The idea of “adventure travel” is hot and those who sell travel know it. Travelers who lead an active lifestyle as a big part of their everyday life want to continue that focus when traveling. Local adventurers who might camp, hike, hunt, ski or bike around where they live, want the thrill of doing that in an amazing place somewhere else on the planet. Even travelers once satisfied with a pre-packaged land tour or the standard fare on a Caribbean cruise want more. Only one problem: not everyone who likes the idea of adventure travel is equipped to handle it. But they still want it.
Enter land tour operator Abercrombie and Kent, known for safe and luxurious safari-like travel packages with a hefty price tag.
Offering more than a lazy man’s adventure, Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) recently announced a 2014 lineup of cruises to the Arctic. These luxury versions of the frigid expedition sailings for hearty explorers, normally associated with that part of the world, might very well be just what the pseudo-adventure traveler has in mind too.
On their July 29, 2014, sailing – Arctic Cruise Norway: Polar Bears & Midnight Sun – A&K guides take their guests to see polar bears, walrus and reindeer from the northern shores of Norway to the Svalbard Archipelago and Spitsbergen (AKA the last stop before the North pole), setting foot on the coastal city of Tromsø and the polar bear stomping grounds of Nordaustlandet. The 12-day adventure starts at $8,995.Another choice – A&K’s Arctic Cruise Adventure: Norway, Greenland & Iceland (Aug 7-21, 2014) – boasts stunning wildlife, geological features and history on an intense 15-day Arctic voyage from Norway and Spitsbergen to the region’s most remote and magnificent islands.
Visiting polar bears on the Svalbard archipelago, Kejser Franz Joseph Fjords and Scoresby Sound in Greenland along with Iceland’s extinct Snaefellsjokull volcano among other stops is not a cheap swing around the Caribbean. This one will run you $11,995.
Think that sounds like a lot to pay? Not everyone does: A&K’s 2013 Arctic offerings sold out 10 months in advance. This video gives us an idea of why they might be so popular:
A British youth group traveling in a remote region of Norway was attacked by a polar bear yesterday, leaving one dead and four others severely injured. The animal entered their camp while the group slept, and attacked the travelers inside their tents, before it was shot to death by one of the group’s leaders.
17-year old Horatio Chapple was one of 13 members of a BSES Expedition traveling along a glacier on the island of Spitsbergen, located in the Svalbard archipelago. He was sharing a tent with two other boys when the bear attacked, fatally wounding him. The animal then turned on other campers, before it was killed as well. Chapple was already dead by the time a rescue team could reach them, but the other four victims were air lifted to a hospital.
The BSES is an organization that works with young people in the U.K. in an effort to introduce them to the outdoors and encourage an active lifestyle. The group helps the youth to build confidence, while also educating them about the impact of climate change on our planet. This particular BSES expedition was part of a larger group of 80 that were spending five weeks on the island.
As the ice in the Arctic Ocean retreats, polar bears have been forced into smaller habitats, which has brought them increasingly in contact with humans. This team came to Spitsbergen not only armed with guns, but also a safety system designed to give them an early warning if a bear should approach. At this time, it’s not known if that system went off, but no one noticed, or if it failed altogether.
Two of the survivors of the attack are said to be in serious condition in a university hospital in Tromso, Norway.
Way back in January we posted a story about the possibility of Britain’s Prince Harry going to the North Pole as part of a fund raising effort for charity. While the prince won’t actually be heading to 90ºN as predicted, he did embark on an Arctic trek this week with a team of disabled veterans from the U.K.
After a number of weather delays, Harry and the rest of his group, were finally able to get underway on Monday. The journey began with a flight from Spitsbergen to the Barneo Ice Camp, a temporary base built on the Arctic Ocean that is annually constructed by a team of Russian paratroopers. After a very brief stay at the station, the group was shuttled off 87ºN, where most of the team began their 200 mile journey to the North Pole.
I say most of the team, because Harry won’t be making that journey with the vets. Instead, he’ll be picked up from the ice in a couple of days. The 25-year old prince was given special leave from his military duties to accompany the squad, but he is due back on base, where he’ll continue his training to become an Apache helicopter pilot. There is also the small matter of a wedding in the family soon as well.
The expedition is being undertaken to raise funds for the Walking with the Wounded foundation. The team hopes to raise as much as $3.2 million for the organization, which is dedicated to helping soldiers injured in military service to recover from their wounds and get on with their lives. Four of the men on the expedition were injured during the war in Afghanistan, with two of those being amputees. Prince Harry serves as a patron for Walking with the Wounded, which made it of utmost importance to him that he get to take part in the trek, even if it was only for a few days.
If all goes as scheduled, the team should arrive at the North Pole around the 25th of the month. Harry will be back in warmer climes by the weekend however.
Spitsbergen is the “last stop before the North Pole,” a cold, remote landscape of snow, ice, and arctic wildlife. And you can explore it with Hurtigruten, an adventure tour company.
While some of their longer tours may be prohibitively expensive for a lot of travelers (9-day tours cost around $5000 per person). they do offer a much more affordable 6-day Polar Encounters cruise starting at just over $1300 per person, plus airfare.
Passengers on the cruise will go ashore twice per day with an experienced guide, looking for glaciers, fjords, seals, whales, walruses, and polar bears. Stops include the towns of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Ny-Alesund, which vary in size for two thousand to less than two dozen residents.
Hurtigruten also offers cruises around Norway, Greenland, Antartica, the Baltics, and Western Europe.