Svalbard Spring Special – 2018

Overview

A few years ago a trip like this would have been the realm of a TV crew and a huge budget but travelling in the Arctic has become more accessible and affordable to the wildlife photographer. This special trip to Svalbard during the early part of spring has been in our planning for the past few years and we are delighted that we can now offer it as part of our extensive programme. We will have exclusive use of Snow Mobiles throughout the trip which will allow us to explore this beautiful and remote region of the frozen north. We will be looking for all aspects of the natural fauna and of course photographing this pristine landscape too. Our main target is to find Polar Bears along the glaciers which at this time of the year are busily hunting the ringed seals which are starting to give birth. The days will be long in the field as we make the most of the beautiful winter light at this time of the year. This adventure promises to offer us some memorable encounters and we will also be hoping to find Arctic Fox, Ptarmigan and Reindeer along our journey to the remote east coasts of Spitsbergen. Polar Bears are our main target though and this truly is going to be a wonderful experience to witness this iconic predator, the King of the High Arctic.

Itinerary Open +Close -

Day 1: Fly to Longyearbyen from our chosen destinations where we will enjoy a welcome dinner. In the evening we will pick up the snowmobiles and our first evening will be spent on training and safety briefings to ensure we are all capable of driving as and when required: we will have more people than scooters so most will be doubled up but it makes sense that we are all up to speed with things (see other information for more details). We will also be supplied with our own suits, gloves and helmets, warm boots, balaclava and goggles.

Day 2: This trip is based around our using snowmobiles as our exclusive means of transport, and we will be being guided throughout in order to conform fully to all local health and safety legislation.

Driving, travelling and working from the snowmobiles today will be a reasonably locally focussed day and so after breakfast we will head out for our first excursion on the snowmobiles in the area immediately around Longyearbyen where we could find Arctic Fox, Ptarmigan and Reindeer. For our first day, and to help get us used to the snow mobiles, we will have lunch in town, and head out shortly after again and continue the search.

Days 3-8:  This trip by its very nature will need to be very flexible – the wildlife photographic opportunities that come about here will be very much determined by the extremely variable conditions that will change throughout the trip and so we cannot follow any precise or fixed itinerary as such.

Our basic programme is to head out each day to allow us to search for the best and most dramatic locations for Arctic winter photography. Precisely where we end up and how long it takes to get there will very much depend on the weather conditions and what we find on the way in terms of photographic opportunities we will need to remain flexible. Our guides are experts and their local knowledge will be a valuable tool. We will make plans each morning based on the weather conditions. Our number one aim is to find Polar Bears in this beautiful winter landscape and we will be heading to some well-known locations where Polar Bears are often seen hunting the breeding Ringed Seals. To get to these locations takes a long time so the days will be very long. We have a number of locations to search and will be visiting them throughout this trip, and our guides are totally flexible in terms of timings too so based on the days conditions we can have early starts, late finishes or a combination of both all in order to maximise the photographic opportunities and make the most of the extended sunsets and sunrises at this time of the year, the last few weeks before 24 hour daylight arrives for the summer.

Day 9: Typical departure times in terms of flights from Longyearbyen are around 12.00 midday so we should have time for a leisurely final breakfast before heading to the airport for our onward flights.

Other information:

We’ve classified this trip at Level 5 (our highest) in terms of fitness rating – not because of any excessive hiking/climbing involved as this is optional and not a core part of the trip, but spending hours at a time on or driving a snow mobile and the challenges of working in a season when the weather can turn brings certain challenges.

The weather in this area is very changeable. You should expect it to be between  -5 to -40 degrees Celsius. Wind chill is another factor here so you should come prepared in terms of clothing, but we will send out a full briefing document on what to bring in plenty of time before the trip, but do feel free to ask about anything on that front. Special Suits will be provided and of course all the safety aspects are in place because the Guides we are using have many years’ experience in leading these special adventures, and will be fully qualified in terms of health, safety and legal requirements of travelling here.

We will be travelling in a remote area, so it is also essential that you advise of any pre-existing medical conditions that require regular or on-going medication upon booking. This will be treated in complete confidence but is very much to ensure your own safety and comfort as well as that of the group as a whole. We will be very specific in terms of the cover that your travel/medical insurance needs to provide, and please also note that although we have mitigated it as much as we can and are covering a large part ourselves there is likely to be an excess of around 450 Euros for you should you crash/damage your snowmobile.

The trip is primarily aimed at the serious wildlife photographer where there will be unparalleled opportunities afforded for photography and which are not available on your usual boat based trips. We will have the advantage of flexibility and stealth working with a small group and shall take maximum advantage of light conditions and sightings as they occur and as weather conditions dictate. This is the realm of the ice bear king of the Arctic and to see and photograph this impressive predator in this wild and remote region of Svalbard is our ultimate aim and as we head further north and east our chances of fantastic opportunities are greatly increased. Watching a polar bear hunting along the ice flows of a glacier is a dream for most wildlife photographers and on this trip we aim to achieve this dream and once found we will be under no pressure to move on to the next location.

The itinerary will be largely determined by the ice conditions at the time and we shall be monitoring this closely as we progress into the higher latitudes. In the event of our planned route not being possible due to the lack of ice then we shall follow an alternative route that will be decided at the time. It is also more than likely that we shall have to alter our plans from time to time due to the presence of polar bears in areas.

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