As well as traversing the Classic Coastal Route, Hurtigruten run voyages over the Summer deeper into the Arctic Circle. Here, under the Midnight Sun, guests can spot polar bears, arctic foxes and elks. But what makes these animals so special?
Probably one of the most recognised animals in this part of the world is the polar bear. These magnificent bears can weigh between 300–700kg and are the largest species of bear. In the Svalbard archipelago, polar bear sightings from aboard a Hurtigruten ship aren't unusual as the polar bears outnumber the people! With about 60% of the land mass covered in glaciers, there are approximately 3,000 polar bears to the 2,700 people.
Hop aboard one of the smaller landing ships and have fun on a snow mobile safari or a skiing expedition – our Shore Expeditions are the best chance to see one of these bears up close and personal. At the end of the day though, it is important to remember that as cuddly as they look from a distance, polar bears are wild animals and you should always follow the advice of your specialist guide on any of our Shore Excursions.
These furry critters are perfectly camouflaged in winter with their
snow white fur. In the summer months, their pelage (coat) darkens and they become a little easier for us keen wildlife enthusiasts to lay eyes on! They live in the northernmost parts of Norway and build low mounds, eskers, in the Arctic tundra. Interestingly, these mounds will often be used by generations of the same pack of foxes for hundreds of years with many different entrances.
Creeping up on one of these guys is a bit tough due to their incredibly sensitive hearing which they use to locate prey, even with the deadening effect of sound due to the snow. Remember to ask your specialist guides if a den is nearby your snowmobile safari route and you might be able to spot a fox or two.
The elk, elg in Norwegian, or moose is one of the easier animals to spot in Norway. There are many elks around the archipelago of Vesterålen, a stop on Hurtigruten's Coastal Route.
Summer is the best season to spot elk, either from onboard a ship or on one of the coastal excursions. The best time of day to see an elk is during twilight.
Similar in size to elks, reindeer are an iconic animal of the North. There are about 30,000 reindeer living in Norway with 10,000 in the Svalbard archipelago. These reindeer are closer genetically to the reindeer of the Canadian High Arctic and sometimes one can even spot reindeer with Russian tags, having roamed across the ice to Norway. The reindeer of Svalbard are shorter and fatter, with more white in their fur.
Reindeer are very social animals and live in large herds – they can be seen at Santa's Village or on a stay in a glass igloo, where they graze in the nearby forest. The majority of the northern reindeer are owned and domesticated by the indigenous Sámi who are traditionally reindeer herders. Leading the reindeer migration can often be a long and difficult task, as you can see below on the difficult river crossing captured by BBC Earth.
Interestingly, in the height of winter, a reindeer's coat thickens, so much so that they even grow fur over their antlers.
The White-Tailed Sea Eagle can be easily seen from the Classic Coastal Cruise route with Hurtigruten as their eyries are dotted all along the Norwegian coast. They are the largest European bird of prey, with a wingspan of 2.4m. Like many birds of prey, they are monogamous and remain in their pairs for life; hunting, living and breeding.
It is not uncommon to see such an eagle gliding in the air above your ship, training their keen eyes on the ocean to pick themselves up a seafood meal.
The puffin, with their clown-like faces and colourful beaks, are always popular sightings with everyone – for the Young Explorers to the older guests! Small groups of puffins are often seen in the summertime on the fjords of Svalbard but seeing a lone puffin, floating atop a piece of ice is the goal for many a budding Arctic explorer.
There are puffin colonies around the Vesterålen archipelago that can be seen from aboard a ship or on a puffin safari excursion. They breed in late Spring and will either nest in burrows in the ground, or out among rocky crevices. Around this area, there are usually about 150,000 pairs nesting in the Summertime, where the eggs have been incubated by both parents for around 40–45 days. You can learn more interesting facts about puffins here.
Puffins are a beloved bird in Norway and on the island of Lovund, the 14th of April is a day of celebration as the 200,000 puffins return to the island to nest until mid August.