For anyone interested in wildlife, the Galapagos archipelago is a true oasis! Here you can play with sea lions, swim with penguins and photograph iguanas and giant tortoises. In October/November two PolarQuest-groups visited the wildlife rich islands. Below, please see some examples of what they got to experience during their unforgettable trips!
Today we visited the Russian settlement Pyramiden. Our local guide came to the pier to pick us up and showed us all the interesting things to see in this former ghost-town. Pyramiden was once a mining town, before it was abandoned 1998. It was a ghost town for almost ten years before the Russians slowly took up some tourist activities again. There is still a lot to see from that time, when about 1000 people lived there, in what was considered as "the perfect Arctic settlement“. After lunch we went into Petuniabukta where we saw a polar bear mother with her young one walking along the shoreline, swimming in the water and even if we stayed at a good distance, it was an amazing experience!
During the afternoon we enjoyed a Zodiac cruise in front of Nordenskiöldbreen, and it was just marvellous. The ice shined in all different shades of blue. We saw an ivory gull flying by and found a small, protected bay where we could park the Zodiac and walk over the moraine and finally even could set foot on the glacier. What an experience! Back on the ship, the "bravest ones“ among us threw themselves into the ice cold water, surrounded by brash ice and ice floes - a polar plunge! After warming up with an aquavit and a warm shower, it was time for us to move to our next destination, Hemsedalen. We did not get far at all though: short after lifting the anchor and sailing out of the fjord, around 60 belugas showed up in the horizon and soon they were swimming close the ship! What a sight!
Early in the morning, we left Desert Rhino Camp and travelled with our Land Rovers through the fascinating landscape of the Namibdesert. After lunch, we reached Ongava Tented Camp, a true oasis with tents overlooking a waterhole. The lodge is located in the private game reserve Ongava, bordering the renowned Etosha National Park. We were welcomed with a 3-course lunch in the open dining room from where we had excellent view of the lodge's waterhole and could see antelopes and zebras come and go. A truly unique lunch experience!
It was then time for our first game drive! Our guides told us that they should focus on the cats as we most likely would see the larger mammals in Etosha National Park the following day. Excited, we climbed into our open safari jeeps. We travelled on the sandy roads surrounded by bushes and trees, home to lions, black and white rhinos, elephants, giraffe and several species of antelope. Suddenly, the landscape changed and in front us a group of lions, both male and females, were resting from the heat. What a wonderful and close encounter with the king of the savannah! As this wasn't enough, we also encounter a rhino with her adorable calf on our way back.
It should turn out that this was our great lion day. At Ongava Tented Camp you are not allowed to walk to or from your tent in the darkness without a guide. This because of the wild animals that occasionally walk through the lodge. We had just started with our dinner when the guides asked for our attention. They had spotted a big male lion spying in the darkness close to the lodge’s waterhole. They told us that the lion didn’t belonged to Ongava, it had escaped from Etosha Nationalpark. Thrilled, we sat and waited around the dinner table and suddenly we could watch him slowly walk towards the waterhole. In silence we watched him drinking from the waterhole and disappear into the darkness again. This is what we call a true safari adventure!
In September we explored the vast wilderness of British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province. It is a place full of natural treasures, culture that stretches back tens of thousands of years - and a lot of bears!
After an early breakfast we steamed towards Gribbell Island which is home to the highest concentration of so-called spirit bears. There are bright black bears similar to polar bears, but still not. They are not white bears with black noses that we are familiar with from Svalbard, but bright with light brown eyes and noses, a result of a recessive gene that is more common here than any other place with bears.
On Gribbell Island, one of four black bears is bright and we hoped that we would get the chance to see this incredibly rare animal. We did not get that day, but the more black bears!
At a small creek full of playing salmons, we sat all day in exactly the same place and enjoyed the surroundings. It may seem monotonous, but our patience was rewarded with regular visits by black bears who walked past us a few meters away. They ignored the colorful two-legs and their clicking cameras to focus on something much more important - fishing! Ahead of us, one of nature's best performances took place, sometimes with several actors at the same time. We had a female with three cubs who were cuter than in the Disney movies and we followed the mother's somewhat awkward attempt to fish salmon which she then eagerly shared with the cubs - right in front of us.
At the end of the day, we had full memory cards in the cameras and ran out of superlatives to describe the day with.
It is not an easy task to summerise a day in the middle of the untamed Namib desert, but Emma Nilsson, Marketing Manager at PolarQuest, gives it a good try in a blog post about our trip to Namibia. Please read it below!
During the afternoon the day before, we had reached the Little Kulala Lodge, a true oasis offering magnificent views of Sossusvlei’s ochre coloured sand dunes. It was an early morning and already at 6 AM we jumped into the jeeps. The weather was on our side with no wind, no clouds and perfect temperature. It seemed as we would be able to experience the dunes from a hot air balloon! If we were lucky, we would leave just when the sun rose. You could really feel the excitement in the air when we had jumped into the balloon. Suddenly we were up in the air and marveled at the seemingly vast, seemingly endless landscape of the Namib desert. The light, the scilience and the incredible sceneries made us all speechless. Once we were back on the ground again, a magical desert breakfast was waiting for us. What a morning!
In the afternoon, after an outdoor lunch and a refreshing swim in the pool, we headed for a new adventure. This time we explored Sossusvlei by foot. Some of us were rewarded with an extraordinary view when we walked up to the top of one of the dunes. It was certainly worth all the sand in the shoes! The others enjoyed a fascinating walk amongst the 2000 years old, dead trees. This is a unique setting that is hard to find somewhere else in the world. Truly a day to remember!
Sorgfjorden is rich in historical remains and many stories about the whaling men who were active here in the 17th century are still told by many. Read an exciting post about when our travelers briefly got to travel in time during a visit to Eolusneset in Sorgfjorden.
These graves bear testimony to the dangers encountered by the fjord's earliest visitors. It is a difficult area for navigation, and many vessels have found themselves held by the drifting pack inside the fjord for longer than anticipated. Interestingly, this is also the site of what is likely to be the northernmost naval engagement in history, fought during the Nine Years’ War. In 1693 two French frigates patrolled the ice looking for enemies - Dutch, English or Hamburg (at that time a free imperial city) whaling vessels to sink or capture. They caught approximately 40 vessels inside Sorgfjorden and took 13 in total by the time the battle was done. The French were outnumbered in gun and sailors, but the whalers tired faster. Two of the Dutch vessels were burnt on site. A Dutch battery which fired some of the earliest shots was placed on the hill next to the gravesite pictured.
We spent the morning exploring the area on foot. You can also find some more seldom seen birds such as the red-throated diver, various waders and sometimes the grey phalarope here. We were also scanning the pack ice in the bay as there were many bear tracks along the shoreline, but there wasn't any bear in sight.
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.