Lisa visits Svalbard!
A once in a lifetime experience made even more magical with 24 hour sunlight! The landscapes and wildlife through this region are incredible, I especially loved the walruses. There is no better way than exploring the region by ship and shore excursions in the Zodiacs!
Svalbard represents the iconic dream imagery of the Arctic, covered in dramatic landscapes – snow covered mountain peaks, glaciers, ice fields and icebergs. From the endless winter nights displaying the magic of the Northern Lights to the everlasting summer days carrying long lasting energy and time for exploration, Svalbard is a place of true adventure. Wild Earth Travel’s Lisa went on a 12 day Best of Svalbard cruise in June, have a read through her amazing trip!
Day 1: After exploring the small town of Longyearbyen it was time to board Sea Spirt. From the start this trip was a true adventure, our ship was docked at sea so we hopped onto the Zodiacs and headed out.
Day 2: Waking up at 6.30am to full daylight and large chunks of ice floating past the ship, there is definitely no way to mistake that we are truly in the midst of the Arctic!
The first Zodiac landing of the day was in Hornsund on a glacial beach. Hiking up a rocky ridge in sleet showers to get a glacial view felt like a real adventure, after two hours of exploring we were back on the Zodiacs to head back to ship before the next adventure of the day begins!
The relaxing lunch fell short, when the ships speakers announce ‘polar bear spotting!’ everyone rushes out to board the Zodiacs. The flexibility that the crew deliver is amazing to make the most of this expedition cruise!
Day 3: After a night of being rocked and rolled by a passing storm it’s time to start the day… The night’s storm and wind is still in full force, making for what I thought unlike others was a huge amount of fun! Our morning landing was cancelled due to the weather but in the afternoon the winds dropped and we made a landing at Hebenightbukta.
Day 4: Finally a full night’s sleep with calm conditions followed my flat seas during the day. We managed two Zodiac landings today, each with a long walk to give the sea legs a break. One of our landings was at an old whaling station, Bemsebu, where the bones of many beluga whales line the shore, a sobering look into the past. Asides from the whaling station, we walked amongst a herd of reindeer, curious to become acquainted with us, and saw plenty of Arctic birds. At dinner, another polar bear was sighted.
Day 5: Bright blue skies welcomed us to the day and we were off to the beach to visit plenty of sunbathing walruses, unfortunately we could smell them before we could see them. I could watch walruses all day if I was allowed to, observing their movements as they play in the water, diving deep, rolling, somersaulting and looking like they have their life sorted! In the afternoon we had the choice of a Zodiac cruise through the brush ice near a glacier or a hike to look down on the glacier. I opted for more time in the Zodiac to keep exploring the ocean and coast.
Day 6: Another bright blue sky and back into the Zodiacs as we headed for the 14th of July glacier, we were lucky enough to see some glacier calving, thunderous ice collapsing into the cold icy water showing the power that these glaciers contain. We sailed towards the bird cliffs, where we saw the cheeky and inquisitive puffins, artic terns, brunnich guillemots, different skua’s and the common eider.
After lunch, we have a very interesting and funny lecture from crew member Eduardo about polar bears. In the afternoon we visited the remains of a German weather station from WW2. We were also lucky to view the Lilliehookbreen glacier, where again we saw ice calving.
Day 7: Today was a full immersion into expedition life. We crossed 80° north just before 6 am and got as close as possible to the ice edge. We took the Zodiacs through the ice and saw seals playing in the floating ice chunks.
After lunch it was time for the polar plunge! The water temperature is 4 degrees and there are blocks of sea ice not too far away. The cold hits you as you break through the water’s surface, but it’s when you resurface into the Arctic air that the real cold and chill hits you.
After dinner we made a landing at Hamburg bukta where a group of curious seals kept a close eye on us. We also caught a glimpse of our first Artic fox.
Day 8: Another beautiful summer’s morning greets us for today’s exploring, we are feeling grateful for the amazing weather we have been given. We landed at Magdalenefjord and hiked from Gravneset to a beautiful glacier called Gullybreen. After lunch, we landed at Smeereburg where we can found the remains of blubber ovens from the past hunting era, and we spotted more walruses.
Day 9: We get an early morning wake up over the loud speaker – ‘Whale spotting!’ Everyone rushes out to the decks to watch the humpback whale swimming beside the ship. Something amazing about this expedition is the true spontaneity and the surprises that every day brings. At 9am we made landing at Ny Alesund, where guided tours take us past the different research labs from different states and we visited the airship mast that was used to hold the airship Norge that Amundsen used to fly over the North Pole. Ny Alesund, is also the northernmost post office in the world.
After lunch we do a landing at Ny London, there we see the remains from the marble mining. The isle is also full of flowers and on the hills we have a beautiful view over Ny Alesund into the middle of the wilderness.
Day 10: Today we landed at Alkhornet, a bird watchers paradise. Alkhornet is a huge bird cliff with kittiwake, guillemot and pink footed geese. In the afternoon we saw beluga whales, the crew decided on a spontaneous zodiac crew so that we could get a closer view! It was truly amazing. Tonight we had the Captains Farewell Party, I was not ready for this night to come!
Day 11: The last day arrived and it was time to disembark in Longyearbyen and say goodbye to the friends I had made.
Being in the Arctic was a surreal experience, I met some amazing people, saw incredible scenery and was lucky to spot some great wildlife! Being on a small ship is like being in a big family, you really get to know everyone on board from the guests to the crew and it was definitely hard to leave!