Important Note: We look forward to birding with you! To see the most recent update of our pre-tour and on-tour protocols and our requirements for travel, please visit our tour protocols page.
With its rugged mountains, sweeping tundra, and enormous ice caps, Spitsbergen embodies the high Arctic. The largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago--part of Norway to its south--lies just 650 miles from the North Pole. Beginning in the capital of Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost town with over 1000 inhabitants, we'll explore coastlines and deep-cut fjords on our way to the north end of the island aboard the 100-passenger M/V Ortelius. The ship is ideal for expedition travel and is comfortable, eminently practical, and perfectly designed for smooth cruising in Arctic waters. As the ship will rarely be far from land and will spend a large amount of time sailing in narrow fjords and straits, the sea conditions should be calm with the chances of rough water very minimal.
Known as a region that is uncompromising to those species that inhabit it, the Arctic is one of the most beautiful and yet least birded areas of the world. The list of birds occurring in the far North is small when compared to southern reaches, but the quality of the species is great. The magnificent bird cliffs along the Spitsbergen coast are a breeding ground for tens of thousands of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Black Guillemots, and Thick-billed Murres, with Atlantic Puffins and Northern Fulmars also in abundance on or around the cliffs. A rare treat will be a visit to a Dovekie colony where thousands of these tiny seabirds nest in the talus slopes, safe from the bullying of larger murres on the cliff ledges, marauding Glaucous Gulls, and out of reach of patrolling Arctic Foxes. On the flowering tundra, often with a nearby group of indigenous Svalbard Reindeer standing guard, Pink-footed Geese, Rock Ptarmigan, Purple Sandpipers, Arctic Terns, Great Skua, and Parasitic and Long-tailed jaegers can be found within earshot of singing Snow Buntings, the only likely passerine on Spitsbergen. Then there is that elusive and rapidly declining gull--the ghostly Ivory, a bird so dependent on ice-covered environs it seems to have mystical qualities.
Spitsbergen's coastal waters support several seal species including Bearded, Ringed, and Harp, and we will seek out a pod of Walrus, perhaps basking on a stony beach. Both Minke and Fin whales are frequently seen. And, with 20 percent of the world's Polar Bear population occurring here, spotting a few of these engaging mammals is a priority for most of the passengers and crew as we cruise the pack ice above 80 degrees North latitude.
Select the KEY INFO tab or click here for our itinerary plus space requests, status, fees, limits, and guides for any departure.
ITINERARIES • TOUR STATUS • DETAILS • SPACE REQUESTSITINERARIES • We issue a separate itinerary for each year, typically at least 9 months before that year's first departure. Most itineraries don't vary much year to year, but there may be small or rarely more substantive changes. A sample previous-year itinerary is usually available even if the one for your chosen departure is not. We do not require any deposit for provisional bookings until the itinerary for the departure is ready.
- 2022 sample (PDF)
- 2023 (PDF expected Oct 2022)
DEPARTURES • We have 2 departures currently scheduled through 2024, with details including limits, guides, fees, and space available listed below.
Jul 4-16, 2023
Guided by: John Coons
Tour Manager: Sharon Mackie
Tour Limit: 9
Status: Provisionally full; waitlist available - The itinerary has not been finalized for this tour. The trip has provisionally filled but, if you are interested, we can waitlist you for the trip. As we do not require deposits until the itinerary and price are finalized, we often have folks drop off a tour when the deposit is required, and so space opens up! Click below to be waitlisted for this tour with no obligation; if you are waitlisted, we will also notify you in case of an added departure of this tour.
Tour Fee: $7700
REQUEST WAITLIST OR MORE INFO
Jun 29 - Jul 11, 2024
Tour Manager: Sharon Mackie
Tour Limit: 9
Status: One space available - Space is still available on this tour, and we are accepting provisional bookings. No deposit is required until you receive the itinerary. Click below to book space.
Tour Fee: Fee TBD / 2023=$7700
REQUEST SPACE OR MORE INFO
Enjoy looking through the 8 most recent Field Guides triplists for this tour linked below!