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The island of Spitsbergen is adramatic land of huge glaciers, snow-covered mountains and steep-sidedfjords, separated from the North Pole by amere 965 kilometres of frozen ocean. Thisis the true 'High Arctic', an extreme landgripped by ice for over eight months of theyear and by darkness for over four. Winterbegins to loosen its grasp in May,however, and during the brief Arcticsummer Spitsbergen is transformed into aland of perpetual daylight, covered by aflower-filled tundra grazed by herds ofReindeer. Towering sea-cliffs crowded withmillions of seabirds guard the land, whileoffshore lies a crazy paving of pack-iceupon which Polar Bears hunt and Walruses laze.For our 2013 Spitsbergen voyageNaturetrek has exclusively chartered the106-berth MV Ortelius to operate adedicated wildlife cruise. Free from theshackles of having to visit non-wildlifesites, our cruise will only include the verybest of Svalbard's wildlife and scenery.Our holiday is timed for July when the sunnever sets and the pack-ice has usuallymelted sufficiently to allow our ship toexplore the fjords, towering cliffs andtundra of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet.We begin, however, with a spectacularflight over the ice-dotted Arctic Ocean toLongyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard.Here we will board our vessel and beginthe 9-night voyage through an icywilderness almost entirely devoid ofhuman life. Birdlife on the other hand isabundant, and even in Longyearbyen itselfSnow Buntings fly around the rooftops andPurple Sandpipers pick for insects alongthe meltwater streams. Blue phaseFulmars wheel around our anchoredvessel together with Glaucous Gulls andArctic Terns, the latter fresh from their'other summer' in the Antarctic. LeavingLongyearbyen we will head north, pastgroups of Little Auks, Black Guillemots,Puffins and Brünnich's Guillemots, skitteraway across the water's surface as westeam past, whilst the occasional Bearded or Ringed Seal may pop a head out of the water to watch us motorby; all this to a back-drop of spectacularjagged mountains.Our voyage will take us into glass-likefjords backed by huge glaciers, such asthe Monaco and Hamilton Glacier, and onto polar deserts where only a few lichensand other low-lying plants eke out anexistence in the almost waterlessenvironment. One advantage of travellingaboard an ice-strengthened vessel is thatwe can make our way deep into the pack-ice, the summer haunt of the true king ofthe Arctic, the magnificent Polar Bear. Ameeting with a Polar Bear is one of thoseheart-stopping experiences you neverforget, made all the better by seeing themin their own realm wandering around onthe ice floes with pack-ice stretching to thehorizon. This ice is also home to the hugeWalrus which may be seen hauled out onthe ice alongside its smaller cousins, theBearded, Ringed and Harp Seals. Here toowe will look for the ghostly white Ivory Gulland, if fortunate, maybe even a Ross's Gull as these begin to pass throughSvalbard in July. Returning to the coastline we willboard inflatable Zodiacs to viewthe towering cliff faces that arehome to thousands ofBrünnich's Guillemots. We will also visit colonies of Little Auks where thousands of these tennis ball-sized auks wheelaround the mountain-tops like mosquitoesover a pond. Always on the look-out for ameal, Arctic Foxes patrol the base of thesecolonies, whilst out on the tundra Brent,Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese all breedalongside King Eider, Grey Phalarope,Red-throated Diver, Long-tailed Duck,Purple Sandpiper, Arctic and Long-tailedSkuas and Ptarmigan. Of these breedingbirds, it is only the latter that also bravesthe harsh Arctic winter.Although primarily a wildlife voyage, wewill have opportunities to learn aboutSpitsbergen's fascinating human history,much of which is closely tied to the veryanimals and birds we have come to view.Abandoned whaling stations such as the17th century Smeerenburg (Blubber Town)stand testament to the impact of earlywhalers on the islands, whilst the remainsof the camps of early explorers such asthe Swedish balloonist André remind us ofSvalbard's appeal to past adventurers.Once back at Longyearbyen a spectacularflight over huge glaciers, braided rivervalleys and snow-capped peaks will bringus back to mainland Norway, from wherewe must continue our journey south awayfrom the roof of the world and back home.Spitsbergen - Realm of the Polar BearAn 11-day wildlife expedition to the high Arctic, including a 10-day voyage around the island of Spitsbergen in search of breeding seabirds, Polar Bears, Walrus and spectacular scenery.Sunday 7th July - Wednesday 17th July Cost: from £4,795Outline itineraryDay 1 Fly Longyearbyen/Oslo.Day 2/10Spitsbergen voyage.Day 11Fly London.AccommodationFor this voyage Naturetrek hasexclusively chartered the 106-berthMV Ortelius (see page 277).Twin/double-bedded cabins withprivate facilities are included in theabove cost of the holiday; superiorcabins and suites are available at anextra cost starting at £595 perperson. Please refer to the TripItinerary for a full price list. InLongyearbyen/Oslo we use acomfortable tourist hotel with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price with theexception of meals inLongyearbyen/Oslo.GradingDay walks only. Grade A. Easy andoptional.FocusBirds, mammals, flowers andSvalbard history.LeadersAs well as an expedition leader andguides, you will be accompaniedby two Naturetrek naturalists. Single room supplementTo be advised.Web quick search: NOR05274Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryVIBEBUKTABARENTSØYABELLSUNDEDGEØYAISFJORDENNORTHALESUNDMONACOGLACIERBARENTSBURGLONGYEARBYENPRINSKARLSFORELANDNORDAUSTLANDETSPITSBERGEN80° NORTHSTORFJORDEN HINLOPEN STRAIT 14th July Glacier, KrossfjordenEXCLUSIVENATURETREK CHARTERPolar BearWalruses

Whilst Antarctica is annuallyswamped by over 25,000 tourists,the remote Sub-Antarctic Islandsof New Zealand and Australia are enjoyedby just a handful of visitors each year. Thisis surprising, as the islands, and theirunusually nutrient-rich waters, providenesting and feeding grounds for theworld's largest concentration of birds. Thesheer abundance and diversity of wildlifein the Southern Ocean never ceases toamaze those few fortunate enough to visit.There are greater numbers and morespecies of seabird here than in any othercomparable area on Earth. Literallymillions of albatrosses, penguins,cormorants and petrels return to thesewindswept, isolated outposts eachsouthern summer to breed, converging tocreate one of the world's most magnificentwildlife spectacles. The numbers are mind-boggling! Amongst Macquarie Island'sfour million penguins, an estimated850,000 breeding pairs of Royal Penguinand 218,000 pairs of King Penguin may beseen, together with a further 19 species ofbreeding seabird and 150,000 SouthernElephant Seals. Scattered acrossCampbell Island's hillsides are some 7,500pairs of Southern Royal Albatross, whilston Snares Island, a rocky outpost coveringno more than 243 hectares, it has beenestimated that 60 million 'tubenoses'(petrels, shearwaters and albatrosses)breed, which alone - and not countingthe penguins, cormorants and othernesting birds - exceeds the total numberof seabirds nesting around the entireBritish coastline!There are few places remaining on ourplanet that have so successfully escapedthe destructive forces of the humanspecies. Such an opportunity for wildlife-viewing and photography is simplyunparalleled in expedition cruising. Indeed,the islands' appeal was summed up byConon Fraser in his book 'Beyond theRoaring Forties' thus: 'protected by theSouthern Ocean, diverse, wonderful andlonely, they can be numbered among thelast few unspoilt environments on Earth'.A visit to the Sub-Antarctic Islands is anadventure never to be forgotten. This 16-day holiday, incorporating an 11-nightcruise, promises to be one of our mostexciting wildlife expeditions of2012. Ourhome will be the 'Spirit of Enderby', acomfortable, 48-berth ship which has beencruising the Sub-Antarctic Islands for over20 years. Our expedition leader hasunrivalled experience in these waters andwith a full complement of Zodiacs, we willbe able to make landings and enjoy wildlife-viewing in the most inaccessible of areas.Our holiday begins with a flight toInvercargill, New Zealand's southernmostcity, where we board the 'Spirit of Enderby'and head south to Snares Island, the firstSub-Antarctic island on our cruise and anature reserve of international importance.The total number of birds that breed heredefies belief. In addition to theaforementioned 60 million 'tubenoses'(including six million pairs of SootyShearwater), Snares is home to 30,000pairs of the endemic Snares IslandPenguin, plus Salvin's Albatross, SouthernGiant Petrel, Broad-billed Prion andAntarctic Tern. Snares Fernbird and Tomtitalso occur around the edge of the islandand are usually seen on Zodiac cruisesaround the rocky headlands and shelteredbays (landings not being permitted here).We next stop in the Auckland Islands, thebreeding grounds of Yellow-eyed Penguin,Auckland Island Shag and the rare andendemic Flightless Teal. Gibson'sWandering Albatrosses breed on theislands' windswept grassy slopes and wehope to visit a colony of Shy Albatrosseson the main island's south-western cape.Further south, we explore MacquarieIsland, home to one of the greatestconcentrations of wildlife in the southernhemisphere and an undoubted highlight ofa highlight-packed cruise. This is the onlynesting site of the Royal Penguin, 850,00pairs of which nest alongside three otherpenguin species (King, Gentoo andRockhopper) and numerous other birds. As we cruise from one archipelago to thenext we will be followed by numerousseabirds. Magnificent WanderingAlbatrosses sail by on the longest wings inthe avian world alongside their smallcousins such as Shy, Buller's and Black-browed Albatrosses. Smaller still, anunrivalled variety of petrels, prions andshearwaters will test our identification skillsto the limit whilst, beneath the waves,cetaceans such as Orca, Sperm Whaleand Hourglass and Dusky Dolphins maybe seen.Macquarie is the most southerly of theislands we visit, and from here we turnnorth-east to Campbell Island, the finalisland on our voyage. Here we will begreeted by 7,500 pairs of Southern RoyalAlbatross, plus the beautiful Light-mantledSooty Albatross, Campbell Island Shagand, for the botanists amongst us, aselection of early flowering megaherbs.Campbell Island will make a fitting finale toour voyage, from where we complete ourcruise back to South Island's Port of Bluffand start our long journey home. Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand & AustraliaA 16-day holiday incorporating an 11-night cruise around the remote Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia, home to the greatest concentrations of seabirds in the world!Please contact the Naturetrek office on 01962 733051 for 2013 dates and prices.Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationCHRISTCHURCHMACQUARIEISLANDAUCKLANDISLANDSCAMPBELLISLANDSNARESISLANDSTEWARTISLANDINVERCARGILLBLUFFFIORDLANDNATIONALPARKSOUTH ISLANDOutline itineraryDay 1/2Depart London/in flight.Day 3Invercargill.Day 4Begin cruise.Day 5Snares Island.Day 6/7Auckland Islands. Day 8At sea.Day 9/10Macquarie Island. Day 11At sea.Day 12/13Campbell Island.Day 14At sea.Day 15Disembark Bluff and flyLondon.Day 16Arrive London. AccommodationThis expedition voyage will beaboard the 'Spirit of Enderby', acomfortable 48-berth expeditionvessel (see page 277). A variety ofcabin grades are available, fromcabins with shared toilet andshower, to cabins with privatefacilities, plus a very comfortablesuite. Please refer to the TripItinerary for a full price list. InInvercargill we use a comfortabletourist hotel with private facilities.Food All included in the price except formain meals in Invercargill and Bluff. Grading Grade B. Day walks only. FocusBirds, mammals, flowers andscenery.Leader(s)Rodney Russ and Naturetreknaturalist guide (for groups of10+).Single room supplementOn request only.Web quick search: NZL03275King Penguins, Macquarie IslandBlack-browed Albatross