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Expedition cruising in Norway


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In Norway the new law beginning January 1, 2025 wild life viewing by expedition ship is a minimum 300 m distance, but from March to June minimum 500 m. No respectable guide or expedition line will take you to a landing that has polar bears as they are dangerous. What does this mean for Expedition cruising? It is not possible to see a walrus or a seal or a polar bear from 300 meters. So am I understanding correctly that if you take an expedition cruise the only chance you will have to see a polar bear is through a high power binocular or through a high power photo lense? 

 

We are presently on Seabourn Venture and are greatly disappointed that although there have been sightings of polar bears Seabourn will not take us in a Rib boat to get close enough to view them with our eye rather we need to look through binoculars they provide or if you have your own and what you see is like a lump of yellowish snow. They have a high powered camera lense and they show the image on a screen but you actually can see better if you stay home and watch National Geographic. Today we saw a RIB boat observing polar bears from another company and they told us that company was violating the law. However, the law doesn't take effect until 2025. Can anyone who has in recent times done a polar expedition or is in the field comment on whether expedition cruises are allowing their guests to view polar bears from RIB boats.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

We concluded a 10 day cruise around Svalbard last week with Hapag Lloyd and saw 3 polar bears over 2 separate encounters.  At no time was there even talk about going out on the zodiacs to get a closer view.  During the time when we passed one on a small island I could see it with my own eyes but not well enough to make out any features since it was sitting down and facing us.  They were all nicely viewable through the binoculars that the cruise ship provided.

 

 My thought is that it’s like going to a professional sporting event.  While it’s true that you’re going to get a much better view of the game if you stay at home and watch it on tv there is the element of watching it in person that can’t be replicated from sitting on the couch.

 

 If you really want a close up view of polar bears you should try visiting Churchill in Manitoba.  My understanding is that they take you out in these big vehicles and that the bears come up right to them.

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What @jeff74 said about Churchill for polar bears. We did this in 2009, staying at the Tundra Lodge for 4 nights instead of commuting from the town everyday to see the bears. Lost count after 50 bears … many of them coming right up to the tundra vehicles.

 

When we did Svalbard with Silversea in 2011, we were already out on zodiacs when we encountered bears twice. In both instances, we were kept a considerable distance from shore for safety reasons. Our best sightings of bears were from the ship, but no comparison to Churchill.

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@2252phxcrzr, that's wild that you all encountered bears twice while on zodiacs.  For our excursions they sent out polar bear guards on zodiacs to get positioned in a perimeter outside of the area we had to stay in prior to sending out the guests.  The guards saw polar bears once and our excursion was delayed until the bears moved away.

 

How was your visit to Churchill overall?  We thought about doing that instead of the cruise but I was a bit worried that it would be like eating ice cream in that while I enjoy it I'm not sure I would enjoy an entire trip of eating only ice cream :).  Was there anything else to do or any other animals to see?  I'm guessing that there had to be other animals there for the polar bears to eat lol.

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21 hours ago, jeff74 said:

@2252phxcrzr, that's wild that you all encountered bears twice while on zodiacs.  For our excursions they sent out polar bear guards on zodiacs to get positioned in a perimeter outside of the area we had to stay in prior to sending out the guests.  The guards saw polar bears once and our excursion was delayed until the bears moved away.

 

How was your visit to Churchill overall?  We thought about doing that instead of the cruise but I was a bit worried that it would be like eating ice cream in that while I enjoy it I'm not sure I would enjoy an entire trip of eating only ice cream :).  Was there anything else to do or any other animals to see?  I'm guessing that there had to be other animals there for the polar bears to eat lol.

 

Similarly, there were always bear guards setting up a perimeter on our landings. Both of the zodiac bear encounters were on zodiac cruises, once with the bear ashore, once with the bear on sea ice.

 

The Churchill trip was fantastic … never got bored with seeing the bears. There were few other encounters with other animals. There’s just something really special about waking up to see a polar bear curled up and sleeping outside your window at the lodge. The tundra buggy took us to different parts of the tundra, so there was some scenery changes, too. I believe there are shorter tundra hotel trips. And probably more operators as well.  We went with the original tundra Buggy operation in 2009.

 

Photos here if interested: https://eenusa.smugmug.com/North-America-US-Canada-Mexico/Canada/Polar-Bears-of-Churchill-Nov

 

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