There is something truly special about encountering animals in their natural environment and on their own terms. Quite often a single wildlife encounter can be the absolute stand out moment of any holiday, so when you factor in one of the richest and most untouched environments on earth you can expect some amazing opportunities. The Arctic may be one of man’s most challenging environments, but many forms of life are quite at home at the edge of the inhabitable world.
Most visitors to the region will hope to see the very symbol of the Arctic, the polar bear, which is as at home in the sea as on land, preying on a variety of sea mammals and scavenging on whatever else is available. Now protected throughout much of their range, these majestic predators and their cubs are readily seen in many parts of around Spitsbergen as well as northern Canada, notably Churchill, and Greenland.
Seals & Walrus
The marine environment provides the most abundant source of life in the region with seas teeming in plankton and fish that are a bountiful larder for bearded, ringed and harp seals as well as walrus. The latter are often spotted resting on ice floes or offshore islands particularly Moffen Island north of Spitsbergen and make ideal photographic subjects.
The northern oceans are particularly rich in cetaceans, and it is here that beluga, narwhal and the rare Greenland whale can be observed. Other species, such as orca, grey, minke, blue and humpback can also be seen in different parts of the Arctic, concentrating their summer feeding in high latitudes.
Huge numbers of wildfowl and waders visit the region each summer, nesting in the tundra. Spectacular sea cliffs are the breeding ground for millions of pairs of guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars, while little auks, ivory gulls and skuas each have their own preferred nesting sites.
Another opportunist equally at home here is the Arctic fox, which feasts on eggs and chicks, often patrolling the base of the bird cliffs, awaiting a free meal. Arctic hares and lemmings graze the fragile tundra along with musk oxen and reindeer. A small population of wolves inhabits northeast Greenland but it is in Arctic Canada that they are in their element. Elusive and very shy, they are one of the more difficult mammals to observe in the wild.
Did you know?
Polar bear fur is actually colourless. Each hair is actually a hollow translucent tube, which reflects the light, thus giving the yellowish white appearance. Their skin is black.
North Pole Voyage