What's included in your holiday price:
* full-board accommodation (as specified) during voyage. Includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and all excursions, talks and reports provided by Expedition Leaders.
* scheduled flight from Longyearbyen-Oslo, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline-included limit.
* airport transfer in Longyearbyen, ground transportation during the cruise as specified.
* the services of your Leaders.
What's not included in your holiday price:
* Travel to embarkation point in Aberdeen. Hotels and activities prior to boarding.
* Holiday insurance, optional tips to ship's crew/other staff, drinks, and other personal expenses.
More holiday information
Accommodation: is in comfortable, very well appointed cabins with en-suite facilities. See full details here.
Food: food on board is very good European cuisine, with a choice for all courses. Breakfast and lunch are usually an extensive buffet. There is a well stocked bar run by the crew's Hotel staff, who are efficient, courteous and very helpful.
Mobility/Walking: is generally light/moderate, and an average level of fitness is required. There are no lifts on MV Hondius, though if you are mobile enough to manage stairs, you should be able to enjoy all aspects of this holiday. Staff are patient and courteous, and assistance is provided at both ends of zodiac voyages, all of which are optional. Land conditions can be wet and slippery, with uphill and downhill gradients, though an option to engage in very little walking when ashore is usually available. When on land all participants will be under the management of the Expedition Leader and their team, and must take note of instructions which are there for your safety and benefit.
Weather: will be cold, though can be surprisingly warm and pleasant, though of course at this latitude bad weather is quite possible. Warm clothing is essential, though your large vessel offers more than adequate cover and heating. Daytime temperatures can be around 5 - 6'C .
Insects: biting insects are not expected, though there will be flies on the boggy landscape. Little other insect life is expected.
Group size: you will part of a ship's complement of up to 160 clients. There is no restriction as to how many of these will be Heatherlea clients.
Holiday Payment: deposit payment of just £300pp secures your booking. Please take appropriate personal Travel Insurance to cover the possibility of your cancellation.
Photography: Opportunities are good to excellent, particularly for bears, Walrus, some birds and above all scenery.
Your leaders: Kevin Shaw, Ian Ford and Bernie Forbes are nominated Heatherlea Leaders in 2022. 2023 Leaders to be confirmed, though Kevin says 'I want to go again!. The voyage will be under the supervision a resident on-board Expedition Leader, plus expedition crew to a very high standard.
TRAVEL TO ABERDEEN
The Group Meeting Point is at the vessel in Aberdeen. We will board in the afternoon of Day 1. Directions to the Meeting Point will be provided nearer the time. Pre-holiday hotel and car parking are not included, though these can be arranged if requested at the time of booking.
OUR VESSEL - Specifications
Passengers: 170 in 80 cabins
Staff & crew: 72
Length: 107.6 meters
Breadth: 17.6 meters
Draft: 5.30 meters
Ice class: Polar Class 6 (equivalent 1A-Super)
Displacement: 5,590 tonnes
Propulsion: 2 x ABC main engines; total 4,200 kW
Speed: 15 knots
Hondius is the first-registered Polar Class 6 vessel in the world, meeting the latest and highest Lloyd’s Register standards for ice-strengthened cruise ships. Surpassing the requirements of the Polar Code adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Hondius represents the most flexible, advanced, innovative touring vessel in the polar regions, thoroughly optimized for exploratory voyages that provide you the utmost first-hand contact with the Arctic.
Not only will the numerous amenities and on-board entertainments help make your voyage truly memorable, this ship also gives you the peace of mind that comes with choosing one of the most environmentally friendly vessel on the polar seas. Hondius uses LED lighting, steam heating, bio-degradable paints and lubricants, and state-of-the-art power management systems that keep fuel consumption and CO2 levels minimal. This means that when you sail aboard Hondius, you get to enjoy the exotic landscapes and wildlife as much as possible while impacting them as little as possible.
Hotel comfort, expedition class
Hondius offers high-quality accommodation for 170 passengers in six grand suites with balconies (27 square meters, 291 square feet), eight junior suites (19 to 20 square meters, 205 to 215 square feet), eight superior cabins (20 to 21 square meters, 215 to 226 square feet), 11 twin deluxe cabins, (19 to 21 square meters, 205 to 226 square feet), 14 twin window cabins (12 to 14 square meters, 129 to 151 square feet) as well as 27 twin porthole cabins, two triple porthole cabins, and four quadruple porthole cabins that vary in size from 12 to 18 square meters, or 129 to 194 square feet. Please be aware that a small number of cabins may have a partially obstructed view due to the size of the windows and the design requirements of the ship. For example, some windows may be partly obstructed in the lower half by a gangway. The best view is always on the outer deck or the bridge.
One deck consists of a large observation lounge and separate lecture room, which are reserved for a wide variety of interactive workshops, exhibitions, and performances particular to Hondius. Though elegantly designed in stylish mid-century modern décor, this vessel offers a distinctive cozy and informal atmosphere.
Swift & safe ship-to-shore operations
It is our philosophy to keep sea time short so that we can focus instead on fast, effective access to shore and near-shore activities. To give you the maximum contact with the nature and wildlife you traveled so far to see, we employ a tough fleet of rigid-hull inflatable Zodiac boats that guarantee swift and safe landing operations for the passengers. Hondius has two separate gangways and a sheltered indoor Zodiac embarkation platform that can also be used for special outdoor activities, such as kayaking.
Your Leaders (in 2022)
Heatherlea will provide three Leaders for this voyage;
Kevin Shaw - Along with wife Caryl, Kevin is the founder of Heatherlea, and is an experienced Leader in Svalbard and Scotland. On this voyage, Caryl joins for her second Arctic tour.
Ian Ford - An ever popular member of our team, this will be Ian's second Arctic adventure. Ian has well over twenty years' experience as a Heatherlea Guide.
Ian and Kevin, Svalbard 2019
Bernie Forbes - Normally based in West Sussex, Bernie is an experienced Arctic traveller who we are delighted to welcome aboard!
Notes by Kevin, Svalbard 2008
'This was our first Arctic holiday, and back in the Heatherlea office we knew exactly what we wanted.... during the cruise it was especially pleasing when all this preparation paid off. The exceptional views of bears, and the experience with walruses were surely up there with the best possible wildlife watching anywhere, anytime. The scenery and permanent daylight were extra special, and everything went smoothly throughout: very satisfying for us as organisers!'
Summer at this latitude features generally settled weather, with light winds and perhaps a little rain. Temperatures should be between minus and plus 5 degrees Celsius. We spend two days entirely at sea as we travel north, though sea conditions are unlikely to be adverse. Days are long, and you can expect wildlife to appear at any hour. You will need waterproof boots, gaiters and wellies (full kit list provided nearer the time), and can expect maximum walking distances of around three miles, over moderate terrain (though of course most of the holiday is spent on the vessel). Biting insects are not expected. Due to the light, the dramatic landscape, and the quality and quantity of wildlife, this is an ideal location for photography.
The itinerary is given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of our captain and crew, and elements beyond our control, especially weather.
A quick note about Polar Bears
Polar Bears make their way across the Arctic pack ice to Svalbard in winter, and our voyage gives us excellent chances of seeing them. Bears need frozen sea ice to hunt seals, and are great travellers. On this voyage we have chances of Bear as soon as we reach the pack ice, and then throughout our voyage. Nothing is guaranteed of course, although this is a very cost effective way of looking for Polar Bear!
PREVIOUS VISITS BY HEATHERLEA TO SVALBARD
Here are a couple of observations from Kenny Taylor, BBC Wildlife Expert on that voyage, and also from Heatherlea Guide Dylan Walker.
'A Midsummer's Ice Bear' - Kenny Taylor
'The sky is overcast, the cloud low, the ice white alongside the ship. The polar bear we’ve watched since very early in the morning - a young adult, its coat yellowish and stained with seal blood down one leg - is now a few hundred metres away, moving very slowly over the frozen sea. I train a telescope on it, just in time to see it slip into a thin, dark gash of open water. The bear vanishes, then a few seconds later, its head emerges, and submerges.
There’s a seal hauled out near the channel, in the bear’s direction of travel. The bear surfaces again, now very close to the seal. The scene is like a frame from a cartoon – white bear head seen from behind, small, rounded ears prominent as it stares, motionless, at the equally motionless dark shape only metres away. But this is no comedy.
Slowly, slowly, the bear slips underwater once more. The seal dozes. Suddenly, there’s an explosion of water and bear from the far side of the slab of ice as the big predator, now facing in our direction, propels itself from the sea and lunges at the target. The seal escapes, but only just, as the bear cuffs the water, perhaps as an attack move, perhaps in frustration. After a pause, it moves on, still searching for food.
In not much more than a couple of hours, we’ve gone from the first, almost dreamlike impressions of the edge of the pack ice, to this first experience of a polar bear hunting within full view. There will be other bears and another hunt seen during the course of what will be a remarkable day’s journey. But it’s the first encounter and the first hunt that will stay in mind, as if etched in crystal, coloured in grey, white and glacial blue'.
'Awesome Encounters' - Heatherlea Guide Dylan Walker
'One of the things that struck me most about our Spitsbergen cruise was the inseparable link between the land and the sea. The impoverished islands of Svalbard are almost entirely reliant on the bountiful ocean to function. Seals, Polar Bears and seabirds may come ashore to breed, but they forage on ice and under water. Arctic Foxes rely on the eggs from seabird colonies, whilst the guano deposited by auks provides vital nutrients for Arctic plants, which are grazed by herds of Reindeer. We were lucky enough to see nearly all of the animals positioned at, or near, the top of that food chain – whales, seals, seabirds and, of course, Polar Bears!
In a European context, Spitsbergen is a first class destination for viewing marine mammals, as most species are almost impossible to see anywhere else. These include Bearded Seal, Harp Seal, Ringed Seal, Walrus, Beluga, and Polar Bear (which is classified as a marine mammal because it spends most of its time on sea ice).
I am sure that we all feel extremely privileged to have had such incredible encounters with these ‘rare’ mammals. Watching them in one of the harshest environments on Earth has only heightened my respect for these superb animals still further.'
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.
The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;