Worldwide Photographic Journeys

Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

Svalbard (Spitsbergen): Classic

Polar Bears, Walruses, wildlife and landscapes

August 2020

Tour Dates Days Group Size Limit
Svalbard (Spitsbergen) Classic Friday 14th August - Monday 24th August 2020 11 12

Photographic Highlights

  • Encounters with Polar Bears on ice
  • Walruses on ice or ashore
  • Fantastic, indeed awesome, Arctic landscapes
  • Seals, Arctic Foxes and the dwarf Svalbard Reindeer
  • Amazing seabird colonies including Little Auks (Dovekies) and Brünnich's Guillemots (Thick-billed Murres)
  • Opportunities to photograph Ivory Gull


The main focus on this expedition will be Polar Bears in the drifting ice. Svalbard is the best place on earth for photographing Polar Bears, and we usually find good numbers of them. The ice situation at this time of year usually allows us to explore the northeastern parts of the archipelago.

We will also photograph other animals like Walruses, Bearded Seals, Ringed Seals, Humpback Whales, Fin Whales (and possibly Blue Whales) and Belugas. In July/August the seabirds are leaving the cliffs, and we hope to get some nice photo opportunities with birds like the Brünnich’s Guillemots (or Thick-billed Murres).

We will schedule longer stops than usual when going ashore in order to provide participants with enough time to get excellent pictures. We use two zodiac inflatable boats to get closer to the wildlife on the ice or when exploring and searching for photo opportunities in front of the glaciers.

This is the expedition for nature photographers who want to travel in small groups and have more time with the wildlife! The group size on this expedition is limited to 12 participants.

As much of the sailing as possible is done during the night, thus maximizing opportunities for finding Polar Bears and other interesting wildlife, and enjoying the beautiful arctic landscape to the full. Cruises and landings are carried out by means of zodiacs, the rugged, fast-moving inflatables developed by Jacques Cousteau for expedition work which allow safe travel in all types of conditions. The sheer speed and efficiency with which the crew and expedition staff carry out these expeditions, coupled with the small complement of passengers split over two zodiacs, allows everyone plenty of room for photography, a key factor when considering any cruise of this type.

The great advantage of taking this particular Svalbard (Spitsbergen) cruise, if you are especially interested in seeing and photographing Arctic wildlife and scenery in all its glory, is that the itinerary and day to day schedule are determined by us and entirely wildlife-photography-orientated. In addition the group will also benefit by having our extremely experienced photographic guide and expedition leader on board who know exactly where and when to go and how to do so, in order to get group members into position for superb images of Polar Bears, Walruses, seals and other wildlife.

The charismatic Origo is perfect for dedicated photographic expeditions

The charismatic MS Origo is perfect for dedicated photographic expeditions  (Image by Roy Mangersnes)

Our Ship

We shall be sailing on the MS Origo (capacity 12 passengers), a lovely small ship operated by our well-respected partners at Wildphoto. She is spacious and well-suited to specialist photography cruises. Origo has two zodiacs (inflatables), two expedition staff (an expert expedition leader and an expert photographer guide) and four crew. Ships of this class are great favourites with wildlife photographers due to their small size, their ability to go almost anywhere and their friendly and decidedly ‘family’ atmosphere.

Cabins are available for both twin and single occupancy, and unlike on many ships, single occupancy cabins are available at much the same cost as for twins! Most cabins are furnished with upper and lower berths. Cabins also have a porthole or window view, a cupboard and a washbasin with hot and cold water. Some cabins have private bathrooms, others share bathrooms. The beds are made ready and bed linen and towels are provided. There is a spacious saloon for meals and any leisure time indoors. Food service will be at a designated time, but we intend to be flexible, according to the needs of wildlife photography. The chef has a varied and tasty menu.


Zodiac Excursions

Zodiac embarkation and disembarkation are superbly handled by the crew and expedition staff, making this reasonably straightforward for even elderly or less fit participants.



Mild at this time of year. Temperatures average between 0°C to 8°C, although it can feel warmer on still, sunny days and colder on breezy days. There is usually little rainfall and sunny periods are interspersed with overcast weather. Some fog is possible.


Photographic Equipment

For Polar Bear photography and some birds, the ideal lenses with a DSLR are usually a 500mm or 600mm prime, often with converters. If your budget does not run to big prime lenses, a high quality 400mm f5.6 or a 100-400mm or similar zoom with a converter on a crop-sensor body can be a very viable alternative. For closer individuals a shorter telephoto will be excellent and there may even be opportunities for wide-angle shots.

For many other photography subjects, including some scenic shots, a telephoto in the 200-300mm range will often be useful. Svalbard (Spitsbergen) is full of panoramic views and a wide-angle in the 16-28mm range is ideal.

You can also get wonderful results with many photography subjects with a high quality bridge camera with an 18-20x or higher optical zoom. If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact us.


You need to bear in mind that circumstances may be encountered during the voyage which will make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the planned itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather conditions and in particular unexpectedly heavy drift ice. The expedition leader will provide more information at the start of the voyage and keep you fully informed throughout. You should not be concerned that such changes will prevent you from experiencing Spitsbergen (Svalbard) at its best: there are always alternative areas with excellent scenery and wildlife to visit if the ship is thwarted getting to a particular place.


Arriving before the cruise

Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants have at least one hotel night in Longyearbyen at the cruise start point prior to the cruise. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and we cannot make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings in Longyearbyen for you on request.


Tour Dates: Kindly note that these are still tentative. We can hold provisional bookings, without any need for a deposit, until dates are confirmed. Please contact the Wild Images office.

2020 provisional prices

£7190, €8190, $9990 Longyearbyen/Longyearbyen in a twin cabin with shared bathroom (cabin 21).

£7910, €9010, $10990 Longyearbyen/Longyearbyen in a single cabin with shared bathroom (cabins 22, 23, 24 and 27).

£7910, €9010, $10990 Longyearbyen/Longyearbyen in a twin cabin with private bathroom (cabin 31).

£7910, €9010, $10990 Longyearbyen/Longyearbyen in a single cabin with private bathroom (cabins 9, 10, 25, 26 and 30).

Deposit: £1500, €1700, $2000.


Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals on board, soft drinks and entrance fees.

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew are not included in the tour price. The level of gratuities is entirely a matter for personal discretion. The expedition staff and crew work very long hours to make such wildlife photography cruises a success, including a great deal of night sailing, and we have been told that passengers usually give gratuities of between US$200-300 at the end of the cruise.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in Pounds Sterling and Euros are based on £1 = $1.390 and €1 = $1.220.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.



If the weather is good, it will be a spectacular flight to Longyearbyen, the only town in Svalbard, which is situated on the west coast of the large island of Spitsbergen. One first crosses the mountains, lakes and fjords of Norway and then the even more impressive mountains of Spitsbergen, which stretch away far into the distance. Drift ice can be seen spattering the Arctic Ocean far below and will be just a foretaste of the magic to come.

Svalbard is situated at about 80oN, and so we must schedule the expedition in accordance with prevailing weather and ice conditions. Based on previous photo expeditions in July and August, we plan to use the travel route as illustrated on the map, but this may change due to ice, weather and other conditions.


Day 1

Our Svalbard wildlife photography tour begins in Longyearbyen around mid-afternoon. Departure from Longyearbyen through Isfjorden.


Days 2-4

Heading toward the ice and searching for Polar Bears. Depending on the ice conditions, this will probably be north of the islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet.


Day 5

Continue east toward Storøya, searching for Polar Bears and Walruses.


Day 6

Sailing south toward Bråsvellbreen and into Hinlopen, with Walruses and bird cliffs on the menu.


Day 7-9

Liefdefjorden with the famous Monaco glacier, the north-western corner of Spitsbergen with its Walruses, seals and great landscapes. South to Lilliehööksfjorden and Kongsfjorden, with glaciers, birds and marine mammals.


Day 10

Sailing south to Prins Karls Forland for our last landing with Walruses, and in the afternoon Alkehornet with bird cliffs, Arctic fox and Svalbard reindeer. Arrive at Longyearbyen late in the evening, around midnight.


Day 11

Leave the ship after breakfast and prepare to travel home.

Roy Mangersnes

Roy Mangersnes is a trained animal behaviouralist and professional wildlife and conservation photographer living in Sandnes, southwestern Norway. Roy is a former Nikon ambassador and is considered among the most influential nature photographers in Norway today. He is former chairman of the two largest nature photography associations in Norway; BioFoto and the Norwegian professional Nature photographers Association. He has published several books, as well as won multiple international awards, including BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year (UK), European Wildlife Photographer of the Year – GDT (Germany), Nature Best Awards (USA), Golden Turtle (Russia) and was awarded the title Arctic Photographer of the Year in 2013 in the Global Arctic Awards (Russia).

Roy is working around the world and his images are being published in magazines and books all over. He is also an experienced speaker and has been presenting his work at several international photo festivals. Besides his career as a photographer, Roy is partner and photographic host at our photography tour partners WildPhoto Travel. He does guiding assignments in destinations ranging from the Arctic to the Antarctic, also including destinations in Africa and the Galapagos Islands.

If Roy is unable to guide this expedition, he will be replaced by his equally highly regarded colleague Ole Jørgen Liodden or another highly qualified guide from the WildPhoto team.

Martin Enckell

After learning that his father worked for Jacques-Yves Cousteau aboard the famous ship Calypso, Swedish-born Martin Enckell insisted on learning to dive right away. His training started at the age of 12 with Israeli navy divers in the Red Sea and since that time has successfully combined his love of travel with his love of nature.

Martin began his career at sea in the early 2000s and has been on the move ever since then, having stood at the Geographical North Pole seven times, spent well over a year in the Drake Passage, spent 10 Austral summers in the Antarctic and many in the Arctic, and crossed the Antarctic and Arctic Circles a number of times. He will be expedition leader on our Svalbard expedition.

Martin has worked numerous times as Expedition Leader and is also a very skilled Zodiac driver and Dive Master. Based for 18 months in the Maldives, but wanting to specialize in the colder waters of the world, Martin and his brother started the Quark Expeditions Antarctic Dive Program, successfully guiding diving excursions in the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands for four years. Safety was always a top priority and Martin worked as the safety diver on the feature film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Martin was also the leader of the underwater team filming Sir David Attenborough’s film, Penguin Island, and recently the chosen expedition leader for the filming of Blue Planet 2.