Wow! With the expertise of the Expedition team and the flexability of the Captain and the abiltiy of the ship we were able to spot 16 polar bears in 10 days - way above expectation! We also saw all the mammals we might expect to see! Zodiac driving was outstanding and safe, ship excellent, company (all round) superb.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
10 Polar bears in one day!
Reaching and celebrating 90 degrees North
Feeling totally safe with the Expedition Team in a potentially very dangerous environment
Zodiacs! (whatever the conditions)
The talks by the the team, their knowledge, skill and enthusiasm
The bar - from cocktails to talks and games! Its position on the ship is great and the views fantastic.
- What did you think of your group leader?
Woody was exceptional, he cared about the environment, enthused with us and was very approachable at all times. His knowledge was amazing and he wanted to share it with all of us. He took the issues of the environment very seriously and made it very clear about polar bears being the top of the food chain, managing a very silly, out of order "joke" comment extremely well at our briefing. He also made us aware of the whole environment and it's fragility (sadly not heeded by all).
His management of the trip was outstanding, in partiular when he needed to make last minute changes because of conditions, sightings etc. His management of the team was superb and it was clear that it was a team that had "jelled" and they work as a team all the time. He also had the utmost respect of all the ship's crew, from Captain downwards.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
If you don't like flexability and change don't go (it is not a cruise)! This is an expedition and the team and crew do all they can to maximise opportunities which means sudden changes because of wildlife sightings, weather, ice etc. Read the trip notes so you are prepared.
Read all you can before you go, learn to understand the type of environment you are travelling to, it's harshness, moods and fragility, but also it's beauty, uniqueness and wonder. Take the right clothing- test the waterproofness of your overtrousers properly because if you get wet, you get cold (this happened to several people on our trip). The parkas supplied are excellent with detachable fleeces - but you still need lots of layers! Be prepared to sit in a zodiac for long periods watching - it is fantastic to see how polar bears react and to read their body language.
Go to enjoy what YOU want out of such a great experience but don't be afraid of having little knowledge - the team teach and support throughout.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
It is a privilege to travel to the extremes of the world, everyone should go (but please don't!) to understand what is happening there (both North and South). My non-wildlife loving husband is hooked on wildlife after going to both ends. Sadly the cost of the trip is high, but worth every penny. Don't bother about cruise ships in these extreme environments, get stuck into expeditions and all that offers - we had a polar bear expert on board with 44 years experience (beat that). Each expert was just that, we have had the same ornothologist both in the Antarctic and the Arctic - what knowledge and enthusiasm! Advice given from a zodiac driver about camera shutter speed when taking birds followed by a puzzled look from me - all was explained and the results - wonderful. The ship DVD with contributions from many passengers is a joy but it also contains lots of information about where we went, what we saw etc.
Access to parts of the ship that most people only dream about is great, whether or not you understand things nautical (but you learn quickly). The crew were always happy to show us charts, adjust the electronic plotter for photos to show where we had been, explain things etc.
Mini moan - please - where was the map promised by Quark?