Realm of the Polar Bear

Svalbard Islands

August 6 - 22, 2018
Cost: $14,700
Leader: Doug & Gail Cheeseman + 2
Group Size: 12
Days: 17

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. Its vast mountains, dramatic fjords, massive glaciers, and picturesque icebergs couple with a myriad of Arctic wildlife. Visiting in August to take advantage of ice-free waters, you’ll be able to sail to the most northeastern island of Nordaustlandet during this extended itinerary. You will capture images of unique Arctic wildlife and beautiful landscapes.

• Adventure north of the Arctic Circle to seek Polar Bears in nearly 24 hours of daylight.
• Explore Nordaustlandet where Polar Bears den in the greatest numbers.
• Slip into Svalbard’s many inlets and straits, where larger ships cannot access.
• Search the calm waters for Beluga Whales, Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, and Walrus.
• Three more days and two more leaders over our standard Svalbard expedition.

Itinerary Updated: December 2017

Ship Info FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Aug 6 Travel to Norway.
Aug 7 Arrive in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, Longyearbyen
Aug 8 Embark on our ship in the late afternoon. Aboard our ship B, D
Aug 9 - 20 Expedition sailing throughout the Svalbard Archipelago. Aboard our ship B, L, D
Aug 21 Disembark in Longyearbyen and fly homeward. B
Aug 22 Arrive home, depending on flight schedules.

Our Trip Leaders

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Travel to Norway

Aug 6

Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris supports World Cetacean Alliance

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

Note: Cheesemans' are members of World Cetacean Alliance and abide by responsible whale watching practices.

Arrive in Longyearbyen

Aug 7

Svalbard reindeer

Arrive in Longyearbyen, Svalbard Archipelago, Norway, today for an overnight tonight. Longyearbyen is a Scandinavian town with a small population of 2,600 and is the northernmost town in the world. 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. Common Eiders, Parasitic Jaegers (Arctic Skuas), and Arctic Terns forage along the coastal flats adjoining the town. Please do not walk away from roads and developed areas in Longyearbyen as bears could be nearby.

Note: Some Norwegian geography terms (as used 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

Aug 8


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. 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!

Aug 9 - 20

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 in August.

Svalbard has terrestrial predators – the Arctic Fox and Polar Bear – so many birds nest on cliffs less accessible to these hungry prowlers. Purple Saxifrage creates brightly-colored mounds varying from deep purple to light pink. Draba’s delicate yellow blossoms and Cinquefoil’s large yellow blooms grow lush below bird cliffs as nutrients rain down from the colonies above during the short breeding season. Below these cliffs, you will find geese foraging the wildflowers and Arctic Fox scouring for the unlucky fledging that fell off the cliff. While walking in Augsut, you will not have to worry as much about disturbing nesting shorebirds, such as Red Phalaropes, terns, and skuas, as they already fledged their nests.

Some of the most important Walrus haul-out sites are found on Nordaustlandet. You'll walk inland here to see Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, along with Common Eider, King Eider, Long-tailed Duck (Oldsquaw), and Svalbard Rock Ptarmigan. You'll search for Svalbard Reindeer (an endemic subspecies with very short legs) that spend their summer munching on the abundant wildflowers. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Ivory Gulls foraging in the sea ice along the northern shores of Nordauslandet.

During your voyage, you’ll seek Polar Bears and several species of seals, included Ringed and Bearded, where ice abounds. Always keep your eyes out for rarities such as Narwhal, Beluga, and Blue Whales, which on rare occasions pass through these northern waters this time of year. You’ll also find that Svalbard is a geologist’s paradise with all the ancient colorful rock strata exposed and ready to explore.

Landscape photography through many scenic fjords lined with snowcapped mountains is a true highlight. Photograph tidal glaciers as they calve dramatically along the coastline due to sunny warm days – what an enticing challenge to capture calving ice, as huge blue-white chunks break from the lip of the glacier and tumble into the sea. After midnight, the sun will still be high in the blue sky casting soft light on the snowy landscapes and allowing you to photograph long into the night.

Even on sunny August days the wind can rise and chill the Arctic summer, so be prepared for weather extremes. Svalbard can also be foggy with cold, drizzly, damp mornings. But be patient – sunlight will break through to shine on the landscape and create patterns and colors beyond imagination.

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

Aug 21

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

Aug 22

Arrive home today, depending on your flight schedule.


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* $14,700

*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 $1,000
Third November 1, 2017 $2,000
Final March 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.


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 December 31, 2017 $300
January 1 to 31, 2018 10% of tour cost
February 1 to 28, 2018 40% of tour cost
March 1 to August 6, 2018 100% of tour cost


  • All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and instruction for all activities described in the detailed itinerary.
  • Meals aboard our ship from dinner on August 8 through breakfast on August 21. Breakfast on August 8 is also included at the hotel.
  • 13 nights on board our ship.
  • Lodging the night of August 7 in Longyearbyen.
  • A group transfer from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Longyearbyen to the ship on embarkation day and a group transfer from the ship to the airport or into town upon disembarkation.
  • Trip Materials – more information about gratuities, flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, 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 departure point.
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • Additional overnights and meals in Longyearbyen.
  • Gratuities: tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $15 to $20 per participant per day for August 8 to August 21 (about $200 to $260 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.
  • Trip cancellation insurance. 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.)


You will be visiting the Arctic during its summer with 24 hours of daylight. Weather patterns may be highly variable, so bring appropriate attire to handle a mix of weather conditions including wind, snow, rain, and sun. Expect temperatures in the 30s and 40s°F (0–9°C), but weather fronts can cause temperatures to either drop further or rise to the 50s and low 60s°F (10–17°C). Keep in mind that we can only relay weather trends. 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.


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 August 7. For most, this means departing home on August 5 or 6. Depart Longyearbyen, Svalbard (LYR) on August 21 after 11:00 am, as we debark from the ship at 9:00 am and recommend at least one hour to check-in before departure.


Why is this a photography safari in Svalbard?

Sam and Agnès 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?

We provide our travelers maximum time in nature by taking full advantage of the long daylight hours in the Arctic summer. Zodiac cruising and landings on shore offer plenty of opportunities to simply observe wildlife and their behaviors. The sheer volume of our leaders’ biology background and familiarity in the polar regions will enhance your experience in Svalbard.

Why sail in August?

In August, there will be less ice around the islands of Svalbard giving us open, navigable waters to search for more wildlife including Polar Bears. With less sea ice to worry about we can travel faster and farther to remote places. With less birds sitting on vulnerable nests in August, there are more opportunities for carefree hiking while ashore. We are able to take advantage of the long hours of daylight, expanding our activities into the late evening.

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.



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.



  • 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.