island in Svalbard. Here be immersed in a wide tundra landscape, perfect for long hikes and short walks. You may encounter polar bears and discover the ruins of 15th-century Russian Pomors.
• Hornsund – The southernmost fjord on the rugged west coast of Spitsbergen Island. Jagged mountain peaks tower above glacier-filled bays. Listen for the crash of white thunder as huge chunks of ice fall into the fjord. Amidst floating icebergs jewels, watch for bearded seals, the rare Beluga whale and the king of the Arctic – the polar bear. Sightings are fairly common as the polar bear’s favourite food, the ringed seal, breeds in the fjord. The surrounding bird cliffs are home to thousands of pairs of nesting little auks. Visit the Polish research station or the remains of whaling stations and trappers’ huts.
The Arctic Alpine Garden is the world’s northernmost botanic garden. In fact, Tromsø lies at approximately at the same latitude as the northernmost point in Alaska, however Tromsø has a longer growing season thanks to the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream and the long daylight hours of summer. What makes the Arctic Alpine Garden remarkable is its ability to sustain delicate alpine plant life under the cold, stressful, and insular conditions of this region.