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Svalbard - Early autumn tour on MS Origo

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An exciting photo expedition on Svalbard, the home of the polar bears. Floris Smeets and two experienced Svalbard guides lead you through this breathtaking ice landscape in search for polar bears, arctic fox, walrus, reindeer, seals, birdlife and stunning landscapes. With two zodiac boats you will be able to get close and personal with the local wildlife. The sun will set for the first time again from the first day of the tour, giving us long days with many hours of intense photography!  

Some highlights of the tour

  • A great chance to see Polar Bears in a magnificent landscape.

  • Arctic fox kits are out and about. Their curiosity can get them to come very close to us. 

  • The Svalbard Reindeer have beautiful velvet on their antlers and are getting ready for the rutting season.

  • Visits to Walrus colonies (from Zodiac and land)

  • Visits to seal colonies.

  • In this period the sun has just started setting again. This will give us many hours of stunning colored light to photograph with. 

  • Ivory Gulls and other exciting birds. 

  • The use of Zodiacs for going ashore and for getting better angles of photography.

  • Breathtaking glaciers and pack-ice.

  • Two experienced Svalbard guides with incredible local knowledge of the wildlife and area.

  • The tour is led by a professional photographer (Sony ambassador) who has been leading photo tours in Norway for a decade.

Svalbard

Geographically, Svalbard belongs to Europe, but hardly resembles any other part of the continent. An arctic area, between 74 and 80 degrees north and only 600 km from the North Pole. Svalbard has fantastic environments with glaciers, icebergs and pointy mountains – which have given Svalbard it’s other name – Spitzbergen.

Apart from ice, glaciers and mountains, Svalbard also has arctic tundra, where arctic flowers bloom just during the short summer. Despite it’s isolated location, Svalbard is one of the most accessible arctic regions in the World. This is thanks to the infrastructure developed by Norway around Longyearbyen.

The archipelago has fantastic glaciers, glittering in the sunlight, midnight sun from mid April until the second last week of August and is the home of many fascinating species of wildlife. Svalbard is mostly known for it’s Polar Bears, but also has Walruses, seals, reindeer, arctic foxes and Whales, to just name a few. Arriving in mid August, when a large proportion of the ice has molten, will allow us to travel further north and closer to the pack-ice. It also increases the chance of finding the illusive Polar bears. The sun won't set until the last day of the tour. Yet, the sun will dip down close to the horizon, lighting up the landscape for hours with beautiful golden light. 

The Svalbard Reindeer roams here. It is a subspecies, adapted to the harsh winter environments. In this period their antlers are covered in velvet, which lights beautifully up in the sunlight. Walruses are gathered in colonies. Many of them will be on land, while some of them will be in the water in the search for mussels along the beaches. In the deep fjords Fin whales, Blue whales, Belugas, Sperm whales and Minke whales feed in the rich sea currents.

Polar Bears and Walruses can be quite curious and come close. You can never be sure with wild animals, which is important to be aware of. The chance of coming across Polar Bears in August is very good, and the backgrounds for Polar Bear photography are unique. During our 2023 August tour we saw 20 different Polar bears and several of them we saw twice. 

Our route is not set from start. As we have the use of the whole boat, we also have the freedom to plan depending on weather, ice and animal reports. The boat has Zodiacs for landing, but also for photography from low angles. We will use the Zodiacs to access areas that M/S Origo cannot get to.

Nature and wildlife photography are the focus of this tour.

Crew, captain and guides all have extensive experience of the arctic, and photography in these special conditions. The crew speaks English and Swedish.

THE SHIP M/S ORIGO
For this tour, we charter the entire ship M/S Origo with 24 berths, but we limit the number of participants to 12. Origo was built in 1955 at Finnboda shipyard in Sweden, on behalf of the Swedish Maritime Administration, as an ice-reinforced pilot ship and lighthouse keeper. The ship has two zodiacs, each with room for 12 people. Although this is strictly a photography trip, of course non-dedicated photographers can come along and have an absolutely amazing arctic experience. The fact that it is a photo trip means that we spend the time we need to get a chance for good photos. Often this means a little more time with the motifs. We postpone meals if necessary; that is, if we have good subjects and good light, it takes precedence. Polar bears and walruses naturally have the highest priority.

The travel route is never completely decided in advance. Our tentative plan is to head northeast. Since we rent the whole ship, we have the freedom to plan the expedition as we want, based on weather, wind, current ice conditions and reports of polar bears in particular. Nature and wildlife are at the center of this trip. The crew, the captain and us who are the guides on the trip have extensive experience in both the Arctic and photography under the special conditions that prevail. The crew is Swedish-speaking and the participants can be from several countries. The ship is perfect for photography. The chef on board usually offers exciting and very good food. No one has to go hungry.

 

Lectures will be given by the tour guides and tour leader. We will look at the participants’ photos and come up with positive photo criticism. And we, as leaders, will of course assist the participants with the necessary help and camera technical and photographic advice.

Itinerary

  • Day 0. Arrival in Longyearbyen and transport to hotel on your own. NOTE: This is one day before the travel arrangement begins, to be sure not to miss the ship’s departure. We will organize and offer a guided tour in Longyearbyen’s surroundings in the evening or early in the morning the next day, for those who want, for an additional price.

  • Day 1. Pick-up at the respective hotel in time for check-out, transport of the luggage to the ship and then free time in Longyearbyen until it is time for the ship’s departure, after 4 p.m. Then we sail out of Adventfjorden, and via Isfjorden we probably head north, if we didn’t have better indications to reach polar bears on the eastern side via the southern route. Welcome dinner on board.

  • Day 2-9. Cruising, with a schedule updated daily if necessary. We fully adapt to current and upcoming weather, ice conditions and wildlife sighting reports. We will most likely cruise north of Svalbard and the northeast. In addition to polar bears, we also hope to meet walruses, arctic foxes, whales, seals, birdlife and reindeer. We will be out and photograph as long as there is good light. This can be during the nights when the sun is at it's lowest. When the light is bad and there is no wildlife around the ship, we can use the time to sort photos, attend lectures and photo shows and also manage to catch some sleep!

  • Day 10. Arrival back in Longyearbyen. The tour ends after breakfast.

 

Fill in the booking form.

Or contact us for inquiries for other dates and other questions.

2024:  26 August - 4 September (11 spots left)

10 days

Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

12  participants

Shared double bedrooms 

Guided by Floris Smeets

From SEK 75.900,- (+/- €6.500,- or $7.200,-) (deposit = 30% of tour fee) Find all options below.

Longyearbyen Airport

Price includes

  • Accommodation

  • Breakfast, lunch and diners.

  • Transport: All local transport, including the pick-up and drop off at Longyearbyens airport. 

  • Cruise around the Svalbard archipelago

  • Boat trips / excursions.

Single rooms: See below

Price does not include

  • Flights to and from Longyearbyens airport

  • Alcoholic beverages and snacks

  • Insurances. You are responsible for your own traveling and cancellation insurances. 

Prices 2024

 

Cabin with shared facilities - shared SEK 75.900 Fully booked

Cabin with shared facilities - single SEK 89.900

Fully booked

 

Cabin with private WC but shared shower - shared SEK 83.900

Cabin with private WC but shared shower - single SEK 98.900

 

Cabin with private WC and shower - shared SEK 88.900 

Cabin with private WC and shower - single SEK 108.900

 

Superior cabin with private WC and shower SEK 99.900

Photo equipment
A wide range of subjects will be available to us, from landscapes to mammals and birds. Therefore it is good to bring everything from wide-angle to telephoto lenses. For some of the species we will photograph during the tour we will be able to get really close. This makes wide-angle zooms a perfect lens even for wildlife. Lenses from 70-200 mm up to 500 mm are excellent for the wildlife that we will encounter. To increase focal length you can use a teleconverter.


Snow or rainfall are likely during the tour so bring some protections for your cameras and lenses. If you have two camera bodies, bring both in order not to have to change lenses as much. Tripods will be useful for photographing the birdlife and for while shooting landscapes. Other things you should bring, are:

  • Plenty of memory cards

  • Plenty of batteries

  • Battery charger

  • Camera bag (with rain cover or dry bag)

Clothing

Proper field clothing is necessary. Consider the conditions as similar to a Scandinavian autumn. Expect the temperature to be between +2 and +12 degrees. We will be borrowing insulated buoyancy overalls onboard, and these must be used when in the zodiacs. They are also great for watching from the ship, and everyone will have their overall hanging outside their cabin. Woolen sweaters (preferably) or fleece, with several layers (thin, mid and thick layer) will allow you to regulate your temperature. Thin gloves are recommended to bring with you. For footwear high insolated rubber / neoprene boots are the best way to go. They will keep your feet warm and dry. Some landings can be so-called wet landings, stepping out of the zodiac into up to knee-deep water. So please make sure that your boots are high and waterproof.  A warm hat (or fur cap) and sun-glasses against the strong sunlight. Thermal underwear in merino wool are great to have in case of cold weather and long sessions in the zodiacs. Woolen socks. No need for elegant clothing. Indoor shoes, slippers or crocs onboard. Swimwear – there might be an opportunity for an ice-bath and there is a hot tub on board. 

Gallery

All images by Floris Smeets

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