It is the 5th of July, 2019, 4.00 pm. Time to board the m/v Hondius, Oceanwide’s newly built ship! After we spent three days in and around Longyearbyen, it was finally time for our 10 days expedition trip, “Around Spitsbergen”!
We are Ximena and Michelle, tour operators from the Dutch company Norge Reiser. It was our first time in the Arctic, and we were very excited to join this trip. We sell the trips from Oceanwide in our agency and now we would finally experience it by ourselves.
After we boarded the ship, we were shown to our cabin. This would be our home for the next 10 days. The cabin looked and smelled so new, and was surprisingly luxurious.
After a walk around the ship, it was time for the first briefing and after that: dinner. Only for today it was a buffet, but the following days we would get a three-course dinner. The choice of the dinner had to be made during lunch.
The next morning our expedition leader woke us up for breakfast through the speakers. After the briefing, we heard guides talking to each other: “The captain saw a polar bear a few kilometres away.”
We went to the bridge and asked where we had to look. Through a big telescope we saw the polar bear eating. Because it was a protected area, the ship was not allowed to get too close. It was far away, but still we saw a polar bear on our first day!
After a very good lunch, we arrived in Ny Ålesund and had our first landing by Zodiac. We could choose between different hikes, so we went for the longer hike. Other options were a medium walk and a “walk and talk”. Lucky us, the long hike brought us to some beautiful viewpoints!
After dinner we went to our cabin. While Ximena was taking a shower, we heard trough the speakers that there was a whale in front of the ship. Michelle rushed outside with a camera and Ximena followed as quickly as possible.
It was a blue whale! The biggest animal on earth, incredible to see.
It was very exciting, because you never know when and where one will show up next. After a while, the ship headed farther north – at least, that was the plan.
We went back to our cabin, but after two minutes there was a new announcement: a fin whale. Lesson learned: Never take a shower in the Arctic! Just kidding, at least be quick and always ready to go outside.
The next day, we went for another hike. This hike brought us to a cliff full of puffins! We were really close to them; we had to be very quiet, but were able to make some beautiful shots!
After dinner we saw a walrus lying on a piece of ice. The more north we came, the more pack ice. The sound of the ship in the pack ice is like thunder and feels like a plane in turbulence. Sounds a bit scary, but it was so exiting!
If there is no chance to disembark the ship (due to pack ice, fog) there will always be other things organized to entertain you. There are a lot of interesting presentations and lectures. The discovery of Spitsbergen by Willem Barentsz, different types of seals, birds, life of the polar bear, history stories and documentaries about the Arctic.
All guides have different specialties, like wildlife, glaciers, history and birds. Moreover, most of the guides speak several languages! During an expedition trip, you do not only see new things, but you also learn a lot!
Every day before dinner we had a recap about that day to see where we were at that moment and hear what the plan was for the next day. But don’t get surprised if the plans are changed! Because of the weather, this is sometimes necessary. And when there suddenly appears a polar bear, they will make sure you have time to enjoy the moment and get your best shot!
One of the best moments of our trip was day four. After an amazing Zodiac cruise along the cliffs of Alkefjellet, where we saw approximately 60,000 Brünnich’s guillemots, we went back on the ship. The captains had spotted two polar bears. It was a mom with cub!
The cub was from January this year, and it was sooo small, lying on mom’s belly. It was not possible to see it with our bare eyes, but through our binoculars we saw the cub looking at us.
The whole ship jumped in the Zodiacs and we got a closer look. When we got back on the ship, there was a barbecue on the outside deck. There was glühwein, beer, and a lot of good food. Who can say they had a barbecue on Svalbard, being surrounded by pack ice, after seeing two polar bears? We can!
There is so much wildlife in the Arctic. We saw seven polar bears during our trip, even a swimming one!
And almost during every landing we saw polar foxes.
This trip was the best we ever made in our lives. We can write about this trip for hours, but we would recommend everyone to see it with their own eyes. It’s really a great and unforgettable experience!