The Arctic: Prepare for Bears

Peregrine Adventure Travel Consultant, Natalie Scales, spent eight days exploring the Arctic on our Introduction to Spitsbergen trip. 

The first question I encountered after my voyage around the Arctic was, “Did you see a polar bear?” 
“No”, I would reply. Then a slow smile would escape my lips...“We saw four!”

Setting off
Our journey started off in Longyearbyen, a small town on the island of Spitsbergen and a few hours flight north of Norway. Signs warned of the dangers of leaving the town without someone who was armed, due to polar bears roaming the outskirts. Suffice to say we were on alert from day one! But we didn’t have to wait long to see one…

We awoke on the first morning to one of the most majestic scenes I have ever witnessed. Our ship was surrounded by beautiful, icy mountains while large pieces of pack ice slowly drifted past.

Our first polar bear
Thin clouds lay low over the mountain peaks while high above the brilliant sun was blazing down, creating wonderful reflections of the mountains on the surface of the water. An announcement came over the ship’s speakers; in the distance a young walrus lay sunning itself on a sheet of ice.

Ever so slowly, the ice drifted closer and closer until the walrus lay right beside the ship. Everyone was busy clicking away on their cameras. Suddenly another announcement was made - a polar bear had been sighted on the shoreline! Everyone rushed to the front of the ship and sure enough, there was the bear, slowly walking back and forth along the icy beach.

Arctic wildlife spotting
That was the start of many opportunities for viewing the Arctic wildlife. During our voyage we encountered ringed seals, bearded seals, walruses, reindeer and beluga whales.

We also saw an enormous number of birds, including arctic terns, common terns, guillemots, kittiwakes, barnacle goose, common eider, glaucous gulls and northern fulmars....just to name a few!

A few memorable wildlife moments included spotting two ringed seals playfully swimming in circles about fifteen metres from our zodiac; a feeding frenzy of arctic terns as they dove in and out of the water, snatching out prey just a few feet from our zodiac and the explosion of noise at Alkefjellet where thousands of nesting guillemots crammed onto the rock face.

We saw our second pod of beluga whales as they swam slowly towards the kayakers, who were oblivious to their presence because they were facing a different direction. It was only when the whales were right underneath that they realised! What an amazing experience it was for them!

Setting the scene
It’s not only the wildlife that is amazing in Svalbard, the scenery is absolutely stunning as well. Many times I found myself wandering atop the main deck in awe of our surroundings as we cruised down one of the fjords.

The shore excursions provided a great opportunity to get up close to the beautiful scenery that Svalbard has to offer.  One of my favourite moments of the voyage was climbing the 14th of July glacier.

After cruising near the spectacular ice cliff, our zodiac driver took us ashore where we walked along the pebbled beach. We began our climb and 20 minutes later we were atop the glacier. The view of the sun blazing over the shimmering water with the ship framed against the icy mountains was mesmerising.

A special thanks
The voyage wouldn’t have been complete without the wonderful expedition staff. They have an immense amount of passion and respect for the area and an abundance of knowledge about the wildlife. They ensured the trip was as exciting as possible.

Travelling to the Arctic was an unforgettable experience.  The backdrop of brilliant blue skies under the midnight sun, enormous glaciers, majestic snow covered mountains and spectacular wildlife, are memories that will stay with me forever.  They call it the “Polar Bug” and I think I’ve definitely caught it!

On Thursday 28 July we will be joined by a special guest for our Arctic Q&A session: Coxy from "Coxy's Big Break" and "Guide to the Good Life".

He will be joined by our Polar expert, Alex Burridge. Simply "Like" us on Facebook and jump online on Thursday 28 July from 2-4pm to take part. 

Been dreaming of an Arctic experience? Get 10% off the booked cabin price on all* Arctic 2012 voyages when you book by 30 September 2011. See more details and start planning your next adventure today!

Follow Peregrine Adventures