Trip Report: 2013 Svalbard Photo Safari (Day 4 to 6)

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Day 3 of our Svalbard photo safari ended like this…

Gerry van der Walt - WIldlife Photography

As mentioned in the first part of my trip report, we finally left the two dancing polar bears just before midnight.

The ability to photograph subjects like polar bears 24 hours a day – literally – should get any wildlife photographer very excited and once we got back to the boat the photographic action did not stop.

Day 4

Back on board we had a nice hot cup of tea and some biscuits as the boat started getting ready to start moving to our next destination.  Just as we were about to call it a day and get some sleep, the call came in that our two superstar bears were back on the kill and that they were in range should anybody want to get some more shots from deck.

Every single one of us was out on deck with our cameras and the scene that greeted us did not disappoint.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

The two bears continued to move around the kill and the shutters kept on going.

Photographing from the deck of the boat made for great wide landscape images but the combo of a lower angle and long lenses meant that we could also get tighter images without it looking like we were shooting down on the animals.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

As the Origo sailed away from an amazing day of photography, the amazing landscapes of Svalbard reminded us of the incredible beauty at the top of the world.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

After a few hours of sleep we were up again for breakfast.

This morning would see us head out in the Zodiacs to potentially photograph walruses and a multitude of birds on the island of Lågøya.

As we headed out and approached the island we were greeted by our first walrus of the trip.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

This guy was very curious and spent some time around the Zodiac.  There were not too many of them around so we decided to leave them to do their thing and made our way to the opposite side of the island where we could land and head off to photograph the very unique and critically endangered Sabine Gull.

Jono Buffey - Wild Eye

The photography was great and it was great being able to move around on the island looking for shots of which there were many.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

After some quality photographic time we headed back to the ship and had a good laugh as the colony of Arctic Terns gave us a hard time as we walked through their territory.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Luckily we all made it back to the Zodiacs safely and the Terns all calmed down to a mild panic as we left the island.  It was lunch time after which we would start sailing north towards the pack ice in search of more polar bears.

We did not have to wait too long before it was time to grab our cameras again.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

We followed this bear around for quite some time and even though the amount of ice didn’t allow us to get up close on the Zodiacs, the changing landscape allowed us to keep on shooting from the deck with some great results.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Eventually our bear was just too far away so we kept on moving.

The sun was out and we spent the entire day shooting from the deck.  I could tell, purely because I felt the same, that every now and then one of the guests would just drop their cameras and suck up the raw, isolated beauty of Svalbard.  The landscapes alone were awe-inspiring but less than an hour later it was bear-time again.

We found this particular bear close to one of the islands which gave us the chance to shoot different images with amazing backdrops of the largest land based predator in the world.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

After our second bear of the day it was dinner time and most people decided that, after a crazy 24 hours of photography, it was time to call it a day.

The 4th day of our adventure came to an end.

Day 5

When we met for breakfast we found ourselves deep in the pack ice.

Gerry van der Walt - WIldlife Photography

Most of the morning was spent looking for polar bears on the ice.

Just before lunch time, when the clouds lifted a bit and we still had not found a polar bear to photograph, Jeremy decided that it was time for a swim.

Yeah, a swim.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

My hat goes off to Jeremy for taking the plunge!

When he mentioned his intentions I did think about it but just couldn’t do it-  hey, for us guys from South Africa 12 degrees celsius is cold – but next time… definitely!!

After lunch, and a hot cup of hot chocolate for Jeremy, we finally found another polar bear.

Unlike the two from the day before this one was quite happy to come closer to the boat which again made for unique images.  The blue colour of the ice was absolutely incredible, so during this sighting I played with a few images in which my focus was the spectacular blue ice.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

We spent about an hour or so photographing this guy before finally making our way back down south.

Inspired by Jeremy’s bravery earlier in the day, Jono and Ben decided to join Jeremy in the hot tub on the top deck of the boat.  Yes, the water was kinda warm.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Combined with a few drinks this was the perfect end to another day in an icy photographic paradise.

Day 6

Day 6 of our trip was, compared to the action of the previous few days, pretty quiet.

After breakfast some people opted to head right back to bed while others brought their laptops to the dining rom area to download cards and work on sorting through a huge amount of RAW files.  I spent a little while going through some Lightroom techniques with a few of the guests until we got the call from the bridge that they have spotted some whales off in the distance.

For the next few hours, we were all on deck looking for whales and by lunch time we had spotted 4 Humpback Whales and 2 Fin Whales.

The weather was, for the first time on the trip, a little miserable and overcast but that did not stop of from grabbing whatever shots we could.  Each time the whales surfaced and went back down a huge amount of birds swarmed around the areas to get in on the action and to get their share of any small bits of food they could get their beaks on.

Gerry van der Walt - WIldlife Photography

The entire day was very relaxed and actually made for a nice day to chill, catch up on sorting images and reflect on the last week’s worth of photography, adventure and amazing wildlife sightings we have had.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Day 6 had come to an end.

As I drifted off to sleep I couldn’t help but wonder what the last few days of our photo safari would have in store for us.

More bears? Walrus?  Reindeer?  Arctic Fox?

The answer to all the above would eventually turn out to be yes!

Make sure to stay tuned for the last instalment of my Svalbard Trip report and some more great images and sightings from the top of the world.

  • Check out part 1 here: http://bit.ly/svalbard1-3
  • Check out part 3 here: http://bit.ly/svalbard7-10
  • Join the 2014 trip here: http://bit.ly/svalbard2014
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Until next time.

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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  1. Mike

    Lovely images Gerry – Completely different from the African wildlife we are used to. I love the small details here – the flash of blue ice in an otherwise white landscape and those incredible ice-floe vistas – Bucket list stuff for sure!
    Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Pingback: Trip Report: 2013 Svalbard Photo Safari (Day 7 to 10) - Wild Eye Photography

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