Tag Archives: explorer

Wild Scandinavia: Spotting a Polar Bear

Once considered a great sporting trophy, the polar bear is the unofficial symbol of the Arctic, the cuddly-looking giant who could tear you to shreds in an instant.

Not many creatures have been so fascinating to us humans for the past centuries as the polar bear. Once hunted with guns, today the great white bear is hunted with cameras and binoculars for a different kind of shooting. Seeing a polar bear in its natural habitat is something that features on many a pioneering soul’s bucketlist, but what is it like when you are able to fulfil that wish?

“It’s almost like a dream – finally on my way to a place and a life that I’ve read so much about. Even a few years ago, I couldn’t have dreamed that I would have a chance to take a trip like this.”

– Polar bear hunter Knut Bjåen, 1946, from Birger Amundsens’ book Without Mercy, on hunting in the Arctic.

Svalbard sightings of Polar Bears

Imagine you are on an excursion at Gnålodden, Hornsund, southwest of Spitsbergen, Svalbard, famous for its population of sea birds and the almost legendary polar bears. Picture thousands of sea birds wheeling around in the sky above you, creating a cacophony of noise.

Wanny Wolstad, a polar bear hunter of old, would have looked out at this same sight from her small hut, sitting perched on the stones and surrounded by snow. It was in this tight space that she raised her two sons in the 1930s and began her thrill-seeking search for the polar bear, the great ‘trophy’ that it was considered. Inside the hut the beds still stand and it is not too difficult to imagine her sitting on her bed writing to a magazine in Tromsø about her hunting experiences. Rugged up against the cold, the wooden slats barely keeping out the harsh winds and with a chorus of bird shrieks as her soundtrack, she recounted this of her time in Svalbard:

“Wonderful! Despite the danger, tension and difficulty, it’s ideal. I wouldn’t trade it for anything…Svalbard is in my blood.”

In spite of the harshness of life on Svalbard, Wolstad was not alone in her enthusiasm. Now follow us east in your minds eye towards the fjord, scanning the ground for signs of the elusive giant. Suddenly you spot something in the snow, some disturbance – could they be animal tracks? Excitement builds as you easily fit your foot into the imprint and then look out to the east, following the line of the trail. The expedition team leader confirms what you already know – a polar bear was here not so long ago. And so the hunt begins.

The first glimpse

Imagine only hours earlier as the Hurtigruten ship slowly made its way into a fjord on the southwest side of Svalbard, there was a loud exclamation followed by the shutter of camera lenses that follows wildlife-hungry travellers everywhere. ‘There! A polar bear!’ It is then that you felt lucky to even spot one from afar, looking dwarfed against the large mountains.

You have just emerged from a storm across the Barents Sea, and feeling woozy after the ship’s rocking but like a true explorer, you revel in your first sighting of a wild polar bear. ‘Can it get better than this?’ you ask yourself.

The bubble is burst when Manuel Marin, ornithologist and Hurtigruten expert shakes his head ruefully. “I’m afraid you are looking at a stone!”

You can’t help but chuckle despite your disappointment. “The art of seeing has to do with the ability to identify unnatural shapes and colours against the background. That is much too dark against the white background.”

“Listen to Manuel! He was raised by eagles!” shouts one of his colleagues. You all try your hardest to engage in the art of seeing, fine tune whatever innate hunting sense you might have in your DNA, a throwback to times of survival of the fittest. Here, on the thin sea ice stretching 200 metres out from the land, there are seals and where there are seals, there is usually a polar bear nearby. With Arctic wind whipping against your hands and face, your senses are all alert, fingers gripping binoculars at the ready for a glimpse of yellow white movement.

You’ve dreamed about this moment since you booked in your Arctic exploration – heck, this was one of the reasons you booked the Arctic exploration! And then, just as the tension is building to bursting point, there is a cry from someone on the lower deck and a loudspeaker crackles into action.

“Ladies and gentlemen, on the portside, at 11 o’clock, we have…a polar bear. Right to the left of the small island in the ice, you can see blocks of ice. One meter to the right, a polar bear is lying and sleeping. He just moved!”

Now that you have seen it, you hardly know what to do! Everyone stares, bustles on decks with camera in hands, the contagious excitement coursing through the crowd. When you lay eyes on the bear you forget your camera and just watch him, sleeping rather peacefully. A streak of gold amongst the white. The majestic, ferocious predator looks like a friendly pet, a big version of a child’s prized teddy. The only thing that reveals his hunting instincts is a smear of red on his muzzle.

Now imagine that this is not a daydream at all: you’re not staring at your screen in the comfort of your home or on your commute from work, but you are onboard your Hurtigruten cruise, in the Arctic Circle, a polar bear laying on the ice right in front of you.


Make your dream a reality and contact us today about booking your Hurtigruten adventure!

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.

Introducing Hurtiguten’s newest explorer vessels

We are excited to announce the release of further information on Hurtigruten’s revolutionary new adventure travel ships, sailing from 2019. The MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen will combine cutting-edge maritime construction with timeless Scandinavian interiors and environmentally-sound hybrid technology.

In the name of great explorers

In honour of the Norwegian pioneering tradition, these two ships are to be named after Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, the first man to make it to the South Pole, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who skied the length of Greenland in 1888, respectively. It seems only fitting that these men, innovators of their time, should lend their names to two of the most trailblazing ships of our time. These new vessels will have a huge impact on sustainable travel solutions well into the future.

“I am so thrilled that Bentours and Hurtigruten are in a strategic alliance with shared values and a shared purpose to deliver extraordinary travel experiences,” says Damian Perry, CEO of Cox and Kings, specialist operator of Bentours and GSA of Hurtigruten. “This will truly revolutionise the way people explore.”

Environmentally-friendly innovation

Front runners in sustainable adventure travel, Hurtigruten is using a design created in collaboration between Rolls-Royce and the famous Norwegian yacht designer Espen Øino. The result is interiors with an emphasis on comfort and quality of materials and, as to the ship as a whole, a huge reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Through the use of hybrid electric propulsion technology, the vessels will be able to glide alongside glaciers almost silently. This technology results in a 20% reduction in fuel consumption compared to traditional ships. In total the ships will have a 6400 metric tons reduction in emissions – this is the equivalent to the yearly emissions of over 5500 modern cars!

The natural world – inside and out

The interior of the new vessel takes inspiration from the breathtaking surrounds that the ships will be sailing through, with an emphasis on natural materials mostly sourced from Norway. The simple, clean design is classically Scandinavian and allows the beauty of nature to take centre stage.

“The new vessels will enhance the experience of our customers. Bentours and Hurtigruten together are 100% customer focused and understand travelling to such mesmerising and unique destinations requires that special and tailor-made touch,” says Perry.

Adventure cruises in style

This new class of ships will feature large observation decks, infinity pools and Jacuzzis where guests will be able to relax and embrace the beauty of the nature around them. Six of the ten cabins will be equipped with balconies for those who want to be as close to nature at all times, while two of the cabins will be superior suites.

With a strengthened hull specifically designed for breaching ice, we’re sure the yet to be revealed expedition features will promise the ultimate adventure for guests.

There will be three restaurants with diverse menus reflecting local flavours and a number of bars where guests can relax.

Aboard the MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, guests will enjoy comfort, discover their inner adventurer and keep their conscience clean with the sustainable innovations. And it’s not just us who are excited about these new ships – just last week, the new vessels were listed by GQ as one of the ‘Coolest things in the World’.

At Bentours, we are excited for these Hurtigruten ships to begin sailing in 2019 so that we can help you plan the ultimate holiday adventure!

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