Saturday 31 December 2011

The Ultimate Arctic Seamammal Experience

WildNature arrange Svalbard expedition 03-17 August 2012
Join me on a wild experience in one of the world’s last wilderness. Svalbard is famous for its pristine and wild nature, and of course for the cold scenic landscape and roaming polar bears.

On this trip we will focus on the large whales that are coming to the archipelago to feed during summer. This is one of the best places in East Atlantic to see blue whales and feeding fin whales are in good numbers. As I only work with wild animals, I never give any guarantees. However, there is a lot of things that need to go wrong if we don’t see most of the species I advertise here. Other cetacean species that we can expect to see are humpback whales (often observed in groups doing their famous bubble netting behaviour), white-beaked dolphins (often come to the boat bow riding) and of course minke whales. In the fjords we have reasonably good chance to see belugas, often feeding with a spectacular glacier setting as a back curtain. Seals are often around, and we will most likely see all of the Svalbard species (ringed seal, bearded seal, harbour seal, hooded seal and harp seal). We will spend time at some of the walrus haul out sites, meaning normally good photo oppurtunities for these weird, but fascinating creatures. Polar bears will also be on the agenda, and we will stop whenever the opportunities arises. However, keep in mind that this is not a designated polar bear trip, but is the only trip available in Svalbard that focuses on the cetaceans. The weather and ice conditions will decide where and when we go for the different localities.

While August is arguably the best time for cetaceans, it is at the very end of the breeding season for birds. Most of the bird cliffs will be more or less empty at this time. We will anyway make an effort to see most of the breeding species in Svalbard. Ivory gull, Sabine’s gull, Grey phalarope, Brunnich’s guillemot, Atlantic puffins, Little auk, Barnacle goose, Pink-footed goose, Great-, Pomarine-, Long-tailed- and Arctic skua as well as Snow bunting, Purple sanpiper and Glaucous gull just to mention a few.

Why travel with me?
I have worked 8 seasons as an expedition leader for different bird and cetacean science projects in Svalbard. I have explored most of the coastline in Svalbard in a zodiac, and hence know where to find the different species. There are probably no other tour operator that are able to show you as many species – simply because many other tour operators travel with guides that don’t have the nescessary identification skills and they don’t have the field experience. I’ve guided other photographers and film teams with great success in earlier trips.

To ensure good photo oppptunities – we will make exstensive use of zodiac whenever weather permits.

When not in the zodiac, we use a 49 feet sailyacht specially made for Arctic conditions. This is smaller than what most other people use, which means we are able to reach places that others give up. We sacrifice luxury of spaceous cabins for the intimate nature experience!  

I do have extensive Arctic field experience. This includes boat safety and polar bear safety, which is of upmost importance on a trip like this into remote areas where the nearest help might be days away.

I am an educated biologist, professional wildlife photographer and a keen birder – which all ensures a good general knowledge about behaviour and how to increase our chances to see and photograph the animals without disturbing them too much.   

Only 4 custumers allowed, means exclusive experiences and photos as well as flexibility regarding where and when to go as the group wants.

The price – no other tour operator match this price. NOK41000/person (about EUR5100) for 14 days of true Arctic experience. This price includes all guiding, all food onboard (alcoholic drinks needs to be brought onboard yourself), all fuel and boat costs.

What to bring
Warm clothes – normal temperatures 0-5 degrees C. Keep in mind that standing out on the deck of the sailboat watching the wildlife can be cold at times. You don’t want to miss the best experiences and photo opportunities because you didn’t bring enough clothes…Hiking boots for landings, and some sneakers or light shoes to use when on the boat.

Binoculars – even though the guide will constantly watch for interesting animals and birds, it makes a huge difference to watch the wildlife through your own pair of binoculars.

Camera – For clos up portraits of birds and mammals I recommend at least a 300mm lens. For more landscapes and cetacean shots, something like 70-200mm is very handy (For the last years, I almost exclusively shoot with 70-200mm myself).  Wideangle lens for land based photography can also be useful.

Personal (normal) travel insurance. No need for the extra search and rescue insurance normally needed for independent travelers in the Arctic since this is all sorted by the boat owner.

Since the price is pushed to an absolute minimum, we need 4 people to let this trip go.

Closing date – 20th of January.

Contact details for ordering or questions about this trip:

Eirik Gronningsaeter
Cell: (+47) 95257710

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