Svalbard Trip Report; A Magical Experience

Kate Waite

01 Jul 2014

We always love to hear from clients when they return from one of our trips...

Kate Waite caught up with Richard and Vivienne Denyer who have just returned from a trip to Svalbard, to find out what they thought of the experience.

Was this your first trip into the Arctic Circle and how did it match your expectations?

Yes it was - it was a magical experience with breath-taking views.

It definitely exceeded our expectations. It was far more scenic than we had imagined. The changing landscape was quite spectacular.

It was a whole new experience being on a ship pushing through ice; the sounds of crashing and squeaking against the hull were amazing. The ice formations were incredible and stunning to see and the view was constantly changing, differing dramatically with the weather. One minute it could be sunshine, the next a blizzard; one minute dark grey sky followed by a bright clear blue one. When the sea was calm it was glass clear showing beautiful reflections.

How did you find it coping with the cold?

It wasn’t really a problem. Obviously it was cold but not uncomfortably so. It was similar to typical European skiing weather.

Was it your first cruise? How did you find life onboard the MS Stockholm?

The ship, the MS Stockholm, was excellent! The cabin was small which is what we expected but this was a fine compromise to be onboard such a good vessel. We had never been on a cruise before but will definitely go again. We were fearful it would be cramped and claustrophobic but it was nothing like that at all; it was fairly spacious and a beautiful old ship. Everybody got on really well socially which helped; we all had very similar interests. It was a surprisingly mixed group and some had never been on a wildlife safari before.

The safari was all about looking for Arctic wildlife; what did you see?

We had some incredible wildlife sightings including seeing three polar bears, one of which we tracked closely for a few hours. We saw several walrus grouped on the beach and some sitting on the ice floe. We also saw Arctic fox, bearded seals, harbor seals and reindeer.

One great encounter was seeing a school of white beluga whales, possibly 100 of them. These were great to slowly follow for a while. There was also a lot of bird life including Atlantic puffin, Svalbard rock ptarmigan, kittiwake, snow bunting (the only song bird in Svalbard), Arctic tern and numerous other types of sea birds.

Which was your favourite encounter?

The best was being able to closely track a polar bear. We were following it along the shore line in a zodiac for a couple of hours one evening. There were just five of us in the boat and we were about 10 metres from the bear; an incredible experience.

What were the evenings like on the ship?

The evenings were great. After the evening meal there was the opportunity to relax and socialise on the deck, looking out to sea with a drink. There were some really interesting lectures about the history of Svalbard and about polar exploration.

Was sea sickness a concern at all?

We had some mild sea sickness on the first evening when it was a bit choppy but overall it wasn’t a problem. The crew were very good at keeping the ship in sheltered waters.

What packing tips would you give to somebody else heading out on a similar trip?

Sailing clothing is definitely better than ski clothing for this sort of trip. Ideally your clothes need to be waterproof instead of just snow proof as you do get wet getting in and out of the zodiacs. A long waterproof coat is an essential and sturdy “muck boots” with a rugged sole are better than standard wellington boots. Obviously the normal advice when travelling to a cold destination stands; multiple thin layers are more effective than one or two thick ones.

Finally what is the next trip you have planned?

We are heading off on the Natural World Safaris Antarctica Photography Safari in October this year.


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7/7/2014 6:32 PM

A great summary as always Richard and Viv - thank you! Now for Antarctica...!

Ian Dawes

3/7/2014 12:37 AM

Looks brilliant! That fellow Richard Denyer is such an all round good egg and snappy dresser - great photographer, erudite interviewee, man of the people. He has good looking wife, an Audi with nice coloured leather seats (unlike his mate Brian) and he has told us so much about his marvellous experience that we don't need to go! Thanks Dick!

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