An unforgettable trip to Svalbard: walruses and polar bears
For nine days we had the privilege of exploring the enchanting world of Svalbard, and every day offered new experiences. We began our journey in Longyearbyen where we boarded the M/S Quest, which would be our home for the next week.
The captain set a course for the northwest corner of Spitsbergen and we headed as far north as the pack ice would allow. In Magdalenefjorden we launched the ship's five rubber boats. Each has room for about ten guests. We then slowly travelled among the scattered ice floes. The weather was wonderful, windless with bright sunshine, and sparkling white snow covering the pointed mountains around us. A group of harp seals "popped" up and down and peered curiously at us while we looked back at them just as curiously. In addition, we saw about twenty of the 'tooth-walking horses of the sea'. Yes, that's how you can choose to translate the scientific name of the walrus: Odbenus rosmarus. The full-grown males weigh over 1.5 tons and get meter-long tusks. However, they looked peaceful resting on the ice floes. Observing these enormous creatures up close was truly a special experience.
But it wasn't just different seals that brightened up our trip. The guides' tireless scouting paid off and we had the opportunity to study the "King of the Arctic" in its proper environment. The first polar bear wandered curiously along the ice edge and stood up on its hind legs and looked out over the sea. Was it possibly the swimming ringed seal that the bear got a whiff of? To our eyes, however, it looked like the polar bear was waving to us. The second bear was spotted in the distance as it walked with determined steps further away over a mountain ridge. The third bear we encountered was a young female who put on an incredible show. We watched her jump from the ice into the water, then she dived under the ice and stuck her head through various holes like a seal and repeated her "game" several times. We had the privilege of enjoying the bear's company for a good while before continuing our journey further into the fjord.
We explored more fjords and it was like gliding around an art gallery as we admired the beautiful blue glaciers and their associated icebergs.
But the adventure was not yet over. Just when we thought we had seen it all, we came across another polar bear chasing a Svalbard reindeer off a cliff. The bear threw itself after the reindeer, which tried to escape into the sea, but the bear was right behind it.
The polar bear made the suffering short for the reindeer and then dragged it onto the beach where it quickly ate selected parts of the animal's body. Soon a small white arctic fox appeared, also wanting to have a share. However, the bear did not seem too amused by the fox and chased it away along the beach, but as soon as the bear turned back towards its prey, the fox raced after it. Which made it look like the little fox was chasing the big bear.
Being part of this extraordinary trip to Svalbard was a privilege. We felt privileged to be able to experience the wonders of nature at such close quarters. Midnight sun, polar plunge, polar bears, walruses, icebergs, king eiders, reindeers, polar foxes and the wonderful atmosphere on board gave us memories for life. This trip offered an insight into the fascinating environments of the Arctic and several of the group were affected by the 'polar bug'. This means that there is a constant desire to return to these barren, wild and magnificent places.
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 50 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.