The bird-life is also vast in Arctic, and although they are never on the top of my wildlife viewing lists, there were so many birds to be seen. Many bird cliffs were visited but the best by far were at Alkfjellet. These are huge vertical cliffs where kittiwakes, Brunnich Guilemotts and other birds lay their nests. The reason that they nest in this area is because it means that the Arctic foxes cannot get to their young. The Captain positioned the ship with the bow head-on to the cliffs. One of the advantages of the M/V Quest is that it has 2 observation decks at the front of the ship. This meant that you could view the cliffs from a greater height to get a better perspective of the nesting birds. The captain also made the ship drift sideways along the cliff so that we could see as many birds as possible. Supposedly there were between 100-200,000 birds on the cliffs at the time. These same cliffs were covered in the BBC’s Frozen Planet. We saw many other birds such as Arctic terns, albatross, skuas, fulmars and puffins leading a long list.
Some of the other great Arctic wildlife encounters experienced on the trip included seeing seals hitching rides on ice floes, very skittish and always on the lookout for polar bears. As soon as we got close they were in the water. We saw bearded seals, harbour seals, harp seals and the ringed seal, the favourite food of the polar bear.
Whilst we were on land excursions we came across the Arctic fox on three occasions, twice in his grey summer coat and once in his winter white coat, which we were told is extremely unusual at that time of year.
We also had a very close encounter with some Arctic reindeer, another animal that didn't seem to fear our presence. I managed to get some great photos and one of the other passengers managed to get some great pictures of me photographing the reindeer.