: In 2018 we are offering two cruises to Spitsbergen: the one shown here aboard the 12-passenger Malmo
, and a second departure June 24–July 3, 2018 aboard the 20-passenger Freya
No other expedition voyage in the world is dedicated to spending as much time traveling amidst the pristine arctic ice floes in search of polar bears and other wildlife photography opportunities as Spitsbergen—The Pack Ice Voyage! This is a unique and absolutely incredible chance to visit the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and its largest island, Spitsbergen—the most spectacularly photogenic arctic destination on Earth—on a cruise that is totally dedicated to the interests of wildlife and nature photographers.
"The wildlife was spectacular. Our guides were uncanny in their ability to spot them, and the captain was able to ease and turn the ship to just the right spot for the perfect shot. The landscape was ethereal."
The Svalbard Archipelago comprises four large mountainous islands and hundreds of smaller ones. We depart from the island of Spitsbergen at Longyearbyen—the world’s most northerly town, positioned more than 10 degrees north of the Arctic Circle. Using satellite imagery we head toward the largest expanses of pack ice and experience the stark and photogenic beauty of Spitsbergen’s glaciated and snowcapped mountain coastline on our way. The location of the ice depends on recent wind and ocean current conditions. Drifting pack ice frequently crowds the shore, or may be found as a free-floating ice field, miles from the islands. Here at the floe edge—where the ice meets the open water—it is common to find numerous polar bears, occasionally with their cubs, hunting for seals and walruses. The Norwegian Polar Institute has estimated that there are more than 2,000 polar bears in the Svalbard region—a relatively high number for such a small geographic area. Virtually every trip we’ve ever operated has seen and photographed bears and their seal kills at very close range. Before the inception of our cruises, these remarkable images of bears and their prey were very rare.
Spitsbergen is also home to some of the largest concentrations of seabirds in the North Atlantic, including immense and accessible colonies of dovekies (little auks), black-legged kittiwakes, thick-billed murres (Brünnich’s guillemot) and northern fulmars. Bearded seals and walruses are additional highlights of the voyage. We use the ship to approach the seals and, conditions permitting, launch our Zodiacs to approach walruses snoozing on the pack ice—we’re often able to get so close that we can photograph them with a wide-angle lens! As if that is not enough, while cruising along the pack ice we see ivory gulls, parasitic jaegers, puffins, ringed and harp seals, and possibly a whale or two.
Though much of our photography will be done from the ship—photographing wildlife on the ice—we make sure to spend time shooting enormous calving glaciers and other stunning icy landscapes from the shore as well. This voyage provides photographers with dramatic imagery of tangible changing climate conditions in the High Arctic. Because the pack ice is dynamic, all of our photographic opportunities, landings and Zodiac cruising depend on the constantly changing navigation conditions between island passages—and every day brings a new adventure. Flexibility is paramount in this type of expedition cruising!
Because our cruise begins and ends in Longyearbyen, there are no lengthy travel days at sea. We photograph every day of the 10-night voyage, so there is virtually no wasted “at sea” time. Our ship uses inflatable Zodiacs to take us ashore and also allow us to cruise among the ice floes in search of bears, walruses, seals and beautiful scenery. Become a member of our congenial group of photo travelers on an unforgettable cruise to the premier destination in the world for photographing polar bears in their sparkling icy realm—one of the most remote, vulnerable and uniquely beautiful locations on Earth.
For more information, be sure to read the 2016 Spitsbergen Trip Report.
Day 1 (Jul 14)
Arrive Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen’s largest community. Board the Malmo in the afternoon. (D on board ship)
An optional Land Package will be available for an additional fee.
The next nine days are dedicated to exploring the enigmatic and legendary Svalbard Archipelago and its icy environs. Our exact day-to-day itinerary remains flexible, depending on local ice conditions. We spend our days in search of polar bears and other fantastic wildlife, plus ice-altered landscapes. The ship offers a wonderful platform to use long lenses from a tripod or hand-held lenses utilizing stabilization features.
Possible subjects include towering glaciers and sea ice in many forms—including startling documentation of the effects of global warming—as well as walruses amidst the ice floes, bearded and ringed seals, and several species of whales. But the main feature of our trip is our search across the pack ice for the very icon of the arctic—the polar bear—in spectacular photogenic situations that can surpass any place else on Earth! Birdlife, including throngs of wheeling seabirds, barnacle and pink-footed geese, arctic terns and red-throated loons, offers wonderful additional photo possibilities. Because we have chartered the entire ship, we control every aspect of the itinerary, and we have a remarkable amount of time available for photography during the High Arctic’s 24 hours of daylight. (BLD)
Day 11 (Jul 24)
We disembark the ship in Longyearbyen in the morning. Fly to Oslo and continue home. Transfers are included in our optional Land Package. (Breakfast on board ship, Lunch and Dinner on your own)
View Malmo's deck plan
|Standard Twin: Twin cabin with upper/lower berths, shared bathroom
|Superior Twin: Twin cabin with upper/lower berths, private bathroom
As with all Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, the Spitsbergen Pack Ice Voyage was planned and carried out with a very high degree of professionalism. The wildlife and scenic images I captured, especially of the polar bears, made this Arctic adventure an experience of a lifetime.
Joseph Van Os tours are, in my opinion, the best—I have been on six and also on other tours, none of which compare to the Van Os tours. Everything is always done to help the photographer obtain the best images and the support given by the tour leaders is unsurpassable.
- This unique trip offers maximum chances to photograph polar bears on the pristine pack ice
- Nine photography days with plenty of time allotted to search for bears hunting along the floe edge
- Photograph immense glaciers, drift ice formations and serrate maritime mountain landscapes
- Spectacular seabird colonies, seals and walruses await our cameras
- Calm seas and "moderate" weather normally prevail throughout the islands
Jul 14 - Jul 24, 2018
Fee: From $13,995*
Deposit: 25% of trip fee
*Cruise only, from Longyearbyen, Norway, per person, based on shared occupancy. See complete Rate Schedule further down the page.
An optional Land Package will be available for an additional fee. The recommended Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) connecting flight numbers to Longyearbyen and return will be sent to participants as soon as they become available. Flights are not included in the Land Package.