Polar bear watching
Polar bear watching vacations can either be water based or land based. If you opt for the European Arctic they are water based, staying on small cruise ships traveling around North Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, the main island of which is Spitzbergen. Most people fly to Spitzbergen from Oslo or Tromso and then spend a night here to acclimatise. From here you take a cruise around part of the archipelago or circumnavigate it, depending on the time of year and rate of ice melt. All of the polar bear watching tours in this region are on small cruise ships and you seldom go on land during these trips, but may board a smaller Zodiac boat to get a little bit more up close and personal, taking you up fjords and past glaciers, with chances to see not only bears, but also walruses, puffins and a bevy of birds. It is, in fact, illegal to follow polar bears in the Svalbard, or to actively try to find them. The ethos is to, quite simply, come across one while cruising, observe from a distance, and in no way disturb it. And if you are on land at any time, and a polar bear comes into the sight, the emphasis will be on getting you back on board as quickly and safely as possible.
These cruises usually last between 8-10 days, often on board former expedition ships that are well equipped for extreme conditions. But with good cabin facilities, around twelve cabins, some ensuite and others not. You won’t get expedition style food on board though, but a fine array of buffets by day and a la carte by night. However, the emphasis on polar cruises is wildlife watching, adventure and going with the floe. So to speak.