This weekend, the 15th edition of the New York Times Travel Show was held at Manhattan. During these three intense days, approximately 30,000 visitors were able to meet over 550 tour operators who presented more than 170 destinations worldwide. PolarQuest was one of the exhibitors and the only Swedish operator participating. The interest in Svalbard was great and we were given the opportunity to meet many adventurous travellers who dream of an adventure of a lifetime!
Personal Christmas greetings from the PolarQuest-office
Christmas is just around the corner, and we hope these personal greetings from all of us at the PolarQuest-office will spread some warmth. Here you can also read about where we hope our own travel dreams will take us next year. We hope to see you on new adventures in 2021! We wish you a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Warm Christmas greetings - I wish you all a wonderful 2021!
I long for exploration – Svalbard, Svalbard, Svalbard, I always want to go back! I encourage my children to practice horse riding since I also dream of exploring Mongolia together with them when they get a bit older.
Heidi Lähteenmäki Sander
Expedition planner & Travel consultant
Christmas carols, gingerbread and Christmas lights are bringing joy, soon Christmas will be here. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2021!
For the coming year I’m hoping to be able to travel both somewhere warm and cold, to have a nice balance. A dream of mine is to bring a loved one to Svalbard and together experience the rare beauty that the archipelago has to offer. The other destination for me is across the globe, which is New Zealand with its beautiful nature and wildlife.
Expedition planner & Travel consultant
This strange year with limited contacts and non-existent travels, one has had to discover other values in life, such as reading those books that never got rid of and having Skype conversations with loved ones when it is not possible to meet. I would like to recommend a book for Christmas reading: The Expedition by Bea Uusma. It is about the Polar Expedition that departed from Svalbard with a hot air balloon in 1897 and never returned... Order the book here.
My wish for next year is that we will once again be able to travel and discover the world. Personally, I long to return to Svalbard and the ice in the north, but also to make a trip in the opposite direction, to Africa and the fantastic savannahs there.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas with a lot of compassion!
"You better watch out You better not cry Better not pout I'm telling you why Santa Claus is coming to town”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!
During these cold and dark days in here in the Northern part of the world I dream about a trip to the incredible Galapagos Islands. To snorkelling and experiencing the rich marine life under the surface would be wonderful!
Expedition planner & Travel consultant
Wishing you a wonderful Christmas 2020, this year when things went upside down. Hope we are all able to visit and hug our loved ones again very soon.
I'm certainly not the only one with a "need" and dream of packing my suitcase soon again. Highest on my wishing list is Nepal, which has been a dream come true for almost 30 years. That dream is shared with once again explore the breath-taking wilderness of Antarctica!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Yet another year has passed, and Christmas is finally here again. I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a great adventurous year ahead!
Next year I would love to visit my best friend who moved to Australia shortly before the pandemic started. It would be lovely to take my family there to explore the great natural wonders of the country.
Travel consultant & photographer
We look back on a very different year, where many travel dreams were put on hold. But times like these also give birth to new travel dreams and perhaps also new perspectives? In 2020, I became a father which of course was a highlight during this year and on my life path, but also a kickstart of a new journey.
Our nature and its diversity has always been close to my heart. Now, I look forward to exploring nature again with my son, such as Svalbard's glaciers and wildlife, Scandinavia's northern part or why not snorkelling amongst cobs and skerries at the Swedish west coast.
During the summer and autumn, I have been hiking many miles in nearby nature reserves with my son. Along the paths I have met many hikers of all ages and I’m pleased to see that more people have chosen to visit nature during the year. My hope is that this increases the understanding and importance of nature in the future, regardless if its nearby or wilderness far away.
Wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New nature year
This year, we will all have a different Christmas that we will remember for many years. It might not be the Christmas that we had planned or wished for, but I still hope we can make it to a peaceful holiday. Let us try to make it a beautiful memory! We might not be able to meet all family members and friends, but instead we get more time to spend with some very close ones.
My wish is that we soon can travel and meet as usual again. My dream trip is to head out on a longer sailing with the family’s boat, to Gotland on the Swedish east coast or along the spectacular Norwegian coast. While I’m waiting for this, I will go skiing in our beautiful mountains up north!
I wish you a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
This Christmas, I really look forward to spend a lot of time outdoors with my family, and lighting many wonderful fires! Maybe, I even dare to throw myself into the ocean, even though it is a bit cold - it would be a nice restart, for a new, healthier and above all, more fun year!
Like many others, I also dream of travelling again soon. A trip to Portuguese Ericeira, French Biarritz or to sail along the coast of Norway with my favourite ship M/S Stockholm would be a real treat!
A stormy year will soon come to an end, a year of reflection and time to appreciate the small things. Now 2021 waits around the corner and everyone is longing – longing to be able to see each other instead of talking on the phone, longing for a hug, for adventures and exploration. Let’s hope we’ll all be able to fulfil all those dreams that just remained dreams during 2020. I wish you all a happy new prosperous year!
Next year I’d love to go to a snow crowned Northern Norway to meet some beautiful orcas. Suitably, they are supposed to be one of the world’s most social animals. But my most important travel destination next year will be just a few hours away to visit my parents for some catching up.
Guide Manager (on parental leave)
As I am writing this we are putting up the Christmas tree in our house, and once it is decorated, I feel like Christmas is here for real. I would like to spread some of that Christmas spirit to all of you and hope that you will have an extra cosy Christmas this year. Merry Christmas & hopes for a bright start to 2021.
The desire for travelling has accumulated during this year, and if it was up to me, I would use the remaining time of my parental leave to travel around the world to see friends and family who are spread out over the globe. First and foremost to Australia where a large part of the family lives. When it comes to the Polar regions I dream about experiencing Greenland onboard our new ship Balto. Greenland is one of the most magical places I have ever set my foot on!
After a turbulent year like this, Christmas may be even more important for us. A time when all the beautiful candles and lamps lighten up our world. A time when we have time for relaxation, reflection and each other. Even if we are not able to meet as we are used to, we can always meet and spread love in other ways – through cards, digital messages, calls or videos.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a New adventurous and healthy year!
Next year I would love to explore beautiful Norway during summertime, to see all the famous locations that I have always dreamed of. I want to experience the incredible nature and the magnificent sceneries, visit the stunning fjords, small islands and picturesque fishing villages.
During an expedition cruise to Svalbard, one of our last untouched wildernesses, you have the chance to experience unforgettable wildlife encounters. Svalbard's unique fauna includes several species of seals, and below can you read some brief facts about five of them.
The ringed seal belongs to the polar bear's favourite food. It is the most common seal species in the Arctic Ocean and is recognised by its grey fur with dark spots that sometimes can be taken for rings, hence the name ringed seal. The ringed seal is the only species in the earless seal family that continues to grow thruoghout life and can reach between 120 and 195 cm in length during a lifetime. Despite this, it is still slightly smaller than the harbour seal.
The harbour seal not only lives along the Swedish west coast, in the North Sea, the North Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, but a small population has also ventured as far north as Svalbard. It is black or grey in its coat with dark spots, like the ringed seal, but is thus slightly larger in comparison. A more distinctive feature is its V-shaped nostrils. It can dive up to 200 meters, after which its heart rate is lowered by about 20 beats per minute, from normal 150 beats per minute to about 130.
The bearded seal is one of the larger members of the earless seal family. It occurs only in the Arctic Ocean and is well adapted to life in a harsh and cold climate. It stores large amounts of fat during the winter months and can then reach a weight of an impressive 400 kg, which makes its head during the same period look disproportionately small. During the summer, it has thinned slightly but is still easy to recognize thanks to its characteristic moustache. If you are quiet, you can hear how the male seals, like whales, sing under the water. It is not entirely known why they do so, but it is probably to impress females nearby and to mark their own territory.
The harp seal is approximately 200 cm long and weighs 140 kg. The males are slightly larger than the females, have a black head and a black spot extending from the shoulders, along the sides back to the tail. It is thanks to the shape of that spot the seal is named harp seal, as the spot is reminiscent of a harp. The female's spot is paler but can also be split. They can dive as deep as over 200 meters when hunting fish, molluscs and crustaceans. Its young ones are completely white and lack a warming layer of fat, but the white coat instead conducts the sun's heat directly to the skin.
It may not be completely obvious, but the walrus is also included in the group of seals, even though it is classified as the only living species in its own family of walruses. Its size and characteristic tusks create a powerful impression and suggest that it is in the cold and distant waters of the Arctic that the walrus belongs. It eats large numbers of small animals such as mussels and molluscs that it grazes on the seabed, but it also happens that it eats fish and that males feed on other seals or even whales. They have almost no natural enemies and are therefore very curious animals. In the past, however, they were hunted extensive by humans, but thankfully the species has started to recover and on Svalbard you have good chances to have great encounters with these charming and fascinating animals!
Lillemor Främberg works as travel producer and travel consultant at the PolarQuest office, and we asked her to share her favourite travel memory. Below can you read about an adventure which lies a bit closer to her heart than others - among fjords, mountains, orcas and whales in magical Tromsø!
"One of my favourite travel memories is participating in PolarQuest's Orcas and Northern Lights expedition on board M/S Stockholm in November 2016. The journey started and ended in Tromsø.
We had great fortune with the weather which was cold and clear. We got to experience fantastic sunrises and sunsets, and were able to see the northern lights for several nights too. I had never seen the northern lights before, so it was powerful to see how it danced across the night sky. The fact that the sea was also almost boiling by both orcas and humpback whales did not make the trip any worse! Imagine being able to sit completely still in an Zodiac at sunset with orcas just a few meters away and hear their blow when they come up to breathe. It was magical. You become very humble about the grandeur of nature, which becomes even more important to preserve, on a journey like this. "
The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard offers many beautiful seasons, and the autumn is truly one of them! Take a few minutes to watch a short slideshow with a section of images taken during some of our previous autumn expeditions in Svalbard.
The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard offers many beautiful seasons, and the autumn is truly one of them! In late August, the midnight sun is brushing the horizon, preparing for the polar night giving us beautiful sunsets as well as a warm and soft light, perfect for anyone interested in photography.
During this time of year, the landscape is often snow-free and dry and invites to many scenic hikes. If lucky, you encounter the cute and curious Arctic fox during your refreshing hike. In the autumn, the Arctic fox’s beautiful winter fur is lighting up the autumn coloured landscape. Whales are often seen in the water and you also have the chance to see walruses with calves.
An autumn expedition could also offer an even greater expedition experience. The ice in the eastern parts of the archipelago has usually retreated at this time, which offers good opportunities to explore the more seldom visited parts of Svalbard.
The nights at these Northern latitudes are quickly getting longer and already in the middle of September you have some hours of darkness. It’s an extraordinary experience to be in the middle to the Arctic wilderness when the darkness falls!
Enjoy stunning Svalbard images!
Take a few minutes to watch a short slideshow with a section of images taken during some of our previous autumn expeditions in Svalbard.
Since 1999, we have taken travellers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Svalbard. From May to September our three small expedition ships, carrying only 12 and 53 passengers, explore this magnificent Arctic archipelago. Unpredictability and flexibility are the main keywords when you travel with PolarQuest as the exact route depends on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encounters. Sometimes you might be woken up in the middle of the night if a polar bear has been spotted on the ice.
Disko Bay Exploration - Ice, whales & mountains
Disko Bay, located in Baffin Bay just off the west coast of Greenland, is known for its varied and magnificent nature. Fjords, caves, and huge icebergs surrounds us on our journey, but the landscape also invites us to hike over the tundra and among mountains. A trip here tends to touch you deeply, and it is easy to feel both humbled and amazed by the wonders of nature.
You can admire the world's fastest calving glacier - Jakobshavn Isbrae, or Sermeq Kujalleq as the Innuits call it, in the Ilulissat Fjord which flows out in Disko Bay. The glacier calves an estimated 40 cubic kilometres of icebergs per year, and it is therefore no coincidence that Ilulissat means iceberg. The fjord has also been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2004.
The Innuits are presumed to have settled in the area around Disko Bay after Erik the Red discovered it, but during the 15th century the climate became too cold for the Norsemen who first came here, and the Innuits have lived their lives alone here ever since. The main source of income for the inhabitants of the villages around the bay was trade of bones and furs with Icelanders, Englishmen, Scots, Irish, Welsh and other Europeans, and many villagers mainly live from fishing and hunting even today.
As we head further north we pass more glaciers, for example Eqip Sermia, which is a very active glacier too. It calves often, and it is a powerful sight to see huge pieces of ice coming off the glacier front and falling into the water! The sound is reminiscent of thunder as the air, long time packed inside the ice, finally is released.
Not only will we admire both magnificent and beautiful nature during our time on board - we also have good chances to experience unforgettable encounters with wild animals. In the fjords can we spot seals, walrus, and several whale species such as humpback whales, minke whales and pilot whales, and on land we have the chance to meet reindeer, Arctic hares and Arctic foxes.