NEW! from Aberdeen to the Arctic

A unique combination of Polar Bear, Whales, Pack Ice and British Birding!

Destinations
Focus
2022 Dates
  • 17 May - 26 May 2022
Duration10 Days
Guides
2022 Price
Based on sharing quad cabin £2595 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300. Twin cabins and suites also available.
2023 Dates
  • 22 May - 31 May 2023
Duration10 Days
Guides
2023 Price
Based on sharing quad cabin £2695 pp
No single supplement. Deposit £300. Twin cabins and suites also available.
More Info

Extend your holiday by taking a further 7 nights aboard in Svalbard at great prices. See 'itinerary' for details.

This unique and thrilling voyage promises an unforgettable experience, as we visit some of the most remote and inaccessible northern locations to experience the wildlife of the North Atlantic in spring. Enjoy some key 'bucket-list' experiences as we combine birding for migrants on Fair Isle with the cetaceans and seabirds of the open north Atlantic Ocean, and the thrill of Polar Bears, Walrus and Arctic birding on Svalbard. Our journey begins in the UK, reducing flight miles, and we are able to offer extremely good-value prices. You may also extend by a further seven nights aboard, see itinerary for details.

NEW! We have recently confirmed dates for this adventure in 2023!

Reserve the cabin of your choice with a low initial deposit, or register interest to keep in touch!

Beginning in Aberdeen, where an optional birding introduction in the company of Heatherlea guides is an excellent start to your adventure, we sail north to Fair Isle, halfway between Orkney and mainland Shetland. This is a mecca for British birders, with rarities and a variety of seabirds expected at the time of our visit.

Next we visit the remote Norwegian volcanic island of Jan Mayen, home to thousands of Arctic seabirds including substantial breeding colonies of Little Auk and Brünnich's Guillemot. As we head further north, there are excellent chances of Bowhead, Humpback, Blue, Fin and Minke Whales before we reach the edge of the polar pack ice and Svalbard, only 600 miles from the North Pole. The pack ice and Svalbard itself are of course a major feature of the holiday, home to Polar Bear, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Svalbard Reindeer and a variety of exceptional Arctic birdlife. We hope for excellent views of bears, perhaps even with cubs at this time.

We expect to see many of these;

BIRDS: Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Pink-footed Goose, Barnacle Goose, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Ptarmigan, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Grey Phalarope, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Great Skua, Sabine’s Gull, Glaucous Gull, Kittiwake, Ivory Gull, Arctic Tern, Common Guillemot, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Little Auk, Puffin and Snow Bunting. There is also the distinct possibility of rarities for your British List on Fair Isle, and of King Eider, Steller's Eider and Sabine's Gull in Svalbard.

MAMMALS: Polar Bear, Arctic Fox, Svalbard Reindeer, Walrus, Bearded Seal, Ringed Seal, Harp Seal, Common Seal, and cetaceans perhaps including Bowhead, Humpback, Blue, Fin and Minke Whale, with the possibility of Beluga in Svalbard.

Your holiday also includes return travel to the UK via Oslo, and the option to join a second cruise to extend your stay in Svalbard before flying home.

Because international transfers are minimised, we are able to offer very attractive pricing and a range of options before and after the holiday. We also offer an exciting extension, allowing you to stay aboard for a further seven nights on very advantageous terms.
 

PRICES (for 2022 dates. Add £100 for 2023 dates)
Fully inclusive of cruise, return flight via Oslo (based on London airports), and our office and guiding services.

All quoted per person in shared cabins:

Quad. Porthole   £2795
Triple Porthole    £3145
Twin Porthole     £3495
Twin Window      £3695
Twin De Luxe      £3895 (SOLD OUT in 2022)
Superior               £4295
Junior Suite          £4495
Grand Suite         £4695

Singles - please consider sharing with people of the same gender, this works very well in comfortable accommodation on this voyage. Single occupancy of a Twin Porthole cabin is priced at £4995 in 2022.

Friendly and experienced Heatherlea Guides and vessel crew will be excited to share their knowledge and enthusiasm, and we will be flexible in our itinerary, paying close attention to weather and ice, changing course and using inflatable zodiacs amongst the ice-floes, and spending as much time ashore as possible. Expect a friendly, intimate atmosphere in a cosy and comfortable onboard environment.

OUR VESSEL                               MV Hondius

The 80-cabin MV Hondius is ideal. Meeting the latest and highest Lloyd’s Register standards for ice-strengthened cruise ships, and 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.

All cabins have either window or porthole, private shower and toilet, desk and chair, flatscreen TV, telephone and internet connection, hair dryer and ample storage space. Click here for full ship information, and after consulting the deck plan, contact us to reserve the specific cabin of your choice!

Pre-itinerary This is an ‘open-jaw’ voyage, beginning in Aberdeen and ending in Svalbard. You might fly, drive or take the train to join in Aberdeen. Call our office and we will help plan your ideal journey. At least one Heatherlea guide will be on hand in Aberdeen the night before we board to welcome you and make sure everything is OK.

Holiday price includes return flight from Longyearbyen to London Gatwick via Oslo. There are many options, and you may choose a more convenient return airport (price supplement may apply).
 

Day 1: Tues 17 May 2022 (Mon 22 May 2023)                               Aberdeen
We embark MV Hondius in the afternoon. If we have time to enjoy birding in the morning, we may lead a group to Ythan estuary, a very promising place at this time of year. This is a good place to look for King Eider, which will be close if found inside the mouth of the River Ythan. Common Scoter are often seen along this coast, perhaps with a few Velvets, and many other seabirds might include divers, auks, waders, gulls and terns.

Day 2: Wed 18 May 2022 (Tues 23 May 2023)                                   Fair Isle
This iconic birding location is perhaps at its most exciting in spring, and just about anything might be here today! Birding for rarities in local island hotspots is often rewarding. Commoner seabirds are very accessible, and with birding as we approach and leave the island, you will have a good list of auks, skuas, gulls and terns before we leave British waters. This might be the easiest way to visit Fair Isle in 2022, as sadly the famous Bird Observatory was destroyed by fire in 2019, though an appeal to replace the structure is currently underway.

Days 3, 4: Thurs 19, Fri 20 May 2022                                                      at sea
(Wed 24, Thurs 25 May 2023)                                                 

We sail north to the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen, situated 300 nautical miles north-east of Iceland. During our two days at sea there will be plenty of time to watch for the blow of a Minke, Fin or Blue Whale, which could herald a rewarding encounter with these gentle giants. Perhaps we might run into a pod of Orca, who can often be quite curious about boats such as ours.

Day 5: Sat 21 May 2022 (Fri 26 May 2023)                                     Jan Mayen
This is a volcanic island of breath-taking beauty and mystique, dominated by Mt Beerenberg. From the slopes of the 2300m volcano, impressive glaciers spill into the sea. Until recently, the island was off-limits as it is a military base, and was rarely visited by tourists, but with permission from the Norwegian authorities we hope to visit the weather station. We will also walk across the island to Kvalrossbukta to look at the remains of a 17th century Dutch whaling station and a substantial colony of Fulmar.

Days 6, 7 and 8: Sun 22, Mon 23 and Tues 24 May 2022
(Sat 27, Sun 28 and Mon 29 May 2023)
On the edge of Arctic ice

In the midnight sun, we sail north along the edge of the sea-ice, looking out for Bowhead Whale, Harp Seal, Polar Bear and a variety of seabirds, until about 79 North, then we sail west to the edges of the continental shelf off West Spitsbergen, where we have good chances to see Fin Whale, and near the mouths of the big Spitsbergen fjords, Minke Whale.

Day 9: Wed 25 May 2022 (Tues 30 May 2023)                                 Svalbard
Depending on the position of the sea-ice, we cruise the maze of fjords in the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, which is ringed by towering mountain peaks, which show why early Dutch explorers gave the name 'Spitsbergen' - pointed mountains - to the island. There are magnificent glaciers in the area, and the scenery is nothing short of spectacular. The area is of course renowned for its abundant and varied Arctic wildlife. We have good chances of seeing seals and of course the very symbol of the Arctic - Polar Bear. Bearded Seals often cruise the inner fjords, whose cliffs are lined with colonies of Brünnich's Guillemot, Puffin (the world’s largest individuals) and Kittiwake. On the tundra we will have good opportunities to observe foraging Barnacle Geese and Snow Bunting. We expect to look for Walrus at Poolepynten, or at another convenient haulout. There are chances of both King Eider and Stellers' Eider.

Day 10: Thurs 26 May 2022 (Wed 31 May 2023)                             Svalbard
We disembark in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre of Spitsbergen, for flights south to Oslo and onward home. Transfer to the airport in Longyearbyen is included.
..........................

You may wish to extend your holiday by remaining aboard Hondius, and continuing with a second voyage based entirely in Svalbard. You may stay in your allocated cabin (or move to another if prebooked), and during the next voyage, explore the rugged coastline and fjords of this magical land. We have negotiated very advantageous prices for this voyage as an extension, and of course your entire trip is covered by our services including ATOL Protection.

This second voyage offers hikes on shore twice per day (subject to weather, ice and bears), and you can choose from various options to best suit your fitness and ability level. There will be very easy beach walking (good for photographers), and a range of easy, medium and challenging long hikes. Alternatively of course, you might choose to stay close to your zodiac on shore, or remain aboard Hondius and just relax and enjoy the comfortable facilities.

EXTENSION PRICES (seven nights aboard)
Prices include cruise, activities and all meals as previously identified, plus our office and guiding services. We hope to arrange for a Heatherlea Guide to remain aboard for this extension.

All are quoted per person in shared cabins:

Quad. Porthole   £2295
Triple Porthole    £2795
Twin Porthole     £2995
Twin Window      £3245
Twin De Luxe      £3495 (SOLD OUT in 2022)
Superior               £3895
Junior Suite          £4195
Grand Suite         £4795

Singles - please consider sharing with people of the same gender, this works very well in comfortable accommodation on this voyage. Single occupancy of a Twin Porthole cabin is priced at £4995 in 2022.

Please note these are very low prices for a voyage of this quality based entirely in Svalbard. This offer can only be taken in conjunction with the main voyage.

At the end of a long Arctic winter, spring is starting to awaken. The climate, however, still clings to the cold: ice-covered mountains, snow-swept shores, temperatures around –4° C (25°F). It’s a good time to experience the last of the winter scenery, and with a little luck, also see Polar Bear, Walrus and seals into the bargain. Birding is fascinating, with cliff-nesting birds arriving daily, and many birds seen in the coastal areas, on the water and on the wing.

Day 10: Thurs 26 May 2022
(Wed 31 May 2023)                                            Largest town, biggest island

Instead of making a transfer to the airport, those staying for the second voyage can choose to visit Longyearbyen, the largest settlement and administrative centre of Spitsbergen. You can stroll around this former mining town, whose parish church and museum make fascinating attractions. Birds might include Glaucous Gull, Purple Sandpiper, 'Svalbard' Ptarmigan, Arctic Tern, Snow Bunting, Brent, Pink-footed and Barnacle Goose, Northern ('Borealis') Eider, Little Auk and also short-legged Svalbard Reindeer, Arctic Fox and perhaps flowering Svalbard Poppy close to the town.

You rejoin Hondius late this afternoon, and sail north up the west coast in early evening. 'Blue' Fulmar, Puffin, and Brünnich’s Guillemot can be expected.

Day 11: Fri 27 May 2022
Kongsfjorden, Blomstrandhalvøya, Krossfjorden

Blomstrandhalvøya is located on the northern side of the fjord, offering shelter and room to change plan according to weather. The landscape is likely to show signs of winter, with crags and slopes still blanketed with snow. Here there are rich opportunities to visit places of historic interest including Ny London, where you can see the remains of early 20th-century marble mining, and Ny Ålesund, one of the northernmost settlements on Earth. Once a mining village served by the world’s most northerly railway – you can still see its tracks – Ny Ålesund is now a research centre. Close to the community is a breeding ground for Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese, and Arctic Tern. In the evening, we head north along the west coast and spend the night in the sheltered surroundings of Krossfjorden, with views of colossal glaciers and lofty mountain peaks, though the extent of fjord ice dictates the itinerary here.

Day 12: Sat 28 May 2022                                       Exploring the North West
Next we head toward Amsterdamoya, where you may see the remains of a 17th-century whaling station, and enjoy the beautiful scenic panorama of Smeerenburgsleta. In the afternoon, we make for the islands around Fair Haven, home to a small colony of Puffin, Brünnich’s Guillemot, and other wildlife including Arctic Fox and Snow Bunting. Nearby Fuglesangen may also offer the chance to see Little Auks flying overhead as they return to their nests among the rocks.

Day 13: Sun 29 May 2022                                               Rugged Raudfjorden
We sail to Raudfjord on the north coast of West Spitsbergen, a beautiful fjord dominated by spectacular glaciers and favoured by Ringed and Bearded Seal. The cliffs and shoreline of the fjord also support thriving seabird colonies and a surprisingly rich vegetation, which flourishes in sheltered spots. Polar Bear are frequently seen here.

Day 14: Mon 30 May 2022                 The stunning sights of Liefdefjorden
Depending on the weather we may sail to the mouth of Liefdefjorden and go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. Many Common Eider and Pink-footed Goose nest here, and rarer King Eider may also be seen. We hope to sail into Liefdefjorden, cruising near the 5km long face of the impressive Monaco Glacier. The waters of the glacier face are a favourite feeding spot for thousands of Kittiwake, and on previous voyages Polar Bear have been seen on the glacier, providing wonderful opportunities for photography.

Day 15: Tues 31 May 2022                           North Spitsbergen splendours
This is our reserve day for activities around North Spitsbergen. Weather and wildlife permitting, we will choose the right location for another day of splendid outdoor adventures.

Day 16: Wed 1 June 2022                          Forlandsundet or St. Johns Fjord
Forlandsundet, between the main island of Spitsbergen and narrow Prins Karls Forland, is a place of great beauty and fascinating wildlife. Walruses sometimes haul out here, and seabirds can be found around Fuglehuken. We may also see walrus populations around Sarstangen and Poolepynten. Alternatively, we might sail into St. Johns Fjord or south to the mouth of Isfjorden, landing at Alkhornet. Seabirds nest on these cliffs, Arctic foxes search below for fallen eggs and chicks, and reindeer graze the sparse vegetation. Reindeer may seem unbothered by human presence, but this is not really the case. The animals must survive the harsh winter, when temperatures plummet and food is hard to find, so they preserve what energy they can, fleeing only when it is absolutely necessary. In the afternoon we cruise through beautiful Borebukta, following a glacier face before continuing to Longyearbyen.

Day 17: Thurs 2 June 2022 (Wed 7 June 2023)         There and back again
Even the greatest journeys eventually come to an end. Today we disembark in Longyearbyen, taking the international flight to Oslo and onwards to our home destinations.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

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-London Gatwick, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline-included limit.

* airport transfer in Longyearbyen, ground transportation during the cruise as specified.

* the Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service can organise everything you need, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. On this holiday, all these items are chargeable, though our office services are included in your holiday price.

* the services of your Leaders.

* A 'Heatherlea Beanie'! The first item on the menu of international fashion, this little article of headgear will come in very handy. Wear your beanie with pride!

What's not included in your holiday price:

* Travel to embarkation point in Aberdeen. Hotels and activities prior to boarding.

* Travel other than flight to London after the cruise. We can organise flights to other UK destinations, though a surcharge may apply.

* 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. 

Essential Information

TRAVEL TO ABERDEEN
The Group Meeting Point is at the vessel in Aberdeen. We will board in the afternoon of Day 1, Thursday 26 May 2022. 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

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!'

Field Notes

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.'

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Arctic

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Norway

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday?

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;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

Trip Reports

Coming Soon

Tour Details

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

E: