Visit the kingdom of the polar bear

Accompany BBC Wildlife and TV naturalist Nick Baker on an exciting cruise of a lifetime in 2019 to see polar bears and walruses amidst stunning Arctic scenery.

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Visit the kingdom of the polar bear with BBC Wildlife and Heatherlea
26th May 2019 - 3rd June 2019

Visit the kingdom of the polar bear with BBC Wildlife and Heatherlea © David Swetman

 

TRIP OVERVIEW

Join passionate naturalist Nick Baker, host of Springwatch and Autumnwatch Unsprung, and presenter of programmes such as The Really Wild Show, Weird Creatures and Nick’s Quest in Search of the Polar Bear, to experience the majesty of the Arctic.

 

Join Nick Baker and BBC Wildlife on the cruise of a lifetime

 

This is one of the last great wildernesses on Earth, where nothing can prepare you for the sight of your first real-life polar bear or an encounter with a majestic walrus. Who can forget the drama of the walrus mother and her calf in the epic BBC One series, Blue Planet II? This is the opportunity of a lifetime to see these animals for yourself.

Experience the majesty of the Arctic, one of the last great wildernesses on Earth, where nothing can prepare you for your first sighting of a polar bear on the sea ice, a key highlight of this unforgettable adventure.

We cruise with experienced wildlife travel company Heatherlea to see bears, walruses, Arctic foxes and many birds, and to enjoy the culture and history of this unique environment in the frozen far north.

Your visit will be in late spring, taking advantage of long daylight hours when temperatures are not severe. You will sail past the spectacular cliffs of the largest island, Spitsbergen, and come within 800 miles of the North Pole.

You will never forget the experience of this beautiful land where glaciers mirror the sunset, seeming to set fire to the mountaintops, and countless seabirds swoop down from an endless sky while whales blow amongst the ice floes. 

 

WATCH 'AROUND SPITSBERGEN IN 90 SECONDS'

'Around Spitsbergen in 90 seconds © Oceanwide Expeditions 

 

Look out for Arctic foxes during the trip © Dave Pullan

 

Sail through the sea ice in sight of the spectacular cliffs of the largest island, Spitsbergen, only 800 miles from the North Pole. It’s a land where glaciers mirror the sunset, seemingly setting fire to the mountaintops, and walruses haul themselves out to doze, while countless seabirds swoop down from an endless sky and whales blow amongst the ice floes.

This is home to many exciting mammals and birds, harp seals, beluga and minke whales and, of course, the undisputed king of the Arctic – the polar bear. Our voyage to this archipelago gives us excellent chances of seeing them. 

We visit in late spring, taking advantage of long daylight hours when temperatures are not severe. Our voyage coincides with the beginning of the breeding season for most birds, and you will never forget the wonderful wildlife of this harsh, beautiful landscape.

 

You may spot red phalarope when you visit Longyearbyen © Dylan Walker

 

Be sure at the end of the day to spend time outside on deck and marvel at the low sun lighting the mountains as the sea turns a vivid orange-pink. It may be some time before you get back to your cabin!

The itinerary is flexible, paying close attention to weather and ice, changing course and using inflatable Zodiacs amongst the ice-floes, spending as much time ashore as possible.

 

Sail past awe-inspiring glaciers in a Zodiac while looking out for seabirds © Rob Jordan

 

Expect a friendly, intimate atmosphere in a cosy and comfortable environment. As we travel, BBC Wildlife and Heatherlea team members will join expedition staff to offer optional wildlife talks. Full details to be announced nearer the time!

 

MV Plancius

This former oceanic research vessel, built for the Royal Dutch Navy but now adapted to provide comfortable passenger accommodation, is ice-strengthened and ideal for this voyage.

It accommodates 116 passengers in 53 passenger cabins with private toilet and shower, either windows or portholes, flatscreen TV, telephone and internet connection, hair dryer and ample storage space.

 

Download the ship cabin plan.

 

Spend eight days aboard cruise ship MV Plancius © Oceanwide Expeditions

 

There is a restaurant/lecture room and a spacious observation lounge with bar, which has large windows offering a full panorama view. The ship also has large open deck spaces giving excellent opportunities to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.

 

 

OUTLINE ITINERARY

DAY 1: Sun 26 May 

We fly from London to Oslo (NB flights from other UK destinations to Oslo are also available, please contact us for details), where we overnight at a comfortable hotel near the airport for a one night stay. Dinner and breakfast the next morning are included.

DAY 2: Mon 27 May

We transfer to Oslo Airport in the morning for our flight to Longyearbyen. Longyearbyen is a former mining and scientific centre, named after an American mining engineer. Today you should have some time to acclimatise in this fascinating and picturesque northern settlement of around 2000 people.

Birds here include glaucous gull, purple sandpiper, 'Svalbard' ptarmigan, an Arctic tern colony, snow bunting, barnacle goose, northern ('Borealis') eider, and also short-legged Svalbard reindeer, little auk, Arctic fox and perhaps flowering Svalbard poppy close to the town. Grey phalarope may also be seen.

 

Look out for reindeer in Longyearbyen © Mags Fewkes

 

There should be an opportunity to do some sightseeing, visit the museum or go shopping. We join the M/V Plancius late this afternoon, and after our safety drill and briefing, sail north up the west coast in early evening. 'Blue' fulmar, little auk, puffin, and Brünnich’s guillemot can be expected.

 

Little auk are amongst the many bird species we expect to see © Dave Pullan

 

DAY 3: Tues 28 May

We sail to Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord dominated by spectacular glaciers and favoured by ringed and bearded seal. The cliffs and shoreline of the fjord also support thriving seabird colonies and a surprisingly rich vegetation, which flourishes in sheltered spots. Polar bear are frequently seen here.

DAY 4: Wed 29 May

Depending on the weather we may sail to the mouth of Liefdefjorden and possibly go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. Many common eider and pink-footed goose nest here, and rarer king eider may also be seen.

We hope to sail into Liefdefjorden, cruising near the 5km long face of the impressive Monaco Glacier. The waters of the glacier face are a favourite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwake, and on previous voyages polar bear have been seen on the glacier, providing wonderful opportunities for photography.

DAY 5: Thurs 30 May 

Today we will sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded seal, ringed seal, polar bear, and ivory gull. At the entrance there is the possibility of blue whale.

 

There is the possibility of seeing blue whale at the entrance of Hinlopen Strait © Rob Jordan

 

We’ll navigate the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in our zodiacs and explore the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with thousands of Brünnich’s guillemot. On the east side of Hinlopenstrait, we’ll attempt a landing at Palanderbukta on Nordaustlandet, home to reindeer, pink-footed goose, breeding ivory gull, and walrus.

 

Enjoy amazing encounters with walruses © Dylan Walker

 

DAY 6: Fri 31 May 

We will try to reach the northernmost point at Phippsøya, in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. Here we will be at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bear inhabit this region, as do ivory gull. The ship may sit for several hours in the pack ice before turning west again.

DAY 7: Sat 1 June 

Retracing our route westwards, our route takes us through and along the pack ice, keeping watch for polar bear and the elusive Greenland whale (bowhead). About 40 nautical miles west of Spitsbergen we sail along the edge of the continental shelf, where fin whale forage in summer in the upwellings along the Spitsbergen banks. At the mouth of the Kongsfjord we also have good chances to see minke whale.

DAY 8: Sun 2 June 

We travel to Forlandsundet at Sarstangen, a haul out place for walrus. Alternatively we sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden and land at Alkhornet.

Seabirds nest on its cliffs and Arctic fox search the cliff base for fallen eggs and chicks, while Spitsbergen reindeer graze the relatively luxuriant vegetation. The reindeer may seem unbothered by human presence, but this is not really the case. The animals must survive the harsh winter, when temperatures plummet and food is hard to find, so they preserve what energy they can, fleeing only when it is absolutely necessary. In the afternoon we cruise through beautiful Borebukta, following a glacier face before continuing to Longyearbyen.

DAY 9: Mon 3 June

We disembark in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Spitsbergen, for flights south to Oslo and onward to the UK.

 

Cost

Twin cabin ensuite from £5495pp

Triple/quad cabin ensuite from £4295pp

 

Click here for more details and to book

Exact details may be subject to change.

 

Organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine in partnership with experienced wildlife holiday company Heatherlea, regular provider of holidays for BBC Wildlife readers.

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION 

  • Return flights from London to Longyearbyen via Oslo
  • Hotel, dinner and bed and breakfast in Oslo
  • Transfers and baggage handling in Longyearbyen
  • 7 nights/8 days aboard MV Plancius
  • All meals throughout the voyage, including snacks, coffee and tea
  • All shore excursions and activities by Zodiac
  • Programme of lectures by expedition staff, BBC Wildlife and Heatherlea team members

What's not included: Holiday insurance, optional tips to ship’s crew/other staff, drinks other than coffee and tea, other personal expenses and lunch in Longyearbyen on Day 2. 

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