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Svalbard 2022 Retrospective

Natural World Safaris

Natural World Safaris

16 Aug 2022

As the majestic M/V Kinfish sailed back into Longyearbyen for the final time this season, and the anchor was dropped alongside the wooden jetty, our final expedition to incredible Svalbard came to a bittersweet end. This year has been the busiest so far, with travel returning to somewhat normal after three years of disruption due to Covid-19, Svalbard 2022 was nothing short of the extraordinary. Although this season may have ended, the NWS team is already preparing for the next, and so to celebrate and pay homage to Svalbard 2022, take a look back at some of this year's incredible Arctic adventures. 

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First, the figures! In 2022 we successfully launched thirteen of our Polar Bear Explorer safaris from the port at Longyearbyen. Onboard we were delighted to welcome six of our specialist leaders including Steve Winter, Benjamin Hardman, David Yarrow, Andy Mann, Martin Hartley, and Chris Michel.

NWS also launched the first Expeditions for Change departure, a climate-focused expedition with Martin Hartley to gain insight into his project The Last Ice Sentinels. This project will document the last of the oldest remaining sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, before it is lost forever to global warming. Onboard this trip guests were welcomed to a presentation from Polar Bears International, as they spoke on the Svalbard maternity den programme that they run. We were very grateful for this education and are proud to send a donation towards their maternity den expenses. We also had another speaker from the Svalbard Social Science Initiative, educating guests on the research that is undertaken in the icy North. 

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From whales to walrus, from vast calving glaciers to tiny flowers sprouting on windswept tundra, Svalbard is about so much more than polar bears – although there have been plenty of them, too. In this blog post, we've selected some of our favourite images from the past season, shot by our clients and specialist leaders. Alongside these images we have included some of our favourite client quotes taken from the stream of the incredible feedback we have built up over the past few months.

Whether you've journeyed to Svalbard with us before or are looking forward to your first experience in the Arctic archipelago, we hope that this retrospective journey serves as inspiration for your next expedition.

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SOME OF THE INTERESTING WILDLIFE & UNUSUAL ACTIVITY SPOTTED THIS SEASON

  • A blue morph Arctic Fox (May 4th departure).
  • A polar bear charged a group of walrus on the ice edge (May 4th  departure).
  • Polar bear feasting on a dead reindeer (May 4th departure).
  • Bearded Seal call was heard on the hull of the ship through the walls (May 20th departure)
  • Beluga whales (May 20th departure).
  • Reindeers walking across fast ice (very rare for them to do) and right in front of a bear and her cubs who remained uninterested (May 20th departure).
  • Minke Whales (May 20th departure).
  • Haul-out of 100 walruses (May 20th departure).
  • 4-5 humpback whales and 3 minke whales (May 28th departure).
  • Arctic Skua chased off reindeer with ease- pecking at their backs and scratching them (June 5th departure).
  • White-beaked dolphins (July 2nd departure)
  • Another Arctic fox in its blue morph (22nd July)
  • Blue whales spraying their blows and showing off their flukes.
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WHAT ELSE DID WE GET UP TO?

In amongst our wildlife encounters, we paddleboarded amongst the icebergs, polar plunged in the icy waters, hiked to old mining locations, visited Ny Alesund a mining town turned scientific community, visited Texas Bar a little hut located in the north of the archipelago which is fully stocked with alcohol and named by a Norwegian trapper who loved Texas!, played a traditional Swedish game (Kubb) on the ice, enjoyed BBQs out on the deck and savoured warming hot chocolates in deckchairs. And celebrated the 4 of July for our American friends on board, decorating the ship with bunting and flags. All of this is only possible because of our incredible Expedition Leaders and fantastic crews on board M/V Kinfish and MS Polarfront.

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"The trip was organised very efficiently by Gemma, Alice and Chloe. It was really useful to be able to discuss small details with someone who had actually been to the destination! The trip was absolutely outstanding. The Polarfront was a superb ship in which to travel, with a really friendly and welcoming crew, superb food and very comfortable accommodation. Hadleigh and Mats are simply outstanding leaders/guides who ensured we had the most incredible wildlife experiences. The highlight of the trip was of course the 11 polar bears we saw but it was the quality of the sightings which our leaders provided that was so impressive - intimate time with a mother and cub showing their affection for each other, a mother with two cubs hunting a seal and a large male in a standoff with a group of walruses will never be forgotten. However, the other wildlife experiences were equally impressive, including an Arctic fox that curled up for a snooze only yards from us, a pod of at least 50 belugas that accompanied us for an hour on our first evening, the stunning ivory gulls which were my main avian target and which Mats and Hadleigh were so keen to make sure I saw and, on the last afternoon, a blue whale - another lifetime ambition fulfilled! Words are really insufficient to express what a fantastic experience this was - I have had many amazing wildlife experiences but this was among the very best."

 

- James W.

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"We feel very fortunate to have been on this spectacular adventure, with perfect guides (Ben and Pernille), on the ideal ship (M/V Kinfish), with wonderful Captain Robin and his very friendly crew. Our guides and crew were completely dedicated to working around weather challenges, finding great animal sightings, responding to any individual passenger needs, as well as educating and entertaining us. An awesome ten days together!"
- Mary K.
 
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"We wanted the holiday of a lifetime and we got one. Our guides Lauren and Alex were tireless in seeking out and delivering great wildlife encounters, working as a team with Robin and the crew. They ensured that we had a varied and fun itinerary with a good balance of wildlife viewing, experiencing the icy environment and illustrated talks, not to mention the polar plunge and donning survival suits for a polar bear's eye view of the ice floes. The app was an excellent one-stop-shop for the holiday information we needed. We were impressed with the cabins, especially the fit-out of the ensuite and the thoughtful extras, like international adaptors and extension lead. Each and every member of the Kinfish crew was also friendly and helpful throughout. Our fellow travellers were an interesting and varied group and we all gelled quickly and enjoyed our time together. Erica's birthday was made memorable with our first polar bear sighting and with champagne, cake and a gift from the crew. And Ben's photographic guidance was appropriate to everyone's skill level (from absolute beginner to wannabe professional) and doubtless helped us come home with some amazing picture memories. A truly memorable visit to a breathtakingly beautiful place."

- Erica Y.

"Our destination specialist, Gemma, was terrific! Gemma - and her colleague Chloe - were always quick to respond to our inquiries and provided very helpful information. We are very grateful they alerted the Polarfront crew (especially chef) to our need for a gluten-free diet. We didn't know what "muck boots" were and Gemma helped us figure out how to equip ourselves. Ten stars for Gemma! We had a great trip! Our guides, Hadleigh Measham and Mats Forsberg were phenomenal guides. They figured out the best daily plans given the weather and then the outlook for wildlife sightings. They said we were very lucky to have seen so many polar bears and cubs, plus great interactions with walruses and polar bears. But we know it was more than luck. They knew where to go to maximize wildlife viewings. They also kept us safe from polar bears. We also appreciated their knowledge when we visited historical sites. The NWS app is great! Kudos also to the terrific Polarfront team. The food was innovative, delicious, and tantalizing at all meals. Chief Stewart, Lydia, was so welcoming and helpful. The Captain was informative and friendly. The whole crew took on the immense challenge of anchor problems with an amazing team effort that was amazing to watch. Just a great job by everyone which made for a fabulous trip! We really appreciated the organization and attention to details of the NWS team. The App is great. Each member - from Gemma and Chloe to everyone on the Polarfront - was top-notch. A really impressive group all around."

- Parker B.

Specialist Leaders

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Photo Credits - Steve Winter, Andy Mann, Benjamin Hardman

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Want to explore Svalbard with Natural World Safaris? Spaces are already selling out on our 2023 Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer expeditions. Each one of our 9 departures next year will take place aboard the M/V Kinfish, with professional photographers Benjamin Hardman, Drew Doggett, Graeme Purdy, and Andrew James each leading their own trip. Click here for more information about this thrilling itinerary.

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