Category Archives: Cruising

Penguins of Antarctica

Although there are 18 species of penguin in the world, only 7 live in the Antarctica region. These adorable looking birds vary in size and markings although they all have the ‘tuxedo’ black and white feathers. With this colouring, when swimming through the water from below they look like the light surface of the water, while from the sky, they blend with the darker colour of the sea.

Bentours offers a number of packages that will take you on an expedition cruise to incredible Antarctica and the surrounding islands, where you can discover these seabirds for yourself.

Adélie Penguin

Adélies live in Antarctica all year round although the best time to see them is from spring to autumn, as in the winter they mostly spend their time in the water. Adélies were named by French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville after his wife Adélie. They are the smallest Antarctic species and the male and female are impossible to tell apart in either appearance or behaviour – they both take equal share of the care-giving of chicks. Like many penguins, Adélies build their nests from stones stolen from the nests of rival pairs and can be quite territorial.

Emperor Penguin

Emperors are the largest and probably most recognisable penguin, with yellow or orange plumage on their heads. They are usually about 115cm tall (that’s about the size of a six year old!) and weigh around 23kg. Like Adélies, they stay in Antarctica year round although they rarely actually set foot on land in their lifetimes, instead breeding on the sea ice. Emperors can dive to depths of 500m and hold their breath for 22 minutes at a time!

Emperors do not build nests but rather, once the female has laid the egg, the male will look after it for up to two months on its feet. During this time it regulates the egg’s temperature with its collection of excess feathers that form a brood pouch.

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoos are the speediest penguin underwater, travelling at up to 35km/h. They are the third largest penguin and weigh in at about 5kg. Gentoos make nests from molted feathers, stones and vegetation (when breeding on islands around Antarctica). Probably most interesting about Gentoos is their ability to slow down their heartbeat on deep dives from 80-100 bpm to 20 bpm!

Chinstrap Penguins

As their name suggests, Chinstraps have black markings that make them appear to be wearing a helmet, with a strap under the chin. There are at least 8 million in the world making them one of the most common. Male chinstraps will race to claim the best nest in the breeding grounds and then wait for five days for his mate to arrive. If the female does not arrive in that time, the male may take a new mate. Watch out though if the original female finds her mate with ‘another woman’ – fighting ensues to win the affection of the male. Males who are unable to find a nest, may force other couples out of theirs.

Macaroni Penguin

Macaronis mostly live on islands surrounding Antarctica such as South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. They are very territorial and aggressive and fights between males are very common. They have bright spiky orange eyebrows (called crests) and lay two eggs, although usually only one develops.

Rockhopper Penguin

As their name suggests, Rockhoppers move very distinctively, jumping from stone to stone on the rockier north Antarctic islands. They make their nests between the crevices of rocks in rough terrain to deter predators. Rockhoppers have bright yellow or orange eyebrows that extend all the way to the crown of their heads and are known for having a rather erratic temperament. Like all penguins, they can rest on their bellies but they additionally cover their face with their flippers when they find a comfortable rock to snooze on.

King Penguin

Kings are the second largest penguin and, like the Emperor, do not create nests but use the same brood pouches to protect their eggs during incubation. King penguins have more a dark grey than black back and live in large colonies. During the winter time, they will often leave their chicks for weeks unattended, while during the summer they migrate to the South. When the chicks are fully grown but unfledged they appear bigger than the adult Kings – so much so, in fact, that originally they were mistaken as an entirely different species of ‘woolly penguins’.


Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? See these penguins in their natural environment on a Bentours expedition cruise – contact us today!

Voyage to Antarctica: Part II

The adventure of a lifetime

Juliet Symes had the time of her life on her sea voyage over ten days to Antarctica. If you missed her talking about her very close encounter with a humpback whale and crossing the Drake passage, make sure to check it out. Otherwise, continue reading to learn about penguins, camping and glacier calvings.

BT: What was the most magical sight you saw?

JS: There’s too many! A couple, both completely different from each other…

First of all, Neko Harbour is renowned for its regular glacier calvings. And we saw a fair few! You hear this deep rolling sound like thunder then suddenly a giant chunk of ice breaks off and falls into the ocean, sometimes causing a mini tsunami. It was incredible to see. And hear!

 

Also at Neko Harbour, watching penguin chicks catch snowflakes was wonderful. Neko Harbour is essentially a ‘penguin creche’, and when it snows the penguin chicks all try to catch snowflakes with their mouths, supposedly to help keep them cool (it was about 0ºC that day). It was adorable, I could have watched them all day!

BT: Speaking of penguins, what was it like to see them in the wild? What other wildlife did you see?

JS: Well, almost everyday there was a penguin colony visit involved in our excursions. I went in mid February so there were plenty of penguin chicks around!  We saw three species of them – Gentoo, Adelie and Chinstrap. They’re completely unfazed by people, and although you’re not allowed to get within five metres of them and the ‘penguin highways’, penguins themselves often break this rule and will walk right by your feet.

I always thought penguins were cute but oh my goodness, in real life they exceeded all my cuteness expectations! They chat, they hop, they waddle around with their ‘wings’ behind them as if they’re moving really fast. They enter the ocean by dipping their head in first then splash about a bit before zipping off at surprising speed. Then when they come back ashore, they make a quick and almost dramatic entrance onto dry land.

 

We also saw many sea birds, several species of albatross and petrel. We saw a lot of crabeater seals, lying around on icebergs snoozing, drooling and scratching their bellies. Fur seals and leopard seals too but less often. Plus, of course, whales! We witnessed humpback whales bubble net feeding and some minke whales too. You can usually see killer whales but we didn’t this time.

There’s a rule allowing only 100 people per vessel ashore on Antarctica at a time, so being on a smaller vessel like the Ioffe allows all the passengers to disembark together giving us twice the excursion opportunities (and twice the penguin colony visits!)

BT: Is there one story from your Antarctic expedition that you think you will be repeating for years to come? What is it?

JS: Besides my whale encounter?! Probably camping on the ice. Camping is an optional excursion and weather-dependent. About 40 of us left the ship after dinner one night, put on ALL our warm layers and headed back to Dorian Bay where we had visited a penguin colony earlier that afternoon. We were given a mat, sleeping bag and bivvy bag. We headed up the hill to find a good spot with a penguin view and dug a shallow ditch in the snow to lie our bivvy bag in. We were surrounded by towering, snow-covered mountains and just the purest of landscapes. I found it drew my thoughts away from all worldly things, away from the thousand mechanical details of my life back home. I was so struck with awe that it was impossible to worry about anything or even give a moment’s attention to anything outside of what I was seeing.

Yes, it was cold. Yes, there was a private portable ‘toilet’ (we left NOTHING behind). And yes, I held on until I got back to the ship. But no, there was no beautiful, serene silence one would expect out there… penguins are noisy! They do not shut up. But it was absolutely magical.

BT: And finally, how cold was it?

JS: Antarctic cruises only run in the summer (Nov-Mar) so the coldest it got for us was -4ºC and the warmest maybe 1ºC, so a little brisk but you are provided with warm outer gear to leave the ship.


If Juliet’s story has inspired you to pursue your own adventurous dreams on the great southern continent, make sure to check out our many Antarctic sea voyages on offer.

Voyage to Antarctica: Part I

The adventure of a lifetime

When Juliet booked in her Antarctic adventure through Bentours, she’d already spent a fair amount of time living in cold parts of the world. She’d read all the books, she’d done all the research, she’d bought all the gear – but nothing would prepare her for the amazing experience she was to have. From seeing eye to eye with a whale to toasting to adventure with fellow guests on board, Juliet’s ten day voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula onboard the Akademik Ioffe was the once-in-a-lifetime experience she had been dreaming of. We chatted with her about her most memorable experiences and asked any advice she might have for future travellers to the Great Frozen Continent.

BT: Why Antarctica? Has this been somewhere you have wanted to go for a while?

JS: Visiting Antarctica has been on my bucket list for a good 20 years – but in brackets, meaning it would be ideal to check it off but no shame should it not be possible. I used to think that the continent, historically, was pretty much a testing ground for men with frozen beards to see how easily they could kill themselves, so I was desperate to figure out the lure of Antarctica myself. Plus, I’ve always been drawn to cold remote places off the beaten track.

BT: What was the most exciting experience of your voyage?

JS: Without a doubt, coming face to face with a humpback whale. Down in the Antarctic Peninsula, you’ll often see humpback, minke and killer whales. The plan was to sail to Wilhelmina Bay, an area where you will easily spot a lot of whales (or as I like to call it – Whalemina Bay!) However, on our way through the Gerlache Strait we came across a couple of humpbacks just snoozing so we grabbed our cameras, got suited and booted and boarded the Zodiacs to get a closer look.

The expedition team on the Ioffe are always cautious never to interfere with the wildlife, watching each whale for a maximum of 30 minutes before moving on and never following them – humpbacks are more likely to follow us anyway!

This day though, instead of us whale-watching, the whale decided to people-watch and investigate us! We quietly approached the big guy, careful not to surround him. He gently came up to each boat, sticking his head out of the water to check us out and blew bubbles at us. He swam between the boats, underneath them and rolled over onto his back with his white pectoral fins extended out.

Then he moved onto the next boat and did the same. Before I know it, with my GoPro dangling in the water, his face appears out of the water a foot away from my face, getting a good look at me. He was so curious and playful and my heart melted into the sea! The staff said they had rarely experienced this behaviour before so they were just as excited as the rest of us.

BT: Is there one thing that stood out as making this holiday different to any other? (Apart from curious whales!)

JS: It’s really a once in a lifetime trip. Antarctica is a destination very few people have experienced and that made it even more special. With no culture or people, the attraction and experiences are purely based on the environment itself which is quite rare. It’s a world stripped of clutter, people and culture. What made it for me though was how much I learnt along the way. Everyday there are talks onboard about Antarctic wildlife, polar history, photography tips and tricks amongst other topics. I learnt so much!

The expedition guides came ashore with us and taught us about the wildlife and nature we saw around us. We even had whale researchers hitching a ride with us, so we got to see first hand how they tag and track whales. Guests and expedition leaders would all sit together at meals and talk about the day’s sightings. I had done a lot of reading up about the continent before the trip so it was great to pick the brains of experts and get that intimate knowledge. I felt like I was learning something new everyday and came away from the trip with a whole new appreciation for the planet and the incredible continent.

BT: The Drake Passage is known the world over for being a very rough body of water to cross – how did you find it? Do you have any advice for the crossing?

JS: Let’s just say there’s a reason they call it the ‘Drake Lake’ or the ‘Drake Shake’. With the often-violent convergence of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and inherent unpredictability, it can be your worst nightmare or sometimes, if you’re lucky, it can be eerily calm. The vessel I was on, the Akademik Loffe and her sister ship the Akadmik Vavilov, were built for polar waters and are some of the most stable ships to be on for the Drake crossing so we were in safe hands. I’m not good on the water at all so I certainly anticipated some trouble with the Drake. But we got lucky – there and back again!

When we boarded the ship, the staff told us that they had just come through a horrendous storm the previous night with 30ft waves in the Drake. This made me feel apprehensive to say the least, but in reality it meant that we were treated to a calm crossing.

I took some prescribed Ondansetron but that didn’t seem to work for me. So the next 24 hours were spent lying down. I found as long as I maintained a horizontal position everything was ok. I got dressed lying down, brushed my teeth lying down and ate marmite toast lying down. When the staff noticed I wasn’t at meals they kindly brought crackers and ginger ale to the pity party I was throwing in my cabin. There’s a doctor onboard who I decided to pay a visit to. He gave me a patch and an injection and it worked a treat! Don’t let that put you off – I get seasick, airsick and carsick,  and coupled with my fear of being out on the open ocean, I battled the war on sickness.

A calm Drake Passage (L); the Akademik Ioffe has an open bridge policy so you’re allowed up there any time of the day or night (R)

There is no happier person than one who has been through seasickness hell and come back from the brink. My advice? Get seasickness medication prescribed by your doctor and take it BEFORE you hit the Drake. And travel on a ship built for these kinds of crossings with stablisers.

Click through to read the rest of Juliet’s interview.

 

All Aboard: MS Lofoten

Like any venerable individual of the older generation, MS Lofoten floats along with a stateliness and grace not seen in the more modern, luxurious cruise ships. MS Lofoten is still the oldest ship still in operation, joining the Hurtigruten fleet. Refurbished three times in her lifetime, most recently in 2015, she has retained a timeless elegance and an incomparable old-world grace.

Hurtigruten heritage

During World War Two, many of Norway’s coastal passenger and cargo ships were destroyed. MS Lofoten was the 12th ship to be built during the post war reconstruction but one of the few still in operation. As such, her interiors hark back to a different time upon the seas and modern day guests can’t help but get caught up in the romance of nostalgia. Fifty years since her maiden journey from Bergen, in 2014 MS Lofoten had travelled almost 3 million nautical miles, transported 1.25 million guests, and docked over 75,000 times in Hurtigruten ports.

Ms Lofoten was one of the last ships designed for Hurtigruten with the traditional loading system with an on board crane. Maritime enthusiasts will be enchanted by the heritage of the ways freight used to be handled and the slow process of loading and unloading cargo. In 2001, the Norwegian Director General of Historic Monuments declared her worthy of preservation for Norway’s rich cultural heritage. For her 50th year in operation, the birthday celebrations spanned the entire year on board and in various ports.

MSLofoten_fjord_600x450A unique namesake for a unique ship

Lofoten is an archipelago in Nordland, Norway which is famous for some of the most dramatic and breathtaking scenery the world over. Known as Norway’s untamed islands, Lofoten is a truly unique place and just like her namesake, MS Lofoten is a distinctive ship. Today, this stately old lady continues to cruise the coast of Norway and offers a true working ship experience that can only really be found on European waters.

Onboard menus, retro uniforms and interiors are designed to recreate a 60s cruise experience. The 32 crew member staff are all Norwegian and ready to welcome guests with the world famous Norwegian hospitality. Where her cabins are rather small and cosy and she lacks the luxury of her younger sister ships, passengers are charmed by the Hurtigruten history during a trip aboard MS Lofoten.

The ambience onboard is laid back, the pace slow, with plenty of spots to sit, relax and watch the beautiful coast line roll by. A trip aboard this old dame revisits the picturesque passage of an old coastal cruiser and it is truly an unforgettable experience.

All Aboard: MS Fram

The MS Fram was purpose built in 2007 to be one of Hurtigruten’s leading explorer vessels. Following in the wake of the original pioneering Norwegian explorer ship and its namesake, the MS Fram takes guests as close to the natural wonders of the world as possible.

Designed specifically to take on the polar waters, her itinerary is based on the Greenland and Arctic cruises during the European Summer months and then down to the Southern Hemisphere for round trips from Argentina through Antarctica in the European Winter.

Explore in comfort

Christened by Norway’s Crown Princess HRH Mette-Marit in 2007, MS Fram offers guests the chance to explore without sacrificing comfort. Interiors reflect the polar colours and landscapes, with photos from the original Fram and there are a number of cabin options to choose from. The artworks commissioned for the ship are by local Arctic-region artists and there is a heavy emphasis on the beautiful landscapes that dominate these far reaches of the world.

The ultimate adventurer

The most appealing thing about MS Fram is it’s small size – meaning not only are there less guests and more chance to get involved in shore excursions, but she is ideally sized for manoeuvring around icebergs and getting up close to ice floes. Guests reviews often comment on the approachability and knowledge of expedition staff who make an effort to engage everyone onboard in the discovery experience.

Daily lectures are offered in English and at least one other language (depending on the nationalities onboard but usually French, German or Norwegian) about all manner of topics and most days (depending on the route) different excursions are offered with the shore landings.

Discover your inner explorer

On the Iceland and Greenland itinerary, guests can enjoy a natural warm water spa ashore, or for the more adventurous, participate in guided hikes, sea kayaking or glacial boat rides. On the Antarctic itinerary, guests can hike in the footsteps of Ernest Shackleton across South Georgia and admire wildlife such as penguins, seals and Orcas.

The activities are always weather dependant but some guests have relished the chance to try their hand at something new even when the weather doesn’t allow landings – such as photography or watercolour painting lessons.

Hurtigruten’s goal is to offer you a true expedition experience onboard the MS Fram, no matter your age or experience level. With a cruise on the MS Fram, everyone discovers their inner explorer.

Thoughts on Geirangerfjord

Sailing the Norwegian coast is bit like navigating a big box of chocolates. There are tasty bites everywhere. But for many, the Geirangerfjord is the best of the lot.

Out on deck, way back on the stern of MS Finnmarken, Brendan Lacey from Australia, stands, serene and cool, along the railing. He sips a coffee that could’ve come from a hip cafe in Oslo´s Grünerløkka neighbourhood but Brendan says he’s never had a coffee in such a cool place before.

”These are the most incredible surroundings I have ever seen,” says the awed Aussie. He relates the story of how he ended up here.

”I’m backpacking in Scandinavia this summer, and a few days ago, at a hostel in Oslo, I mentioned that I wanted to see Geiranger, which I’d heard was the world´s most beautiful fjord. They said I should take Hurtigruten because it’s as close as you can get. I thanked them for the tip, boarded a bus for Ålesund, and here I am,” he says.

”Man, they were right about close as you can get. Are those waterfalls The Seven Sisters? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Yep, seven in a row. Indescribably beautiful!”

Brendan says the Australian coast has its own natural magic, but Norway surpasses it many times over.

“This is fresher and more spectacular. I mean, Wow! I called my girlfriend 15 minutes ago and said we have to come here together. This ship also visits the Lofoten Islands. I don’t know if they were kidding, but someone said the Lofotens are even more amazing than Geiranger. If that’s true, and I find it hard to believe, I’m moving there. For real.”

Also on board is Ylva, a ten year old Norwegian girl, excitedly clinging to the decks rail as she peers around her.

“I’m only 10 years old, but I feel like I´m already an explorer. That’s why I was so excited when Daddy told us we were sailing from Ålesund to Svolvær on Hurtigruten. I got extra butterflies when he said we would visit the world famous Geirangerfjord,” she chatters.

“I was so excited when Daddy told us we were sailing from Ålesund. I got extra butterflies when he said we would visit Geirangerfjord, because we talked about it at school,” she chatters.

“Right before we got here, I went up on deck with Daddy and my little sister.  It’s amazing! The view is like magic. The mountains, the shiny water reflecting the sun. You can see tiny farms on the mountainsides, way up from the water. I got goosebumps and my tummy even rumbled. I wonder who actually lives on farms way up there?”

She points towards the falls that Brendan had just been so amazed by.

“I knew they must be The Seven Sisters that Daddy told us about,” Ylva tells me rather smugly, then looks down to her sister. The younger child is following her sister’s gaze and staring up at the waterfalls. As I go to talk to other passangers, I see Ylva tightly grip her sister’s hand in the wind and the sudden gust blows her whispered words over to me.

“I won’t let you go.”


Are you interested in seeing Geirangerfjord for yourself? Hurtigruten’s coastal voyage is the perfect way to see Geiranger and many other incredible sights along the way. Contact us today for more information!

All Aboard: MS Polarlys

MS Polarlys was constructed in 1996 as one of the cruise and working ships along the coast of Norway. Today, she still functions as both a working cargo and passenger ship, while also catering to the tourist trade with recently refurbished stylish interiors.

MS Polarlys is one of the four 1990s ships that was the focus of a recent update of decor and interior design, designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden, a world leading maritime architecture and interior design firm.  This design scheme is called the New Arctic Interior and aims to blend traditional maritime materials with modern and fresh finishes, to encourage a relaxed ambience.

The result is maritime timelessness with wooden panelling, finishes in leather, slate and featured fireplaces, kept fresh and young with a selection of modern Norwegian art. The breathtaking coastal landscape of Norway is reflected in the colour scheme throughout the ship, ranging from blue-greens to earthier, woody shades.

Polarlys is the Norwegian word for Polar Light, the name given to the amazing Arctic light phenomenon that occurs in the winter. One effect of this updated decor has been to really open up the space to make the most of the beautiful natural surrounds that the ship sails through. With a large outdoor explorer observation deck and an indoor observation deck equipped with comfortable couches and a bar, there are many opportunities for guests to admire this phenomenon in the right season.

Jacuzzis, restaurants and a range of cabin options ensure that everyone will enjoy their trip aboard the MS Polarlys – whether it is from just one port to another or the length of the Norwegian coastline.

Explore More: Thrilling Adventure Excursions

Hurtigruten offer Classic Coastal Voyages with so many excursions it can be hard to pick which ones will make your experience all the more unforgettable. So to help you out, here are some of the most popular thrilling excursions as chosen by Hurtigruten guests.

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone by partaking in one of these fabulous adventure excursions. Awaken your inner explorer in a thrilling environment while learning more about Norway’s wildlife and culture. But don’t worry, aboard a Hurtigruten ship there is always space to relax in comfort after an action-packed day and watch the scenery glide by (you could even try out one of the Jacuzzis!).

The best excursions for thrill-seekers and adventurous souls

Make the most of the Norwegian winter on your Classic Coastal Voyage by participating in an exciting snowmobile trip!

Snowmobile Trip in the Polar Night (Southbound)

Leaving from Mehamn, be mesmerised by the beautiful sunset colours that dominate the sky during the Polar Night. Taking you deep into the heart of the Arctic wilderness, you’ll feel as though you are the last people on Earth, and have a chance to see the Northern Lights in the clear starry sky. Dressed in cosy snowsuits, and gliding softly through the night, this magical adventure will leave you spellbound.

Snowmobile trip in Lapland (Northbound)

Experience Europe’s most extreme and exciting natural area – Lapland – from a snowmobile, as you race across frozen fjords. Magnificent snow-clad mountains surround guests and there is always a chance to see the Northern lights! This unforgettable trip  is one of Bentours most popular,  and is suitable for any level of fitness or agility. Glide smoothly through this winter landscape and be awestruck by its beauty.

Snowmobile Safari (Northbound)

Combining culture and adventure, on this safari out of Kirkenes guests will traverse ice-covered fjords and learn from the knowledgeable guides about the fascinating history of the indigenous Sami people. After their epic adventure ride, guests will be served welcome refreshments in a lavvo (traditional Sami hut) and have the chance to try reindeer jerky.


Kayaking

Kayaking near Tromsø is a very popular past-time for locals in the summer months. This excursion offers guests the chance to experience kayaking themselves, with an experienced guide paddling with you to discuss the history of the area and to point out the varied marine wildlife.

Views of the mountains as a backdrop are unrivalled.

In Håkøya, where you will be paddling, the views of the mountains as a backdrop are truly unrivalled. The kayaks used are stable, double sea-kayaks, equipped to deal with any waves through the fjord. No experience with paddling is required as the guide will be there to assist and support you along the way. Children must be at least 12 years old and accompanied by a parent.

 


There are many more Adventure Shore Excursions to participate in and we recommend you book with Bentours before your voyage as these popular excursions tend to fill up quickly. Contact our agents for full listings.

Explore More: Excursions for Nature Lovers

Hurtigruten offer Classic Coastal Voyages with so many excursions it can be hard to pick which ones will make your experience all the more unforgettable. So to help you out, we are featuring some of the most popular excursions according to what you love best!

Discover wild Norway on one of our nature and wildlife Shore Excursions on your Classic Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Norway is rich with fauna with amazing evolutionary quirks to allow it to survive the freezing Arctic conditions. Although there are opportunities to see this wildlife from the Observation Decks onboard your voyage, there is nothing quite like getting up close to animals in their natural environment.

The best excursions for Wildlife Enthusiasts

Whale Watching Safari

There are three types of whales that can be seen off the coast of Norway – the Beluga (or White) Whale, the Killer (or Orca) Whale and the Sperm Whale. This whale watching safari takes guests to a couple of local whale hot spots and out to the continental shelf where guests can spot sperm whales as they feed.

The tour also encompasses the Senja Troll where guides will tell guests old Norse legends of the area. In Norway, legend has trolls lurking at the base of every mountain, beside many a stream and within every cave. The Senja Troll is located in the middle of Senja Island in a troll park and is the largest troll in the world, so can be clearly seen from afar.

The whale watching safari includes breakfast and all the relevant transportation between bus, boat and ferry.

Bird Watching Safari

Norway’s coast is a wonderful place for both experienced and budding bird-watchers, with many different breeds to see. The bird watching safari takes guests of all ages – right down to the Young Explorers – across from Mageroya Island to the tiny fishing village of Gjesvaer.

From Gjesvaer, guests suit up in weather proof gear so no matter the conditions, they will be comfortable. They then take a boat trip to the Gjesvaerstappan Nature Reserve, an archipelago that has more than three million nesting birds.

More than a bird safari, this experience is majestic.

This Reserve is home to about 400 000 pairs of puffins as well species of Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet. Experienced guides are at your side to answer any questions and to point out unique species of the area. In addition to thousands of birds, you can catch a glimpse of seals, dolphins and perhaps even the King and Queen of Norway’s ship which anchors in this area!

Even if you’re not an avid bird-watcher, this is more than just a bird safari, this experience is majestic. Binoculars available onboard throughout the journey ensure you’ll see even the shiest of creatures. The boat will also manoeuvre close enough to the islands to clearly make out the different species.

Sea Eagle Safari

The Sea Eagle Safari takes guests across the dramatic Trollfjord in the realm of the mighty sea eagle. With a wingspan measuring 1.8m to 2.5m, these magnificent creatures are a marvel to see soaring above. On the Sea Eagle Safari in open water, your guide will throw fish into the air and sea eagles will swoop down close to catch it. With these amazing animals so close, this is an animal lovers dream.

The safari also gives you a chance to observe Trollfjord from amongst the mist, right down near the surface of the water. Trollfjord is a very narrow fjord in the Lofoten archipelago and is known as the site of the Battle of Trollfjord in the 19th Century – a trade war between local fisherman and the larger industry-based trawlers. There is a beautiful painting of this scene by Gunnar Berg located in Svinoya in Svolvaer.

This excursion is suitable for all ages and abilities.


These are just a selection of the Nature and Wildlife excursions on offer. Visit our Shore Excursions page for more or contact an agent for full listings.

All Aboard: MS Finnmarken

MS Finnmarken follows in the wake of some of the most loved Hurtigruten ships and is the third ship of its name. DS Finmarken (with only one ‘n’) was built in 1912 and MS Finnmarken followed in 1956. This original MS Finnmarken was radical at its time for the way in which the engines were fitted – she caused quite a splash and many negative comments.

After 37 years of service, she was retired but she continues to draw attention, as she is now an integral part of the Hurtigruten Museum at Stokmarknes. MS Finnmarken (1956) is the largest land-based museum exhibit in Norway and many visitors enjoy exploring her unique interiors when they visit the museum.

The Millennium generation cruise ships

The newest MS Finnmarken was launched in 2002 as the first of the new ‘Millennium’ ships to come into operation. She is the longest of the Coastal Express fleet in operation with 40% more deck space than any other previous ship.

Although MS Finnmarken has many cruising comforts, she is still a working ship and carries cargo, mail, cars and daytrippers between ports, stopping regularly along the route.

A little bit of luxury

Guests aboard the MS Finnmarken can enjoy comfortable accommodation with a splash of luxury all the way up the coast of Norway. She is the only ship to be fitted with both a swimming pool and jacuzzi on the outdoor deck, and guests can enjoy soaking in the tub while watching stunning landscapes float by.

The stand out feature of the MS Finnmarken is her revolutionary bow offering guests the ability to walk right out to the tip. A bar and lounge onboard are perfectly appointed, offering viewing areas to look out at the beautiful coastal surrounds. Every year, guests are treated to the magical Northern Lights as the ship crosses into the Arctic Circle in winter. There are also several excursions on offer, such as exhilarating dog-sledding near Tromsø and snowmobiling underneath the beauty of the Aurora Borealis.

The food onboard is outstanding – fresh produce picked up daily along the way and then transformed into delectable dishes as a part of the Norway Coastal Kitchen. Often the fish served for dinner was caught that very morning and delivered straight into the chef’s eager hands, while the cloudberries decorating your dessert have been handpicked in Finnmark.

Not just a cruise ship

Similar to the MS Midnatsol, MS Finnmarken has the capabilities to be adapted into an emergency hospital ship. With ten days notice, she can become totally self-sufficient and operational, accommodating up to 200 casualties. MS Finnmarken also acted as an accommodation ship off the coast of Western Australia from 2009 to 2011 in connection with the development of the Gorgon Oil and Gas Field.

MS Finnmarken is one of the best ways to see the beautiful coast of Norway and all the natural wonders that come with it.