Michael Fox

Region: Arctic

Destinations: Svalbard

Ship: m/v Plancius

Highlights: Walrus, Polar Bear

Not a complete loss, but for a trip sold as a "polar bear special", we left feeling like we'd just been hoodwinked. A single bear at great distance is hardly special. Similarly, a single blue whale, visible for maybe 2 minutes. Walrus - a dozen, rather than 80 reported on other trips. No beluga. No bowhead. No fin whale. No arctic fox. Hundreds of seabirds rather than thousands. Reindeer - the only species we got a decent look at. No doubt we were unlucky. Wildlife sightings on our trip were significantly less than on other trips, as reported in the various trip logs (up to 26 bears in one case!). But I would expect the crew to know where to find the animals, and to move the ship to where the wildlife is. Yes, wildlife is unpredictable, but others manage to find them. Furthermore - the food on the ship was also well below advertised standard. Edible, certainly, and plentiful, but much closer to "good canteen", and most certainly NOT "fine dining". Finally - many of the guides were uncooperative. The tour leader (in particular) when asked a question would avoid answering, just tell me what a good time I'm having. Will NOT be back.
Oceanwide Expeditions

Comment from Oceanwide Expeditions

We are very sorry to hear that your wildlife sightings were not up to expectations during your trip with the Plancius. Nature is unpredictable, and luck plays a role. This early Arctic season has seen some severe ice conditions in the north that we were not able to penetrate. These circumstances prevented us from reaching areas where we often see wildlife of various kinds, including polar bears and the famous Alkefjellet, with its tens of thousands of breeding Brünnich’s guillemots. Instead, weather forced us to make landings farther south than we normally would have. Indeed the polar bears have been difficult to find, more so than normal this season – not only on your trip, but other trips in the same area. We operate four vessels with very experienced staff and crew, and none of them has had as many bear sightings as they consider normal this time of year. The itinerary changes made due to the ice were also largely based on bear reports from other vessels during this time. A great effort was made by staff and bridge crew to find bears during the sunny day you had in the ice. Unfortunately, this yielded only the one bear that almost caught a bearded seal, as well as a walrus on the ice. Walruses spend a considerable amount of time on shore, followed by a few days or more at sea. This means that there is a constant change in their numbers on a given haul-out from day to day. Sometimes none appear at all. Sunny skies and a sighting of a dozen big bulls is not bad for one cruise. We are unfortunately not lucky enough to see belugas on every trip. Perhaps 30-40% of Spitsbergen trips witness belugas. Bowhead whales are extremely rare too, and if we’re lucky we spot them once a year in the Svalbard area. We are fortunate to have a growing number of blue whales in Svalbard waters, however. They are certainly not animals that are seen frequently elsewhere, so we feel privileged to have seen one on this trip. Please feel free to reach out to us at +31 (0) 118 410 410, so we can reassure you of our efforts.

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