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Join us on board the Ocean Adventurer for a wildlife expedition of a lifetime as we voyage to the enchanting island of Spitsbergen and the wider Svalbard Archipelago.

Since its inception in 2004, the Festival of Wildlife has evolved to become a dedicated and captivating event packed with a rich variety of activities and led by some of the world’s leading naturalists and wildlife photographers. It is a true celebration of wildlife and our expedition around Spitsbergen is no different.

Spitsbergen and the surrounding archipelago and pack ice are thought to be home to the world's highest population of polar bears and each year when the pack ice begins to break up, bears head to land to spend the summer on shore. Individuals are often seen from expedition vessels and if we are very fortunate, they may even approach the vessel – driven by an innate curiosity to investigate. Other wildlife that we may see includes walrus, humpback whale, northern fulmer, Atlantic puffin, bearded seal and numerous other species.

We have exclusively chartered the ice-strengthened ship, Ocean Adventurer, for the Festival of Wildlife allowing us to be flexible with our expedition so we can see as much wildlife as possible. The vessel offers fantastic opportunities to view wildlife from its extensive deck areas, but in true expedition fashion, when possible, we will take to small zodiacs to observe the wildlife at closer quarters. 

The ship itself has its own expert expedition team, comprising specialists in such fields as marine biology, ornithology and polar history, and we will also be accompanied by our own Festival of Wildlife Team, who, in addition to helping us search for the regions famed wildlife inhabitants, will deliver a unique series of talks, presentations, workshops and master classes.

Typical Itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to Longyearbyen

    Fly via Oslo to Longyearbyen, the main Norwegian settlement in Svalbard, located on the island of Spitsbergen. On arrival, we transfer to our centrally located hotel in town. 

    Accommodation: Hotel in Longyearbyen, 1-night

    Note: Flight schedules are not yet available for May 2020; as such, we may have to overnight in Oslo instead of Longyearbyen. 

  2. Day 2: Morning in Longyearbyen; afternoon board the Ocean Adventurer

    Following breakfast, there is time to spend a full morning in Longyearbyen and explore the town. It is possible to see reindeer and a variety of bird species, including eider, snow bunting and possibly several species of skua. 

    Later that afternoon we will board the Ocean Adventurer, setting sail from Longyearbyen a short time later. We will venture into waters that have traditionally been very good for a variety of whale species, including humpback and blue, with added entertainment from the glaucous gulls, Arctic terns, fulmars and kittiwakes that often follow the vessel.

    Accommodation: The Ocean Adventurer, 8-nights

  3. Days 3-9 : Expedition around Spitsbergen & the Svalbard Archipelago

    Our exact itinerary over the next week will be dependent on a variety of different factors, including weather, ice conditions and wildlife. 

    We will do our best to explore along the pack ice, the best place to find a hunting polar bear. The pack ice varies in latitude, as well as in its thickness, from year to year; it tends to endure longer on the east coast of Spitsbergen and towards the northeast of the Svalbard archipelago and these locations are just a couple where we hope to see the regal polar bear.

    Walrus often have their favourite haul-out points and it should possible to visit one of these during the expedition. Moffen Island is a protected walrus sanctuary and they are often seen lying on the beaches. Most days we should see a variety of other seal species including harp, bearded and harbour (common) seal, all the while followed by our avian companions.

    Spitsbergen supports an immense wealth of bird species and this is particularly prominent when we visit the various seabird cliffs during our voyage. Colossal breeding colonies of Brünnich’s gullimot, Atlantic puffin and kittiwake are located at various points on the Spitsbergen coastline.

    A typical day aboard the Ocean Adventurer will comprise of an early breakfast before a Zodiac cruise or landing (if possible/worthwile). If there is the opportunity to go out again in the afternoon then we will do so, particularly if we have had a fantastic encounter in the morning.

    The stunning landscapes of Spitsbergen are just as breathtaking as the wildlife, and the sheer scale of the glaciers, mountains and fjords only adds more to this extensive and exclusive voyage.

  4. Day 10: Return to Longyearbyen

    After an incredible voyage, today we head back to port in Longyearbyen. After disembarking the Ocean Adventurer, there will be the opportunity to look around Longyearbyen once again before transferring to our hotel in the town.

    Accommodation: Hotel in Longyearbyen, 1-night

    Note: Flight schedules are not yet available for May 2020; as such, we may have to overnight in Oslo instead of Longyearbyen. 

  5. Day 11: Fly back to the UK

    After a good night’s rest it is time to head back to the airport and catch the flight home to the UK (via Oslo).

You should note: The wildlife around Spitsbergen is incredibly hard to predict and sightings can vary immensely. The weather can also be extremely changeable and it is essential that this is kept in mind at all times. This is a true wilderness region so please consider the environment and make sure to avoid damaging the delicate Arctic habitat.

Key info

  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 11 days from £5,995 pp: Based on Lower Deck Twin cabin
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 11 days from £5,500 pp: Based on Lower Deck Twin cabin
  • Group size: 132
  • Departures:
  • Included in the price/package:
    • 2 nights hotel in Longyearbyen (or Oslo)
    • 8 nights on board Ocean Adventurer
    • All meals & hot beverages on board the Ocean Adventurer
    • All excursions & activities during the voyage
    • Exclusive use of chartered vessel
    • Transfers
    • Services of expedition leaders
    • Services of expert Wildlife Worldwide team
  • Activities available:
    • Panga ride
    • Photography
    • Sea kayaking
    • Walking

Expert leaders

Mark Carwardine

Photo of Mark Carwardine

Mark is an award-winning writer, magazine columnist, widely published photographer, consultant, broadcaster and lecturer.

With Stephen Fry he co-presented Last Chance to See, a BBC TV series about endangered species which was broadcast in autumn 2009. He also presented the weekly half-hour programme, Nature, on BBC Radio 4 for many years.

Mark has written more than 50 books – including the best-selling field guide to whales, dolphins and porpoises ever published. He has also penned monthly columns in BBC Wildlife and Wanderlust magazines for many years. Mark has an extensive collection of wildlife, nature and environment photographs taken on all seven continents and in more than a hundred countries – which are sold around the world. And for many years Mark was the Chairman of the Judging Panel for the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition.

Nick Garbutt

Photo of Nick Garbutt

An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.

Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.

Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.

Bret Charman

Photo of Bret Charman

Bret is an award-winning wildlife photographer with a background in the wildlife travel and safari industry.

After spending a year in Australia to pursue wildlife photography, he was rewarded with success at the prestigious Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition, as well as making the shortlist in Bird Photographer of the Year and Outdoor Photographer of the Year. Bret has experience leading groups in Europe, the Americas and in Africa – and has a real passion for African wildlife in particular.

Chris Breen

Photo of Chris Breen

Chris studied Geographical Sciences in Plymouth, however his first encounter with the wider world was in 1983, when he headed off to Zambia.

Under the tutelage of the late Norman Carr, the pioneer of walking safaris, he worked as a wildlife guide and managed a wilderness camp. On his return to the UK, he had a spell at a major tour operator before setting up Wildlife Worldwide in 1992.

Since then he has travelled the world in search of first-class wildlife experiences. He devised the Festival of Wildlife concept, which has spawned the Festival of Bears and the Festival of Whales that now both operate on an annual basis. An ardent conservationist, Chris has co-led each of these since their inception. He dedicates several weeks each year to communicating his irrepressible passion for nature to those who travel with him.  

Nick Joynes

Photo of Nick Joynes

Taking a career break from television production, an extensive period of independent travel only served to heighten Nicks fascination of the world, people, wildlife and extreme environments.

A career change in 2001 led to roles as an operations manager and group leader before creating a school expedition brand. Despite helping to run all aspects of the Wildlife Worldwide business, Nick still manages to personally lead specialist itineraries.

Featured location:

Spitsbergen

High above the Arctic Circle lies the remarkable archipelago known in Norwegian as Svalbard. Spitsbergen, the main island, means 'jagged peaks' and befits this remarkable land with its spectacular coastline, littered with glaciers flowing into the sea, and high cliffs with endless opportunities for viewing wildlife.

  • Ideal for viewing: Arctic tern, bearded seal, beluga whale, narwal, polar bear
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Polar bear watching
This itinerary is available on the following cruise vessel:

The Ocean Adventurer

The Ocean Adventurer is an ice-strengthened ship and is one of the most comfortable expedition vessels to navigate the polar seas. An aspect of this ship which sets it apart from other expedition ships is the substantial outdoor space – spread over four decks - for observing wildlife.