A Close Look At Beluga Whales

  • The Name Beluga comes from a Russian phrase meaning ‘white one’ .
  • Found mostly in the Arctic Ocean, there are thought to be around 150,000 Beluga Whales in the world.
  • Beluga whales are very sociable and live in groups called pods.
  • A single pod can consist of hundreds of wales
  • They are often referred to as ‘the canary of the sea’ as they are noticeably vocal, making clicks, grunts, chirps and whistles as they communicate with each other.
  • An adult beluga whale is from 13 to 20 feet in length, the females are usually smaller.
  • An adult beluga whale can live for up to 50 years.
  • A beluga whale can weigh up to 3000 pounds
  • About 40% of their bodyweight is blubber, which helps them to stay warm and preserve energy in the icy water.
  • They can dive as deep as 1000 metres
  • They can remain underwater for up to fifteen minutes before surfacing to breathe.
  • Their white colour allows them to hide from predators (orcas and polar bears) by blending in with the floating ice in their natural environment.
  • They do not have a dorsal fin, which makes swimming, and hunting under the ice easier.
  • When they are born, they are a grey/brown colour and don’t become fully white until they reach around 13 years old.
  • The pronounced lump on their heads is called the ‘melon’. It is thought to account for their ability to pick up and interpret sound waves.
  • Technically referred to as ‘echolocation’, picking up and interpreting these sound waves allows them to locate holes in the ice, find prey and evade predators
  • Unlike most whales, the beluga’s vertebrae are not fused. This means the whales have unusually flexible necks and can turn their heads in all directions.
  • Their closest physiological relative is the Narwhal

Check out our expedition cruises to the arctic here

Every day, hundreds of albatross die in longline fisheries What’s the problem?

Seabirds, especially albatross, are globally caught in longline fisheries for tuna and swordfish. Birds dive to catch the bait as the lines and baited hooks are deployed, becoming hooked, dragged underwater and drowned. This source of mortality is contributing to an increased risk of extinction to 15 of the 22 albatross species and kills an estimated 100,000 albatross annually.

The Hookpod provides the solution to this problem in a one-stop mitigation device which negates the need for other measures, in particular tori lines and lead weights. Extensive trials over 7 years have proven the efficacy and durability of the pod.

We are currently working with the New Zealand industry and government to provide Hookpods for 1-2 vessels operating in the surface longline fleet fishing for Bluefin tuna. This fishery is a particularly high-risk one for albatrosses and traditional mitigation is not completely effective. Seeding this fishery with Hookpods will help the NZ government demonstrate the efficacy of the Hookpod and push for the opening of international regulations to allow their use.

What’s the answer?

The Hookpod is a truly remarkable invention which virtually eliminates the seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries. It has been shown to reduce bycatch by over 95% in trials, without affecting catch rates of fish or affecting fishing operations.

By encapsulating the barb of the hook within a durable, reusable polycarbonate case, the Hookpod renders it harmless to seabirds, safely taking hook and bait to a depth of 10-12m, where a patented pressure release system springs the pod open, using the pressure of water, and releasing the hook to begin fishing. We are developing this opening mechanism to open at 20m and are hopeful that this may have impact on reducing turtle bycatch as well.

hookpod provides the solution to long line fishing catching birds

The Hookpod is fitted to the fishing lines and stays in place on the branchline above the hook, being used each set once the hook is baited and then retrieved as part of the fishing gear with the line, closed and stored in the setting bins, causing no additional work for the crew. The device has been shown to be very durable under standard fishing conditions, with trials showing that pods can remain in daily use for over 2 years.

provides the solution to longline fishing catching birds

Every day, hundreds of albatross die in longline fisheries. But there is a unique and exciting new solution to halt this. It’s called a Hookpod. Hookpods cover baited hooks as they enter the water and stop birds getting caught as they dive for baits. They are effective, easy to use, safe and economic for fishermen. If every pelagic longline fishing fleet used Hookpods, I believe we can stop the accidental death of these magnificent ocean wanderers.


How can you help?

By sponsoring a hook you can provide a Hookpod direct to the longline fishing industry to protect against seabird bycatch. Just £5 will buy a Hookpod and we will work with our partners in New Zealand and around the world to equip a fishing vessel – saving the albatross, one hook at a time.

Hookpod Benefits

*Reduce seabird by catch by 95%

*Operationally easy to use

*Long lasting and durable for at least 3 years

*No impact on target catch rates

To sponsor a Hookpod visit www.hookpod.com


arctic ice pack Arctic Complete – (27th July – 18th August 2017)

Celia Hills enjoyed a Wildfoot Travel  trip to the Arctic recently. Responding to our call for ‘Traveller’s Tales’, Celia sent in this summary of her trip along with some excellent photos.
Now that we’ve set the scene, we’ll hand you over to Celia……..

The trip began with everyone meeting at Longyearbyen airport in Svalbard and going on a coach tour of the town before boarding the Polar Pioneer for the start of the adventure into the Arctic.

Arctic Exploration Cruise Vessel The Polar Pioneer
The Polar Pioneer, a Finnish-built expedition cruise ship operated by the Australian cruise company Aurora Expeditions

The first exciting thing was to be briefed on safety & to do a lifeboat drill as we were leaving harbour. Trying to get into one of two small lifeboats with all 53 passengers & some crew was a challenge with huge lifejackets & little space. As there is permanent daylight at these latitudes at this time of year there was much to see already.

Huge numbers of sea birds to be seen included Fulmars, Glaucous Gulls, Little Auks, Puffins, Black Guillemots, Brunnichs Guillemots, Kittiwakes Eider Ducks & Arctic terns. As the trip progressed the numbers of some of these verged on the staggering with huge seabird cliffs bulging with adults & chicks. Less often seen were the Arctic Skuas & Great Skuas. Geese were also abundant with Pink Footed geese & Barnacle Geese the most common.

Only two days into the trip & the first of 12 polar bears was sighted. This trip was outstanding for bears with the best left to last with a sighting of a mother & cub. One encounter with a male bear on a hunting mission was deemed to be worthy of a “Frozen Planet” sequence by the guides as it had the bear stalk & attack three bearded seals over a 3 hour period.

a polar bear hunting on the arctic shoreline
Only two days into our trip & the first of twelve polar bears was sighted.

Another highlight of this trip were the glaciers & icebergs for sheer beauty of colours, size & shapes & glaciers calving when viewed from a zodiac is amazing with the sound & then mini tsunami.

History is also a strong feature of this trip with various ancient camps, huts and burial grounds of the ancient explorers & trappers.

Walrus were also a highlight with some amazing sounds  & smells in the pushing & shoving of a group of young males, while an encounter from the zodiac of a group of females & young was enchanting.

Walrus were also a highlight with amazing sounds & smells.
Walrus were also a highlight with amazing sounds & smells.

Tiny Arctic Foxes were a delight & some almost tame in their tolerance of close humans. One catching an unfortunate Kittiwake chick that was pushed from its nest showed nature in the raw.

A pod of over 20 Beluga whales was another  of many highlights with them cruising around the zodiacs.

Crossing the Greenland Sea from Svalbard to Greenland was mostly uneventful with birds & fog being the order of the days.

Greenland has certainly got the wow factor with glorious scenery & magnificent rock formations & colours. Scoresbysund being the most amazing place. The addition of Musk Ox in Greenland added to the wildlife total.

Apart from Longyearbyen in Svalbard the only other occupied area visited on this trip was Ittoqqortoormiit, one of the only inhabited area of east Greenland & home to 350 people.

For me one of the best experiences was on the last landing in Greenland where there were a pair of Gyr Falcons, a bird I had never seen.

To summarise this trip is difficult because there were so many highs – Polar Bear, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Musk Ox & the thousands of birds – but what made I was the staff & crew of the Polar Pioneer being so friendly & knowledgeable.

Celia Hills.

See more of Celia’s photos in this photo gallery

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”15″ gal_title=”Celia Hills Arctic Cruise Gallery”]

Check out all our Arctic cruises here

Join us on a Spitsbergen polar bear safari. Find out more here

Find out more about all our polar cruise partners here










Polar Cruise Vessel The Spirit Of Enderby Jewel of the Russian Far East

Mike Unwin, travel and nature writer based in Brighton UK. Voted UK Travel Writer of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers. 
Mike Unwin, travel and nature writer

Mike Unwin is a freelance travel and nature writer based in Brighton UK. He writes regularly for the Telegraph, Independent, BBC Wildlife and numerous other publications, and is the author of more than 30 books for both adults and children. In 2013 Mike was voted UK Travel Writer of the Year by the British Guild of Travel Writers.  

Here Mike gives us a brief account of his experience on an expedition cruise aboard the Spirit Of Enderby with Wildfoot Travel.

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The Arctic wildlife – it’s not to be missed!

One of the most-loved aspects of our Arctic holidays is the wide range of wildlife that one can see. Arctic wildlife is quite simply some of the most varied, stunning and entertaining on the planet!

What’s on offer?

Whether you are one for a cruise or you prefer to keep yourself on land, there’s plenty of wildlife to see either way.

Dependent on location, a variety of bears can often be spotted during our expeditions. brown bears are spotted in Russia, Canada, and Alaska while polar bears roam in Canada and Svalbard, among other locations.

If you prefer to keep your feet dry, various other species including arctic foxes, musk ox, reindeer and lemmings are often spotted.

The various cruises that we have on offer allow for one of the most-desired experiences on the planet. Whale-watching is an absolute joy in the Arctic, with various species of whale simply begging to be spotted in the waters. Humpback, grey, sperm and even beluga and narwhal whales could all be identified by you in what may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A speciality of ours is bird watching cruises. In the Russian Far East coastal region, over 200 species of bird can potentially be spotted. Regardless of which region you visit, though, plenty of birds are spottable and all are unique to the arctic environment. Different, rare species of gulls, such as ivory and Sabine’s, and other Arctic birds can often be seen.

Whichever holiday you decide to embark on, you are safe in the knowledge that our guides will be there to help every step of the way, besides providing more information on the wildlife that you can see.

Cruise the Arctic in style

As well as our standard ships, we also offer the option of our luxury cruise ships, for that little bit extra. If you choose to indulge in one of our luxury cruises, you get to experience the adventure of the arctic, without any compromise on comfort.

With several different ships on offer, you’ll be in safe hands all the way, no matter which one you choose. For more information about this or any other aspect of our Arctic holidays, simply call our friendly experts right here at WILDFOOT.

Summer Land Based Arctic Adventures – Season End Approaching

Our most popular location for exciting Arctic land-based trips is Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago – a pure white wilderness that is easily accessible from Europe and the rest of the world.

Although at Wildfoot our main focus has traditionally been on luxury cruising through some of the world’s most enthralling destinations, you may not realise that we also have a large portfolio of thrilling land-based Arctic adventures that offer just as much excitement as you would find on a cruise voyage.

For many people, a luxury polar adventure tour is the perfect way to see this incredible part of the world in total relaxation, but for others a cruise does not quite fit the bill. Be it the fear of seasickness or the desire to be more “out in the open” with the frozen wilderness. That’s why we’ve put together some genuinely awe-inspiring land-based Arctic adventure trips for those looking for an even more authentic experience.

As mentioned above, our most popular location for Arctic adventure land-based trips is Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago. This white wilderness is easily accessible from Europe and the rest of the world, making it a great destination for your first polar adventure. Located approximately midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, Spitsbergen is teeming with an abundance of flora and wildlife (including polar bears), as well as stunning glaciers and fjords.

Wonderful Wildlife

While our Arctic adventure tour is guaranteed to offer opportunities for thrills and excitement, with many land-based activities to choose from, another huge draw to this magical region is the wildlife. From mighty polar bears to beautiful beluga whales, Svalbard is a hub of activity thanks to the wide variety of creatures that call this part of the world home. 

Svalbard itself is located in a frozen desert with its own unique ecosystem and habitats. A tour of this remote archipelago is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some of our planet’s most incredible animals. Here is just some of the wintry wildlife that you might spot on your Arctic adventure.

Humpback Whale

Let’s start with one of the biggest of the bunch. These magnificent mammals can grow up to 50 feet in length and weigh in at a huge 40 tonnes. You can identify these whales easily, thanks to their distinctive hump that sits at the front of their dorsal fin. Despite their size, they tend to feed on small fish and krill before heading to warmer climes for the mating season. Although they were once hunted to near extinction, their population has made a huge comeback and they’re often spotted around Svalbard, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for them!

Arctic Fox

A smaller, but no less magnificent animal, this fox, also known as the polar, snow or white fox, appears like a magical snow ghost, with its pure white coat and stealthy demeanour. But despite their delicate appearance, they are extremely hardy, surviving temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius. They also have the ability to change their coat colour, which varies throughout the year – from a bluish hue to something more yellow. Although they are becoming rarer, their population is improving in Svalbard, so be on the lookout for one during your Arctic adventure.

Svalbard Reindeer

While we’re on the land, let’s introduce you to the local reindeer, which have been native to this archipelago for the past 5000 years. Thanks to their prevalence, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing this beautiful beast. Their appearance shows how well they’re built for this harsh climate, with a small head, stocky neck and legs, and a thick coat – all designed to keep the cold out and the heat in. Again, this is one of the many animals that were nearly hunted to extinction, but thankfully today the populations are thriving. 

Polar Bear

These are arguably the ‘main players’ of this terrain, because they certainly attract many visitors to explore the region. Known as “ice bear” by the locals, polar bears are counted in the hundreds in this area, which means you’ve got a great chance to see one during your Arctic adventure. Seals form the main part of their diet, so if you spot seals there’s a good chance that a polar bear is nearby. Witnessing one of these animals in the wild is an unforgettable experience.


Today, there are thousands of these lumbering giants on the polar archipelago, so your chances of seeing the friendly-looking mammals are high. If you do spot some, they’re likely to be fully grown males, which can weigh a whopping 1700kg. They’re impressive creatures, with large tusks and huge rolling bodies. They often congregate in groups and can be seen chilling on the ice after scrounging for mussels on the seafloor.

Beluga Whale

In contrast to the humpback, the beluga whale is one of the smallest whale species, measuring about 13-20 feet in length and weighing 1-1.5 tonnes. Their distinctive high-pitched call and pale, greyish colour give them a ghostly presence. Since these whales are pretty social and hang out in groups not far from the land, you’ve got a great chance of seeing them.


Last but by no means least, it’s the pretty little puffin. Also known as “sea parrots”, these small black and white seabirds are known for their bright orange and yellow beaks. Unfortunately, they’ve now been deemed a vulnerable species, and while there are colonies present in Svalbard, it’s hard to know the exact numbers. They spend most of their time at sea, hunting alone, but will return to land to breed and raise their young.

From Huskies to Wilderness Hotel Luxury

Spitsbergen is the only permanently populated island in the archipelago, which means that it is a thriving area for polar expeditions catering to a wide range of people – from those who simply want to enjoy the experience, to those who really want to immerse themselves into the wilderness.

From three-hour trips to five-day all-encompassing adventures, there is something to suit every desire and budget.

For example, if you’re already in Spitsbergen or Svalbard and you fancy setting off into the wilderness for a few hours, we would recommend a thrilling Spitsbergen dog sledding trip, where you’ll get to man your own team of Alaskan huskies to take you on the journey of a lifetime.

The Ultimate Arctic Adventure: Dog Sledding

Exploring this frozen part of the world on a dog sled is an unforgettable experience. Through icy valleys, across vast snowy plains and into the mountains – you just have to sit back and let the sound of the sled on the snow and the dogs’ feet lull you into a dream, while the magical landscape flies by. If you’re looking for the ultimate holiday, then you’ll want to add dog sledding to your bucket list.

Apart from the thrill and beauty of this activity, there’s an extra level of sentimentality in taking part in something that has been done in this part of the world for thousands of years. The origin of dog sledding dates back all the way to 6000 BC, when dog sleds were an important mode of transport. Today, it’s most commonly seen as a competitive sport, but explorers and communities still rely on their dogs as a way to get around the frozen tundra.

When it comes to the actual sledding, you have a few options to choose from. While many people are happy to have a driver as their guide, there are opportunities to drive your own dog sled. It all depends on the route you take, as some will require more experience than others. Each sled can carry two or three people, and the number of dogs will vary depending on the weather conditions (usually from six to twenty dogs). As for your itinerary, this will depend on whether you choose to take an overnight camp or just a day tour. 

Finally, the most important – and the cutest – aspect is the dogs themselves! These incredibly fit, strong, and adorable teammates will be a central part of your excursion. The tail-wagging team is usually made up of a mixture of breeds, including Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamutes, each with their own desirable attributes. Witnessing these incredible dogs working together as a team is a very special experience. Not only can they reach speeds of 25-30km/h on journeys, but they show amazing intelligence and stamina.

Spotlight on Sled Dog Breeds

Every dog sled team requires a few key features: stamina, endurance and grit. They also need to be able to withstand the harsh environment in the polar regions. This means that it’s not a job that any dog can do, but there are a few that are built for this harsh environment. Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Chinook and Siberian Husky are some of the most famous and skilled breeds used for sledding.

The history of dog sleds goes back thousands of years, when they were used as an important communication and transportation tool. In fact, it’s such an important part of life here that some scientists believe that settling in such difficult terrain would have been impossible without the help of our four-legged friends. The peak “Era of the Dog Sled” occurred between the late 1800s and early 1900s, before air-travel and better transport links made them a less efficient option. Today, it’s a popular recreational sport and a great activity to try.

In terms of famous dogs, Balto is probably the one that comes to most of our minds. He was the renowned black husky who led a sled team in the final relay to carry diphtheria serum during the 1925 epidemic. Balto and his team would have had all the trademark qualities of an ace sled team, and the standards are similar today. A great sled dog should have excellent feet to handle the tough terrain, a hearty appetite, and a healthy coat. It sounds simple, but these features are essential.

Authentic Experiences at Nordenskiöld Lodge

For those looking for a deep digital detox and a return to nature, Nordenskiöld Lodge is the perfect place. Set at the foot of the imposing Nordenskiöld glacier, off the beaten tourist track, you’ll find an oasis in a beautiful pine cabin that runs on firewood only. It’s a hidden gem that blends into its mighty surroundings. Although the accommodation is luxurious and inviting, the only connection you’ll find here is with yourself and nature. That’s right, there’s no WiFi and no electricity, which means that the only disturbance is the sound of the glacier and a crackling fire.

During your stay, you can explore the glacier moraine on foot, allowing you to fully take in the majestic surroundings. After a day of exploring, you’ll be welcomed back into your cosy cabin.  As night falls, you’ll share stories of the day over dinner. Absolutely magical.

Kayaking on an Arctic Adventure Tour

Alternatively, if you want an Arctic adventure that will last a bit longer, why not try this thrilling 6-day Spitsbergen Kayak Expedition, where you will kayak through the icy waters in search of adventure, encountering a plethora of wildlife and stunning landscapes along the way. Visit intriguing towns such as the ghost town of Pyramiden, and finish off each day with beautiful meals in the fantastic Nordenskiöld Lodge, Spitsbergen’s northernmost hotel – it offers a truly unique experience.

Kayaking is a unique and breathtaking way to explore this frozen wonderland. Not only does it offer an extended excursion, but you’ll get to see the polar region from a completely new perspective. You’ll get to explore remote parts of the coastline, getting close up to floating ice and even closer to the local wildlife. 

However, perhaps the most magical part of this experience is the silence. This part of the world has a special kind of quiet and, during a kayak excursion, all you’ll hear is the sounds of your paddles in the water, the occasional crack of the ice around you, or a seal splashing in the sea.

There’s also the added thrill of camping under the stars. After a day of exploring, you and your group will set up camp in the wilderness, choosing a new location every evening. Kayaking offers the best chance to truly immerse yourself in the frozen wonderland, as well as offering an authentic feel. You might even be asked to keep a lookout for polar bears!

If you’re looking for a touch of luxury after a long day of exploring the wilderness, we thoroughly recommend a trip that includes Isfjord Radio, a stunning eco-lodge that offers unprecedented luxury one might not expect from such a remote location. Plus, it’s the only full-scale boutique hotel outside of the capital of Longyearbyen.

Luxury at Isfjord Radio

This incredible hotel sits at the gateway to the white wilderness and offers an absolute treat if you’re looking for something different. Delivering luxury living in the heart of isolation, Isfjord Radio is set in Kapp Linne, which is located right at the edge of Svalbard’s west coast. From here you can watch the Northern Lights flicker across the sky, bask in the midnight sun and watch some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.

In this picturesque location the opportunity to observe the wildlife is ever-present. Reindeer frequently walk past guests’ windows, and you might even spot an ice fox hunting for bird eggs in the snow. But the best part of this unique hotel is being able to disconnect from daily life and be truly present at what feels like the end of the earth. A stay here provides an experience unlike anywhere else.

Of course, Spitsbergen isn’t the only area that’s superb for polar land-based adventures, but we think it might just be the best! So, if you fancy keeping your feet on dry land get in touch and our polar experts will be delighted to help find the perfect tour for you. But hurry – the summer season will be ending soon!

Contact one of our friendly polar experts today to start planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip.

We recommend…

At Wildfoot, we are a team of experienced travellers with a passion for adventure. Not only are our friendly staff excited to help you create the holiday of a lifetime, but they have a wealth of experience that’s incomparable. We pride ourselves on our passion and vast knowledge, which will guarantee your holiday is an extraordinary experience.

Orca FIn

Northern Passages & Glacier Bay

With a focus on glaciers, this trip is full of activities. You can expect breathtaking scenery and plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting, thanks to visits to Glacier Bay National Park and Tongass National Park. There are also plenty of chances to explore the waters with sea-kayak excursions and paddleboarding.

Scotland to Svalbard via Jan Mayen
A mixture of home and away is on offer in this itinerary: from the lush Shetland Isles to the beautiful Faroe islands and the landscapes of Svalbard, this will be a memorable journey. As well as the mesmerising scenery, you’ll be able to search for all kinds of wildlife, including seabirds, reindeer, whales and maybe even polar bears. As well as lots of cruising, there are chances to explore on foot with planned nature walks and hikes.

The Icebergs in Greenland's Disko Bay

Jewels of the Arctic

This is for the explorers. A voyage that highlights the best of this fascinating region, from Svalbard’s frozen coast to Greenland and a bit of Iceland. Every day promises unforgettable moments, including rare wildlife sightings and thrilling activities, such as glacier kayaking.

Iceland Circumnavigation

Explore a remote volcanic island of Iceland that showcases the stunning landscape, wildlife and culture of this fascinating country. You’ll explore diverse terrains, from hot springs to waterfalls, and immerse yourself in this island with exciting hikes and Zodiac cruises.

Arctic wildlife viewing brings a host of pleasures

At WILDFOOT we take pride in our ability to offer you personalised, one-of-a-kind adventures throughout some of the world’s remotest parts of the world. Our knowledgeable team members combine their passion for adventure with first-hand experience of these regions, which means we can guarantee a fully bespoke service. Interested in visiting the world’s most northern area? A few of us have been lucky enough to explore Svalbard extensively so even if you’re a veteran traveller of the icy continent, we will be able to give you the latest scoop on all the best sites for polar bear spotting and glacier walking. 

Speaking of polar bears, nothing really compares to Arctic wildlife holidays, which is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some of the most incredible (and rare) creatures and habitats on our planet. Must-see locations include the North Pole and Alaska, the latter of which is truly an animal lover’s dream. Our team members have visited both destinations many times, which means whether you’re looking for whale watching, sea kayaking or some top-notch bird watching, we’re sure to be able to help you have an adventure of a lifetime.

As much as we would like to create a definitive list of the highlights, the truth is that it would be extremely difficult to pick one single itinerary. Such is the astonishing breadth and depth of animal life in this most spectacular and remote part of the world that none of us could agree on what to include and what to exclude!

What we can do, however, is give a bit of an insight into the kinds of species that you may encounter when you take advantage of any of our packages.

From herbivores like the lemming, caribou, muskox and native hare, to predators such as the mighty polar bear, ice fox, and wolf plus a wealth of other land and marine animals, there are so many species here to stimulate the first-time visitor as well as the most seasoned tundra veterans.

All Manner of Birds

Where could we start with any discussion of the birds that make this frozen world their habitat? Any complete list would also be a seriously long one, although if there is a particular species that you would like to see, we can advise you on the best season and location. 

Nonetheless, those embarking on one of these trips may see any bird from the ivory gull, little auk, Black Guillemot and Barn Swallow to the Long-tailed Duck, sea eagles and skuas.

Alongside the rich variety of birdlife that this region can offer, those who venture into the Russian Far East coastal area are able to spot rare species such as the Steller’s sea eagle, gyrfalcon and spoon-billed sandpiper.

Birds in Flight

The Most Common Seabird Families

In our opinion, this destination has some of the best birdwatching opportunities in the world. So even if you’re an amateur twitcher, you’re likely to fall in love with the beauty and variety of the birds in the area. It’s helpful to be familiar with what you might see on your travels, so here’s our handy spotlight on the different seabird families.

Laridae: gulls

Let’s start with the one that you’re probably familiar with: the gull. Common species that you’ll find are the kittiwake, Ross’s gull, the ivory gull and Sabine’s gull. You can tell the adults and youngsters apart by their colouring; adults will have white heads and bodies, while the tops of their wings are darker and babies will be browner.

Skuas : This is one of the most common inhabitants and you’re likely to spot a variety of skuas during your trip. We find these quite entertaining birds as they tend to be known as the pirates of bird groups – always bothering others and stealing the scraps.

Cormorants: These distinctive birds are one of the most elegant species you’ll see. When they’re not swimming for food, they’ll be perched on a rock with their wings spread out, drying their feathers – although we think it looks like a perfect pose for the camera.

Terns: These little guys are known as sea swallows. Firstly, due to their silhouette and secondly because they’re also migratory, flying all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole every year!

Procellaridae: fulmar, stormy petrel: In our opinion, these species are the most fascinating as they will spend almost all their life at sea, only coming back to land to reproduce. We also love these birds for their unique defence mechanism: spitting salt. Since they spend so much time at sea, they’ve developed the ability to desalinate seawater, which means the salt accumulated in their nostrils becomes a handy weapon to spit at any attackers.

Alcidae: razorbill, auk, puffin, guillemot:While we love the Procellariidae, who doesn’t love a puffin? We think they’re one of the most popular birds to spot, after the penguins of course. This family is amazing at swimming and fishing for food.

Eiders: Last but not least, we have the cute marine ducks that you’ll find along the coastline. Finding these guys on one of our Arctic wildlife holidays can be quite an impressive sight as they usually hang out in groups of around 100.

Get Up Close and Personal with Whales

Our wildlife expeditions are never just about bird spotting. They also offer the perfect excuse for a bit of whale watching – which, in our opinion, is a truly unique experience that can get you up close and personal with some of the most jaw-dropping marine species on earth.

Whether you are hoping to catch sight of a humpback whale, minke, a rare white beluga, an orca (killer whale) or even the largest mammal in the world, the majestic blue whale itself, you will have ample opportunity to do so when you travel with us..

A Classification Guide for Whale Spotters: The Big Three

While the previously mentioned species are truly incredible creatures to spot on your Arctic wildlife holidays, here’s a brief overview of three of our favourite big whale types that you’ll have the chance to see.

The Bowhead:They might not be the prettiest, but we think this is one of the most fascinating whales we’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Named for its huge triangular skull, the Bowhead’s existence is closely connected with the sea ice that covers the ocean. They use small breathing holes in the ice to get oxygen but if they need to come up for air, their strong skull is used as a battering ram. The ice is also an important source of food, releasing krill and other tasty snacks for the whale during the melt in the spring.

Fun Fact: Bowheads have the largest mouth in the world and they have the ability to lower their heart rate to survive in extremely cold waters, helping them live up to 200 years old!

The Narwhal: We think that the Narwhal is perhaps the most mesmerising creature in this part of the world, not only for its unicorn-like tusk but it’s incredibly rare to spot them. Scientists believe that their tusk is used to measure salt and oxygen levels in the water, helping them navigate the seas. However, it’s still a bit of a mystery. Narwhals can dive up to 1.5km 25 times a day in search of food.

Fun Fact: the tusk is actually a tooth and during medieval times they were highly prized as it was thought that they could cure all kinds of diseases.

The Beluga: Out of the three, the Beluga is probably our favourite due to its sociable nature and striking appearance. Known as the white whale due to its pale colour in adulthood, Belugas are toothed, medium-sized whales. They like to hang out in groups and are a chatty bunch, communicating with each other through a series of clicks, grunts, and whistles.

Fun Fact: Beluga whales moult! They have very thick skin, which is shed every summer.

Kayaking offers a tranquil stealth that allows you to get closer to nature

Walrus & Seals

The great walrus is one of the iconic creatures on the ice and if you’re visiting Svalbard, you’ll have great opportunities to witness them in all their blubbery, tusked glory. They’re one of our favourite animals to show our travellers, as their nearly 2,000 kilogram mass is truly impressive. They tend to congregate in large groups on sunny beaches so they’re pretty easy to spot. You’ll find the huge Pacific walrus in areas like Alaska and Russia. However, you can see their smaller relatives in Svalbard, and areas in Northern Canada. 

As well as the mighty beasts above, seals are frequently viewed on most of our Arctic wildlife holidays. There are many species to look out for so have your binoculars at the ready.

A seal In Antarctica

sea lions frolicking in the water

Harp Seal – These are probably the hardest to find, unfortunately, due to being hunted for their furs. However, the best time to look for them is in late February and early March. Their favourite breeding sites are in Newfoundland, Greenland and the White Sea so if they’re on your list of “must-sees”, let us know and we can fit these destinations into your package.

Ringed Seal – You’re guaranteed to come across these solitary animals on most trips to this region. They are the most common and spread out seals in this region, meaning you can find them throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Bearded Seal – As you can guess from the name, these seals are identified by their large whiskers. They’re also the largest seal species in this area weighing up to 450 kilograms. The best time to see these guys is between April and May when they tend to give birth on the ice floes.

Polar Bears

While all the creatures in this magical part of the world are incredible, a super special sighting on any of our Arctic wildlife holidays is the Polar Bear. These powerful mammals can be found roaming the ice of a variety of destinations: from the Alaskan wilderness to the cold waters of Norway. As the largest land carnivore – reaching 3 metres in height when standing on its hind legs – the Polar Bear features on everyone’s list of highlights. 

The best time to spot these bears is between May and November, and most of our tours for sighting will be run during this time. If you’re planning on travelling to Svalbard, we recommend visiting in the summer as it’s a perfect time for a polar bear tour.

a polar bear hunting on the arctic shoreline

polar bear encounter on an arctic wildlife cruise

Arctic Fox, Wolf & Hare

As well as the large figures of the ice, the white continent is home to many other animals that have adapted to live in this harsh climate. A few of our favourite smaller creatures to spot are the white fox, wolf and hare. 

The Fox – this is one of our favourite animals to spot. Each winter their grey fur transforms into snowy white so that they can blend in with their surroundings. Plus, they’re the only mammal native to Iceland, which is a great place to see them. However, you’ll find these foxes throughout the tundra and the best time to spot them is during the summer at night.

The Wolf – much smaller than their cousins, the grey wolves, these wild wolves are designed to hold as much heat as possible in their bodies. They will hunt in packs, often taking down caribou and muskox. The best places to see these predators are in parts of North America and Greenland, especially at dawn when they’ll be out for the hunt.

The Hare – these are hardy creatures for sure, surviving the harsh winters by eating woody plants and lichen. Similarly to the foxes, their fur changes from brown to a show white when they’re about four weeks old. The best time to see them is during the spring or early summer.

Reindeer & Caribou

These mammals are an incredibly important and ancient part of life in the Arctic, closely linking the land and people. For thousands of years, reindeer and caribou have been a central part of life for many cultures, providing a source of food, clothing, tools and even transport. Today, they are found both in the wild and herded by the local people in Sweden, Russia, Finland and Canada. Any of our Arctic wildlife holidays can include an opportunity to meet these beautiful and important creatures, just ask one of our team members.
Don’t be reduced to experiencing this incredible fauna and flora through your computer screen – let one of our team organise that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all of these animals in astonishing flesh and blood.

Contact one of our friendly team members today and together we can start creating an adventure that you’ll never forget.

We recommend…

At WILDFOOT, we offer you the chance to explore one of the most spectacular and unique places on the planet. With our first-hand experience and extensive knowledge, we are experts in adventure and cannot wait to help our customers plan a holiday of a lifetime.

polar bear encounter on an arctic wildlife cruise

Spitsbergen Polar Bear Photography Special

This is one of our favourites as it offers the chance to explore the best destinations like a true explorer. With no set itinerary, the goal of this trip is to get as many photo opportunities as possible, which means you’re sure to see some incredible wildlife, from Polar bears to walruses, this is for animal lovers.

Alaska’s Remote Fjords & Glaciers

Explore Alaska’s backcountry with an expedition that places the lesser-known spots at the top of the hit list. This itinerary is all about the incredible landscapes, as you’ll discover icy canals, the fascinating Kiksetti Totem Park, glaciers and the Misty Fjords National Monument.

Classic Spitsbergen Explorer

This is one of our favourites as it offers the chance to explore the best destinations like a true explorer. With no set itinerary, the goal of this trip is to get as many photo opportunities as possible, which means you’re sure to see some incredible wildlife, from Polar bears to walruses, this is for animal lovers.

East Greenland in Luxury

Renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, East Greenland offers a display of majestic fjords, snow-capped mountains, glaciers and more. This trip allows you to experience the best that this remote region has to offer, including amazing wildlife, all from the comfort of a brand-new, luxury vessel.