Manuela is our Americas and Polar Specialist for Explore Tailormade- and was lucky enough to take a Polar Voyage. Here she describes the journey in her own words as she took to the Arctic waters in search of polar bears...
"We found them, 8 in total! I can't describe the emotion of my first sighting! We reached a rocky beach by Zodiac and watched the bear waking up from its nap on the snowy mountain slope and getting to the shore for a leisurely stroll. A few hours later we were watching another Polar Bear eating its meal of seal on an ice floe; I truly felt like I was inside one of those amazing wildlife documentaries on TV!
But the Arctic is not just about Polar Bears; each area of the Svalbard Archipelago is so diverse. I loved sailing in the deep fjords, admiring glaciers, canyons and Polar deserts, hiking hills covered in mossy tundra where reindeers wander free and cliffs where various species of geese, guillemots, little auks and other birds nest. Here Arctic foxes are alert and very ingenious in their hunt for chicks; they scan the bottom of the cliffs for inexperienced birds on their first flight attempts, while gulls watch the nests closely for preys.
Whales also populate the icy Arctic waters and some of the quiet bays attract groups of walruses, who enjoy resting on land. I couldn't believe how close we were to these enormous and fascinating animals!
Unlike Antarctica, where penguins and seals can come up to people's feet, it's not possible to approach animals too close in the Arctic and binoculars become essential. A good zoom will also guarantee great close up shots! Life on board the expedition vessels is not just about wildlife and nature; the informal atmosphere makes it easy to get to know everybody and there are so many nationalities on board. The expedition team is also always around for programmed and impromptu lectures and for sharing interesting facts and information. We even had an outdoor Polar barbeque with lovely food and lots of dancing!
One of my favourite aspects of my experiences in the Arctic is the wonderful feeling of freedom and exclusivity of being on top of a snowy hill or a mountain and being the only one with just 20 or 30 other people admiring the breathtaking views. I felt so privileged, in times when most sites are crowded and one has to queue for a glimpse of a view or a photo opportunity.
The silence was deafening, it felt like I was in my very own piece of paradise. We were all fighting back the tears." View all Arctic Voyages