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wildlife of the high Arctic

An awe-inspiring week-long arctic cruise, exploring the spectacular land of the ice bear.

The archipelago of Spitsbergen (also known as Svalbard) lies well north of the Arctic Circle, midway between the North Cape (the northernmost point on mainland Europe) and the North Pole. During the summer the sun never sets (although don’t worry, there are good blinds on the windows!).

During our voyage we hope to circumnavigate the whole archipelago, although our exact route will depend on the current extent of the sea ice. Inevitably, the species diversity up here is fairly low; for example, the islands are home to just 165 species of vascular plants and only three species of land mammal, but this is more than made up for with the sheer numbers, especially of the marine life.

Around 850,000 pairs of Brunnich’s Guillemots and over a million pairs of Little Auk nest amongst the islands’ cliffs, with several species of seal and whale abundant in the rich waters. The human population is outnumbered by that of the world’s largest land predator, the Polar Bear.

As we travel around the archipelago we will make daily excursions out to explore the various islands and fjords, enjoying spectacular glaciers, wonderful views and travelling up to the bleak but wildlife-rich expanses of the polar pack ice. We will spend time at vast seabird colonies and Walrus haul-outs, visit the world’s most northerly village, sail amongst icebergs calved off from amazing icebergs and cruise the edge of the pack ice, where Polar Bears hunt for seals, attended by scavenging Ivory Gulls.

We will travel aboard the MV Plancius, a former oceanographic research vessel now completely rebuilt and converted to a very comfortable 116-passenger vessel.

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

white flowers of Saxifraga svalbardensis in moss, Svalbard
Walrus emerging from the water, Svalbard
Brunnich's Guillemot wing flapping on a calm sea, Svalbard