2023 – The Polar Wildlife of Svalbard

A Polar Bear sits on the ice in the seas of Svalbard photographed by Arnfinn Johansen
Join a trio of leaders, David, Pui Hang & Arnfinn, for this exciting 12 night wildlife photography holiday to capture images of the stunning wildlife of Svalbard.
During July 2023, the nature of Svalbard will be at its best. Some of the snow has melted, but plenty of it remains, creating striking patterns in the scenery. There is still ice in the inner parts of many of the fjords & remaining drift ice is still accessible. Polar bears & the various bird species are on the move & so it’s more straightforward to observe & photograph the Svalbard wildlife at this time of year.
We are especially pleased to have Arnfinn joining us as a third photographic leader for this tour; he will bring a wealth of knowledge about photographing the polar wildlife of the region, & also some great locations & more. Our small ship, the M/S Smøla, chartered exclusively for our group will navigate the Svalbard archipelago & icy waters of this arctic region at the top of the world. Our holiday is focused on photography, but we have designed it for photographers of every experience level, if you are a keen amateur or even a beginner, then this wildlife photography holiday is ideal for you.
Join NaturesLens to capture images of the polar wildlife of Svalbard, in Norway, during the The Polar Wildlife of Svalbard photography holiday. This photography holiday is of 12 night/13 day duration on a Full Board, Shared basis & costs £12,250 per participant.
Svalbard is one of the most reliable places on earth to see a polar bear in its undisturbed natural environment. Exploring by small expedition vessel is the perfect way to maximise the chances of an excellent encounter.
We are pleased to say that this is not just your everyday Svalbard adventure, David, Pui Hang & Arnfinn have combined two days at the start of the trip to explore the area around Longyearbyen with a traditional small-ship expedition cruising the Svalbard archipelago. Arnfinn has previously obtained some of his best images of the arctic fox & other species during these land-based adventures – we will be hiring a trio of 4×4 vehicles & seeking out specific wildlife photography opportunities during these days. In Longyearbyen, we will be staying in a local hotel & taking our evening meals at one of the town’s restaurants.
Svalbard is home to a plethora of polar wildlife both on the land & in the sea all of which make great photographic subjects. On land, it is possible to encounter the Svalbard reindeer & Arctic foxes are commonly sighted.
On the third day, we will board our ship, the M/S Smøla, for a 10-night adventure traversing the Svalbard Archipelago, “Svalbard” means “cold coasts” & was first mentioned in Icelandic texts in the 12th century. However, the archipelago has a comparatively mild climate compared to other areas at the same latitude. Svalbard is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, it is known for its rugged, remote terrain of glaciers & tundra sheltering polar bears, Svalbard reindeer & Arctic foxes.
Photography in Svalbard is divided into different seasons. The summer period begins in May where photographers encounter 24-hour sunlight & often still weather conditions. The sea ice begins to decline, making the north areas accessible by ship, this is a great area to view polar bears. Summer is a beautiful time of year for wildlife photography, taking advantage of the lack of night. Often the mountain backdrops are still snow-covered presenting spectacular scenes for landscape photography. By late July & early August, the areas to the north are comparatively free of sea ice meaning that a complete circumnavigation of the icy Svalbard archipelago is conceivable.
The primary focus of our Svalbard photography expedition will be polar bears on the drifting ice, the high Arctic wildlife & stunning landscapes. Svalbard is the best place on earth to photograph Polar bears, & tours usually find good numbers of them.
The sea ice to the north of Svalbard extends all the way to the North Pole. In calm conditions, it’s possible to cruise along the edge of the sea ice, keeping a careful watch for polar bears hunting on the ice. The ice itself makes an evocative photography subject.
Three primarily terrestrial mammalian species inhabit the archipelago: the Arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer, & accidentally introduced southern voles. Attempts to introduce the Arctic hare & the muskox have both failed. There are 15 to 20 types of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals, walruses, & polar bears.
The Svalbard archipelago has permafrost & tundra, with both low, middle, & high Arctic vegetation. 165 species of plants have been found on the archipelago. Only those areas which defrost in the summer have vegetations, which accounts for about 10% of the archipelago. Vegetation is most abundant in Nordenskiöld Land, around Isfjorden & was affected by guano. While there is little precipitation, giving the archipelago a steppe climate, plants still have adequate access to water because the cold environment reduces evaporation. The growing season is abridged, & may last only a few weeks.
We will also photograph other animals including Walrus, Bearded seals, Ringed seals, Humpback whales, Fin whales, Blue whales & Belugas. In July the seabirds are leaving the cliffs, & we hope to get some excellent photo opportunities of birds like the Brünnicks guillemots during our Svalbard photography trip.
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the summer in places south of the Antarctic Circle & north of the Arctic Circle – including Northern Norway. Svalbard is the place in Norway where the midnight sun occurs for the most extended period. Here, the sun doesn’t set between 20 April & 22 August.
This is THE Svalbard wildlife photography tour for photographers who want to travel in a small group, so book now to avoid disappointment – David, Pui Hang & Arnfinn look forward to you joining them in Longyearbyen for this incredible photographic adventure to add images of the wildlife of Svalbard to your portfolio.
Photographable Species: arctic fox, arctic skua, arctic tern, barnacle goose, bearded seal, black-legged kittiwake, brent goose, common eider, common guillemot, glaucous gull, grey phalarope, harbour seal, ivory gull, little auk, northern fulmar, pink-footed goose, polar bear, purple sandpiper, red-throated diver, ringed seal, sibling vole, snow bunting, svalbard reindeer, svalbard rock ptarmigan, walrus

The Polar Wildlife of Svalbard Itinerary

day 1

arrive longyearbyen - evening seeking wildlife in longyearbyen - overnight in longyearbyen

day 2

day seeking wildlife in longyearbyen - evening seeking wildlife in longyearbyen - overnight in longyearbyen

day 3

morning seeking wildlife in longyearbyen - transfer to boat - overnight on boat

day 4

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 5

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 6

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 7

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 8

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 9

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 10

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 11

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 12

explore the icy archipelago, searching for polar bears & other wildlife - overnight on boat

day 13

return to longyearbyen - flight to home location

Arnfinn Johansen kindly provided all images on this page, view more of his photos of the Polar Wildlife of Svalbard on his web site.
A seal rests on ice in the seas of Svalbard photographed by Arnfinn Johansen
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