Spitsbergen—Into The Ice

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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 our Spitsbergen: Into the Ice photo cruise! 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."
- M. A. Longshore

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.

Photographing in SvalbardSpitsbergen 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.


Check out the trip report from our 2018 Spitsbergen photo tour

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (July 24)
Arrive Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen’s largest community. Board the Malmo in the afternoon. (D on board ship)

Bearded seal hauled out on ice in SpitsbergenDays 2–10
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. Arctic fox pupsBut 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 (August 3)
We disembark the ship in Longyearbyen in the morning. Fly to Oslo and continue home. (Breakfast on board ship, Lunch and Dinner on your own)

View Malmo's deck plan


Rate Schedule
This trip is WAITLISTED.

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Spitsbergen—Into The Ice

Jul 24, 2020 - Aug 03, 2020

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Trip deposits are non-refundable. Subsequent payments of the trip fee must be paid by check or bank transfer.

A non-refundable deposit of 25% of the trip fee is required. An additional 25% of the trip fee is due on 9/29/19. Final payment is due on 2/18/20. We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time the following fees are non-refundable:

If Written Cancellation is Received:                Cancellation Fee:
On or prior to 10/1/19:                                           100% of deposit
On or between 10/2/19 and 3/2/20:                         50% of trip fee
On or after 3/3/20:                                                 100% of trip fee

Emergency evacuation insurance is REQUIRED for this tour. As noted in Section 3 below, we send a brochure for trip insurance to US and Canadian residents (except Quebec). The policy offered includes the emergency evacuation coverage required for this trip. Participants purchasing trip insurance on their own—that is, not through our office—should confirm that emergency evacuation is included in their policy.

All terms and conditions in this section are based on double-occupancy. If you'd like a single cabin at 1.9x the double-occupancy rates, please contact us about payment, cancellation and refund terms and conditions.

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to info@photosafaris.com.

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Spitsbergen—Into The Ice: Easy Activity Level

Small ship transportation.  Ninety percent of our photography will take place from the ship or Zodiacs.  Limited hikes of one mile are possible on a few days.  Sea conditions are usually calm, but seasickness prophylaxis is recommended for those who may be affected until you “get your sea legs.”  Expect cold, damp maritime weather occasionally interspersed with sunshine.

Trip Details
Jul 24 - Aug 03, 2020
Deposit: 25% of trip fee
Limit: 12 participants
Activity Level: EasyEasy

*Cruise only, from Longyearbyen, Norway, per person, based on shared occupancy. See complete Rate Schedule further down the page.
  • 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
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Tour Leaders
Rinie van Meurs

Rinie van Meurs

Wayne Lynch

Wayne Lynch

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.
—D. Wisler

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.
—M. Gore