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Join three polar bear experts in this one-of-a-kind expedition — learn about these magnificent and powerful beasts as your guides walk you through the polar bears' biology to their conservation status, and how to safely travel in polar bear country.
September is a serene, spectacular and magical time in Svalbard. It’s the time when the nights start to get longer, little by little and day by day — which means you'll see many morning and evening hours of quiet and breathtaking golden light that the region does not see in the summer. And because this season also means that winter is close, you'll also have some days with some snowfall, which adds an additional element to Svalbard's already amazing natural sceneries.
September is also a significant month for Svalbard's wildlife: Arctic foxes begin to change into their winter furs, and most of the mammals and the birds have already left their mating and breeding cycles behind during the past summer. The former will be readying themselves for hibernation or fattening themselves up for the leaner winter months — the Svalbard reindeers, for example, will have bulked up significantly and are more imposing to look at and photograph. Birds, on the other hand, will be flocking up to begin their migratory flight to warmer climates, or will have left some weeks earlier.
One of Svalbard's most popular wildlife attractions are the polar bears, which are present all throughout the year. September will have most cubs born within the year still spending their time with their mothers, but you may also encounter three-year-olds that are already independent, but due to their youth, are extra inquisitive and curious about things. More often than not, you'll also encounter bears scattered throughout the ice, as they are usually stranded on shore during the summer months.
Also in September, visitors can enjoy multiple sightings of Fin, Minke, Humpback and Blue whales, which frequent Svalbard's waters to feed. Harp seals and white-beaked dolphins are also frequent visitors to Svalbard's waters, along with large groups of walruses.
For the majority of our time in Svalbard, you will be in a small but sturdy ship especially built to stand the icy waters and brave the elements. You will be steered to the best positions for wildlife and landscape photography, as well as for our excursions on land. You will also experience walking on the icy tundra, where natural vistas abound, as well as encounters with reindeer, the geese and arctic terns. More photo opportunities to capture images of Svalbard's wildlife and landscape will also be available to you as we traverse the Zodiacs.
The journey is scheduled to begin on September 2, when you board the vessel at the quay in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. This is also where the journey will end on September 12.
What sets this journey apart is that it's always a different experience every time. Itineraries and even routes vary, depending on what the best opportunities your guides can find for you, as weather and wildlife conditions are also always changing. You guides and instructors will provide a daily schedule guaranteed to maximize your photographic opportunities, utilizing their skills and experience to deliver the best experience possible for participants. All you need to bring is are an open mind, your gear, and your adventurous spirit, and you're all set to enjoy this unique and exciting journey.
Two words: Ice waterfalls. This is considered to be the longest ice wall, and the time of your visit will be when numerous waterfalls pour off its walls in several different places. It's truly a sight to see.
Bearded and ringed seals as well as bird colonies are the highlight of this area, which is a scenic fjord complex where you may also be given several opportunities for shore landings.
More wildlife in this area, but this time, it will be encounters with polar bears and walruses. Needless to say, the northernmost part of Svalbard is also studded with natural sights and landscapes.
It’s a glacial paradise here, with numerous mountain peaks, islands and islets, where you will also enjoy many sightings of beluga whales, polar bears, walruses, and harbour seals. There are also several species of birds in the area.
The amazing vertical cliff face in the Hinlopenstretet strait in Svalbard is not only a majestic sight to see and photograph, but it is also home to the largest accessible auk colony in the world. It is also a place where frequent sightings of large baleen whales and walruses occur.
More amazing landscapes and wildlife abound in Liefdefjorden, as we sail through the golden light and enjoy sightings of polar bears, numerous bird species, as well as beluga and minke whales.
Thor's resume on the artic is several pages long, but suffice to say, he is a very accomplished researcher and lecturer on the arctic, having been on more than 30 research expeditions under his belt, both serving as expedition member and expedition leader. He is particularly knowledgeable on polar bear ecology, having spent more than two decades at the Norwegian Polar Research Institute, eventually becoming director of research until his departure in 1991. He is presently a professor emeritus at the Norwegian University of Life Science and president of the Norwegian Academy of Polar Sciences.
He also has first-hand experience with polar bears, as he has a personal understanding of these magnificent and powerful animals during his research days when he skied on mountains and hillsides to observe of polar bear dens and female bears with cubs when they emerged from the dens.
Another related passion for Thor is nature preservation, as he is working with wildlife ecology, management of protected areas and local stewardship over natural resources in East Europe, Russia, Africa, Asia and Central America.
There are very few people who have as much experience and time in the arctic as Nikita Ovsyanikov. Even less have spent as much time as he has with polar bears. He loves the eild and the wilderness, and is an expert in arctic zoology and ecology. In addition, his knowledge on the subject spreads to more than just polar bears — arctic foxes, for example, have also been frequent subjects of study, research, and observation.
Many of Nikita's years of experience were spent as Deputy Director for science and senior research scientist of Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve. Located in the arctic side of the Russian Far East, Wrangel Island is where Nikita spent decades studying polar bear population dynamics, gaining valuable and priceless insight into the behavioral patterns of these magnificent animals.
And oh, did we mention that he has a PhD in zoology and is a doctor of biological sciences?
Morten is a citizen of the world, in a sense, having been raised in Afghanistan, Tanzania and Malaysia, and later visiting all seven continents of the world. Suffice to say, he has a healthy taste for the wild and has immense respect for nature. He has been in the Arctic since 1997, serving as an interpreter, guide, lecturer, zodiac driver and expedition leader in various capacities.
He has also merged his keen skills and interest in photography with this passion for arctic life — birds, whales, dolphins and polar bears are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his knowledge of local wildlife. In 2015 he also authored a book entitled Polar Bears on the Edge – Heading for Extinction while Management Fails.
It is the combination of all these characteristics that make Morten a key member of the expedition team — his people skills, his knowledge, and his love and passion for nature serve to help people appreciate the Arctic's natural environment while also respecting and gaining consciousness of the importance of conserving and preserving nature.
Nozomi's love affair with the polar region and the arctic began in Svalbard, when she first visited the area, and through subsequent visits to the region — which has expanded to Antarctica — she has been an active participant in the expedition cruise business.
She stands apart from the expedition teams in terms of expertise: while she has vast experience with arctic tours and the local wildlife, she will be assisting the team through driving Zodiacs, guiding ashore, and scanning for wildlife from the decks. Most importantly, however, she brings her overflowing talent in the arts to the team. Her background in the arts as well as her skill in photography and other art forms will an invaluable resource to all the expedition's participants.
We strongly recommend you to get a Trip Cancellation & Travel Insurance after booking your trip.
If you cancel and the Workshop is otherwise filled, we will refund you the full amount you have paid towards the tuition, minus a $300 service charge. If you cancel and the Workshop does not fill, then you will be refunded according to the following schedule, based on the full fee of the Workshop:
Greater than 90 days from the start date of the Workshop: full refund minus $300 service fee.
75 days or more: 75% refund
60 days or more: 50% refund
Less than 60 days: no refund
Refunds will be paid by the same method that the original payment was made.
We highly recommend that you get a travel and medical insurance. Your own domestic government medical insurance and private health scheme will not cover you whilst you are overseas.
The tour is always dependent on weather, as the Icelandic weather can indeed be highly unpredictable. Likewise, visits to ice caves are dependent on favorable conditions, and indeed the ice caves themselves are not permanent. When it comes to the Northern Lights, while they are most likely to be seen between September and April, there is no guarantee that they will appear on a given day.