1. See rare wildlife in its natural home, with a good chance of spotting polar bears
Svalbard is home to lots of rare wildlife on land and in the seas and skies. On the shore, you may see Svalbard Reindeer, Arctic foxes and polar bears – which you can also spot from on board the ship. Our experienced guides lead us to areas where polar bears are known to roam, and with hundreds of polar bears calling Svalbard their home, it means that you have a good chance of seeing these iconic bears on one of our micro cruises (although we cannot guarantee this!).
In the water and on the sea ice, you can see walruses, beluga whales and seals. And look up to the skies and on the cliffs and you’ll see a range of birdlife, including Arctic terns, pink-footed geese and rock ptarmigans.
A young Polar Bear in Svalbard by Chase Teron. You can join Chase on a photo tour of Svalbard here.
2. Get up close to glaciers
Svalbard has over 2,000 glaciers which, unsurprisingly, form a big part of the landscape there. Small expedition vessels are perfect for getting close to the glaciers – close enough to marvel at them and photograph them. We can get even closer with our landing craft too; a zodiac cruise along a glacier is a truly magical experience and one which many guests call a highlight of their trip.
One of Svalbard’s 2000 glaciers captured by Chase Teron.
3. Visit remote places larger ships cannot reach
One of the many advantages of a small expedition vessel is that it can reach shallower areas which larger ships cannot. This gives us more options to go to secret anchorages and explore less-visited places, as well as getting closer to glaciers.
A Zodiac heads off to explore the sea ice in calm conditions.
4. Witness the sea ice first-hand
The sea ice north of Svalbard extends all the way to the North Pole – which is situated just 800 miles north of the archipelago. Situated between the Greenland Sea and the Barents Sea, the level of sea ice around Svalbard does fluctuate throughout the year but, in calmer conditions in the summer months, it is possible to visit the edge of the sea ice in the north.
Polar bears – known as the Kings of the Arctic – spend most of their lives on the drifting sea ice and, if we are really fortunate, we may well see a polar bear using the sea ice for hunting.
A polar bear hunting on the sea ice extends all the way to the North Pole. Photo by Chase Teron.
5. Enjoy the amazing scenery
Wildlife goes hand in hand with nature; and Svalbard is known for its majestic scenery including mountains, glaciers and tranquil fjords. It’s not all snow and ice, although you’re likely to see your fair share of that. There aren’t many places left in the world that feel like a true wilderness, but Svalbard is one of those places. It feels so far from anything else you’ve seen or experienced before and has a real timelessness to it due to the limited human inhabitation. A photographer’s dream!
Svalbard is famous for its stunning polar scenery. Photo by Chase Teron.
6. Disconnect from your busy life and connect with nature
Travelling on a small vessel is great for disconnecting from the hectic hustle and bustle of everyday life elsewhere in the world. Here, you can experience the natural world free from distractions. No internet or social media to consume your time. Take some time out to fully absorb the wonder of the Arctic. Travelling in a small group allows us to spend plenty of time connecting with nature. Unlike some day trips from larger ships, our journeys ashore are unhurried allowing you to take time to appreciate the Arctic silence.
One of our guests Anna Maria enjoys the Arctic silence. Read about her experience here.
7. A more personal experience
On a Secret Atlas Expedition Micro Cruise, you’re not part of a large group herded from point A to point B in a way you might be on a day trip from a larger cruise ship. You’re part of a small, friendly group of 12 travellers invested in the spirit of exploration. Like-minded people who want to experience the Arctic in a more meaningful way. Previous guests all comment on the team bond that develops, a camaraderie not found on larger ships. Many have become long-term friends and stayed in touch with us and each other – one modest-sized family.
All of our travellers are like-minded in their passion for exploring Svalbard.
8. Smaller is better
With small expedition vessels which carry just 12 guests, you not only get a better experience – but are travelling in a much more sustainable way. This is a real expedition, not a prescribed commercial tour. You won’t find yourself queuing or waiting time to go ashore as there is room for everyone in the Zodiac landing craft. Smaller group travel gives us flexibility to make decisions based on the weather and in consultation with everyone, which means you’re likely to see much more during your trip. The impact of landing ashore with 12 people, compared with 350+ (which is what some of the larger ships do) is much lower, so better for the environment.
MV Togo cruises through Svalbard’s icy water.
9. Learn from expert guides
A big part of the experience of a Secret Atlas Expedition Micro Cruise is learning more about Svalbard and we have two expert guides on each trip to help do this – that means one guide per six guests, so plenty of time to ask questions and talk to your guide. Our guides know the local area well, they speak the local language and keep on top of the latest developments and guidance. On board (and during landings), they will share their passion and knowledge on everything from wildlife, geology, history and the climate of Svalbard with you.
An expedition leader drives a Zodiac through sea ice.
Find out more about our 2021 expedition micro cruises here.
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