Polar1 (2)

Realm of the Polar Bear

Ross Bartholomew & Chammaly Nhongmany

23 Sep 2022

The Realm of the Polar Bear

Our Realm of the Polar Bear 2022 tour on the Polar Pioneer with Natural World Safaris was unforgettable. Every day we had wonderful excursions. We had so many that we won’t try to go through each one, but instead in this blog, we will focus on just two days of this amazing trip.

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On the second evening of our voyage, we headed to the pack ice that was quite a bit north of Svalbard during the end of July.  We went in search of polar bears and although we didn’t see any in the pack ice, we were extremely excited to be 81º30’2” North. We did see a few seals and our first ivory gull whilst in the pack ice. We spent hours looking out over the ice-covered sea. It was surreal being in such a beautiful, remote place that few people have seen - the feeling of being there is beyond words.  

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After returning to Svalbard from the pack ice, we made a number of stops along the northern part of the archipelago. After reaching the furthest northeastern island of Kvitøya (the White Island) and making a landing at the monument to Andrée's Arctic Balloon Expedition, we headed southwest towards Bråsvellbreen.   

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Early the next morning, we were awakened by our expedition leader with an announcement that there was a pod of humpback whales breaching near the ship. No one complained about the early wake-up call. The whales put on quite a show for us. As wonderful as that was, we had no idea what an exceptional day we were in for. After breakfast, we began slowly cursing past Bråsvellbreen. Here, the glacial rivers ending in waterfalls off the ice wall were spectacular. Everyone was out on the decks in the sunshine enjoying the scenery for hours.  
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Later that afternoon we arrived at the Bird Cliffs of Alkefjellet. We really enjoyed floating near the cliffs watching all the thick-billed murres coming in to feed their chicks and flying back out to sea to catch more fish. The chicks just stood on the narrow ledges usually facing the wall waiting for more food and trying not to fall. With thousands of birds in the air above us, it was surprising that Chammy was the only one in our Zodiac that got pooped on! As entertaining as the birds were, the star of the Alkefjellet was an Arctic fox that we spotted at the end of the cliffs. The fox blended into its surroundings and was nearly impossible to see until it moved. We stayed out in the Zodiac a bit longer so everyone could enjoy this beautiful creature. When we got back to the ship, our expedition leader told us he had a surprise for us after dinner. 

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After dinner, we were in Lomfjorden (The Loon Fjord), climbing back into the Zodiacs for an up-close view of seven polar bears feasting on a whale carcass. Actually, only one bear was eating at the carcass and five others were sleeping nearby, with one wandering in the distance. We stayed out long after our usual bedtime (fortunately the sun never set during the twelve days we were there) enjoying this incredible encounter with the polar bears. Although we were quite close to shore in the Zodiacs, the bears paid little attention to us. After a big meal at the carcass, the one polar bear wandered off. A female polar bear and her two cubs also woke up and wandered into the distance while another female and her cub continued their nap near the whale carcass. After a brief glimpse of an ivory gull stopping at the carcass for a quick snack, we too reluctantly made our way back to the ship in the distance after a long and wonderful day.  

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We didn’t want the trip to end. The crew and guides on the Polar Pioneer were fantastic. The other guests were incredible people and were such a joy to be around. Thanks, Natural World Safaris for making all of this possible!
Polar bear close up, Svalbard

Your Next Steps

Download our Polar bear travel guide, or talk to one of our specialists for more details on travelling to Svalbard. Please note we recommend a budget of from £7,000 / $10,000 USD per person for our style of trip to this destination.

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