Exploring Svalbard with Steve Backshall

Steve Backshall

04 Jan 2018

The Arctic: one of the last great wild places

We were thrilled to have naturalist presenter Steve Backshall lead an intrepid expedition to Svalbard in the Arctic this summer with our guests. Inspired by his experiences, Steve shares his experience and encounters with the magnificent polar bears who call it home.

Drifting past gigantic glaciers and breathtaking snow-capped peaks, our Natural World Safaris’ expedition ship M/S Malmo is able to manoeuvre swiftly through the icy water of the Svalbard Archipelago and place us in the midst of one of the last great wild places. On board our small expedition cruise with expert guides - doubtlessly the best way to explore the striking wildness - we spot Arctic fox darting across a white background, toothy walruses bobbing in and out of crackling slabs of ice and an array of seabirds painting the clear skies.

We take in this savagely beautiful place and the anticipation amongst us is obvious; everyone here would like to see polar bear.

As we stand capturing the ice-filled fjords, embraced by impressive snow kissed mountains, we spot them. On a lone iceberg stands a stranded female polar bear with her two young cubs, prodding her belly with their snouts. We have this incredible experience to ourselves and none of us dare move in case we disturb the moment.

These experiences kept on coming, seeing these incredible creatures framed by mighty mountains hunting bearded seals on pack ice, or picking their way up steep cliffs to feed on seabird chicks. We join the captain on the bridge to spot whales and head out on small ribs daily to walk along fossil-strewn beaches, as bird-life circles overhead. Sharing these experiences with ten other wildlife crazy individuals, beside themselves with excitement at seeing whales, birds and seals in their natural habitat, made the whole trip so much more remarkable. They are here for an adventure they will never forget.

At one point, as we settled in between soaring ice cliffs, we saw two huge spouts surge upwards as two blue whales emerge, lazily circling around us, in satin seas of pink and platinum. It is such a spectacular moment that many of our group are moved to tears. After a little while, we lowered our cameras and just watched the largest animals known to man, safe in one of the last great wild places.

In biblical times man would wander the desert to find himself, in future they will go to the Arctic. It is without doubt one of the world’s greatest wonders.

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