Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spitsbergen: Wildlife Capital of the Arctic

Nowhere epitomises the spectacular sights of the Arctic better than Spitsbergen, which actually means "pointy peaks". This heavily glaciated island with its breathtaking mountain peaks is the launching point for many expeditions into the Arctic, including those of Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton in the past.
Home of the Polar Research Station, this remote area has long held a strange fascination for pioneering explorers, modern-day adventurers and tourists who enjoy experiences which are more off-the-beaten-track of regular tourists. Nonetheless, this exciting adventure is accessible to all and reveals the beautiful sights and icy phenomena of the Arctic as a new and wonderful pageant which unfolds on an almost hourly basis.
Spitsbergen is approximately 2012km (1250 miles) north of Oslo and the North Pole seems almost within striking distance, just 966km (600 miles) away. This Norwegian island is the largest of the Svalbard archipelago, measuring 450km (280 miles) long and 225km (140 miles) wide at its broadest point and surrounded by the dark, freezing waters of the Arctic Ocean.
Popularly known as the Land of the Midnight Sun, and with good reason, this colourful community has almost continuous daylight from late April to August, when most tours take place. Visiting Spitsbergen will reveal diverse and wonderful scenery, unusual wildlife and interesting people with an amazing culture. Enjoy guided tundra walks amidst a carpet of wild flowers or explore the area by kayak or inflatable boat. There really is something for everyone in Spitsbergen, and that is just the start of your Arctic adventure!
Venturing north, the small yet luxurious cruise ships follow the receding ice pack. Explorers can expect to see a huge abundance of polar bears, whales, reindeer, walrus, seals and even Arctic foxes trotting across the packed snow. The South East Svalbard Nature Reserve is the protected home of many of these creatures. Spitsbergen is also a bird-watcher's delight; millions of seabirds breed here and raise their young in nests perched precariously on the steep slopes of the surrounding barren islands. It is no wonder Spitsbergen is known as the Wildlife Capital of the Arctic.
Other natural sights which you will enjoy as part of a trip to the rolling tundra of the Arctic will include ancient glaciers, icebergs, ice floats, stunning fjord landscapes with snow-capped mountains and fascinating wildlife, birds and even friendly natives.
Amidst this ever-changing landscape, the sense of peace, stillness and beauty are quite unmatched by any other place on the planet. The sky seems bigger, the daylight brighter and the stars closer than anywhere else on earth. A trip to the Arctic will inevitably leave you feeling humbled at the expanse and beauty of nature, and privileged to have seen nature at its most pristine. Seeing fox cubs roll and play on the ice, whales diving and giving a slow salute with their tail fin, seeing lichens and flowers thrive in this inhospitable area are all thrilling and life-changing experiences. Prepare to be surprised and delighted at every turn when visiting this beautiful white wilderness.

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