Skip to main content
Find your perfect adventure

Find your adventure

search-wrapper

Arctic Wildlife

  • Polar bear with cub

    Polar bear with cub

Polar Bears

Polar BearsThis is the big one, the predator that intoxicates photographers and wildlife fans. Whilst it is always possible to see them ruffling around landfill sites in Manitoba like down at heel aristocrats, seeing them on ice miles from land is the hardest wildlife currency of all. With special departures concentrating on Ursus Maritimus, there is every chance to have some truly extraordinary encounters.

Bears have a thick oily fur coat and a layer of blubber under their skin. They spend most of their time on the pack ice or in the water, where they can hunt their favourite food - the ringed or bearded seal. The white fur helps the bear hunt seals that are laying on the ice. In the summer it is harder to catch seals, so before summer arrives, the bears eat as much as they can to fatten up, then live off the fat in their bodies. The females dig a den in the snow to hibernate during the worst part of the winter. The cubs are born in the den. some of the males rise in weight to almost 1000 pounds.They have even been seen close to the North Pole.

Whales

Humpback WhaleWhales are able to live in the cold waters of the Arctic. Although not as prevalent as in the Antarctic, virtually every expedition North sees whales. They have a thick layer of blubber under their skin. Bowheads can reach 18 metres in length. They almost became extinct due to over hunting in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Whalers wanted the whales' oil and baleen. They are still considered endangered in some areas.

Species seen include Minkes, Humpbacks, Fin, Sei and even Blue.

The White Belugas (much smaller than all the others) seem to be smiling all the time. They make noises that sound like chirps, trills, whistles and clicks. Belugas use their foreheads to smash the ice so they can get to the surface to breathe.

Seals

Harp, Ringed, Harbour and Bearded seals are the most common spotted. Many are nervous, wary of Polar bears but it is not unusual to still get some wonderful, intimate encounters. When the ice melts the harp seals swim north following the schools of fish.   

Walrus

WalrusesWalruses are very large marine mammals and have to eat thousands of krill and shellfish each day. With its thick whiskers, the walrus feels around in the water for krill and on the ocean floor for shellfish. It is their whiskers they use to hunt and feed not their ivory. Layers of blubber protect the walruses when they swim in the freezing Arctic seas and when they lie out on the ice in the bitter cold wind. Walruses are very noisy animals. They are often seen crowded together on ice floes or on the shore. Some of these 'haul-outs' can number as many as 100. They're no longer hunted and it appears our days of atonement for such butchery are over and some remarkable encounters can be had with these inquisitive animals.

Caribou/Reindeer

ReindeerMembers of the deer family, their thick fur coats have hollow hairs which helps to keep them warm. They move across the Arctic in large herds eating moss, lichens and green plants. For the winter they go to the forests of the south where trees give them protection from the wind and the snow. In the spring they leave the forests and go to the tundra where their calves are born. They are seen across the whole of the Arctic.

Musk Oxen

Musk oxenMusk Oxen are large animals with thick overcoats of shaggy long straight hair that hang down to the ground. Their undercoats are thick brown fleece. Some of the coat is shed in the summer. They huddle together in groups for protection and to keep warm. When wolves attack, they form a circle around the calves. The adults face outward and use their sharp horns for defence. They are seen only in the Canadian Arctic.

Arctic Fox

Arctic fox cubsThe Arctic fox is hard to see in the snow. It has a thick white coat of fur for the winter. In the summer the coat is brownish-grey. The Arctic fox eats a lot of lemmings. They also eat hares, birds' eggs and the chicks.  There are various locations in the Arctic, especially Spitzbergen where passengers have fantastic sightings of these little predators which frequently punch way above their weight.

Lemmings

Lemming signLemmings look like plump furry hamsters. The Brown lemming and the Collared lemming live in the Arctic. The Brown lemming prefers wetter areas, while the Collared lemming is usually seen in rocky places. The Collared lemming turns white in winter.

In the winter lemmings stay warm in snow tunnels. When summer comes the lemmings leave their dens to feed on new leaves, grasses, roots and berries. If there is plenty of food a female lemming has as many as six sets of babies. Many Arctic animals eat lemmings.

Arctic Hares

Arctic HareArctic Hares live farther north than any other hare among the rocks on hillsides where they can hide from foxes, wolves, owls and other enemies. Hares eat grass, willows and other plants. Their favourite meal is the arctic willow. Hundreds of them gather together in herds, to stay warm, and for protection from their many enemies. When a noise is heard they hop away in all directions.

Arctic Birds

Little Auks in SpitzbergenWhen the snow starts to melt hundreds of thousands of birds arrive to nest, raise their young and feed on Arctic plants and insects. There are seabirds, waterfowl, shore birds, song birds and many others. The birds nest on the rocky cliffs or along the shore. Others make their nests in the grass or on the ground.

The flocks of migrating birds arrive in May or early June and leave in the fall to spend winter in warmer places. Huge colonies of little Auks occupy rocky nesting sites all over Spitzbergen as do Guillemots. Kittiwakes are constant companions at sea or against cobalt blue glaciers as they feed on small algae and arctic cod. Terns are also a constant companion.

The Ptarmigan, Raven and Snowy Owl stay in the Arctic all year round.

Wildlife holidays in the Arctic

Arctic Explorer - Crossing the Circle (2014)

Arctic Explorer - Crossing the Circle (2014)

11 days From
USD $6,765.00

Explore the Canadian wilderness and wildlife on Baffin Island

  • Cross the Arctic Circle at least twice
  • Explore the history and wildlife on Baffin Island
  • Travel in a small expedition vessel
Across the Top of the World (2014)

Across the Top of the World (2014)

15 days From
USD $11,435.00

Unique expedition crossing the Arctic Circle and including the isolated and pristine Wrangel and Herald Islands of Russia

  • Explore the northern coasts of Chukotka
  • Spend four to five days exploring the wildlife-rich Wrangel Island
  • Cross the Arctic Circle
Sea of Okhotsk (2014)

Sea of Okhotsk (2014)

12 days From
USD $7,585.00

Experience the abundance of rarely seen wildlife in Russia's Sea of Okhotsk

  • Explore abundant seal and sea lion colonies on the Iony, Yamskie and Tyulenly Islands
  • See the beautifully marked and rare Ribbon seal in the upper regions of the Sea of Okhotsk
  • Witness a spectacular number of seabirds, including the majestic Steller's Sea eagle
Jewel of the Russian Far East (2014)

Jewel of the Russian Far East (2014)

13 days From
USD $8,050.00

Explore the remote eastern coast of Russia, a vast wilderness inhabited by Kamchatka Brown bears, Red fox, Sea otters and an astonishing array of birds

  • Discover the Chukotka, Koryak and Kamchatka coastline
  • Two days exploring the wildlife-rich Commander Islands
  • Travel in a small expedition vessel
Arctic Quest - Greenland to Churchill (2014)

Arctic Quest - Greenland to Churchill (2014)

16 days From
USD $8,915.00

This journey to the northern communities of the Arctic combines cultural learning and wildlife encounters

  • Visit Ilulissat Kangerlua glacier - the most productive glacier outside of Antarctica
  • Cruise around Monumental Island off the southeast coast of Baffin Island
  • Explore the many Islands of Hudson Bay
Greenland & Canada's High Arctic (2014)

Greenland & Canada's High Arctic (2014)

13 days From
USD $6,765.00

This journey to the northern communities of the Arctic combines cultural learning and wildlife encounters.

  • Visit Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Experience traditional Canadian Inuit and Greenlandic communities
  • Explore Beechey Island, a Franklin Expedition historic site
Baffin Island Explorer via Fury & Hecla (2014)

Baffin Island Explorer via Fury & Hecla (2014)

13 days From
USD $6,170.00

An in-depth exploration of the Canadian Arctic, combining abundant wildlife encounters and historic sites

  • See Arctic wildlife - Polar bears, whales, and massive sea bird colonies
  • Experience the sites of the rarely traversed Fury and Hecla Strait
  • Visit traditional Inuit Communities and remote National Historic Sites of Canada
Introduction to Spitsbergen (2014)

Introduction to Spitsbergen (2014)

9 days From
USD $4,900.00

Explore the Svalbard Archipelago and its stunning landscape and wildlife

  • Explore the remarkable Svalbard Archipelago in 24 hour daylight
  • Experience incredible wildlife viewing including walrus and Polar bears
  • Embark on frequent Zodiac and shore excursions in this icy wilderness
Spitsbergen in Depth (2014)

Spitsbergen in Depth (2014)

13 days From
USD $8,165.00

An extended expedition through Norway encompasing Spitsbergen, the Seven Islands, Nordaustlandet, and smaller outlying islands

  • Explore the remarkable Svalbard Archipelago in 24 hour daylight
  • Experience incredible wildlife viewing including walrus and Polar bears
  • Embark on frequent Zodiac and shore excursions in this icy wilderness
Spitsbergen, Greenland & Iceland (2014)

Spitsbergen, Greenland & Iceland (2014)

14 days From
USD $9,040.00

A voyage encompassing three Arctic countries with dramatic, contrasting and desolate landscapes

  • Visit the remarkable Svalbard Archipelago in 24 hour daylight
  • Explore the wild, rugged, icebound eastern coast of Greenland
  • Embark on frequent Zodiac and shore excursions in this icy wilderness
Greenland's Northern Lights (2014)

Greenland's Northern Lights (2014)

14 days From
USD $7,815.00

An incredible voyage to one of the most isolated regions of the world, exploring its unspoiled and spectacular landscape of Greenland

  • Experience the spectacular landscapes of unspoiled Eastern Greenland
  • Explore the world's largest fjord system, Scoresbysund
  • Visit Iceberg Alley, with majestic icebergs over 100 metres tall
Journey to the North Pole (2014)

Journey to the North Pole (2014)

14 days From
USD $27,940.00

Probably the ultimate Polar voyage: sail to 90º north aboard the world's largest nuclear-powered icebreaker

  • Reach the 'top of the world' at 90 North
  • Visit Franz Josef Land archipelago
  • Travel on a nuclear powered icebreaker
Spitsbergen Explorer (2014)

Spitsbergen Explorer (2014)

10 days From
USD $5,600.00

Explore the remarkable Svalbard Archipelago in Norway in 24 hour daylight

  • Explore the remarkable Svalbard Archipelago in 24 hour daylight
  • Experience incredible wildlife viewing including walrus and Polar bears
  • Embark on frequent Zodiac and shore excursions in this icy wilderness
Northwest Passage (2014)

Northwest Passage (2014)

13 days From
USD $9,100.00

Sail the Arctic's most fabled route, made famous by Amundsen and Franklin: both the wildlife and a huge sense of maritime history make this a magnificent journey

  • Sail the most legendary route in Arctic lore
  • Visit Devon Island, with its landscape reminiscent of Mars
  • Travel in a small expedition vessel

You recently looked at