“Bear sighting, 600 yards to starboard’ It was one of those moments that instantly becomes permanently etched on one’s memory”

We were only two days into our Spitsbergen Cruise aggressively shouldering our way through thick pack ice only 600 odd miles from The North Pole, when the ship’s tannoy crackled into life: ‘Bear sighting, 600 yards to starboard’. It was one of those moments that instantly becomes permanently etched on one’s memory. The reverberation of hastened footsteps rang out across the ship as breakfasts were hastily abandoned and the cabins emptied as we scrambled for our first sighting of the main driving force that had propelled us all north into Spitsbergen’s icy wastes: The White Bear.

Widely distributed across the Arctic region, it’s Spitsbergen or Svalbard as the Norwegians call it, that rightly in our opinion lays claim to being the best place to see polar bears in their Arctic wilderness environment. Estimated to number over 3,000, that’s more bears than people, sightings as a result are near guaranteed. Combined with its renown as the most wildlife-rich part of the whole Arctic, eye-popping glaciers and relatively easily access via Oslo from London, Spitsbergen’s allure is compelling and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

This was my first foray into polar waters, but I quickly got to grips with the informal routine aboard our expeditionary ice-strengthened ship. A ship I discovered offers undoubtedly the best platform for exploration and wildlife sightings in Arctic waters, with more than enough opportunity to get off the boat to do daily landings by zodiac, which is lots of fun and walks on the tundra for even the most inactive landlubber.

That first polar bear sighting remains the high point of an extraordinary trip sprinkled with many other highlights – from watching immense glaciers carving, to a ringside seat to the sounds and smell of a large walrus ‘haul-out’ – and undoubtedly I returned home with a touch of ‘polar fever’ for this extraordinary region.

For more information please do not hesitate to ring the voyages team for more information on our range of Arctic cruises, including Cruises to Spitsbergen, Greenland, The North Pole, Russian and Canadian Arctic can be found in the Cruises and Voyages section.

Thanks for reading

Sue Grimwood, Russian Arctic

Author: Sue Grimwood