Natalie In Patagonia Top Ten Bucket List Trips For 2018

Natalie's Top Ten Bucket List Trips For 2018
Wildfoot travel expert Natalie Natalie Greenhalgh has always been passionate about travelling. Seeking out new places and new travel experiences is something she has done all her life. Always lining up the next life-goal or travel-target. So who better to ask to put together her top ten bucket-list adventures for 2018? Here’s Natalie’s top ten. How many of these adventures would you add to your bucket list?

We all do it, every year we make a list of new year’s resolutions that often tend to be about bettering one’s self. And we can’t think of a better way of doing this than to travel. So book your time off, pack your bags and set off for a new destination! It’s a great big world out there, so here are some highlights that we at Wildfoot Travel would highly recommend.

Beautiful Patagonia

Hike Hidden Pathways in Patagonia

Celebrating 200 years of independence this year, Chile is unlike any other place on earth. Isolated from the rest of the world with the vast Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atacama Desert to the North, the soaring Andes to the East and the wilds of Patagonia to the South, these extreme environments make for a remarkable country. In my opinion, Patagonia is the most beautiful spot on the planet…an otherworldly dreamland of majestic mountains, deep blue glaciers and fairy-tale woodlands, a trek in this remote wilderness will stay with you for life.

When? Chile’s summer months of December to March are warmest and best for trekking. Visit in October and November for Wildflowers.

Diving in the Galapagos

Go Goggle-eyed in the Galapagos

As a wildlife destination, the Galapagos offers a once in a lifetime experience, where adventurous travellers can get extremely close to exotic animals and aquatic life. These isolated islands are home to the marine and land-based animals that have enthralled biologists and nature lovers since Darwin’s day, and the fearless and friendly animals that roam this untouched natural world are in abundance.
Easily one of the best snorkelling spots in the World, there is over 15,000 square miles of protected, marine reserve waters. Unlike Scuba Diving, no special training is required for snorkelling, so if you can swim and breathe through a snorkel, you’re set! I will never forget watching green turtles paddle in front of me as two sea lions were demanding my attention as they circled me then swam up and looked me in the eye. Marine iguanas are warning in the sun, Galápagos penguins dive in, and hammerhead and white-tipped sharks lurk in the depths.

When? Unlike most wildlife destinations, there’s no wrong time to visit & go snorkelling in the Galapagos Islands. There are two distinct seasons in the Galapagos. The dry and cooler season runs from June to November while the wet and warmer season lasts from December through the end of May.

Penguins on South Georgia Island


Sit among King Penguins in South Georgia

When you land on South Georgia, a spectacularly beautiful and remote sub-Antarctic island, you will be amazed at the sight of 300,000 king penguins crowding the beach. These beautiful birds are recognisable by their orange throats and jet black heads. As they stand shoulder to shoulder on this tiny island, you certainly feel like a guest in their home! But they are very welcoming hosts and are often happy to come a little closer and say hello. And it’s not all about penguins, if you want to spend time with the greatest density of wildlife on the planet, you can expect to see seals, petrels, albatrosses, prions and much more.

When? The short expedition season runs from November-March when the sea ice breaks up to allow passage. November offers the chance of also seeing elephant seals on South Georgia, whilst December and January have warmer temperatures and welcome penguin chicks at this time of year.

 

walking safari in Zambia

Walk amongst the wild things in Zambia

The concept of walking safaris was born here, in South Luangwa National Park. One of the best wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and well-known for its World class guides, it is home to some of the highest concentrations of animals in Africa. Don’t be daunted by the prospect of walking, exploring the area on foot makes you really appreciate the bush as you become a part of the landscape. You may stumble upon a baby elephant learning to use its trunk, watch a wallowing hippo or two or stay as still as humanly possible as a Lion watches you through the grass. But you also take the time to learn about the plants, seeds and insects and how they all work so brilliantly together in this fascinating system. So if you’re after a safari that doesn’t just tick off the big 5, walk amongst the animals that call this place home and see how it all fits together, you will not be disappointed.

When? Some camps in Zambia are only open in the dry-season between June and October. As the heat increases towards the end of August, there is a greater concentration of game.

northern lights in scandanaviaBe in awe of the Aurora Borealis whilst Whale watching

Walking out of a bar in Reykjavik, I looked up and caught a glimpse of the northern lights. Despite the light pollution, I could faintly see the beautiful light show that was happening right above me. I stood in awe for a few seconds before the magical lights disappeared, and I made a promise to myself to make a trip one day specifically to see this sight “properly”. There are many places to see this natural phenomenon, but why not combine this with another wonderous experience…whale watching. Take a winter trip aboard a traditional two masted schooner and sail in arctic waters, looking for orcas and humpback whales, which follow the herring shoals at this time of year. Whales by day, northern lights by night…what could be better?

When? Darkness is the key, and nowhere is darker than Scandinavia in winter! Best seen in the Northern Hemisphere between October – March, the closer to the Arctic circle the better.

Peek at Jaguar’s in the Pantanal

Think of a wildlife destination in Brazil and most people would suggest the Amazon. But the Pantanal is Brazil’s less-famous great wilderness…and the best place in the world to spot the elusive Jaguar. Because the Amazon is so dense, often people can be disappointed with what little wildlife they see, but the Pantanal is like the jungle without the trees – wildlife can be easily spotted.  This vast wetland is also home to giant otters, huge caiman, capybara, anteaters, almost 700 hundred bird species and much more. Exploring this wilderness by boat or on foot, you will have the opportunity of seeing very rare and iconic wildlife up-close.

When?  Seasonally flooded in the wet season between December – May, the Pantanal is best visited in winter with September and October usually seen as the best months to visit for Jaguar spotting.

Feel free in the faraway Falklands

With some of the World’s wildest and remote landscapes, the Falkland Islands are a wonderous place and incredibly bio-diverse. A little bit of Britain at the end of the world, the real citizens here are the animals. With 5 penguin species (Kings, Rockhopper, Magellanic, Macaroni and Gentoo), dolphins, whales, sea lions, leopard seals, elephant seals and not to mention over 200 species of birds…if you are after a wildlife trip with a difference, the Falkland’s will not disappoint. Stanley, the capital of East Falkland Island is often at the start of your adventure, with Volunteer point not to be missed…home to the largest colony of King Penguins on all of the islands. Then take a short plane hop to Sea Lion Island, Darwin, Pebble Island, Carcass and West Point Island, each island offering a unique and unforgettable experience.

When? OctoberMarch is generally considered the best time to visit, with the start of the warmer weather bringing new life and later on in the season, the better time for whale watching.

The Icebergs in Greenland's Disko Bay

 Dance amongst the Icebergs in Disko Bay, Greenland

Ok, so you might not dance but this is Disko Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to its outstanding natural beauty. Greenland is the worlds largest island, with the worlds largest national park, and on the West Coast you will find Illullisat, a harbour town on Disko Bay whose name translates literally to “icebergs”, and you will see why. Disko bay is packed full of beautiful icebergs of all shapes and sizes rising majestically from the sea. And this is just one tiny highlight of this huge island that has so much to offer.

When? Most people visit in summer (May – September) when temperatures can reach a balmy 10 degrees Celsius! Enjoy the midnight sun at this time too, with most areas lit up around the clock from June – July.

See the sunrise over Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia

The climb up this 85m sand dune (in sand no less) will leave you short as breath as you reach the top. Short of breath for the climb you have just experienced but also short of breath when you see the beauty of the sunrise over Sossusvlei. As I watched the sun come up and change the colours of the landscape, the orange of the sunrise combined with the rust-red of the Dunes was so intense and I remember feeling lost in that moment, whilst nature showed just how beautiful she can be. Just one highlight of my trip to Namibia, this is one of my favourite countries as it has everything to offer, fantastic wildlife and national parks, preserved ancient cultures, dramatic landscapes and lovely little seaside towns.

When? A year-round destination, Namibia has over 300 days of sunshine per year! Wildlife can be easier to view in the drier months between May to November.
sloth hanging from a tree in the rain forest of costa rica

Go coco for Costa Rica

As a country, Costa Rica has so much to offer, especially for wildlife enthusiasts! Costa Rica covers 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface, but it contains nearly 6 percent of the world’s biodiversity.  Around 25% of the country’s land area is in protected national parks and protected areas, the largest percentage of protected areas in the world. Sloths, Whales, Turtles, Monkeys, Tapirs and hundreds of bird species…it is packed full of wildlife! If you’re after a bit of adrenalin, try white-water rafting, ziplining and canyoning…just a few of the activities on offer. And with coastlines on both the Pacific and Caribbean, there are many beach spots to relax after a busy trip around this wonderful country.

When? The driest and sunniest time of year to go is between January to April with January and February being the busiest time to go. Temperatures and rainfall can very though with Rainforests, Cloud Forests, mountains and 2 coastlines all battling it out!

Find out more about any of our trips here

Natalie Top Ten Bucket List Trips For 2018

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arctic ice pack Arctic Complete – (27th July – 18th August 2017)

Celia Hills enjoyed a Wildfoot Travel  trip to the Arctic recently. Responding to our call for ‘Traveller’s Tales’, Celia sent in this summary of her trip along with some excellent photos.
Now that we’ve set the scene, we’ll hand you over to Celia……..

The trip began with everyone meeting at Longyearbyen airport in Svalbard and going on a coach tour of the town before boarding the Polar Pioneer for the start of the adventure into the Arctic.

Arctic Exploration Cruise Vessel The Polar Pioneer

The Polar Pioneer, a Finnish-built expedition cruise ship operated by the Australian cruise company Aurora Expeditions

The first exciting thing was to be briefed on safety & to do a lifeboat drill as we were leaving harbour. Trying to get into one of two small lifeboats with all 53 passengers & some crew was a challenge with huge lifejackets & little space. As there is permanent daylight at these latitudes at this time of year there was much to see already.

Huge numbers of sea birds to be seen included Fulmars, Glaucous Gulls, Little Auks, Puffins, Black Guillemots, Brunnichs Guillemots, Kittiwakes Eider Ducks & Arctic terns. As the trip progressed the numbers of some of these verged on the staggering with huge seabird cliffs bulging with adults & chicks. Less often seen were the Arctic Skuas & Great Skuas. Geese were also abundant with Pink Footed geese & Barnacle Geese the most common.

Only two days into the trip & the first of 12 polar bears was sighted. This trip was outstanding for bears with the best left to last with a sighting of a mother & cub. One encounter with a male bear on a hunting mission was deemed to be worthy of a “Frozen Planet” sequence by the guides as it had the bear stalk & attack three bearded seals over a 3 hour period.

a polar bear hunting on the arctic shoreline

Only two days into our trip & the first of twelve polar bears was sighted.

Another highlight of this trip were the glaciers & icebergs for sheer beauty of colours, size & shapes & glaciers calving when viewed from a zodiac is amazing with the sound & then mini tsunami.

History is also a strong feature of this trip with various ancient camps, huts and burial grounds of the ancient explorers & trappers.

Walrus were also a highlight with some amazing sounds  & smells in the pushing & shoving of a group of young males, while an encounter from the zodiac of a group of females & young was enchanting.

Walrus were also a highlight with amazing sounds & smells.

Walrus were also a highlight with amazing sounds & smells.

Tiny Arctic Foxes were a delight & some almost tame in their tolerance of close humans. One catching an unfortunate Kittiwake chick that was pushed from its nest showed nature in the raw.

A pod of over 20 Beluga whales was another  of many highlights with them cruising around the zodiacs.

Crossing the Greenland Sea from Svalbard to Greenland was mostly uneventful with birds & fog being the order of the days.

Greenland has certainly got the wow factor with glorious scenery & magnificent rock formations & colours. Scoresbysund being the most amazing place. The addition of Musk Ox in Greenland added to the wildlife total.

Apart from Longyearbyen in Svalbard the only other occupied area visited on this trip was Ittoqqortoormiit, one of the only inhabited area of east Greenland & home to 350 people.

For me one of the best experiences was on the last landing in Greenland where there were a pair of Gyr Falcons, a bird I had never seen.

To summarise this trip is difficult because there were so many highs – Polar Bear, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Musk Ox & the thousands of birds – but what made I was the staff & crew of the Polar Pioneer being so friendly & knowledgeable.

Celia Hills.

See more of Celia’s photos in this photo gallery

Check out all our Arctic cruises here

Join us on a Spitsbergen polar bear safari. Find out more here

Find out more about all our polar cruise partners here

 

 

 

 

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Polar Bear Photo taken by Brian Clasper The Realm of The Polar Bear – Brian’s Photo Gallery

Brian  Clasper joined us on one of our ‘Realm of The Polar Bear’ trips. Here he shares his photographic account of the experience. And what an experience it was.

Thanks for sharing the photos Brian.

If you’d like to find out more about the ‘Realm Of The Polar Bear’ click here

 

 

 

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Polar Cruise Vessel The Spirit Of Enderby Jewel of the Russian Far East
Mike Unwin, travel and nature writer based in Brighton UK. Voted UK Travel Writer of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers. 

Mike Unwin, travel and nature writer

Mike Unwin is a freelance travel and nature writer based in Brighton UK. He writes regularly for the Telegraph, Independent, BBC Wildlife and numerous other publications, and is the author of more than 30 books for both adults and children. In 2013 Mike was voted UK Travel Writer of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers.  

Here Mike gives us a brief account of his experience on an expedition cruise aboard the Spirit Of Enderby with Wildfoot Travel.

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Polar Cruise Ship Sea Spirit - Refurbished to the highest standard. Checking Out Sea Spirit’s New Refit
Travel Expert Gillian Landells checks out the polar cruise liners refit

Our travel expert Gillian Landells spent years working and travelling around Australia and New Zealand. She has also travelled extensively around South East Asia including Thailand, Japan and Malaysia. Gillian holds a deep passion for wildlife, photography, conservation and seeing as much of the world as possible.

A commanding position from sea spirit's upper deck

A commanding position from sea spirit’s upper deck

I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the M/V Sea Spirit after she had undergone recent refurbishment on all cabins.

The M/V Sea Spirit is a purpose-built expedition ship that takes passengers to the beautiful regions of the Arctic and Antarctica.

She has a very classic look inside with lots of wood throughout along with a modern touch – it is a good mixture of feeling spacious but cosy at the same time.

Being able to accommodate a maximum of 114 guests is just the ideal size in my opinion to enable everyone to get on shore as much as possible.

During my time onboard it was really easy to talk to the other guests and that was in part to the lovely homely surroundings of the ship.

The crew took the time to talk to every single guest and were more than happy to answer questions and regale us with stories on the unique wildlife they have encountered. The vessel has great camaraderie between all onboard and this I felt added to my experience.

The bedroom are fresh and comfortable , with a contemporary feel.

Home Comfort Afloat

The refurbishment has made everything look very fresh and the small touches throughout were very much noticed.

The old and new photographs on each side of the corridors was great – it was very interesting to see the exact same image from years gone by mirrored by the present day.

 

 

 

Hot Tub On Deck

Is there a better place to enjoy a soak in the tub than this?

 

bedroom on a luxury polar cruise ship

Bedrooms with a comfortable, cosy ‘home  from home’ feeling about them.

If you are Facebook user, you can check out a gallery of photos from my visit to Sea Spirit here.

the northern lights An incomparable coal mine experience and an impressive display from the northern lights

There can’t have been many Arctic holidays quite as enjoyable and fulfilling as that recently embarked upon by our own senior travel advisor here at WILDFOOT. Alas, in our latest blog post, her journey to Spitsbergen is coming to an end, but not without yet more great memories being made.

Day 5: Coal Mine Number 3 Visit & Camp Barentz

Now visiting a coal mine is not something I ever thought I would do, or would particularly want to do. Having visited one I can now confidently say that it’s somewhere I would never like to work! Crawling through narrow tunnels, deeper and deeper into a mountain, with the weight of millions of tons of rock above…then releasing the jacks holding up the roof once a coal seam has been fully mined? No thanks! We did get to crawl through a ‘fake’ tunnel which was a small taste of the experience. It was fascinating to learn though, how the miners plied their trade. They are incredibly brave and hardy – hats off to them! Before the arrival of tourism, coal mining was the main source of income for Svalbard. There are 7 mines in central Spitsbergen, only one of which is currently operational, although the industry here is highly contested with the UN and environmental organisations urging its phase out. All the more reason to preserve Mine Number 3 as a museum piece.Day 5 coal mine number 3

Day 5 Mine number 3

The finale of our trip was a northern lights evening at Camp Barentz. Named after William Barentz, Dutch explorer and discoverer of Svalbard, the cabin where we were to have our dinner was a rough copy of the one built by Barentz and his crew during the 11 months that they were stranded on Novaya Zemlya after their ship became stuck in the ice. With a roaring fire in the centre of the cabin, a hearty stew and chunks of bread to fill the stomach and a glass of wine in hand it was a fitting and fun end to an amazing trip. And the northern lights didn’t disappoint with their strongest display of the whole visit. Perfect!

 

 

 

Making new canine friends in the Spitsbergen cold

It’s one thing to go on an Arctic wildlife viewing holiday, but quite another thing for some of the animal natives to help you on your way! That’s what our travel advisor discovered on the latest day of her trip, and it’s a testament once more to some of the incredible experiences that one can have on a Svalbard break with WILDFOOT.

Day 4: Ice caving and dog sledding

It was back outside with a vengeance today, starting with a snowcat ride up the Longyearbyen valley to an ice cave. The valley runs through the town and up into the mountains, and at its head is a glacier. Within this glacier is an ice tunnel that visitors can explore, with a fresh entrance to the cave being dug each winter to allow access. The track up to the head of the valley is steep and, needless to say, very snowy – so much so that our snow cat, even with its thick treads, struggled at one point. Once 14 well-fed members of my Arctic winter expedition group had been ejected from the vehicle and trailer, it did manage to make it up there, but only thanks to the perseverance of our indomitable driver! Inside the small igloo that has been built around the cave entrance 14 anxious faces gazed down into an icy hole. The nervous mutterings, which had been heard intermittently since the announcement of the planned ice cave visit, were somewhat quietened by the appearance of a reasonably sturdy looking metal ladder leading down into the depths. In fact, it was only a few metres to the tunnel floor and then a simple walk along a narrow channel into the cave – all that worrying for nothing! And it is stunningly beautiful down there, with the contours and colours of the ancient ice.Day 4 caving

Day 4 snowcat

Back into the fresh air it was time for the next adventure: dogsledding. It may seem cruel to us temperate island dwellers to keep dogs outside in the middle of winter only 800 miles or so from the north pole, but in fact their preferred temperature is around -15 centigrade so for them -20 would be the equivalent of just a bit of a nip in the air. I have always wondered how huskies are able to pull heavy sleds but now I understand – they are incredibly strong. As part of our mushing experience we helped harness the dogs to the sleds and my job was to take Wasabi (a very friendly mid-sized, black and brown boy) from his pen to the harness. Huskies love to run, and once he realised he was about to go on an outing it was as much as I could do to stay on my feet as he literally dragged me from his kennel to the sled. Once given the go the dogs were off, happy to be running. It’s a wonderful thing, guiding a sled pulled by 6 beautiful huskies, through the darkness, with the northern lights flickering above, and the icy silence of the arctic winter all around. Add to that the slight frisson of fear of being eaten by a polar bear and it makes for a truly memorable experience!

 

 

 

 

A compelling museum visit and a chocolate faux pas

The latest enthralling journey that we are covering on the WILDFOOT blog took our senior travel advisor to Spitsbergen in Norway. As the story of the third day of their trip makes clear, a tailor made Arctic adventure with us is endlessly fascinating – even when it heads indoors.

Day 3: Cultural Tour + Foodie Tour

I think most of our group were quite happy to have a break from the great outdoors today, allowing our frozen bits to thaw out properly. With a population of only 2,600 and no indigenous peoples you might not expect there to be much culture or history in Spitsbergen, but the museum at Longyearbyen where we went that morning, is well worth a visit, detailing the toils, endurance and unbelievable hardship suffered by the early settlers. It’s also got its own stuffed polar bear, which I was starting to realise is de rigueur in indoor public spaces in Longyearbyen (not forgetting the airport arrivals hall, the supermarket has one, as does the Radisson Blu and at least one of the outdoor gear shops in town). Along with the continuous darkness it’s the presence of polar bears (there are more than humans there) that actually makes Svalbard different to anywhere I’ve ever been before. When leaving the town limits, it is the law that you, or your guide, must be armed with a rifle. Polar bears are extremely big and hungry and, as the information in the museum made quite clear, we are food!Day 3 Museum info about polar bears

Our next stop was a gallery showcasing art inspired by the stark beauty and incredible light of Svalbard. The gallery also had an interesting display of old maps from the days of early exploration. Although some of those maps are hopelessly inaccurate, I did stop and ask myself how I would fare trying to draw up a chart of somewhere so inaccessible. Not too well I wouldn’t think!

The day finished with the unlikely sounding ‘Taste of Svalbard’ tour. Now whilst the early settlers, and indeed the majority of inhabitants until quite recently, would have had a rather unadventurous diet, that’s not the case these days. In fact, the meals I had here were all outstanding. The main highlights of the gastro tour today however were Svalbard’s very own brewery, with its 5 speciality beers, the Polar Permaculture project (where they are trying to grow herbs and vegetables in a greenhouse) and a chocolaterie. Presented with a plate of chocolate samples I am extremely ashamed to say that I had eaten all mine before realising that the owner of the shop was intending to talk us through the subtle taste of each, one by one. Very embarrassing…Day 3 spitsbergen brewery

Snowmobiling on Spitsbergen in the dark of an Arctic January

Arctic cruises to Svalbard and the Norwegian archipelago’s largest island of Spitsbergen have always been in high demand here at WILDFOOT, and the story of our travel advisor’s latest trip to the region helps to demonstrate precisely why. Brace yourself for her retelling of the first two days of yet another incredible journey.

Spitsbergen 2017

When I was told that I would be travelling to Svalbard in January my first thought was ‘you can travel to Svalbard in January?!’ With the capital, Longyearbyen, having a latitude of 78.22 degrees north, during the winter months the archipelago is in the grip of the polar night, when the sun never comes near the horizon, let alone crossing it! ‘What activities could you possibly do in the dark?’ I thought. I was about to find out…

Day 1: Arrival

Our flight into Longyearbyen, the main town on Svalbard’s main island of Spitsbergen, arrived in the early hours of the morning so of course it wasn’t at all strange that it was dark! There to meet us at the luggage carousel was the first of what turned out to be many stuffed polar bears in Longyearbyen.

Day 1 Polar bear at Longyearbyen airport

Stepping out of the airport the temperature was decidedly fresh but not as bitterly cold as I was expecting – perhaps because the air is so dry? Checking into our accommodation, the Coal Miner’s Cabins, my main concern was: would it be warm enough? I needn’t have worried; it was toasty!

Day 2: Snowmobiling

Following a hearty and delicious breakfast we set out on the first of our activities: snowmobiling. With the outside temperature -21 centigrade, and an approximate distance of 140kms to be covered, it was definitely a case of ‘in at the deep end’…

Once fully kitted up for the cold we had a brief introduction to snowmobile handling and then were off! Riding a snowmobile is pretty easy actually – like riding an automatic scooter but more stable – there aren’t any gears and you don’t really even need to use the brakes, just ease off the gas if you want to slow down. Our snake of snowmobiles twisted off into the darkness of the Advent Valley, a line of light in the black of the polar night. In late January, in fact there is a little light in the sky; for around an hour and a half at midday the sky turns from black to a beautiful dark blue, with just enough light to hint at the shapes of the magnificent snow covered mountains lining both sides of the valley. I can’t deny that the whole experience left me a tad chilly (multiple layers, balaclava and heated handlebars notwithstanding) however it was utterly magic to experience the wildness of such a pristine and deep-frozen landscape.

Find out more about or Arctic Expedition Cruises here

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Wrapping up an Arctic excursion…

Despite having recently left the Russian archipelago Franz Josef Land, John found an intriguing remnant of Russian history during his visit to Svalbard. Here is more about what he encountered during his final two days on the kind of Arctic cruise you can book with our wildlife travel specialists.

Day 14

This was our last day on board. In the morning, we spent time walking around the abandoned Russian mining settlement of Pyramidan. Although Spitsbergen is Norwegian, it has a special status – and other countries with a historical stake in the island still have rights of residence and other activities there, including mining.DSCN5573

There are two such Russian mining areas on the island; this one was in operation until about 1998. It then fell into disrepair; however, many of the buildings have been partly restored in recent years. In its day, it was a model Soviet settlement with a school, fully-equipped sports centre and rare heated indoor swimming pool.

We had a look around these buildings, most of which still look like everybody just walked out a few weeks ago. The outside of one of the accommodation blocks, however, has become a ‘cliff’ for nesting kittiwakes, whilst there are also wild reindeer roaming the outskirts. As the canteen remained manned, we called in for a rather smooth shot of vodka.IMG_3049

So not laid back, it’s almost vertical

We enjoyed an interesting final excursion that afternoon. Billed as a steep climb rather than a hike or walk, it turned out to be a very steep scramble up a near-vertical slope of loose scree and soft tundra. Most people sensibly gave up a little over halfway. However, of course, I – along with 5 others and our mad Russian ‘guide’ who had not actually been up there before and had just heard about it – continued up to see this ‘spectacular’ waterfall trickle emerging from the sheer rock face.

We perched with friable footholds looking at the, admittedly, beautiful scene across the fjord and the red dots of our now quite relieved companions on the shore below. We were back down more quickly than on the ascent and felt, actually, a little smug – despite the wobbly limbs and scratched hands!

IMG_3010

Before dinner, we had an excellent slideshow with a compilation of images that the expedition photographer had taken and featured all of us and the places and experiences enjoyed. Then, a pleasant evening in good company, brought to an abrupt halt when we docked at the pier and our ‘barmaid’ rang a bell to tell us that no more drinks could be served. We were back in Norway and that country has some quite strict alcohol sale/consumption laws!

Day 15

After breakfast, we disembarked and went by bus to the airport to wait for our flight from Longyearbyen to Oslo. The departure lounge was absolutely chocker with passengers from our ship and the Ponant ship, which also disembarked that day. Most of their passengers were on a charter to Paris, whilst the rest of us were on the very full flight to Oslo.IMG_3073

Time for farewells and to reflect on the intense experiences in Franz Josef Land, what a superb couple of weeks…

 

 

Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago Cruise

In John’s previous report of his recent Arctic adventure, he focused on a visit to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. In this update, he tells us more about what he got up to there. Remember that here at WILDFOOT, we can arrange for you to enjoy a luxury Arctic cruise like this.DSCN5532

Day 13

Monday. After leaving the islands of the northeast, we steamed at 14kt over the top of the Svalbard archipelago and down the west coast of the main island, Spitsbergen. This name came from the early Dutch explorer, Barents, and literally translates as ‘pointed mountains’. We could see why – for hours, we watched jagged peaks, bisected by glaciers as we headed south.

We could not land on the island anywhere without guns, because of the threat of polar bears; however, we were not allowed to have any firearms on board when entering Russian waters. So, the expedition leader decided that we should, rather than just make Zodiac excursions along the coast, instead sail at full speed back to Longyearbyen and pick up guns. This would enable us to at least make two landings on our last full day, tomorrow.

A relaxing break from all of the exploring

So, it was decided that we would arrive in Longyearbyen late that evening and then continue on up the Isfjord. This meant that Monday was spent very much at leisure, skipping breakfast and sleeping in, attending a couple of talks and enjoying the early farewell cocktail party. This was a delightful, relaxed affair, where we enjoyed a couple of martinis before dinner in good company.

Later, the German-speaking group on board took over the bar and enjoyed a boisterous pyjama party, whilst we watched The Red Tent, a 1960s film about the Nobile airship expedition to the North Pole. Sean Connery, Claudia Cardinale, Peter Finch and Hardy Kruger star in the film, which is very dated but quite entertaining.

Then, we returned to the bar for a series of nightcaps with our new friends – even after all this time, we have not really become accustomed to the fact that it is still broad daylight – quite disorientating!

 

 

Awe-inspiring icy scenery on a journey to Nordaustlandet

John has recently said goodbye to Franz Josef Land, an Arctic archipelago – but not long before he embarked on a trip to Nordaustlandet, a large island with an impressive ice cap. On the way there, he got to indulge in Arctic wildlife viewing like that on offer if you book with us at WILDFOOT.

Day 12

Sunday: I opened the curtain to another foggy morning; I couldn’t see anything of Kvitøya (otherwise known as White Island, a name given by an unimaginative Norwegian explorer years ago). It made me realise just how lucky we all were last week with all that clear sky and sunshine.IMG_2957

Nevertheless, after breakfast, we went out on a Zodiac cruise into the mist and through the dense, floating ice. It was quite cool today, around the zero mark. Here, we came across lots of walrus – singly, in pairs and in large groups – hauled up onto chunks of ice. Even though we have now seen loads of these animals, this was a different environment again, with lots of ice and fog.

Lots of ice, ice, baby!

Heading back, the ship gradually materialised like a ghostly ‘sea spirit’ out of the mist! There was a relaxing day ahead now, as we sailed towards the big island of Nordaustlandet, which had the third largest ice cap in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. Would we actually see any of it? DSCN5510

Well, believe it or not, the answer was yes! The island not only has that icecap but also the longest ice cliff in the northern hemisphere at some 250km or approximately 160ml. The fog cleared for us just as we approached the coast. So, we slowed down for half an hour and just stood on the balcony, sharing a bottle of wine with our Aussie neighbours as we passed through the brash ice and watched the cliff go on for as far as the eye could see in both directions, with the glacier sloping away behind. DSCN5512

We also had talks on polar bears and the history of Svalbard this evening – so combined with a night cap or so in the bar, it’s another past-midnight-in-broad-daylight night!

 

A big glacier and a big walrus on a final day in Franz Josef Land

John certainly got close to nature during his recent time in the Arctic – and today, he’s going to tell us about the last of the awesome sights he enjoyed before leaving the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land, a place you can also enjoy thanks to our wildlife travel specialists.

Day 11

Saturday: 85% of Franz Josef Land is covered in ice – and this morning, we again looked out on the snow-clad landscape, albeit under grey skies. Over the last few days, we have seen amazing glaciers, but our trip out this morning really took the breath away.DSCN5417

We caught sight of a rugged, intimidating and purely magnificent glacier with a jagged wall, over 100 feet high, creaking and breaking and, as we moved along the front, the classic slope down to the sea.  And all this under a brooding sky with the mist coming in, changing perspectives in seconds. Just when you think you have seen it all, nature still has the power to surprise… DSCN5416DSCN5398

Where did all of the ivory gulls go?

Later that morning, we were back off Alexandra Land and went out especially to see a rare nesting site of ivory gulls. This particular species does not migrate far and has a very limited distribution. It is also unusual in that it does not always return to the same nesting site each year. This was proved today; there were flocks of them here last year, apparently, but not one to be seen now!

Nevertheless, we did have the bonus of a big fat walrus posing for us on an ice floe, just a few yards away, with that beautiful glacial background. That was it – our last excursion in Franz Josef Land. We were then on our way back to the Russian military station where the officials would return on board to process our exit from the country.

That really was that for Wednesday. Steaming (figuratively) south, we expected to be off Kvitøya in northeast Svalbard the following morning. However, before that, there was – I’m afraid – another big night in the bar…

 

Embracing the history and meeting a polar pioneer at Franz Josef Land

Recently, we’ve been giving John the opportunity to tell us lots about what happened during his recent time at Franz Josef Land. This Russian archipelago just seems to keep on giving, as you can discover for yourself when you embark on one of the Arctic holiday cruises we offer.

Day 10

Friday. This morning, for the first time during this expedition, we woke to cloudy, overcast skies, but at least it wasn’t foggy. We were anchored off Rubini Rock on Hooker Island, home to thousands of seabirds, where we watched Brünnich’s guillemots, kittiwakes and little auks vying for space on narrow ledges and crevices, amongst a cacophony of sound. Especially recognisable were the ‘kitt-e-wake’ calls – I never realised that the name was onomatopoeic.DSCN5255DSCN5218

The outcrop is basalt and full of amazing geological strata and shapes, especially the classic hexagons. We spent ages on the Zodiac around the base of the Rock and offshore, where we tried to sneak up, with the outboard off, on guillemots and kittiwakes perched on floating ice. We did manage to get pretty close, too, before the former dived and the latter just scattered into the air.DSCN5277 DSCN5329

Fascinating remnants of Soviet history

On the opposite side of the bay, Bukhta Tikhaya, or Calm Bay, are the remains of a Soviet weather station, which was operational from 1929 until 1959. It is now manned during the summer by a small team from the Russian Arctic National Park Service, which is gradually restoring the wooden buildings into safe condition as a historical monument.

We went ashore there this afternoon for a look around and – considering they really don’t get any tourists, just us once this year and the 50 Years of Victory four times – received an enthusiastic welcome from staff. One staff member was dressed in a polar bear costume, while another was attired as a postman standing by the original letterbox.

They do have a postal service here, so we sent postcards home – they will be picked up by the icebreaker in a couple of weeks. Then, the fog rolled in and we were hurried back to the ship, which was now invisible from the shore. Our driver said that these conditions were actually the norm for Franz Josef Land and we had just been incredibly lucky over the last few days. We weren’t complaining!

Meeting a true pioneer in polar exploration

We have also been enjoying a series of talks from members of the expedition team on history, geology, fauna and flora, etc. One speaker was Felicity Aston, who I vaguely recognised when we boarded. Then, when she started her talk, I remembered why. She had given a talk at the Birdfair in Rutland a couple of years ago.

She is a real polar explorer and is the first (and only) woman to have crossed Antarctica solo and unsupported – she skied from the Ross ice shelf, via the South Pole, to the Ronne ice shelf. Her talk was about how she coped physically and psychologically – and even though I had heard it before, it was still fascinating and quite inspiring. She is really interesting to talk to, too.

So that night, I was in bed without a view for the first time – just a blanket of fog…

 

Seeing even more birds and polar bears at Franz Josef Land

It’s a testament to the huge array of amazing sights at Franz Josef Land that John still has many more of them to tell you about. Here, the tale of his adventure on this Russian archipelago in the Arctic continues – and our wildlife travel specialists can help you to enjoy trips like this one.

Day 9

Come Thursday morning, we were out early on the Zodiacs, as we were later spending time at sea and so this was to be our only excursion that day. We landed near the spot on Wilczek Island where members of the Wellman expedition overwintered in 1898/9. Wellman was an American journalist on his second unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole.

For reaching the shore, our landing team had cut out some steps in the ice and fixed some rope hand-holds, which allowed us to climb about 12 feet to the level snow. We walked up to the remains of the hut and a simple monument and then just wandered. There was a wide stretch of tundra peppered with lots of diminutive bright yellow Arctic poppies and small patches of saxifrage leading down to the bay on the other side of the headland.DSCN5069

From no wildlife… to lots of wildlife

Here, it was choked with floating ice sculpted into innumerable beautiful and magical shapes. On our Zodiac return to the ship, we diverted into this field of white, gently nudging the miniature bergs and watching larger ones perform a perfect roll as their centre of gravity shifted. We saw no wildlife, apart from a few birds, today. However, there were footprints of both polar bear and Arctic fox near where we landed – I bet they spotted us!DSCN5046

Things changed this afternoon. We were supposed to go to Cape Tegetthoff, which is especially scenic with pointed hills; however, as the advance information on sea conditions was negative, we diverted up to a small island called Matilda, where we went for a Zodiac ride and watched another polar bear and lots more birds. These were mostly little auks, Brünnich’s guillemots (for my North American readers, these are also known as thick-billed murres), glaucous gulls and common eiders. I was really pleased to also spot a pair of ivory gulls, perched right at the top of one of the bird cliffs. DSCN5060

A serious problem for polar bears

This is an exceptional year for sea ice, which has receded at least a month early so that we have hardly encountered any – just a few ice locked bays. This means that the polar bears we have seen are effectively stranded since they rely on the sea ice for their principal prey, seals.DSCN5080

The first young bear we saw on the iceberg may not survive, because he would not have the skills to catch alternative food. The others may catch old or very young walrus or the occasional bird, but will probably struggle – and there are lots of them around. So for us, it has been good, because we have been able to access areas that would have been difficult – but the polar bears face a real challenge.

 

A very ‘ice’ time after touring a new ship at Franz Josef Land

The eighth day of John’s adventure in Franz Josef Land, an archipelago in the Russian High Arctic, was fun-packed – he couldn’t tell you all of the highlights in one article alone. Here is part two of the story about his exciting day on the kind of luxury Arctic cruise you could also enjoy with WILDFOOT.

Day 8 continues

Later in the day, we had a real bonus. There is another ship chartered by Poseidon, a nuclear-powered icebreaker called 50 Years of Victory, that does a series of sailings each summer up to the North Pole. On the way there, it calls at Franz Josef Land – and today was the day! So, we made a rendezvous and the two ships went bow to bow, the Sea Spirit being dwarfed by the massive icebreaker.

As this new ship carries a helicopter, we also watched as that came and went and flew above us – all very exciting for passengers and crew alike. Then we had the announcement that anybody who wished could go aboard the icebreaker for a short tour.

50 Years of Victory was really interesting and a big contrast to our ship. The accommodation and public areas were all quite basic – in my opinion, it is just a ship for box tickers to say they have been to the North Pole and I don’t think I would fancy bashing through the ice for days and then doing the same on the way back and not having more than basic comforts on the way!

Amazingly beautiful icy scenery

We returned for a late dinner and then went out on the Zodiacs at 22:15 for another spectacular cruise along a channel separating Champ Island and Salisbury Island. The channel is about half a mile wide and bounded by massive ice cliffs, which are over 100 feet high and where the glaciers come down into the water.

We went up a couple of miles through the bergs and lumps of ice, with these amazing white and blue striated walls on either side illuminated in the clear evening light with kittiwakes, guillemots, little auks and the occasional ivory gull soaring above or swooping alongside. What a great end to the day… DSCN4562

Well, it wasn’t quite the end. One of our group had her birthday today and because we had to rush dinner, we had not had time to enjoy her cake and celebrate properly. So, we returned to the bar for a few drinks. It turned one o’clock again… and still the sun shone…

 

Amazingly diverse wildlife to continue seeing in Franz Josef Land

Here, John continues the story of what he got up to during his recent trip to Franz Josef Land, an archipelago in the Russian High Arctic. You can look forward to some Arctic wildlife viewing of your own when you book with us here at WILDFOOT – but first, John has more to tell you.

Day 8

Wednesday. This morning, we landed on Champ Island, where there are numerous large spherical stones and some smaller ones, too – it seems that there used to be a lot more, but earlier explorers and visitors took them away as specimens and souvenirs. Nevertheless, the immovable big ones are impressive.

Kittiwakes, Arctic foxes, walruses and polar bears

We then Zodiaced around under bird cliffs that, this time, were teeming with kittiwakes. Beneath these cliffs’ slopes are big patches of green vegetation fed by the birds’ guano. This is also the habitat of Arctic foxes, which patrol the bottom of the cliffs looking for fallen chicks and eggs. The day before, we saw a fox, with its white winter fur showing in patches as well as its summer brown – but we didn’t see any of these creatures on Wednesday.

Over lunch, we sailed on to nearby Hayes Island and took a pretty lumpy Zodiac ride over to the shore and the surrounding ice pack’s edge. We could see lots of walruses out on the ice and in the sea, but weren’t prepared for the sight of three polar bears. One big male was chewing on the remains of a walrus carcas near the shore, while a little way off was a younger bear lying in the snow, waiting with the kittiwakes for his share. We watched him/her take over when the older bear got bored.DSCN4931

Then, we saw another bear wandering around, uninterested in the food – we followed him along the shore and now and then, he stopped and posed for photographs. Mind you, that wasn’t as easy as it reads, because of the very choppy water. As we cruised around, lots of walruses kept popping up around us – very entertaining.DSCN4848

The day was just getting into its stride…

We were out for about two hours – and by the end of this time, it was pretty cold, with the wind and the spray, so we were all happy to get back to the ship for a hot chocolate. Keep an eye on this blog to learn even more about what happened on the eighth day of my expedition.

 

Lots of birds and walruses seen on a Franz Josef Land adventure

If you are considering booking an Arctic wildlife cruise from WILDFOOT, John can give you a small insight into what to expect. He’s already been recalling highlights of his time spent on the Russian islands at Franz Josef Land – and below, he continues his story from previous blog posts.

Day 7

A broad variety of birds to enjoy seeing

Tuesday. I woke up to another beautiful day with the sun streaming into the cabin – we were told this is exceptional, because there is usually much more mist in Franz Josef Land. So, we spent lots of time out on the Zodiacs. In the morning, we did a circuit of the bizarrely-named Coal Mine Island: apparently, an explorer 100 years or so ago saw that there were some deposits of coal there, but no one has ever actually lived or even mined on the island!

Just 10 minutes out and we saw today’s polar bear, climbing up a steep hillside towards the base of cliff-bound seabirds looking out for young birds that had fallen out of nests. This morning, there were lots of birds, including our first little auks: these are each about the size of a small thrush, but black and white. Also, they swarm around like budgerigars do in Australia and nest on cliff ledges, where you can often see half a dozen or more of them perched in a line. DSCN4738 DSCN4758DSCN4758

In the afternoon, we found ourselves in a ‘Commonwealth’ Zodiac with our little group of five Aussies, two Kiwis and us, who were keeping loose company on board. We moved onto nearby Apollonia Island, which has more bird cliffs where we saw more little auks – along with Brünnich’s guillemots, black guillemots, kittiwakes, glaucous gulls, Arctic terns, common eiders and some barnacle geese.

I am the walrus… watcher

The day’s highlight was a colony of walruses, mostly hauled up on a beach, but with many of them also in the water, splashing around us curiously. Here in Franz Josef Land, they are all females and pups – the males live in Svalbard and come north once a year for mating.

As it happens, we had seen walruses before – Pacific ones in the Russian Far East. That was a haul out of males numbering some 4,000 and we were told that sort of number and more is common with the Pacific genus, whereas Atlantic walruses tend to be in the hundreds.

A bit of humour for the evening

In the evening, we at last got round to having the captain’s welcome cocktail reception, when we all sort of dressed up and had some fizz before dinner. The officers all wore their full uniforms, too. The captain was quite a jolly Russian who gave a humorous talk in passable English.

We reached our northernmost point that day, at over 81 degrees north. It was the northernmost point of land in Russia and only about 600 miles from the North Pole. I was determined not to go to the bar that night as it was already 22:30. But still the sun shone…DSCN4714

 

Icebergs, glaciers and the story of a lost explorer at Franz Josef Land

John has been telling this blog’s readers a lot about his recent time on Franz Josef Land, a Russian archipelago. Here, he continues the story – and if it excites you, remember that you can enjoy experiences similar to John’s by turning to WILDFOOT to book excursions in the Arctic.

Day 6

Seeing the site of an amazing adventure story

Monday was another beautiful and bright, but cold day. In the morning, we were moored up off Jackson Island, at the top of the British Channel. This is where the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen overwintered in 1895 when he became stranded in his quest to reach the North Pole.

He was then rescued by the British explorer Frederick George Jackson. We went to see the site of Nansen’s hut – I wouldn’t have fancied staying there in total darkness with winter storms and temperatures down to -40. Would you?!DSCN4635DSCN4663

A “hike” in the snow

In the afternoon, we went for a walk on Ziegler Island – they call it a hike, but it is difficult to make any pace with us all walking in single file over snow and muddy tundra. Anyway, we had managed about 4km when we were told that there was a polar bear swimming towards our Zodiac pick up point, so we had to walk back the same way. This was actually really good, because we could then enjoy the spectacular scenery from both directions!

We then Zodiaced over to the other side and enjoyed time watching the bear wandering around and pausing to roll in the snow.

It really was much colder this far north, with a very chilly breeze. However, the parkas provided to us were very good quality, and we also had thick Muck Co. boots, which were well-insulated, too.

Another Zodiac cruise and another late night

After dinner, we were out on another Zodiac cruise around the icebergs and glaciers. The sun was a bit lower in the sky at this time and the light was fantastic. We enjoyed a stunning landscape of snow-clad hills and bergs and glaciers shimmering under clear blue skies, with occasional banks of mist drifting in for ethereal effect…DSCN4656

As we weren’t back until past 23:00, it was after a couple of night caps that we were once again late to bed. Still, it was so beautiful outside that we were reluctant to close the curtains – so we decided to spend a few more moments on the balcony…

 

Beluga whales and polar bears among the sights of Franz Josef Land

Continuing his expedition to the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land as described in previous blog posts, John embarked on yet more exciting Arctic wildlife viewing on the fifth day of his trip. Here is a rundown of what he saw – and you can enjoy similar experiences when you book Arctic trips with WILDFOOT.

Day 5

Taken ashore after a medical emergency

The first Sunday of my trip started slowly but turned out quite busy. We woke up in the same place offshore from the Russian base, when we had expected to be some five hours away. It emerged that one of the crew had been in a medical emergency serious enough to require an operation (an appendectomy, we later found out), which couldn’t be properly conducted onboard. So, he was taken ashore to the Russian base hospital where our doctor – aided by one of the Swiss passengers, who is a practising surgeon – and a military team undertook a successful procedure. He later returned back on board to recuperate.

That meant we didn’t set off until after breakfast – which in turn, meant that our first Zodiac excursions were delayed. We had a great talk from one of the Russian guides, who had worked three of the short seasons at the Barneo camp at the North Pole. We got some great shots of the airstrip being prepared, the supplies being dropped and the aircraft themselves, as well as all of the other mundane events, like the marathon, weddings and polar golf!

Abundant wildlife that we enjoyed seeing in the Arctic

We enjoyed the bright sunshine and had lunch out on deck and then, before we reached our planned destination, right on the other side of Alexandra Land, we came across a large pod of beluga whales;  the captain reckoned they were staying around, so we should go out in the Zodiacs to try to get closer.

We were a bit doubtful ‘cos it was about half an hour or so before the boats were launched and we were at sea and predictably, they were long gone, however, there was a big bonus – our first polar bear was there posing for us on an iceberg – all very exciting! Anyway, we had been promised a landing, so 19.00 dinner was abandoned and at 18.30 we went off to do a landing on the tundra.

Sunday-10-Large-35

 

There are four national park rangers who came aboard yesterday and will stay with us whilst we are in Franz Josef Land. As they say, their job is to protect the polar bears from us, so they go ashore first and scout for bears and then they either post a perimeter, within which we can wander, or they lead and escort single file groups on a longer walk. Each of them carries a high-powered rifle.
DSCN4630

DSCN4626

Back for dinner and then we had a call for anybody who wanted a zodiac cruise close to the edge of the glacier. Still broad daylight of course, so back into our gear and off we went again at 22.30 for about an hour. This also meant we were very late in the bar tonight!

Learning about birds and polar bears as I head to Franz Josef Land

John has already spent two previous blog posts telling of his adventures while on an expedition to the archipelago of Franz Josef Land, a part of Russia. Here is an update on what else he came across on his fun Arctic wildlife cruise.

Day 4

Hearing about a range of fascinating wildlife

On Saturday at sea, we had a morning talk about the birds we could expect to see in Franz Josef Land. I’d read that upwards of 50 species have been or can be seen on the islands, but it seems that we will probably only catch a few of these. The northern fulmar, black-legged kittiwake, Brünnich’s guillemot, black guillemot, little auk, Arctic tern, glaucous gull, pomarine skua and rare ivory gull all nest within the archipelago.

It was interesting hearing about the Brünnich’s guillemots and little auks. Both referred to as “penguins of the Arctic”, they are black and white and both dive and swim underwater to feed. The difference is that they can also fly, albeit on very short wings that they flap a lot; they do not glide and soar like gulls and petrels.

This afternoon, while ashore, we had a briefing on polar bear safety. We were always accompanied by armed guides and should a polar bear appear unexpectedly, their job is to check it out and if it is being too curious, scare it away. In extremis, they would shoot to kill – but fortunately, this has never happened with a boat-based group and we hope it never will.

Reaching Franz Josef Land at last

Later that afternoon, we crossed into Russian waters and anchored off the military base at Nagurskoye on Alexandra Land. Here, the land is covered with thick snow and there are floating bergs and floes. It is noticeably colder, too – and we were all out on deck in full cold weather gear.DSCN4559

On arrival, Zodiacs went ashore and returned with a party of Russian military officers who set up in the lounge. Over a period of four hours, we then had to present ourselves individually with passports for immigration and visa checks.DSCN4563

It took time because the officials were soldiers who had never done this before and were acting on instructions – we were only the second expedition to make a first landing in Russia here, with most others instead starting off in Murmansk.

 

No shortage of variety as I continue my fun Russian High Arctic cruise

In an earlier blog post, John recalled his enjoyable time spent in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago. However, that was only the start of his journey to Franz Josef Land. Here is a follow-up account of what else he came across on the way there.

Day 3

An undoubtedly cosmopolitan group of passengers

I’ve had a fun start to my expedition in the Russian High Arctic, where the Sea Spirit is the ship transporting me. My experience certainly leads me to recommend Arctic cruises in the Svalbard, but my fellow passengers and I had much more than the ship itself to check out.

On the first Friday of my journey, following the previous night’s briefings and safety drill, there was our first dinner. There were various nationalities on board, including Germans, Australians, Kiwis, Israelis, Dutch, Swiss and other Brits.

Even though we were tired, it was really quite difficult going to bed because of the bright sunlight. I have been there before in the midnight sun, but still strange! We also saw our first whale, a humpback blowing and then diving, showing a beautiful fluke.

Close encounters of the bird kind

The next day, we were sailing at a speed of 15 knots up the north-western coast of Spitsbergen and into the Barents Sea, then across to the archipelago of Franz Josef Land.img_2583

We made one stop on the way, off a small island called Moffen, where we saw a haul-out of walruses about 300 yards distant. We also saw a few seabirds, including some puffins and Brünnich’s guillemots. Otherwise, it was a day of briefings, lectures and food.dscn4540

After dinner, we had a call that we were passing the last point of land in Svalbard, Christian XII Island. The snow-capped mountains were now receding into the distance and the sun continued to shine brightly as we thought of sleep. We were now higher than 80 degrees north!dscn4551

What did I get up to in Franz Josef Land?

In my story so far, we have only just reached Franz Josef Land, which is administered by Russia. However, it won’t be long before I tell you a lot more about what I saw and did on this Arctic archipelago. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

A great time in Longyearbyen, the Norwegian Svalbard’s capital

In the summer, John from WILDFOOT travelled with his wife to Franz Josef Land in the Russian High Arctic on the expedition ship Sea Spirit. This is an account of his incredible journey, which took in various attractions of our Arctic cruises to Spitsbergen.

Days 1-2

A very early and quiet start

Upon arriving by flight in Longyearbyen at 2am, the first thing that struck us was the fact that it was still daylight. This was truly the land of the midnight sun! The airport bus calls at all of the town’s hotels, which are used to late arrivals.

As breakfast was not until 10am, we had a bit of a lie-in before going out exploring. Longyearbyen is in a valley on Isfjord’s shore. Originally a mining settlement, Longyearbyen still has remains of timber cranes, pulley systems and shaft entrances on its hillsides. At the time of year we visited, it was all very barren, with patches of snow on the higher ground.img_2543img_2547

There is plenty of beauty to behold in Longyearbyen

We walked for miles around the outskirts of town and went to a gallery, where we met an artist who paints sketches based on local wildlife and artefacts. We also saw some amazing monochromatic oils – including almost pure white snow and ice scenes, some also with an impression of a mountain or a feint pink sunrise or a night scene with a moonlit icy hillside.

On the hillside near town, there is a small forlorn cemetery with a few graves marked with simple white crosses. We wandered here and looked across the town and the fjord at brightly coloured modern buildings imposed on a harsh unchanging landscape. img_2548

The museum was very interesting, if overrun by tourists. That day, ours was one of just three boarding expedition ships, each with about 100 or so passengers. However, in port that morning was a big German cruise ship with about 1,000, and this will probably be their only landing in Spitsbergen, so, for them a visit to the museum is a highlight.

Our Arctic adventures didn’t end here!

Then, having skilfully avoided the expensive craft and clothing shops, we set off for our Zodiac transfer out to our ship, the Sea Spirit, which was at anchor in the fjord. As for where it took us – we will detail much more about that in a follow-up blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

Baffin Island & Greenland 11

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic adventure cruises. This is the final day in the log of his experiences.

 

day 12b

Day 12

 

Bags collected from our cabin at 07.00, then breakfast and a zodiac transfer across dead calm but very muddy water to the small harbour. There is no actual town here, the airport was built in the 1940s as a fair weather staging post between America and Britain and still has the longest runway in Greenland, so it is the only international airport and smaller planes, Dash 7s and 8s are what we saw, feed passengers in here.

 

On the drive from the harbour to the airport, we caught a glimpse of the Greenland Icecap in the distance and also saw the swathe of muddy residue which flows down from the glacier to the fjord.

day 12

An interesting fact is that the Greenland flag is actually a representation of the sun rising over the Greenland icecap.

 

Most of our fellow travellers return to Ottawa later in the day, so are off for a excursion in the Arctic looking for musk oxen – shame we will miss this, just means we will have to come on an Arctic adventure cruise again another time!

Day 12c

Last minute souvenir shopping at the small airport shop and we are off to Copenhagen, where we overnight before returning to Manchester.

 

And so ends another brilliant trip to the world’s extremes – where next!

Baffin Island & Greenland 10

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Cruises to Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

day 11c

Day 11

 

Early start this morning and out on the zodiacs by 06.30 to go to the Evigshed Glacier. The scale of these things is amazing; the glacier looks small until you spot the little dot near its base and realise that it is another zodiac, probably 1000 or so yards away with the wall of ice towering hundreds of feet above. As we got closer, we could hear the occasional cracks and bangs as ice calved away in the background and then suddenly there was an almighty crash and an enormous chunk of ice fell away into the fjord. We were well back, but were still rocked by the swell it caused.

day 11d

Back to the ship for breakfast and then a sail back along Evigshed Fjord, with high peaks and cirque and hanging glaciers – very picturesque.

 

Today is our last day on board our Arctic cruise in Greenland and Arctic Canada, so have gone through the settlement of accounts – did I really drink that much at the bar?!

day 11a

Then a ship’s tour. First we went to the big room we use as the mud room (where the wellies and life jackets are stored), but this is actually a room with a massive underwater antenna suspended in a frame, which can be lowered through the bottom the hull to a depth of over 1000m to transmit to another ship and chart any underwater objects in between – ours is primarily a research ship built during the Cold War! Then to the engine room and up to the bridge where all the instruments we have seen up there during the trip were actually explained. Fascinating.

 

Sailing back north to Sondre Stromfjord, one of the longest in Greenland with a particularly impressive entrance with kittiwakes and fulmars swirling around where the currents converge.

day 11b

After lunch, we went out on the zodiacs for a final excursion in the Arctic and this time into virgin territory. The ship had never stopped at this point in the fjord before, so the crew looked at maps and off we went to find a suitable landing place about 15 minutes away and there most of us went for a walk across the tundra and up and down rocky outcrops in the bright and very warm sunshine. It is so hard to believe we can walk in t-shirts in Greenland, even in the summer. Mind you, we did also have to cope with swarms of midges, which did not bite but were massively annoying.

day 6e

A pre- dinner presentation of a slideshow of our shared experiences on the trip and our excursions in the Arctic. Carolyn, the trip photographer, had been taking pictures throughout the trip and had made sure she had caught all of us on film. We have this on a memory stick. A dinner of fresh Arctic Char uploaded in Sisimuit followed by a very convivial evening in the bar rounded off our expedition. Tomorrow we will wake up in Kangerlussaq having sailed the length of this massive fjord.

Baffin Island & Greenland 9

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic holiday cruises to the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 10a

Day 10

 

Luxurious late call for breakfast this morning, because we are at sea until lunchtime. Just as well, since I ended up in the bar even later than usual last night with Huw, one of our lecturer guides and Cristian, a professional photographer. Cristian is just coming to the end of a project to travel around the Arctic Circle photographing people who live and also visit the Line. Should be an interesting publication.

 

During the morning, we had the results of the on board photo competition for pictures taken on our Arctic holiday cruise, with some great entries and, afterwards, a final lecture on Arctic exploration.

 

The afternoon was spent in Sisimiut, the second largest city in Greenland, after the capital, Nuuk, but still with a very small town feel. The weather is amazing today, bright sunshine and really warm – I never would have expected to be walking around in a t-shirt on the Arctic Circle. The town is pretty typical with a busy fishing port and lots of bright, colourful buildings. Also, an interesting museum, consisting of several buildings, each depicting different aspects of Greenlandic life. Before we left, we were treated to a display of kayaking by a local, who demonstrated his skills in the water alongside the ship. Our ships doctor then joined him – he turned out to be a bit of an expert himself, having been an Olympic medallist with the USA team in Los Angeles!

day 10b

Back to the ship and pre-dinner drinks on deck in the evening sunshine. After dinner, the very funny results of the on-board limerick competition. Over 80 entries from such a small passenger complement is pretty good and these had been whittled down to just 12. Limerick writing is actually quite difficult! I had managed to come up with three and one of these made the final cut, but was not the winner. An excuse for a consolatory beer.

 

Baffin Island & Greenland 8

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Cruises to Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 9a

Day 9

 

Woke this morning with the sun streaming thought the window, which was brilliant, since we were off on the zodiacs for a pre-breakfast cruise at 06.30. We thought yesterday’s icebergs were big but today we are at their actual source at Ilulissat, where they have broken away from the Jacobshavn Glacier and come away in massive chunks into the Davis Strait. We cruised around in the early morning sunshine for about 90 minutes amongst these massive bergs – truly amazing.

day 9c

After breakfast, we zodiaced into the port itself and went off for a walk. Ilulissat is a world heritage site and after walking about 3km, we found out why. We came to a spot overlooking the point at which the Jacobshaven glacier spews out its ice into the bay. I have seen many beautiful sites but this has to rank with the most spectacular, just a magical sight, with bergs and brash ice moving surprisingly quickly with the current, especially in the sunshine against a deep blue sky. This glacier is moving at a metre an hour.

day 9b

Then, a wander around town with a look in the supermarket and the one souvenir shop open this Sunday morning and then into the very well laid out and interesting museum.

 

Not much wildlife today. Those in one of the zodiacs this morning spotted a pair of humpback whales, but the best we have seen is more Icelandic Gulls, fulmars, wheatears and snow buntings. Not sure if dogs count as wildlife, but we walked past a massive open area where all the sled dogs are kept during the summer. Hundreds of them there with cute pups too, but very noisy and a bit smelly too!

day 9d

Back to the ship for a barbecue lunch on deck in the sunshine whilst sailing out past those magnificent bergs again – running out of superlative adjectives!

 

There is a pair of cameramen/presenters from the Canadian Weather Channel on board. They have been filming each day and having fun too – today’s combination of elements has made them very happy!

 

Lectures today included another by our resident historian, this time about the explorer John Ross, who added to the knowledge of Arctic Canada in the early 19th century whilst seeking the elusive northwest passage – his certainly wasn’t a luxury Arctic cruise!

 

During dinner this evening, there was a call for whales and over the next half hour, we saw several humpbacks at binocular distance from the ship with great displays of blows and flukes.

Baffin Island & Greenland 7

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Cruises to Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

Day 8

 

Woke up this morning with a signal on my mobile phone for the first time since leaving Iqaluit on Baffin Island and Arctic Canada. I’m glad I turned off the data roaming, though, I bet that would have cost a fortune just locating where I am! We were coming in to the port of Qeqertarsuup on Disko Island on the west coast of Greenland surrounded by the most amazing icebergs.

day 8b

We could not land in the port until after 09.00, because it is a Saturday and no official is available to give clearance until at least that time! It is a picturesque little town with lots of multi-coloured buildings clustered around the harbour. It is immediately evident that we are now in Europe rather than the Americas – the native signs are Inuit, but the secondary language is Danish and there are lots of other indications that we have crossed continents – no KFC for example and far less big automobiles, plus Northern European style housing.

day 8c

Went for a couple of hours’ walk out of town and then came back to pop into the supermarket and the surprisingly interesting museum. Supermarkets abroad are always fascinating and here was no exception, especially in the frozen section, where there were gulls and seal meat.

day 8a

Back to the ship for lunch and then out on the zodiacs for the most amazing zip around the icebergs in Disko Bay. It is a spectacular panorama of icebergs, big and small and under a clear blue sky, an amazing experience. We even saw one berg tilt and then calve tons of ice into the sea with a loud crack. All these bergs have come from Ilussiat and that is where we will be tomorrow.

day 8e

We saw lots of Glaucous and Icelandic gulls and some black guillemots, but no gyrfalcons or humpback whales – you can’t have everything!

day 8g

These were the best conditions you could hope for an Arctic cruise in Greenland in August, so we are really lucky. I am writing this at 23.30 and it is still barely twilight outside on a flat calm sea.

day 8f

Baffin Island & Greenland 6

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic ship adventures to the Canadian Arctic. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 6d

Day 6

 

This morning at 08.45, our Arctic ship adventure continued as we crossed the Arctic Circle, celebrated by a deafening blast of the ship’s foghorn and a group picture on the bow of the ship.

 

Then, into the zodiacs and off to the shore. We are in Sunshine Fjord, just round from Cape Dyer. Today I joined a group on a quite strenuous 2 hour walk to the top of the nearest hill and back again. Walking on springy tundra with lots of beautiful wildflowers and lichens and then down to a mountain stream, clambering over rocks as we followed it back to the sea. At last I have walked off a little of all that super food and drink we are enjoying on board.

day 6c

Now we leave Baffin Island and Arctic Canada and move into the Davis Strait for our crossing into Greenland  waters.

day 6b

Day 7

 

Our first day fully at sea and an hour less on the time zones to GMT-4.

 

Turned out to be quite a busy day with lots of presentations, chief of which was actually by one of our fellow passengers. Matthias Breiter is a well known naturalist (of German origin but has lived for years in Alaska) who has written books on northern bears with some of the most amazing photographs. Bears are his speciality and he gave us an hour’s talk based on a lecture he had given to the Smithsonian in Washington. Really gripping and superbly illustrated, including comment on the hybrid bears resulting from grizzlies mating with young female polar bears.

day 11a

Other lectures too, on early mapping of the Arctic by theorists and explorers and also on the science of glaciers.

 

We are sailing slowly today on exceptionally calm seas so that we can arrive at Disko Island in Greenland first thing in the morning, having lost yet another hour.

day 6e

Baffin Island & Greenland 5

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic wildlife cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 5a

Day 5

 

Woken at 0615 with the call of ‘polar bear on the ice’. Quickly pulled on clothes and up to the bridge, and there she was posing for us, moving across the sea ice, stopping, jumping, and all for our cameras. Then, a few minutes later as we drifted, there were more, including a mother with two cubs trying to make distance between her and a big male on the next floe. What a super start to the day.

day 5c

After breakfast, we had a talk from Katie, one of our historians on board, about the Arctic and the Vikings – all very interesting. Later, as we reached Cape Mercy in millpond conditions and under a bright blue sky, we boarded zodiacs for a cruise in the sea ice, which was amazing, getting really close to ice floes of all shapes and different hues of blue. We even drove the zodiac up on to the ice at one point and all climbed out to take photographs of each other with the ship way in the background.

day 5b

In the afternoon, I went down to a photography workshop to see if there was some way I could learn enough to improve my efforts. We spent 15 mins on theory and then went out on deck for practical. Trouble was that that was just as we came across another polar bear on the ice, this time one with a kill, a seal, which he was busy devouring. Lots of shots here and we’ll have reconvene the workshop tomorrow. One of my other ambitions here in the Arctic was also realised when we saw an Ivory Gull standing waiting to grab his share of the kill too. This gull is one of the rarest of the Arctic species these days, rarer even than polar bears. Also saw a flight of Brunnich’s Guillemots (they’re called thick-billed murres around here), another must see Arctic species plus fulmars and our first Icelandic gulls. What a great day for Arctic wildlife viewing. All followed by afternoon tea on deck with drinks laced with Amaretto or Baileys – not really my cup of tea!

day 5d

Later on, we had a presentation from a professional photographer on board who is just completing a 7 year project to photograph real people around the Arctic Circle. Some super images, which will be published in book form next year and probably online too. When we cross the line for the first time tomorrow, he plans to have all of us pictured for the book too!

 

An evening chat after dinner about the importance of gin and other alcohol to the early British explorers in this region!

Baffin Island & Greenland Journal 4

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic adventure cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

Day 4a

 

Day 4

 

Really bright and sunny this morning as we sailed up Cumberland Sound through the sea ice on our Arctic adventure cruise. Magnificent scenery and then, as if on cue, the call ‘whale’ came from the bridge.

 

Then for the next 45 mins or so, before breakfast, we watched as the bowhead whales came to the surface and blew with a distinctive V shaped blow. They do not have a dorsal fin, nor do they dive showing a fluke, so all you see is part of the back and a glimpse of the distinctive white lip. The bowhead is the 2nd biggest whale and was hunted to near extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, so seeing 5 as we did today, is apparently quite rare. In fact, the species has recovered enough to allow for limited native hunting again. Limited means that just one community in the whole of Baffin Island has a permit to hunt for just one bowhead each year. This year it is Pangnirtang, where we landed later, and most of the men and boys of the town were out in boats watching the hunt about 40km down the sound, with just two boats having the honour to actually hunt with the hand thrown explosive harpoon. If a whale is caught, it is then shared amongst all the Inuit communities of the island.

 

Pangnirtang is a really small town, which only exists because of the old whaling industry and there are still the remains of the blubber processing plant at the end of town. Now, there is a community with a store, a visitor centre, an ice hockey arena and all the normal health and educational facilities. There is also a craft centre where we saw amazing tapestries being woven, hats and scarves being crocheted and traditional prints and carvings – not cheap, but quite exquisite.

day 4b

Went for welcome walk out of town for about 90 minutes in the Arctic tundra with lots of flowers and lichen (and our first mossies too). Great scenery and views – Pangnirtang is also the gateway to a massive national park which still only sees about 200 visitors a year!

 

Back to ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon with a photography workshop and a presentation on Arctic climate and projections. Still so warm, we had afternoon tea on deck. What a beautiful day.

Baffin Island & Greenland Journal 3

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Wildlife Cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

day 3a

Day 3

 

Quiet night on gentle seas and a very misty morning. But, straight after breakfast we were off on our fist zodiac outing to Monumental Island and what a starter it turned out to be!

 

We were only 5 minutes away from the ship when the call went out ‘polar bear’ and there she was (and the consensus do opinion is that it was a she – it is really hard to tell!) sitting there on the rocks looking at us. And then she decided to come down to the water’s edge to investigate us further, a real poser. Lots and lots of images and this is only the first day out.

 

Then, another first for us, an iceberg of reasonable proportions also posing for photo ops as we went around.

day 3b

There were also lots of black guillemots around as well as more ubiquitous glaucous gulls – if the weather had been clear, we might have seen gyrfalcon, one of the key Arctic species, which feed on just about every other bird, perhaps next time.

 

Back on board, everybody was quite euphoric at the PB sighting, which has really set the bar for the rest of this Arctic wildlife cruise. Relaxing afternoon and then an illustrated talk by one of our history experts on the origins and development of polar photography. This included familiar stuff from the Antarctic too, Frank Hurley especially, but also the early Arctic explorers Franklin, etc.

 

A good crowd of staff and guests on board.

Baffin Island & Greenland Journal 2

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Adventure Cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

Day 2a

Day 2

Early up this morning for the flight north to Iqaluit to board our Arctic cruise ship, 3 hours from Ottawa and a 20C drop in temperature – really noticeable the minute we disembarked, with a chill wind blowing across the airfield. The airport building is a bright yellow irregular shape structure just like the famous submarine, visible for miles, which is probably the reason – you wouldn’t want the pilot to miss it in a blizzard! The airport has one of the longest runways in the world, having been a US base in the Cold War, and is now also used for cold climate testing – the A380 came up here on proving flights, which must have been quite a sight.

day 2d

Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut with a population of about 7500 split more or less equally between native Inuit and others, mostly European origin. All signage is in English, French, Inuit (using Latin alphabet) and Inuit characters, which are unlike any I have seen before – more runic than anything else. The buildings are all shapes and sizes and colours built on piles above the permafrost and stretch around the harbour and along the ridge overlooking the town. Property prices are high here, a modest 2 bed house is about$350k and you don’t even own the land. Everything else is expensive too – it all has to be shipped or flown in and most households plan in advance and have a container load of supplies of household goods, etc., sent in once a year.

Down to a shingle ramp where the zodiacs were waiting for a choppy and wet 20 minute crossing to our ship. The Akademik Ioffe is a Russian research vessel converted to passenger use and has a mainly Russian crew. There are only 40 passengers on board out of a possible 90 or so, so there is plenty of room.

Day 2c

Various briefings, a decent dinner and a few drinks as we settled in to what sounds like a most promising Arctic adventure cruise.

Baffin Island & Greenland Journal 1

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Adventure Cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

 Day 2b

Day 1

 

Stopped over for a day in Ottawa on the way up to Baffin Island. The weather forecast wasn’t brilliant with 40% chance of thunder showers, but in the end, it was fine all day with a temperature of about 23C.

 

There’s not a massive amount to do in Ottawa, unless you want to spend the day in museums, so we just planned to hang out and see what came up. In the end, we had a great day.

 

First of all, changing of the guard in front of the parliament building. Similar to Buckingham Palace, but with the Canadian Grenadier Guards in their red tunics and bearskins. Seemed a bit strange marching on grass, but still very impressive and a lot less tourists than in London.

day 1

Then down to the Bytown area, where there is a colourful weekend market and lots of cafes for a mid morning brunch. A bit of shopping too and then back to the parliament for guided tours of the two principal buildings there. All very interesting with full access at this time of the year whilst parliament is in recess. Particularly impressed by the library, which is the only part of the building that survived a major fire in 1916.

 

Back up to Parliament Hill for an evening sound and light performance celebrating Canadian History. Then back and packing again for tomorrow’s early start for our Arctic Adventure Cruise. A very full day

The Arctic wildlife – it’s not to be missed!

One of the most-loved aspects of our Arctic holidays is the wide range of wildlife that one can see. Arctic wildlife is quite simply some of the most varied, stunning and entertaining on the planet!

What’s on offer?

Whether you are one for a cruise or you prefer to keep yourself on land, there’s plenty of wildlife to see either way.

Dependent on location, a variety of bears can often be spotted during our expeditions. brown bears are spotted in Russia, Canada, and Alaska while polar bears roam in Canada and Svalbard, among other locations.

If you prefer to keep your feet dry, various other species including arctic foxes, musk ox, reindeer and lemmings are often spotted.

The various cruises that we have on offer allow for one of the most-desired experiences on the planet. Whale-watching is an absolute joy in the Arctic, with various species of whale simply begging to be spotted in the waters. Humpback, grey, sperm and even beluga and narwhal whales could all be identified by you in what may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A speciality of ours is bird watching cruises. In the Russian Far East coastal region, over 200 species of bird can potentially be spotted. Regardless of which region you visit, though, plenty of birds are spottable and all are unique to the arctic environment. Different, rare species of gulls, such as ivory and Sabine’s, and other Arctic birds can often be seen.

Whichever holiday you decide to embark on, you are safe in the knowledge that our guides will be there to help every step of the way, besides providing more information on the wildlife that you can see.

Cruise the Arctic in style

As well as our standard ships, we also offer the option of our luxury cruise ships, for that little bit extra. If you choose to indulge in one of our luxury cruises, you get to experience the adventure of the arctic, without any compromise on comfort.

With several different ships on offer, you’ll be in safe hands all the way, no matter which one you choose. For more information about this or any other aspect of our Arctic holidays, simply call our friendly experts right here at WILDFOOT.

Planning your Arctic trip with WILDFOOT

WILDFOOT is a world-class provider of Arctic holiday cruises. Taking time to prepare for your trip to the Arctic is crucial if it is to be a success, so let’s look at some of the most valuable advice that we can give you if you are thinking of heading out to this extraordinary part of the world with us.

Unless you are looking for a particularly tough challenge, it’s probably best to head to the Arctic between June and September. Outside this part of the year, the weather can be extreme and visibility tends to be limited. The days are long and the weather mild enough for your experience to be a fulfilling one if you visit in the high summer. The ships are able to travel further north during these months, enabling you to visit the Spitsbergen region or perhaps even get up to the North Pole.

During the summer months, temperatures are usually above freezing – indeed, even double-figure temperatures are not out of the question. You shouldn’t need extreme-weather clothing in the summer, although it’s worth remembering that some people find it harder to cope with low temperatures than others.

You should also consider investing in a good camera in order to get high-quality shots while exploring the Arctic. Carrying a spare battery with you is a very good idea and will help you to avoid being caught short when you are most in the mood to start snapping away.

You will need good quality sunglasses in the Arctic due to the sheer brightness of this environment, with high-factor sun cream also a must on account of the UV light and clear air. Binoculars and pen knifes can prove to be worth their weight in gold, too.

Of course, you are welcome to get in touch with our expert team at any point if you do have any queries about what to take and how to stay comfortable during your adventure. We are more than happy to use our knowledge and experience to benefit you, and are passionate about helping you make your trip a success.

Why not talk to WILDFOOT today if you are keen to secure a booking and prepare yourself for a trip quite unlike any that you will have embarked on before – or will ever embark on again?