The surreal Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is carved out by icy fjords and tidewater glaciers. Dramatic mountain scenery is accented by the midnight sun, providing abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing. Svalbard is ideal for a camera-distance audience with polar bears. A small cruise ship with a fleet of Zodiacs lets you discover all of the islands’ hidden treasures.
True Seal Species Commonly Seen on an Arctic Cruise Svalbard is home to a huge number of seals. With their thick layers of insulating blubber, true seals (otherwise known as earless seals) are better adapted to these icy waters than are sea lions or fur seals, which are not found in the High Arctic. Unlike their Antarctic relatives, Arctic seals are hunted relentlessly by a fearsome land-based predator—the polar bear. Because of this, you will rarely see Arctic seals hauled out on land. Arctic seals prefer to rest on sea ice or icebergs, though they are not safe from polar bears here either. Witnessing a polar bear stalk a seal on the ice is one of the world’s great wildlife experiences. In Svalbard, seals can be found in all waters from the innermost fjords to the polar ice edge. The best way to see a variety of Arctic seals is to join an expedition cruise. Here are some of the seal species you can see on an Arctic cruise to Svalbard and beyond.
Polar Bear Safety in Svalbard and Franz Josef Land
To see a polar bear in the wild is at the top of many people’s must-do lists. Svalbard and Franz Josef Land are two of the very best places to find polar bears in their natural habitat. In these High Arctic territories, polar bears can be seen engaging in natural behaviors such as stalking seals on sea ice, caring for their cubs, roaming across the vast tundra wilderness, and perhaps devouring a whale or walrus carcass. Remarkably close viewing can sometimes be had from the ship or on a Zodiac cruise. However, close encounters with polar bears on land must certainly be avoided. Polar bear safety will be paramount on your cruise to Svalbard or Franz Josef Land.
Arctic whale-watching on a cruise around Spitsbergen
Now enjoying protection after centuries of relentless hunting, whales are returning to the waters of Svalbard. Whales found feeding in the beautiful fjords and rich polar seas around Spitsbergen provide some of the best whale-watching to be had anywhere. Long polar days afford cruise passengers the chance to spot whales during excursions and from the deck of the ship anytime. Here are some whale species to look for during your Spitsbergen cruise.