Travel along the same routes as famous polar explorers such as Andrée, Nordenskiöld, Amundsen and Nobile. Visit walrus haul-outs, get to see 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 Minke and beluga.
A flexible itinerary allows your team to take advantage of favorable ice and weather conditions. Whether cruising by Zodiac amongst floating icebergs or heading ashore for a guided walk, your adventures will bring you up close to mystical settings. Each day your Expedition Leader and Captain will determine the best course depending on changing weather, ice conditions and the wildlife encountered. Here are a few of the places you can hope to visit:
• Hornsund – This is 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 these floating icebergs, 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 favorite food, the ringed seal, breeds in the fjord. The surrounding bird cliffs are home to thousands of pairs of nesting little auks. You may visit the Polish research station or the remains of whaling stations and trappers’ huts.
• Bellsund – 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 will 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 cragged 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.
• 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, our Expedition Leader may choose to take you out in the Zodiacs for an even closer look.
Together experience the best of the region. Plans may include a cruise by Zodiac along the coastline to look for polar bear and musk ox, and a landing at Danmarksø to see the excellently preserved remains of an Inuit settlement, abandoned about 200 years ago. If you are very, very lucky, you may be able to add lemmings and narwhals to your growing list of animal and bird species seen on this voyage.
After a short drive past the cliffs of Londrangar, arrive in the tiny fishing village of Arnarstapi. Here find an idyllic setting with interesting lava formations and an abundance of birdlife. A scenic drive takes you to Budir, famed not only for its dramatic, black lava surroundings but also for its yellow sand beach. You might be lucky enough to spot seals as they bask on the skerries out in the bay. Continuing over “The Old Hag’s Pass” or Kerlingarskard, head towards Stykkisholmur, where you make a short stop at Helgafell – The Holy Mount. Even those not up to the climb are sure to enjoy listening to the guide tell of local heroines and the combination of spiritual forces attributed to this spiritual site. Your outing concludes with a brief visit to charming Stykkisholmur.