In August 2011, I traveled with G Adventures on the Realm of the Polar Bear trip, circumnavigating the island of Svalbard in the Arctic—and it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. In just one week, we were treated to so many epic moments: cruising through a massive ice field, watching a group of polar bears feasting on a whale carcass, navigating in between blue icebergs and so much more. To give you a glimpse of my journey, here are some of the highlights:
Watching a Polar Bear Approach Us
Our ship MS Expedition was slicing through a massive ice field when someone suddenly screamed, “Polar bear on starboard!” Everyone standing at the bow grew wide-eyed. I looked through my binoculars and there it was—the King of the Arctic. As the vessel moved closer, it stood on all fours and moved slowly towards us. It came just inches away from the bow of the boat, where I was standing, and stared at us for what felt like forever. I locked eyes with him and did not let go until he left. That was one of the most special moments of my life.
Observing over 100 Walruses at their Haul-out Site
At Torellenesett, we came across a haul-out site where over a hundred walruses splayed out before us, piled atop one another in a pulsating heap of biomass. Some of them peeked at us, some snorted in oblivion while others wriggled their flippers playfully in the air, seemingly waving at us. We spent over an hour observing the walruses in silence—watching them waddling clumsily on land and swimming elegantly in water. Frank, one of the expedition leaders, called out to them on the beach and many of them started swimming towards him one by one. Here’s a video of the walruses.
Soaking up the Midnight Sun
Every summer, the Arctic experiences a natural phenomenon called the midnight sun, when the sun doesn’t set at all. It was an extraordinary experience to be partying at 1am and seeing the sun still high above our heads. Going to bed with the blinding daylight was something I had to get used to, but I would trade anything to experience the midnight sun again!
Hiking on 14th July Glacier
Around 60% of Svalbard today is covered by ice and glaciers, and both were a common sight during our Arctic expedition. One of the most impressive glaciers we saw on our expedition was the 14th July Glacier in Krossfjorden, named after the French national holiday Bastille Day. From the bay, we weren’t quite impressed by the glacier—it hardly looked imposing at all. We hiked up to the top of the glacier, traversing on the slippery ice and hopping across deep crevasses along the way. Once we reached the top, though, the view of Krossfjorden was definitely surprising.
Doing the Polar Plunge at Magdalenefjord
In spite of the heavy snow, I stripped down to my bikini for a polar plunge with my fellow passengers in the icy waters of Magdalenefjord, It was such a fun way to end our trip, and G Adventures even awarded us with a certificate. Thank god for the sauna on board the MS Expedition!