Realm of the Polar Bear

Svalbard Islands

June 26 to July 9, 2018
Cost: $11,300
Leader: Scott Davis + 1
Group Size: 12
Days: 14

Safari Overview

Sail through Norway’s Arctic past glaciers lit by the midnight sun to find a most mythic predator: the Polar Bear. This polar adventure is to the famed Svalbard Archipelago of northern Norway. Located between the North Pole and Norway, these islands are home to one of the greatest concentrations of Polar Bears on Earth, approximately 3,000 bears. This region remains wild and pristine with its vast mountains, dramatic fjords, massive glaciers, and picturesque icebergs couple with a myriad of Arctic wildlife. The primary mission of professional photographer leader Scott Davis is to provide you with skills and opportunities to produce quality images of unique Arctic wildlife and beautiful landscapes.

  • Adventure north of the Arctic Circle to seek out Polar Bears in nearly 24 hours of daylight.
  • Seabird nesting colonies nestled in striking cliffs.
  • Slip into Svalbard’s many inlets and straits, where larger ships cannot access.
  • Search for Beluga Whales, Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, and Walrus .

Itinerary Updated: February 2017



Ship Info FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Jun 26 Travel to Norway.
Jun 27 Arrive in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen, Longyearbyen
Jun 28 Embark on our ship in Longyearbyen. Aboard our ship B, D
Jun 29–Jul 7 Expedition travel throughout the Svalbard Archipelago, including many landings and Zodiac cruises for maximum time in the field for photography of Arctic wildlife and landscapes. Aboard our ship B, L, D
Jul 8 Disembark in Longyearbyen for flights homeward. B
Jul 9 Arrive home, depending on flight schedules.

Our Trip Leaders

Scott Davis

Scott Davis is a professional photographer specializing in wildlife, nature, travel, and editorial imagery. Originally trained as a wildlife and marine biologist, Scott's research and photo assignments have taken him to far corners of the globe and all seven continents. His photographic work has appeared in numerous national and international magazines and newspapers, commercial websites, prestigious stock agencies, and corporate reports. His patience for teaching and love of capturing the essence of his subjects make him one of our most popular tour leaders.

Samual Blanc

Sam spent three years as the head of educational programs for the League for the Protection of Birds in France and has an incredible eye for spotting camouflaged birds and mammals in the cryptic tundra of Svalbard. He specializes in guiding in the polar region, and his photos have won many prizes. His lectures about ice and the explorers of Svalbard, plus his knowledge of wildlife and wildflowers will keep you entranced during our voyage.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Travel to Norway

Jun 26

Svalbard reindeer

Depart home and travel through Oslo, Norway on your way to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.

Arrive in Longyearbyen

Jun 27

Red Phalarope

Arrive in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, today at the latest for an overnight.

Longyearbyen is a Scandinavian town, located on the island of Spitsbergen, the largest in the Svalbard Archipelago. It is located at 78°N latitude on the largest island in the archipelago, Spitsbergen. Three other small settlements on Spitsbergen include another 1,000 people, with most in the Russian settlement of Barentsburg. The rest of the 62,000 square kilometers of Spitsbergen, and the remainder of the archipelago, are largely pristine. While walking around Longyearbyen, you’ll be surrounded by tiny wildflowers beginning to bloom, Svalbard Ptarmigan (a subspecies of the Rock Ptarmigan), and Snow Buntings nesting on the outskirts of town. Common Eiders, Parasitic Jaegers (Arctic Skuas) and Arctic Terns nest along the coastal flats adjoining the town.

A few notes about Norwegian geography terms (as seen in many of the following place names): “bukta” means bay, “sund” means sound, “sundet” or “stretet” means channel or strait, “øy” or “øya” means island, “landet” means land or country, “breen” means glacier, and, of course, “fjord” or “fjorden” means fjord or inlet.

Embark on our ship

Jun 28

Zodiac cruising around Svaldbard photo by Scott Davis

Today you can choose to do some last minute shopping, visit the excellent museum next to the Radisson Blu hotel, or simply explore the shore for birds. Side trips to other locales along the coast of Isfjorden are available. You’ll board the ship in the late afternoon.

The waters around these islands are very calm compared to the Antarctic. Due to the shallow seas and the warming waters of the Gulf Stream, the climate is much milder than one would expect so far north. During this in-depth voyage, you will have ample opportunities to land ashore, Zodiac cruise, and view wildlife from the decks of our ship.

Note: Flexibility is paramount in expedition travel. Our itinerary depends on the weather and ice conditions at the time of travel. We emphasize photography of Polar Bears and other Arctic wildlife along with unique and beautiful landscapes. Our small group size gives us the flexibility to stay at a perfect photographic moment for however long needed.

Expedition travel through the Svalbard Archipelago!

Jun 29–Jul 7

Polar Bear

Your expedition will have an incredible amount of freedom to explore the Svalbard archipelago. In the land of 24-hour daylight, you’ll search for Arctic wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Of course, a goal is to photograph Polar Bears, but the region also hosts a myriad of other Arctic wildlife species to watch and photograph. Your small group expedition will have the time, flexibility, and freedom to cruise around the shores, and land on shore to hike, explore, and photograph wildlife and landscapes to capture the wildflowers blooming on the cliff sides.

You’ll visit fantastic bird cliffs where Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, and several species of alcids breed, including Dovekie, Black Guillemot, Thick-billed Murre (Brünnich's Guillemot), and Atlantic Puffin. You’ll seek out Polar Bears, seals, and Ivory Gulls where ice abounds. You’ll also have time to get inland a bit to see goose colonies – Pink-footed and Barnacle – along with Common Eider, King Eider, Long-tailed Duck (Oldsquaw), and Svalbard Rock Ptarmigan.

While walking, stay alert for nesting shorebirds, such as Red Phalaropes, terns, and skuas. Arctic Terns and Parasitic Jaegars (Arctic Skuas) are quick to dive bomb if they are disturbed. While on land, keep an eye out for Arctic Fox and Svalbard Reindeer (an endemic subspecies with very short legs) foraging during the plentiful summer months.

Some favorite landing sites:

Liefdefjorden ~ You may sail to the mouth of Liefdefjorden and go ashore for a walk on the tundra of Andøya. Many geese feed on the tundra lushness at this time of year and you may also see the less common King Eider. Monacobreen, with its five-kilometer-long face, is an impressive glacier at the end of this large fjord. Polar Bears have been seen on the glacier, and the surrounding sea is a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes.

Raudfjorden ~ Along the north coast of Spitsbergen, Raudfjorden is a beautiful fjord with spectacular glaciers. It is home to Ringed and Bearded Seals, seabird colonies, and surprisingly rich vegetation.

Ytre Norskøya ~ The small island of Ytre Norskøya, on the northwest coast of Spitsbergen, has an accessible breeding ground of Dovekies, Black Guillemots, Thick-billed Murres, Atlantic Puffins, and Parasitic Jaegars and is a beautiful place to hike along the colorful lichen covered cliffs.

Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden ~ On the west side of Spitsbergen, Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden are good places to Zodiac cruise along the famed Fourteenth of July Glacier or Fjortende Julibreen and other beautiful glaciers. Large numbers of kittiwakes and Thick-billed Murres forage and nest on the nearby cliffs. You also have a good chance of spotting Arctic Foxes below the cliffs as well as Bearded Seals in the fjord.

Alkhornet ~ At the mouth of Isfjorden, the largest of all Spitsbergen’s fjords, you may land at Alkhornet where Arctic Foxes search the cliff base for fallen chicks. Also at the base of the cliffs, Svalbard Reindeer graze the luxuriant wildflower covered vegetation, creating some of the best reindeer photography in the archipelago.

Disembark and fights homeward

Jul 8

Walrus by Scott Davis

The entire group will disembark around 9 am and either travel to the airport or into town for those departing later in the day. If you wish to extend your stay, we are happy to book a hotel in Longyearbyen for you (not included, subject to availability). Information about transfers and hotels in Longyearbyen and Oslo will be provided in your trip materials.

Arrive home

Jul 9

Arrive home today, depending on your flight schedule.

Svalbard

Sail through Norway’s Arctic past glaciers lit by the midnight sun to find a most mythic predator: the Polar Bear.

78.246084, 15.465563

Ship Information

Svalbard Ship

We chose the most well-equipped and comfortable ship that sails the Svalbard archipelago in the small ship category. The ship is 34 m (112 ft) with an ice-strengthened hull and shallow draft that enables us to explore shallow inlets that where other ships cannot go. The cabins for 12 passengers are cozy and comfortable, and each person has his/her own private cabin (if you choose) and each cabin has its own private bathroom facilities.


More Information
Svaldbard ship photo by Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris

Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip Cost, single occupancy* $11,300

*Single occupancy aboard the ship, but double occupancy at Longyearbyen hotel.

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you at the hotel in Longyearbyen. If you would like a single room, there is an additional cost.

Please note that we cannot guarantee a specific cabin number. If changes occur, we will do everything in our power to assign a cabin of equal or greater value as the cabin type specified in your reservation. Deck plan, cabin arrangements, and cabin amenities are subject to change by ship operator.


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second February 1, 2017 $2,000
Third October 1, 2017 $2,000
Final February 1, 2018 Remaining balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Cancellations

Refunds are given depending on the time left before departure according to the following table. The cancellation fee of $300 per person can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Consider purchasing trip cancellation insurance that could reimburse your trip costs in the event of your cancellation.

Dates Forfeited Amount per Person
On or before November 30, 2017 $300
December 1 to December 31, 2017 10% of tour cost
January 1 to January 31, 2018 40% of tour cost
On or after February 1, 2018 100% of tour cost

Included

  • All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and photography instruction for all activities described in the detailed itinerary.
  • Breakfast on June 28 at the hotel and meals aboard our ship from dinner on June 28 through breakfast on July 8.
  • Nine days and ten nights aboard our ship.
  • Lodging the night of June 27 in Longyearbyen.
  • A group transfer from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Longyearbyen to the ship on June 28 and a group transfer from the ship to the airport or into town upon disembarkation on July 8.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • Airfare, airport arrival/departure taxes, excess baggage fees. Round-trip airfare is approximately $1,600 to $2,900 from the USA to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway depending on origin.
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • Lunch on June 28 in Longyearbyen.
  • We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
  • Gratuities – tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $15 to $20 per participant per day for June 28 to July 8 (about $150 to $200 total per participant) to be distributed among the ship’s crew and assistant guide.
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance, but it is required for you to purchase. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, soft drinks and alcoholic bottled beverages, and items not on the regular menu, etc. (If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.)

Climate

You will be visiting the Arctic during its summer with 24 hours of daylight. Expect temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s °F (0–9°C), sometimes in the 50’s and low 60’s °F (10–17°C), but weather fronts can cause temperatures to drop further. Weather patterns are highly variable in the Arctic so one day can be sunny and bright and the next foggy and rainy or possibly light snow, so bring appropriate attire to handle a mix of weather conditions. Keep in mind that we can only relay weather trends and, in general, climate change has created less reliable weather and more extreme weather conditions everywhere, so be prepared for changing conditions.

Fitness Level

You must be fit enough to get from the ship into the Zodiacs via a six-foot ladder with staff assisting you above and below. Once ashore, you must be able to get into and out of the Zodiacs including occasionally on a rocky coastline. There will be opportunities for short, relaxed hikes, usually of less than a mile over varied terrain (tundra, flat areas, hilly and grassy areas, or rocky slopes) depending on our location. The longest walks will be about one mile (1.6 km) and, at times, uphill for about 20–30 minutes. Remember you will be carrying all of your camera gear; to prepare, we suggest you practice carrying your equipment for the amount of time and distances that you may encounter during this trip. Landing details will be given in advance of each landing and you will always have complete freedom to participate or not participate in the landings and nature hikes.

Flights

Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later in Longyearbyen, as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway (LYR) on June 27. For most, this means departing home on June 25 or 26. Depart Longyearbyen, Svalbard (LYR) after 11am on July 8, as we debark from the ship at 9am and recommend at least one hour to check-in before departure.

FAQ

Why is this a photography safari in Svalbard?

Scott and Sam know this Arctic wilderness well and are eager to show you photographic techniques for optimal photography in the Arctic from their unique perspectives. We emphasize photography of Polar Bears and other Arctic wildlife along with unique and beautiful landscapes. Our small group size gives us the flexibility to stay at a perfect photographic moment to capture world-class images. We use enough Zodiacs so you won’t be crowded and you have enough room for your photography gear. If we discover an exceptionally rich photo subject or area, such as a Polar Bear with cubs, a Polar Bear hunting, a pod of Belugas, an exquisitely lit landscape, or any other interesting subject matter that intrigues us, we have the freedom to work that subject for two minutes, two hours, two days, or however long we need.

Will I enjoy this trip if I am not a photographer?

Yes! While the emphasis is on photographing Arctic scenery and wildlife, maximum time in the field (we take full advantage of the long daylight hours in the Arctic summer!) on shore and Zodiac cruising also offers plenty of opportunities to simply observe wildlife and their behaviors. Our leaders have backgrounds in biology paired with lots of experience in Polar Regions so have the knowledge to enhance your experience in Svalbard.

Why sail in June/July?

There is still a good amount of sea ice during early summer. Sea ice provides a good platform to walk onto the shore; when this “ice platform” melts it is almost impossible to climb onto the shore over the shoreline banks, decreasing the number of landing possibilities. Also, we will find more Polar Bears since they stay with the sea ice pack actively looking for and hunting seals. We will also find very large aggregations of nesting sea birds along the cliffs during this time of year.

Why is our ship the best for this type of trip?

With only twelve passenger cabins, our ship is smaller than most ships in Svalbard, allowing us to poke into more and smaller inlets than other cruise ships. This means that we are able to see things other ships miss. With two leaders and only twelve passengers on our ship, you will receive plenty of individual attention.

How is the food on the ship?

The food is top-notch! Our past travelmates rave about the chef and the excellent French cuisine.

Accommodations

Seasickness

Don’t let a fear of seasickness scare you away! For all but the most sensitive, seasickness is rarely a problem in this region. It’s a good idea to bring medication if you get seasick or are unsure, but you may find that you do not need it after a couple days once you have your “sea legs.” Even those who have experienced seasickness reported that the incredible wildlife and overall experience were well worth the temporary discomfort. Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness and contact us if you have any concerns.

Transportation

Conditions

  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours. The crew aboard the ship smoke in designated smoking sections only.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.