Spitsbergen / Svalbard
Bears, Bowheads and the Ice Edge
Explore Western Spitsbergen, travel to the edge of the Arctic sea ice and look for Polar Bears, Bowhead Whales and a great selection of Arctic birds
This voyage is rather different from a "normal" cruise to the high Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen as the plan is to also explore along the Arctic ice edge, potentially reaching 80N. Here, we hope to find hunting Polar Bears before heading to an area where underwater upwellings are known to attract up to a hundred Bowhead Whales.
With good chances for Polar Bear, Harp Seal, Hooded Seal, a great range of Arctic birds and possibly even Northern Bottlenose Whale, this trip offer a rare opportunity to see some special wildlife in Europe's high Arctic.
Please note Limosa and our sister brand WildWings act as agents for many of the premier expedition ships visiting Svalbard so if you are interested in a different itinerary or travelling on different dates please contact the office to discuss your requirements and check out the WildWings website for more information. We do, however, only offer trips on the vessels we would travel on ourselves.
Tour Dates & Prices
Tue 10th June 2025
Tue 17th June 2025
- Contact Us
Tour Cost: 8 Days from £3575* excluding flights
* The price and deposit quoted above is per person for a berth in a quad cabin. For all cabin options please see the "Trip Info" tab. The "single supplement" shown is the difference in cost between a single and twin in a twin porthole cabin. Please contact us for full price details if you would like a single.
- Limosa/WildWings guide assuming sufficient bookings are made
- Seven night voyage aboard the expedition ship Plancius
- All meals throughout the voyage aboard the ship including snacks, coffee and tea
- All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage
- Use of rubber boots
- Programme of lectures by naturalists and services of expedition staff
- Transfers and baggage handling between the airport, hotels and ship for those booking the recommended group flights to and from Longyearbyen
- All miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the programme
- AECO fees and governmental taxes
- Comprehensive pre-departure material
Any airfare, any pre- and post-voyage arrangements (eg hotel in Longyearbyen), passport and visa expenses, arrival and departure taxes, meals ashore, travel insurance and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar and telecommunication charges, gratuities for stewards and other service personnel aboard
The Tour Cost is the amount you will pay Limosa.
Despite the end of pandemic restrictions, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.
To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.
Sacha is a highly experienced independent ATOL bonded travel agent, and his contact details are as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org and 01603 360099
He will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday and will be able to book these for you.
This will also sometimes give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.
Please note that for all expedition cruises, Limosa is acting as agent for the ship operator and you will need to sign up to their terms and conditions.
- explore along the Arctic Ice Edge at up to 80N looking for Bowhead Whales, Harp Seal and Hooded Seal
- great chances for encounters with Polar Bears and Walrus
- look for Little Auk and Brunnich's Guillemot whilst exploring the amazing Svalbard archipelago
- zodiac cruise in fjords and see glaciers
- accompanied by Limosa/WildWings tour leader Chris Collins subject to minimum number of bookings
Arrive Longyearbyen. Board vessel and sail
Explore the ice edge and open water looking for Bowhead Whales and both Hooded and Harp Seals
Disembark after breakfast. Fly home.
Limosa Holidays and our sister brand, WildWings, are able to offer many different options for exploring Spitsbergen (or to give it the correct name, Svalbard, as only one of the islands is actually called Spitsbergen), however, this voyage is rather different from a "normal" cruise to this region, as the plan is to also explore along the Arctic ice edge to the north-west of this amazing Arctic archipelago. Assuming the ice conditions allow, this exciting expedition cruise could potentially reach 80N, where we hope to find Polar Bears as well as both Harp and Hooded Seals which are unlikely on most standard Spitsbergen voyages.
The ship will also visit an area where upwellings attract up to one hundred Bowhead Whales whilst in the deeper water to the south of the pack ice, there are chances for Northern Bottlenose Whale.
The cruise will also spend three days exploring various sites on the western side of Spitsbergen with the potential landing options including a visit to a Walrus haul-out, as well as breeding colonies of Little Auk and Brunnich's Guillemot. There is also the possibility of finding the beautiful Ivory Gull and (if we are very lucky) Sabine's Gull, plus colourful Grey Phalaropes and drake King Eiders, alongside breeding Purple Sandpipers, Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese and Snow Buntings.
For those keen on cetaceans, we may find Beluga close to Spitsbergen whilst out at sea, there are chances for the world's second largest mammal, the mighty Fin Whale.
The voyage should appeal to anyone with a spirit of adventure and who loves wild and remote places and whilst the bird and mammal list may be small, it is certainly very special.
The voyage will be accompanied by Limosa/WildWings tour leader Chris Collins subject to minimum numbers.
Day 1: Arrive Longyearbyen, board ship and sail
Our expedition begin in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Spitsbergen (which is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago) and depending on the arrival time of our flight, there should be an opportunity to explore around this former mining town.
Board M/V Plancius in the late afternoon and in the early evening the ship sails out of Isfjorden, where there are chances to spot the first Northern Minke Whales of the voyage.
Days 2-7: Exploring Western and Northern Spitsbergen and the Pack Ice
Having departed Longyearbyen, we have a week to explore the remote shorelines of rugged west and north Spitsbergen as well as heading for the pack ice outside of the territorial waters of the Svalbard archipelago.
The sites we visit will be determined by factors such as ice and weather conditions, but these could include the following:
This fjord has some impressive glacier fronts and can be a good place to look for Polar Bears. There are also chances for Bearded and Ringed Seals on the sea ice in the fjord. The cliffs and shoreline support thriving seabird colonies with rich vegetation ashore.
Hamiltonbukta and Ytre Norskøya
There is a colony of Brünnichs’s Guillemots in Hamiltonbukta whereas the small island of Ytre Norskøya has some interesting human history as it was used for many years as a lookout point for Dutch whalers. We can follow their path to the summit of the island, whilst on the shore there are the remains of 17th century blubber ovens and about 200 graves of whalers and others who perished here.
On the northern side of the island, we may be able to look for Atlantic Puffin which can be relatively tricky to find in Svalbard, although we stand a decent chance here as they breed on this island along with Kittiwakes.
Forlandsundet, St John’s Fjord and Alkhornet
There are many other places we could explore including these three sites. At Forlandsundet, there are sometime Walruses hauled out on the beach whereas St John’s Fjord and Alkhornet can provide opportunities to see nesting seabirds, Reindeer and Arctic Foxes.
We aim to sail into the pack ice outside the territorial waters of Svalbard, looking for Polar Bears and Bowhead Whales. As we sail from 76 N to 80 N along and in the outer fringes of the ice edge, we also hope to find Harp Seals, Hooded Seals plus seabirds such as Little Auks and Brünnich’s Guillemots.
On previous voyages in this area, we have sometimes seen up to hundred Bowhead Whales and also have the chance to look for Northern Bottlenose and Fin Whales.
The pack ice sailing will be a highlight of this voyage and may take up to three days
Day 8: Disembark in Longyearbyen
We will disembark in Longyearbyen after breakfast and there may be time for some further exploring before we head to the airport for our flights home.
PLEASE NOTE: All itineraries are for guidance only. The programme may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Landings are subject to site availabilities, permissions, and environmental concerns per AECO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with AECO prior to the start of the season, but the Expedition Leader determines the final plan. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises.
WHAT TO EXPECT
A seven night cruise on the comfortable expedition ship, M/V Plancius, exploring the western side of Spitsbergen and visiting the ice-edge to the NW of the archipelago. The vessel is a comfortable expedition ship and has excellent cabins and passenger facilities.
At many places, we will use the ship's zodiacs (rubber inflatables) to go ashore and getting in and out of these should not be a problem for anyone with reasonable mobility and there will be staff both on the ship and ashore to assist you.
You will receive a detailed briefing about the use of the zodiacs. If you have any concerns about this aspect of the holiday, please call the office as Chris Collins has spent many years working with zodiacs and can provide more information.
The trip will be accompanied by Limosa/WildWings Leader Chris Collins subject to minimum numbers.
You will also be able to join the full programme of activities/excursions offered by the Expedition Team working on the ship which are all included in the price of the trip.
M/V Plancius was built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy. The ship sailed for the Dutch Navy until June 2004 when it was purchased by Oceanwide Expeditions.
It is Dutch flagged and was completely rebuilt and converted into a passenger vessel in 2009 and fully complies with the latest SOLAS ('Safety of Life at Sea') Regulations.
Plancius offers high-quality accommodation for 108 passengers in 50 cabins all with private toilets and showers. There are four quadruple porthole cabins, nine twin porthole cabins, 25 twin cabins with a window and 2 twin deluxe cabins. All cabins offer lower berths (one queen-size bed in the superior cabins and two single beds in the twin cabins), except for the four quadruple cabins (for 4 persons in 2x upper and lower beds).
Please be aware that a small number of cabins may have a partially obstructed view due to the size of the windows and the design of the ship and some windows, for example, may be partly obstructed in the lower half by a gangway.
The vessel has a restaurant and lecture roomand a spacious observation lounge (with bar) on deck 5 with large windows, offering a full panorama view.
The ship is equipped with three engines and generally cruises at 10-12 knots.
You can expect to make two landings and/or zodiac cruises on the days around Spitsbergen. The ship is very stable and, on occasions, it may even be possible to use a telescope and tripod on the outer decks.
There is plenty of open deck space making it ideal for wildlife watching, enjoying the amazing landscapes and photography. You can expect good food, a large lounge and bar and a highly experienced staff and crew who are dedicated to ensuring that you have a successful, comfortable, safe and enjoyable trip and that you see as much of the wildlife as possible.
The zodiac drivers will take you safely ashore, and also on more leisurely cruises as well, so you will gain an even more intimate and unique perspective of the seabirds and marine mammals in this stunning wilderness.
CABINS OPTIONS AND PRICES 2025
Quadruple Porthole £3,575
Triple Porthole £4,400
Twin Porthole £4,975
Single Porthole £8,475
Twin Window £5,350
Single Window £9,100
Twin Deluxe £5,725
Single Deluxe £9,750
Single Superior £10,975
Please note: all prices are per person except where reference is made to “single” .
In keeping with the spirit of expedition, dress on board is informal, so bring casual and comfortable clothing for all activities. Keep in mind that much of the scenery is best appreciated from the open decks, which can be slippery, so bring sturdy shoes with non-slip soles, and make sure your parka is never far away in case there is an announcement of “whales” over the PA system and you want to dash outside in a moment’s notice.
We recommend opting for layers, as it is comfortably warm aboard the ship though often cold out on deck.
Your physical condition
You must be in good overall health and be able to walk several hours each day. The expedition is ship-based and physically not very demanding, but we spend as much time as possible on shore. You are, however, welcome to remain aboard the ship if you prefer.
To join most excursions you must be able to get up and down the steep gangway, from the ship to the water level, to board the zodiacs. The ship's staff will assist you in and out of the boats, and boarding will become progressively easier with practice, but conditions on shore can be slippery and rocky.
Remember, you will be travelling in remote areas without access to sophisticated medical facilities, so you must not join this expedition if you have a life-threatening condition or need daily medical treatment.
View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption