In 2017, our classic 12-passenger ship M/S Sjøveien started her career as an expedition ship in Svalbard. Read about one of the exciting days on the expedition cruise with M/S Sjøveien, the 17 – 25 June.
19 June The day started with a Zodiac cruise under perfect blue skies and sunshine into the back of Magdalenefjord, experiencing brash ice and viewing ringed seals. We also took our first steps on shore on the 800-metre high Alkekongen for views of nesting Little Auks.
Later we visited the some walrus, resting in the sheltered Gullybukta. Here, we also found nesting Arctic terns were gathered in tens of pairs. More perfect conditions awaited us in Hamiltonbukta where we witnessed the activity of our first Brünnich’s Guillemot and Kittiwake colony, plus our first Polar bear, a mother with two cubs of the year scavenging and nursing on the islets in the centre of the bay. What a day!
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 bleow!
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.
Horse racing & wrestling in Mongolia
Naadam has been a Mongolian tradition for a long time, and during the festival competitions in horse racing and wrestling are arranged. Read about our travelers' visit to the annual festival below!
Mongolia is truly one of the most beautiful places one can visit, and this year we also had the opportunity to attend at the annual Naadam festival. After a little bit of research, I found out that traditional competitions in horse racing and wrestling were arranged on our way to Ik nart. As I had promised the guests a surprise, we turned off the road and out onto the steppe about halfway to Ik nart. The first thing we see ahead of us is a cloud of dust in the horizon, but as we approach, we see people riding and on camel carts.
There are people everywhere and everyone are dressed in their traditional clothes. We are the only tourists here, and the Mongolians are just as curious about us as we are of them. We stay for over three hours and everyone are thrilled afterwards. Some of the guests talk about how they have been invited to the regional board's ger (tents) for airag (traditional horse milk), while others have ended up in sponsor tents and are quite giddy after a few glasses of the local vodka. The cameras have gone off warm and we all agree that this will be a memory of a lifetime.