Our 2024 Svalbard Expedition will be a collaboration between Magnum Excursions, and Pangolin Photo Safaris. The co-leaders on the trip will be Buddy Eleazer from Magnum Excursions and Gerhard “Guts” Swanepoel from Pangolin Photo. Both have many years of photography teaching experience as well as arctic photography experience. Once again, we will be working with Northern Expeditions, a company built on passion for arctic adventure travel. As in 2023, we will utilize their R/V Kinfish as our base. The Kinfish is the perfect small ship for Spring polar exploration in the Arctic. In addition to Guts and Buddy the team will also be joined by two expedition naturalists. This expedition is limited to only 12 passengers apart from your Photo Tour Leaders and expedition crew.
DATES: April 19-27, 2024
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 12 maximum (6 spaces remaining)
COST: $10,950 per person sharing. Special Offer of a $500 discount for those booking before the end of July 2023. Please note that due to the small capacity of the ship, we can only offer single supplement of 2x the sharing rate. If you are traveling alone and wish to share, we will make best efforts to join you with a compatible roommate.
Also Note that our charter rates are based on the Swedish krone (SEK). If the US/SEK exchange rate drastically changes between now and departure, we may have to adjust rates for any currency fluctuation.
LEADERS Buddy Eleazer + Guts Swanepoel
OVERVIEW: The Wonders of Svalbard
The largest island of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen is known for its populations of whales, walruses, Svalbard reindeer, cliff-dwelling seabirds, and that most iconic of Arctic residents, the majestic polar bear. The Arctic landscape is equally spell-binding: ice-covered mountains, deep fjords, remote islands, ice-laden waterways, rocky shores, towering cliffs and immense glaciers.
With towering snowcapped mountains, forbidding glaciers, flower-studded tundra & towering fjords, it is here where the formidable Polar Bear reigns as the apex predator and we hope to capture these white bears on the drifting ice sprinkled across the ocean.
Svalbard is considered the best place on earth for photographing Polar Bears but a treasure trove of photographic highlights await that includes the Arctic Fox, Walrus, Bearded & Ringed Seals, Guillemots and Reindeer.
OUR PHOTOGRAPHIC TRIP:
Early season is typically photographers’ season. In the early season (mid-April and May) there will be daylight 24 hours of the day. In addition, for this entire time, the sun will be at a low angle, casting beautiful light at all times of the day. Our crew will be on the lookout for polar bear and other great photo opportunity around the clock. If a sighting occurs while you are sleeping, the crew will come knocking upon your door to see if you wish to photograph.
Beyond perfect light, there are other key reasons for going at this time of the year:
- The land is blanketed in white until mid-May. After that time, the constant sun melts on the beaches leaving a surface of gray gravel. We want polar bears on clean white backgrounds of snow or ice.
- Seals love the pack ice and the primary diet of polar bears are seals. It’s early in the season, so polar bears are hungry still and more active.
- Arctic foxes are still white, not yet changing their winter pelts or colors
You will sail north from Longyearbyen exploring the western coast of Svalbard region’s Spitsbergen in search of polar bears, bearded seals, colonies of walrus, as well as other resident marine mammals. Setting sail during the start of the Arctic summer, the sea pack ice will be fragmented, sending ice floes along the eastern part of the Archipelago. Searching these principal hunting grounds for the polar bear, the R/V Kinfish will allow close-up encounters with this majestic creature. This fragmented ice is also often a resting place for seals and walrus.
Make no mistake, a main goal will be to find and photograph Polar Bears in its natural habitat out on the pack ice and Svalbard has historically been one of the most reliable places to photograph bears. Polar bears create an unforgettable spectacle whether hunting seals on pack ice, shepherding cubs along the snowy beach, or swimming near our Zodiacs. We will be on the lookout for walrus, arctic fox, and reindeer, and birds, including eider ducks, guillemots, and fulmars.
Our success will depend on the ice condition and its location. In some years the ice is just off the northern tip of Svalbard while in other years it has retreated too far south to make it possible to sail there. In the case of the latter, we will search for Polar Bears that are on land in the southeastern part of the archipelago. In this southern region, in recent years polar bears have sometimes seen hunting for reindeer in addition to seals. This is an expedition into a changeable environment and the element of surprise. The discovery of what wildlife is found where and when is a major part of the Svalbard experience.
We Like You To Be Informed:
If you have any additional questions about the trip, drop us a line at Buddy@MagnumExcursions.com. We will typically respond with 48 hours.
A $3,000 Non-refundable Deposit Payment is due upon booking
Additional installment payments are as follows:
- October 1, 2023: 50% of residual due
- January 1, 2024: Final payment for the trip is due.
We prefer the use of Zelle for payments to avoid dependence on the U.S. Postal Service (use either firstname.lastname@example.org or (610) 751-7259 to send money. As an alternative payments can be made by check. Regardless of payment method, we will send you a Payment Confirmation Receipt once your money has arrived. Please make check payable to:
Magnum Excursions LLC
4344 Farmington Circle
Allentown, PA 18104
- Cancellations within 180 – 30 days will result in a 50% cancellation fee
- Cancellations within 30 days will result in a 100% cancellation fee.
- No Show 100% of the invoiced amount.
TRIP ORIGIN AND CONCLUSION POINT: This trip will begin and end in Longyearbyen, Norway.
WHAT IS INCLUDED:
- Transfers to/from the local airport and to/from the ship
- Port and Passenger landing fees
- 1 night lodging in Longyearbyen
- 8 nights of accommodation aboard the ship
- The meals onboard shall consist of breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea/coffee and two-course dinner (three-course dinner the last evening)
- NOTE: The mealtimes shall be held at regular times, but the catering crew has been informed that photography has priority on this expedition and flexibility is necessary
- Water, coffee and tea – available 24 hours a day
- Alcoholic beverages and sodas
- Laundry as needed
- Two Photography Leaders giving instruction and tips
- Regular excursions by Zodiac (only six guests per Zodiac)
- Lectures, briefings and shoreside interpretations by Expedition Guides
- Magnificent scenery and wonderful wildlife encounters
- Pre-expedition materials related to recommended camera gear, packing, etc.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED:
- International flights – please contact our office for any assistance
- Clients must obtain comprehensive travel insurance for this trip
- Customary tips for crew and staff
- Anything else not specified as included
Day 1 – Arrival in Longyearbyen, Norway
Upon arrival in Longyearbyen Airport, you’ll be transferred to your hotel in town. You’ll have the opportunity to relax and explore this small coal-mining town on Spitsbergen Island, the departure point for expedition ships heading north.
Day 2 — Embarkation Day in Longyearbyen
Starting out from Longyearbyen today, you board your small ship and meet the crew, expert naturalist guide(s), and the rest of your Arctic expedition companions, a small group of like-minded individuals. This afternoon you set sail into the wilds of Svalbard. As you embark, you’ll get great views of the mountainous landscape that serves as a backdrop to this seaside settlement.
Days 3 to 9 — Exploring Svalbard/Spitsbergen
You’ll cruise around this magical island on a constant search for wildlife. Your expedition will cover western Spitsbergen as well as stunning fjords and outlying islands to the north. From polar flora to immense glaciers, the natural landscape here is just as varied as the wildlife. Each expedition presents new opportunities and different weather and ice, so there is no fixed itinerary. The destinations visited will be selected for optimum wildlife viewing with an appreciation of the landscape and geology of Spitsbergen. We will base our daily travel on the captain’s experience, his contact with other ships, weather, and ice conditions.
You’ll spend time cruising through the ice in search of polar bears as they hunt for seals, which often hitch rides on the passing ice floes. Make sure to look out for walrus colonies basking on beaches in the Arctic sun and watch for whales in the icy seas. On shore landings, you may come across the Arctic fox, or the Svalbard reindeer with its impressive antlers, and witness the beauty of Svalbard’s flora.
The small size of the ship allows you to explore even the smallest and most secluded fjords, and provides opportunities for up close wildlife photography. The deck space of the M/V Kinfish is spread over different levels, which is perfect for avid photographers who want to capture the wildlife and scenery from different perspectives. There are two zodiacs on board each carrying up to six passengers to allow even more flexible photo opportunities when we come upon wildlife.
Your ship is likely to arrive into the harbor the night before you disembark to ensure you are in Longyearbyen ready for your onward flights. Enjoy the Captain’s dinner and your final night together with your fellow travelers.
Day 10 — Disembarkation Day in Longyearbyen
The time to say goodbye to your Expedition Team and shipmates has come. Your adventure ends as it began, in the historic frontier-style settlement of Longyearbyen. Having arrived at Longyearbyen in the middle last night, we will this morning be disembarking as our incredible photography expedition sadly comes to an end! From here, we’ll transfer you to the airport for your return flight to home.
PLEASE NOTE: Embracing the unexpected is part of the legacy— and excitement—of expedition travel. When traveling in extremely remote regions, your expedition staff must allow the sea, the ice and the weather to guide route and itinerary details. This itinerary is a tentative outline of what you’ll experience on this voyage; please be aware that no specific itinerary can be guaranteed.
WHAT TO EXPECT
During our expedition, you can expect to see wildlife as Polar Bears, Walruses, Seals, Arctic Foxes, Svalbard Reindeer and a variety of bird species that are common in these Arctic regions. In addition, we will photograph glaciers and calved icebergs with their beautiful aqua colors, majestic snow-covered mountains and valleys and plenty of unique ice formations. Sometimes we do long transport legs of sailing and sometimes we stay in one spot experiencing and photographing nature and wildlife.
Svalbard is situated at 78-80° north and you are in the high Arctic. During our time there, we expect temperature to vary from -5° F to 34°F. The weather is constantly changing at these latitudes. Well prior to departure, we will send you information about clothing and travels to Svalbard.
Svalbard really only has one town, Longyearbyen. While small, this quaint town has it all. There are several excellent restaurants and also well-furnished clothing stores with top quality gear at prices comparable to U.S. pricing. If you forget gloves, base layer or boots, don’t worry you can find them in Longyearbyen.
OUR EXPEDITION SHIP: THE R/V KINFISH
One of the nicest looking small ships, the Kinfish is a vessel with history and character that is usefully purposed during the winter months embarking on exciting research quests such as uncovering the history of Norway scouring the seabed to find Viking remains. She was Built in 1958, the M/V Kinfish has recently been transformed from a Norwegian research vessel to a classic passenger ship, ready to explore the icy waters of the Spitsbergen archipelago. Small and maneuverable. In the words of her owner, “this ship can dance”. Perfect for navigating the most inaccessible reaches of the Svalbard archipelago. Other features include:
- The bridge has been fitted out with advanced safety equipment, allowing the M/V Kinfish to safely navigate the calm Svalbard waters.
- Newly refurbished en-suite cabins with comfortable beds and proper duvets with crisp white linen.
- Beautifully refitted interior with multiple comfortable spaces for passengers to relax and socialize.
- When her engine is running idle it generates minimal vibrations great for photography when parked in fast ice
- Fantastic stabilization system for comfortable cruising, superior to that normally found in vessels of this size.
- 360° views from all levels. No other small ship has this number of varied accessible viewing platforms.
ACCOMMODATION ON BOARD
There are six twin guest cabins on board all with ensuite bathrooms. Four of these twin cabins have two lower berths and two have an upper and lower berth.
The M/V Kinfish has two bright and spacious lounges, a dining area and a bar, as well as an open bridge and ample deck space from which to admire the stunning Arctic landscapes.
All meals are included during your stay on the M/V Kinfish, which will be a range of European-style dishes. Almost any dietary requirements can be catered for as long as you have given sufficient notice to your destination specialist. Of course, crews vary from year to year, but in 2023 we had an amazing chef and a stew that had an artful skill at wine pairings for our meal. The trip was an awesome dining experience! We have already put in a request for a return of that staff!
FINAL NOTES FROM OUR CO-EXPEDITION LEADER BUDDY:
Our goal is to search for polar bears and, of course, it would be nice to find some walrus and seals along the way too. Beyond ‘seeing bears and other wildlife’, we want to capture awe-inspiring photographs within nature. This means spending time with the subjects. We will work hard to get everyone in perfect position to capture ‘the shot’ whether that be a rim lit shot of a walrus or a sense of place image that tells the story of our expedition. We want you to bring home the shots you dreamed for when you booked this trip!
I have investigated tours with very small boats and a mid-size ship; there are positives and negatives to both options. I believe that chartering our own boat that is fairly small but safe is the way to go. We can adjust the schedule during our journey based on what we encounter and where. We will have access to some areas large ships cannot explore.
Client Feedback From 2023 Participant
E. L. from Pennsylvania:
“We had an amazing trip exploring Svalbard with Magnum Excursions on the R/V Kinfish. While I expected close encounters with wildlife, the scenery blew me away. Glaciers, snow covered mountains, several types of ice and the beautiful fjords. We had several close encounters with walrus and seals and a wonderful time photographing a polar bear as she walked along the edge of the fjord and up and down the snow-covered banks. The guides were excellent and crew friendly and helpful. Another pleasant surprise was the cuisine. I was expecting fish and boiled potatoes and we got gourmet meals with matching wine every night. If you are looking for an adventure to a place few people get to experience, I highly recommend Svalbard with Magnum Excursions.”
J. Stewart from Pennsylvania:
“Svalbard was an absolute wonderous experience. What really sticks in my mind, was one morning after waking up and going out on deck with my camera I found myself surrounded by giant jagged mountain peaks and deep blue glaciers. It was like nothing I have ever imagined. There was beauty around every corner. The crew aboard the R/V Kinfish were a pleasure to work with and very accommodating. The naturalists were very knowledgeable and held educational sessions every evening. I still talk about the food to anyone who asks about my trip. Fine dining every night with accompanying wine. The chef was excellent. This expedition is for anyone with an adventurous spirit and a camera. I recommend going a few days early and checking out the town of Longyearbyen, you wont regret it. This was my second trip through Magnum Excursions and I can’t wait to book a third trip with them.”