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 London Gatwick- Keflavik, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline-included limit. Flights from other UK airports may be possible, please ask.
- Airport transfer in Iceland, coach travel in Iceland, ground transportation during the cruise as specified.
- The services of your Leader(s).
- 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 UK, meals prior to boarding your international flight.
- Evening meal in Reykjavík on Day 3 and Day 12 is not included. For all participants, the final meal included is breakfast aboard Hondius on Day 12.
- Holiday insurance, optional tips to ship's crew/other staff, drinks, and other personal expenses.
More holiday information
Accommodation: In Iceland is in comfortable, modern hotels, all rooms en-suite. On board MV Hondius we stay in comfortable, very well appointed cabins with en-suite facilities. See full details of cabins here.
Food: In Iceland is international in style, and of good quality throughout. Food aboard Hondius is very good European cuisine, with a choice for all courses. Breakfast and lunch are usually an extensive buffet. Diets including vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free and other are catered for. 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 aboard 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, and although it can be surprisingly warm and pleasant, at this latitude bad weather is of course quite possible. Warm clothing is essential, though our large vessel offers more than adequate cover and heating. Daytime temperatures can be from 0'C to around 5 - 6'C .
Insects: biting insects are not expected, though there may be flies on the boggy landscape. Little other insect life is expected.
Group size: The Icelandic element is restricted to no more than 45 clients plus Heatherlea Leader(s). We travel throughout by comfortable executive coach. Aboard Hondius, you will part of a ship's complement of up to 160 clients. There is no restriction as to how many of these might be Heatherlea guests.
Holiday Payment: deposit payment of just £1200pp 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, muskoxen, some birds and above all scenery.
Your leaders: Andy Jones will be our Leader in 2023, accompanied by Ian Ford. we may announce more Heatherlea Guides closer to departure.
TRAVEL PRIOR TO JOINING
The Group Meeting Point for those taking the Icelandic part of the holiday is at Gatwick Airport or Keflavík International Airport in Iceland. For those only taking the Greenland part, the meeting point will be in Reykjavík, on the morning of Day 4. Directions to the Meeting Points will be provided nearer the time. Pre-holiday hotel and car parking in the UK 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 vessels 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.
A native of Wales though resident for many years in Iceland, Andy is perhaps better known to many as 'The Iceland Naturalist'. A leader of wildlife trips in Iceland for more than thirty years, Andy is an expert on birdlife, cetaceans, flora and geology, the perfect choice as Leader for this tour! He says 'Basalt rocks, formed by volcanoes in the recent geological past, underpin the ecology. The landscapes are agonisingly beautiful and provide a wonderful backdrop for a wildlife trip.’
Andy continued, ‘My favourites? Well, we see lots of cetaceans but for me it’s always the birds that steal the show. In Iceland I’ve so many — Great Northern Divers, Harlequins and Barrow’s Goldeneyes but my heart invariably misses a beat when a Gyrfalcon appears!’ Andy conducted our recce trip aboard MV Hondius in September 2022, and saw several Polar Bear, Muskoxon, several whale species including Narwhal, Walrus and Beluga, Harp, Bearded and Ringed Seal and much more. His conclusion? 'A great trip!' Please read his report!
Veteran Guide with well over 20 years experience, ever-popular Ian is an experienced Arctic traveller and leader, although this will be his first to visit Greenland!
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 roam in Greenland, and our voyage gives us excellent chances of seeing them. Bears need frozen sea ice to hunt seals, and are great travellers. Our best chances of Bear on this holiday lie around the mouth of Scoresbysund. Nothing is guaranteed of course, although chances are good!
Previous Visits by Heatherlea to the Arctic
Here are a some evocative observations by Kenny Taylor, BBC Wildlife Expert on a Svalbard voyage, which give a lovely feel of a Polar Bear encounter!
'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'.
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;