This trip will benefit the ongoing Whooping Crane conservation efforts of Operation Migration (www.operationmigration.org). The trip is open to the public and SPACES ARE AVAILABLE.
The Wildlife of the Norwegian Arctic
A Journey to Svalbard: the Kingdom of the Ice Bear
15 Day Natural History Trip from August 5 – 19, 2013
EcoQuest Travel is proud to offer an incredible wildlife watching expedition to the Norwegian Arctic. From the beautiful city of Oslo we will journey north to the frozen wilderness of Svalbard. Svalbard is an extraordinary archipelago of dramatic landscapes including vast ice fields, glistening glaciers, snow-draped peaks and iceberg-choked fjords. The endless nights of summer only add to the mystique of this place. Once we arrive on the island of Spitsbergen we will board our expedition ship, the Plancius, for our eleven-day cruise in search of Arctic wildlife. Unlike most cruises we will circumnavigate the islands in order to maximize our chances of seeing the greatest diversity of wildlife including the monarch of the ice – the Polar Bear. Svalbard is indeed the kingdom of the ice bear, but it is also home to many other emblematic Arctic species such as Walrus, Beluga, Svalbard Reindeer, Arctic Fox and if we are really lucky a Bowhead Whale or Narwhal. Ringed, Harbor and Bearded Seals are common on the ice flows and provide the majority of prey for the Polar Bears. We could see other seals as well, like Harp and Hooded, but they are less common. The birdlife is spectacular including huge assemblages of nesting waterfowl and seabirds. Barnacle Geese, Pink-footed Geese, and both Common and King Eiders breed here. Nesting Dovekies, Thick-billed Murres, Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots and Black-legged Kittiwakes blanket the sea cliffs. Red-throated Loons and Red Phalaropes grace tundra ponds and rare birds of the north like Ivory Gulls are commonly seen. The approachable wildlife and incredible scenery also make Svalbard a fantastic place for photography. We invite you to join us as we explore the natural wonders and cultural sites of Svalbard – the kingdom of the ice bear.
Day 1 – Monday, August 5: Home Cities to our US Gateway City and on to Oslo, Norway
Today you will depart from your home cities and fly to a US gateway city where you will transfer to your overnight flight to Oslo, Norway. Please arrive at your home airports no later than two hours prior to your scheduled departure time. Once you arrive in your gateway city please go to your departure gate for Oslo. If you happen to be scheduled on the same flight as your tour leaders they will meet you at the departure gate for Oslo. If you are scheduled on a different flight you tour leaders will meet you in Oslo.
Day 2 – Tuesday, August 6: Oslo, Norway
We arrive in Oslo early in the morning and after clearing customs and immigration we will transfer to our accommodations and drop off our luggage. After dropping off our luggage we will head to the Viking Ship Museum for a look at Norway’s rich cultural past. After touring the Museum we will have lunch at a local restaurant before visiting the Norwegian Folk Museum. The Folk Museum is a huge open-air complex of many buildings, but since our time will be limited we may want to concentrate our efforts in the exhibition hall which contains displays of Norwegian folk art and traditional costumes. The exhibition hall also has a great display on the life, culture and history of the Sami People. In the late afternoon we will visit Vigeland Park with its many granite and bronze statues by renowned Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. While strolling through the park we could do a bit of birding as well. After a full day we will return to the Clarion Hotel Savoy to freshen up before we have dinner at D/S Louise Restaurant. After dinner we will return to our hotel for a night of much needed rest. (L,D)
Day 3 – Wednesday, August 7: Oslo to Svalbard
After breakfast we will depart for the airport and our flight to the remote Arctic islands of Svalbard. Our destination is the town of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen. After our arrival in Longyearbyen, the northernmost settlement in the world, we will transfer to our accommodations and have a chance to freshen up before the afternoon’s activities commence. This afternoon we will have the chance to experience an Arctic tradition as we go dog-sledding. This time of year the dogs pull sleds with wheels, but the experience is very similar and should be a lot of fun! After dog-sledding we will have a sumptuous trapper’s dinner before returning to our accommodations for the night. We will be staying at a very unique and atmospheric hotel called Trapper’s Lodge which is run by Basecamp Spitsbergen. The lodge itself is modeled after a traditional sealing hut and is built from driftwood and local slate. The rooms exude coziness and comfort! (B,L,D)
Days 4 – 14 – Thursday, August 8 through Sunday, August 18: Around Svalbard by Ship
Svalbard is a group of islands located well above the Arctic Circle – in fact, Svalbard is only a 1,000 kilometers from the north pole. It is one of the most remote and beautiful places on the planet. Owing to these islands remoteness, Svalbard is home to an incredible diversity of Arctic wildlife including the Arctic’s top predator, the Polar Bear. Called the “ice bear” by the Norwegians, there are more Polar Bears (between 3,000 and 6,000) in Svalbard than anywhere else on earth. Svalbard’s tundra and ice also provide habitat for Reindeer and Arctic Fox as well as nesting geese and Eider Ducks. Ringed, Bearded and Harbor seals along with Walrus are plentiful along Svalbard’s coast and provide prey for the Polar Bears. The highly productive Arctic Ocean supports an amazing variety of seabirds such as Dovekies, Fulmars and Puffins. The plankton-rich seas sustain large numbers of whales such as Beluga, Humpback and the more elusive Narwhal and Bowhead. We will maximize our ability to view wildlife by sailing around the numerous islands that make up this frozen archipelago. Our ship, the Plancius, is fully equipped, including ice breaking capability, and will allow unsurpassed access to this spectacular wilderness ruled by the ice bear.
We are scheduled to circumnavigate Svalbard on a wildlife-focused expedition, but it is important to remember that ice and weather conditions always dictate the itinerary. Because we are traveling in August, our chances of completing the circumnavigation are about 90%. The itinerary listed below, for our days aboard the ship, represents what we hope to do on our circumnavigation, but again please be aware that this could change if conditions necessitate it.
Day 4 – Thursday, August 8: Free Time in Longyearbyen and Board the Ship
This morning we will have breakfast at the hotel before having some free time to enjoy the area on our own. We could explore the town, relax, or do a little birding close to town. For those that would like to explore Longyearbyen, we recommend visiting the Svalbard Church, the Svalbard Museum and the Polar Museum. For those that want to join your tour leaders on a morning birding trip we will try to visit the Adventdalen Delta located southeast of town. Some of the birds we hope to see include Barnacle Goose, King and Common Eiders, Arctic Tern, Purple Sandpiper, Glaucous Gull and Snow Bunting. If we are lucky we could spot Svalbard Reindeer and Arctic Fox as well. We will have lunch at the hotel and will have to check out of our rooms prior to transferring to the ship, but we will be able to store our luggage at the hotel. Late in the afternoon we will transfer to the boat docks and board our ship, the Plancius. After settling into our rooms we will have dinner and set sail out of Isfjorden. We certainly will not run out of daylight as, during this time of year, this is the land of the midnight sun. (B,L,D)
Day 5 – Friday, August 9: Aboard the Ship
On the offshore island of Ytre Norskoya, we will visit a 17th century Dutch whaling site whose graveyard is a reminder of the hardships and dangers of life in this part of the world during that time. The island’s birdlife is prolific, with colonies of Dovekies, Black Guillemots, Thick-billed Murres, Atlantic Puffin and Parasitic Jaeger. Eastwards, we will visit Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen. This beautiful fjord is dominated by spectacular glaciers and is favored by Ringed and Bearded Seals. The cliffs and shorelines of the fjord also support thriving seabird colonies. In the evening we will sail by the island of Moffen where a big herd of Walrus can be found. (B,L,D)
Day 6 – Saturday, August 10: Aboard the Ship
We will sail through Beverleysundet, named by Parry in 1827, and also sailed by the Swedish-Russian Arc-of-Meridian Expedition in 1898. Today we will reach the northernmost point in our journey at Phippsoya in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. We will be at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar Bear are common in this region and we could get our first looks at the elusive Ivory Gull. (B,L,D)
Day 7 – Sunday, August 11: Aboard the Ship
We push east to reach the area of Nordaustlandet, where the Nobile Expedition drifted around in 1928 and where the Italian Sora tried to come to the rescue. We hope to get to Alpinoya, reached by the Sora, and then to the mouth of Finn Malmgrenfjord and Albertinibukta to climb Soraberget. From the 672 foot summit of Soraberget we will have fantastic views of the icecap of Nordaustlandet. Alternatively, we will land at Storoya where we hope to see a large herd of Walrus. (B,L,D)
Day 8 – Monday, August 12: Aboard the Ship
Today we hope to get to the rarely visited Kvitoya. This island is the farthest east in the archipelago and very close to Russian territory. The island is dominated by an icecap which leaves a small area devoid of ice and snow. We will land on the western tip at Andreneset, where the Swedish explorer Andre and his companions perished in 1898. We will also try to reach Kraemerpynten in the east, where an enormous Walrus herd resides. (B,L,D)
Day 9 – Tuesday, August 13: Aboard the Ship
South of Nordaustlandet we will try to land at Isispynten, a Nunatak area surrounded by glaciers. Later we will sail along the front of Brasvell Glacier, the longest glacier front in Spitsbergen. In the Olga Strait we have chances to spot the elusive Bowhead Whale. (B,L,D)
Day 10 – Wednesday, August 14: Aboard the Ship
We will sail through the seldom visited area of Kong Karls Land, which is a Polar Bear reserve. We will not be able to land in this area, but we will be able to explore it thoroughly with the zodiacs. Alternatively, we will land at Blafjordfiya at the east end of Edgeoya – a vast tundra area with lots of Reindeer. (B,L,D)
Day 11 – Thursday, August 15: Aboard the Ship
In Freemansundet we plan to land at Sundneset on the island of Barentsoya to visit an old trapper’s hut before taking a hike across the tundra in search of Spitsbergen Reindeer and Barnacle Geese. Later we will cruise south to Diskobukta on the west side of Edgeoya. After a zodiac cruise through the shallow bay, we will land on a beach littered with whale bones and tree trunks which have drifted here from Siberia. We can also climb to the rim of a narrow gully which is inhabited by thousands of Black-legged Kittiwakes plus Black Guillemots and Glaucous Gulls. During the breeding season, the base of the cliffs is patrolled by Arctic Fox and Polar Bear searching for young birds that have fallen from the nesting ledges. (B,L,D)
Day 12 – Friday, August 16: Aboard the Ship
We start the day quietly cruising the side fjords of the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, enjoying the scenery of towering mountain peaks. Hornsundtind rises to nearly 4,700 feet, while Bautaen shows why early Dutch explorers gave the name “Spitsbergen”, which means “pointed mountains”, to the island. There are also 14 magnificent glaciers in the area and very good chances of encounters with seals and Polar Bears. We may also visit a Polish research station where the friendly staff will give us some insight into their research projects. Behind the station the mountains are home to thousands of pairs of nesting Dovekies. (B,L,D)
Day 13 – Saturday, August 17: Aboard the Ship
Today we land on Ahlstrandhalvoya at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden. Here piles of Beluga skeletons, the remains of 19th century slaughter, are yet another reminder of the consequences of thoughtless exploitation. Fortunately, Belugas were not hunted to the edge of extinction and may still be seen locally. Indeed, there is a good chance that we will come across a pod today. Cruising into Recherchefjorden during the afternoon we can explore an area of tundra at the head of the fjord where many Reindeer feed. (B,L,D)
Day 14 – Sunday, August 18: Return to Longyearbyen & Svalbard to Oslo
This morning we will return to Longyearbyen and disembark for our transfer to the airport and our departure from this frozen arctic world to Oslo. After our arrival we will transfer from the airport to our overnight accommodations at the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania. We will have dinner at the hotel tonight before settling in for the night in preparation for the long journey home. (B,D)
Day 15 – Monday, August 19: Oslo to the US
This morning, after an early breakfast, we will bid a fond farewell to the friendly and fascinating country of Norway as we transfer to the airport for our flight back to the US. Once we arrive in our US gateway city we will go through immigration and customs before transferring to our flights home.
* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.
$10,042.00/person tour package from Oslo
$ 800.00/person domestic airfare from Oslo to Svalbard (see information below)
International airline tickets are not included in the above costs. EcoQuest Travel is a full service tour operator and we will gladly assist you with your flights for this tour. We do not charge a service fee for this assistance to clients who book a tour with us. We are aware, however, that clients often prefer to use frequent flyer miles, or points, to purchase tickets or to shop online. Regardless of which method you choose EcoQuest Travel will be happy to help you with ticket prices, scheduling and ticket purchase. If you decide to obtain airline tickets on your own please make sure to check with EcoQuest Travel prior to purchasing your ticket to make sure the flights you have chosen will work with the tour itinerary and that the tour has sufficient participation to operate. Please be aware that once purchased, most airline tickets are non-refundable and carry a financial penalty for any changes. Also, it is essential that we receive a copy of your flight itinerary so that we may track you in case of missed connections, flight delays or other mishaps that might impact your arrival.
Note: Domestic airline tickets within Norway are included in the tour cost, but due to the volatile nature of the airline industry, we are only able to provide an estimated airfare at this time. The actual date of ticketing will determine the price. Typically, we are accurate in our estimates, but please note that there may be a difference in pricing at the time of ticketing. If ticket prices at the time of booking are lower than our estimates the savings will be passed on to you. Likewise if ticket prices exceed our estimates at the time of booking you will be invoiced the difference.
- Land, ship and air transportation within Norway (see conditions above regarding domestic flights within Norway)
- All accommodations – based upon double occupancy (single supplement is available throughout this trip, but is extremely costly aboard our ship – please contact us if you are interested in single supplement rates)
- All tours within the scheduled itinerary
- Most meals are included throughout the trip (see the itinerary for details)
- Permits, entrance fees and guides
- The leadership services of EcoQuest Travel professionals
What’s Not Included:
- Round-trip airfare between the US and Oslo, Norway (see paragraph above)
- Gratuities (for local drivers and guides, and our ship’s crew)
- Fees associated with obtaining a passport
- Travel insurance (please see the Travel Insurance Section below)
- Costs associated with pre-trip medical planning
- Gifts and items of a personal nature
- Potential Fuel Surcharges – please see the section immediately below
Our Ship and Potential Fuel Surcharges:
The majority of our trip will take place aboard Oceanwide Expeditions’ ship the Plancius. The Plancius was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy. The ship was purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions in 2004 and completely rebuilt to accommodate up to 114 passengers. Being built for exploration, she is comfortable and nicely appointed, but not luxurious. She is also spacious, but retains the character of a small ship. The Plancius has large open deck spaces with plenty of room to view wildlife and scenery. She has modern equipment including ten zodiacs which we will use to get to shore and to get closer to the wildlife action.
It is important to note that if fuel prices exceed US $120.00/barrel (up to 120 days prior to departure) then Oceanwide Expeditions reserves the right to levy a fuel surcharge of US $25.00/person/night. If this happens Oceanwide will bill EcoQuest Travel for this and we in turn will have to ask you for payment. We sincerely hope this will not be necessary, but you need to be aware that this could occur and be prepared for it if it does.
A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is required for travel in Norway. No visa is required for US citizens for stays of 90 days or less.
The trip cost is based on a minimum number of participants – 10 people. Although 10 people are required in order to make this trip a reality; we are able to accommodate up to a maximum of 15 people. If we are able to sign up more than 10 participants we will likely be able to lower the trip cost and will pass these savings along to you. The more participants we have the more savings we will be able to offer.
The Norwegian Government does not require any vaccinations for entry into the country and none are necessary for our visit. If you require prescription medication it is prudent to bring an adequate supply with you as it may not be available in the far north of Norway.
We highly recommend discussing all medical issues related to travel with your doctor well in advance of the proposed travel date (at least 6 months prior to departure).
Payments and Reservations:
A deposit of $3,000.00 per person is required along with your reservation form in order to reserve space on the trip. This ensures accommodation space aboard our ship and necessary early deposits. The deposit is due no later than December 21, 2012, but we encourage you to send the deposit well in advance of this date, as paying the deposit is the only way to secure your spot. Personal checks, money orders and credit cards are accepted. If paying by personal check it should be made payable to EcoQuest Travel, Inc. and on the memo line please indicate: For Norway Trip 2013. If paying by credit card you can include your credit card number and expiration date on your reservation form. This form is available on our website: www.ecoquesttravel.net and can be filled out online and submitted via email, or downloaded and mailed. Alternatively, you can phone your credit card information in to EcoQuest Travel at: (919) 963-3038. EcoQuest Travel accepts Visa, MasterCard, and most bank debit cards.
- A payment of at least $3,921.00 is required no later than February 22, 2013.
- The remainder of the trip expense ($3,921.00) will be due on or before May 10, 2013.
The initial deposit, as well as subsequent payments, will be used to purchase airline tickets and pay deposits for accommodations, travel arrangements, etc. in Norway. Therefore, if you must withdraw from the trip, irrespective of reason, a refund will not be possible. We strongly suggest that you protect yourself with the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. We will try to retain a wait list for this trip and it is possible that if you end up not being able to participate we will attempt to find a replacement for you; however, it is your responsibility to find a replacement or to have insurance.
- Please note that in the event EcoQuest Travel, Inc. cancels this trip, due to circumstances beyond our control or low trip participant numbers, a refund of the initial deposit and any payments made will be issued.
EcoQuest Travel, Inc. partners with Allianz Global Assistance (formerly – Access America) to provide the best possible travel insurance for our clients. They offer trip cancellation and worldwide emergency services (such as emergency evacuation and emergency medical services) as well as a host of other benefits. You can find more information on EcoQuest Travel’s website (www.ecoquesttravel.net) including how to get quotes and sign up. You do not have to use Allianz Global Assistance and may choose to use another company. In either case, EcoQuest Travel, Inc. strongly suggests the purchase of trip cancellation/medical insurance. If you do decide to purchase travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance please give them the following EcoQuest Travel vendor (or ACCAM) number: F031120. This number identifies that you are working with an Allianz Global Assistance partner.
Note: Pre-existing conditions will be waived by Allianz Global Assistance if you purchase travel insurance within 14 calendar days of your initial trip deposit. For more information please see our website. To locate the travel insurance section of our website look on the destination page in the “click to go to” section on the right hand side of the screen under “purchase insurance”.
Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form you will be sent an information packet containing flight information, baggage requirements, hints on what to bring and other useful information. The climate will likely vary from cool and mild in Oslo to bitterly cold in Svalbard. Snow, wind and dramatically cold temperatures should be expected and planned for. You will want to bring a camera, film and binoculars. Again, a more exhaustive list will be provided after you are registered for the trip.
Dave Davenport: Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Travel, Inc.
Walter Sturgeon: Arctic Waterfowl Expert and Operation Migration Team Member