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Realm of the Polar Bear in Depth - M/S Expedition ACSX
3 reviews for this tour
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In the realm of the polar bear in depth
What Was The Highlight Or Most Memorable Moment Of Your Tour
Arriving at the sea ice and seeing 8 polar bears....3 of which came very close up to the vessel to see who we were. Absolutely amazing and due to the midnight sun we spent hours on deck late evening watching them...watching us....
Tour Leader Name
How Was Your Explore Tour Leader
...John the Exoedition leader was Amazing he knew the Spitsburgen area very well...took account of weather conditions...chased the pack ice for bears right up to 499 nautical miles south of the North Pole to see bears in their natural summer environment and had the best interests of the group and health and safety at mind.
What Tips Would You Give To Someone Else Booking This Tour
Don't take too many clothes! You need a good quality wind and waterproof jacket...thickness is not the key but layering underneath is. Take a couple of thermal tops and leggings you wear them most of the time! Polar fleeces and jackets and warm gloves....most people complained about cold hands...fingerless convertable gloves good for taking photos! You definitely also need a good pair of waterproof trousers for pulling over your normal trousers. Don't be worried about sharing a 4 person cabin...the rooms are actually more roomy than I thought.
Do You Have Anything Else To Add
Food is amazing on the ship....crew are fantastic too....truly a trip of a lifetime :-)
What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?
There were so many highlights it's hard to decide - every day was my favourite for different reasons! I loved going up to the pack ice, the curious walrus are definitely in with a shout, the humpback whale breaching 5 times just in front of the boat, the polar bear hunting seals and the comedy moment when one escaped from him, as well as the beautiful scenery and fantastic team on the ship! Oh and it was pretty cool travelling into unchartered waters too!
How was your Explore Tour Leader?
Brilliant, very enthusiastic and not afraid to take calculated risks, working alongside the captain and crew to get the best out of the experience.
What tips would you give to someone else booking this tour?
It's an amazing trip so just go for it! I went on my own and the other travellers were really friendly. I found it cold and had ski salopettes as well as thermals - the air temperature isn't too bad but the wind chill really has an effect, wind proof clothing is a must. Take a pair of good binoculars - it's not a zoo and we deliberately didn't get too close to any animals in the boat unless they came to us. The food on board is amazing with lots of choice - don't bother taking any snacks in your case! Pack essentials like change of clothes/warm clothes in your hand luggage - some people's luggage didn't arrive. On the walks, use the provided wellies, not your walking shoes as you will walk in boggy areas and through streams. Spend as much time on deck as possible!
After a day of travelling and a very comfortable night at Hotel Spitsbergen we joined the M/S Expedition. The staff welcomed us aboard and we were shown to our cabins . We had a category 3 cabin which had plenty of room, window instead of porthole and en-suite bathroom . After all the necessary drills we set sail and this is where the fun started .
As we progressed along Isfjorden the pack ice which had been patchy began to thicken and we could see in the distance another ship and a couple of yachts that were not moving and were surrounded by ice. Expedition is ice reinforced not an icebreaker and our captain tried to get through but decied to turn back and we woke the next morning at anchour inYmerbukta inside Isfjorden. It was a beautiful calm warm day and the views from the deck stunning with the Esmark glacier on one side and pack ice on the other. The morning briefings provided us with information on zodiac operations and behaviour in polar bear country. All our guides were armed every time we went a shore in case of bear encounters .
The afternoon gave us a chance to practise our zodiac skills. We saw a bearded seal sunning itself on the pack ice numerous birds and having found a place to land got quite close to Reindeer. So a good first day and back to the ship for dinner and then back to tackle the pack ice again. It took until 8am the next morning but we made it through so a day at sea with interesting lectures .We reached 80degrees north and what was to be a brilliant day . We started at the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet 60,000 pairs of Thick-billed Murres nesting on narrow ledges ,an amazing and somewhat smelly site. Then just after lunch a female Polar Bear with 2 cubs was spotted on the pack ice. They were quite hard to spot as she was moving on and off the ice but we stayed with them and one of the cubs stood on his hind legs to get a better look at us. This was to be our only bear sighting but how wonderful to see them in their true environment. We finished our day with a beach landing and 18 Walruss.
The next few days we visited Gravneset Whaler cemetery and beach( where the brave can take a dip ! ) , bird cliff and a hike to the top of a glacier, Ny Alesund, and just watching the breathtaking scenery from the deck. As we returned to Longyearbyen the pack ice had gone but was replaced by fog so our last hike was cancelled as it would not have been safe to land .
This trip brings home how wild and unpredictable this land is and wildlife is not "guaranteed" as with other trips ( Galapagos and some African safari's ) . The ship was comfortable ,food varied and delicious and the crew and staff went out of their way to make our trip enjoyable so would recommend this cruise to anyone wanting to experience the Arctic.
Tips - I took my own wellies as have large feet but they do need to have a good sole with grip as having landed you walk in them on different terrains, inner soles will help keep feet warm when landing in water. It was not too cold ,waterproof trousers over jeans were fine most of the time, ski salopets were useful for on deck when the ship was moving. Clothing doesnt have to cost you a fortune, I bought cheap ski wear from a supermarket and it was fine . If you are prone to sea sickness we nibbled on stem ginger as well as taking medication, although we only had 1 rough night.