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Best Time to See Polar Bear

Graeme Purdy 5DS

The Best Time to See Polar Bear

"Polar bears live throughout Svalbard and can be seen at all times of the year, but their exact whereabouts, though determined by sea ice levels, can never be pinpointed with a great degree of accuracy."

It is tricky to say when specifically it is best to see polar bears in Svalbard. Early in the season – during the month of May – conditions can be perfect, as the ice has not yet melted and thus the snowy white backdrops can make for a photographer's dream. Later in the season however – between June and August – the pack ice begins to melt, meaning you can push further north, cover more ground, and the polar bears are often more concentrated in the remaining icy areas.

Best Time to See Polar Bears Month by Month

  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC
  • Svalbard - Freezing temperatures and constant darkness means we would not recommend traveling to Svalbard at this time.
  • Arctic Canada - Polar night engulfs the Arctic, with temperatures plummeting to -35C we would not recommend traveling to Arctic Canada at this time.

Latest figures on the number of polar bears suggest that the Svalbard Archipelago and the Barents Sea are home to around 3,000 bears, with Svalbard acting almost as a refuge for the polar bear over the years. This is a huge positive, not just for the bears as a species, but also for specialist travel outfitters like NWS, as these days we are more than confident in regards to sightings. Some departures (on our smaller, more specialist vessels) have seen as many as 38 polar bears on an individual trip.

Our Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer Safari takes place between May and August, when the midnight sun reigns supreme and the ice encompassing the archipelago begins to melt, allowing us to navigate by boat. The contrast at this time between the pure white ice and the green of the fresh grasses when the snow has melted, with the flowers beginning to blossom, is well worth a visit in itself! Glaciers lean into the crisp ocean, ice floats past in massive chunks and as we push our way through we can see waterfalls pouring down sheer walls made of ice.

One element when planning your trip that you should not underestimate, is the size of the ship. We go further north than most expeditions owing to the small size of the vessels we use (just 12-18 passenger berths); this enables us to squeeze through tight spaces, to navigate shallower waters, and explore wilder and more secluded areas, often allowing us to discover some of the favourite hideouts of the bears themselves.