Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Why Svalbard?

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 1 Comment

Three years ago I wrote: “Svalbard is a place of superlatives.  A white world that will leave even the most experienced traveller and nature photographer in awe.”

I have been lucky enough to host Wild Eye’s Svalbard expeditions for the last 4 years and the complete awe and wonder that the place conjures up never seems to go away.  In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite in that it just gets more under your skin each time you visit.  My appreciation for a place that defines the word ‘wilderness’ is something that draws me back and it gets deeper each time I visit.

When I sat down to write this blog about the white wonderland on the top of the world I didn’t quite know where to start – it’s a big place and I could carry on for days – so I thought I’d simply take the word – S V A L B A R D – and pull it apart in order to share images from this amazing place.  So here goes and no, B will not be for Bear.

* * *

S – Scenery

I don’t rate myself as a landscape photographer at all but in Svalbard there is something about the place that just speaks to me.  It is unbelievable!

Yes, we all want to go to Svalbard to see Polar Bears and you probably will.  Yes, Walrus, Whales and Seals make for some amazing images and you’ll get an opportunity to photograph a lot of them.  Yes, Reindeer are great photographic subjects and you will more than likely have some incredible on foot experiences.

With all of that said there is something about the harsh landscapes and environments that these animals live in that just overpower your senses and begs you to reach for your camera.

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

V – Vibrant

Many people think of Svalbard as a place of black jagged rocks and white snow.  Now that’s not completely incorrect and it’s what gives this place its distinctive look and feel but if you look around you’ll be surprised at the amount of vibrant colors you can find in the Arctic.

This place is most definitely not monochromatic!

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

A – Amazing Experiences

The visuals, the photography and the place itself are all without a doubt quite incredible but the experience of exploring Svalbard, of making memories in this place – amazing!

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

L – Largest Land based Predator in the World

It’s not the only reason to visit Svalbard but it’s without a doubt something on every visitor’s mind.    In 2007, in the movie The Golden Compass, Svalbard was referred to as the kingdom of the polar bear and Svalbard is without a doubt one of the very best places to see these amazing creatures in their natural environment.

I will never forget seeing my first polar bear in wild.  Never.

And neither will you.

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye
Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

B – Birding

Even though more than 160 species of birds have been recorded in Svalbard there are only about 30 species that regularly breed in the islands.  That said, the numbers don’t even come close to doing justice to the mind blowing spectacle that you can find along some of the bird cliffs in and around Svalbard.

If you’re into your birding you can be assured of some amazing sightings, a few new ticks on your list and quite fantastic photographic opportunities.

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

A – Adventure

Whether you choose to hike, dogsled, snowmobile or simply live the experience of being on a small icebreaker in one of the world’s most ruggedly beautiful wilderness areas – Svalbard is one of the most exciting adventure destinations in the world.

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Image © Chris Michel

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

R – Rediscover

I don’t know if its the fact that you are miles away from home in a a truly overwhelming place or the wonderful feeling of, photographically and creatively speaking, being out of your comfort zone but Svalbard is a place where a lot of people have rediscovered a deeper passion for their own photography.

During the last few years I have found myself playing with and rediscovering monochrome landscapes and apart from having a helluva lot of fun playing around I have been very happy, and in some cases quite excited, about the results.

I think the nature of  a Svalbard expedition lends itself beautifully to playing with, discovering and rediscovering aspects of your own photography that you might have forgotten about.  Being able to photograph 24/7 and being in the company of people who are in the same boat makes for an amazing photography adventure. (Apologies for that too easy and obvious boat pun.)

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

D – Diversity

Even looking through this quite substantial blog post you’ll still only have a small glimpse into the true diversity that can be found in Svalbard.  Diversity of landscapes, species, photographic opportunities.

Diversity.

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Svalbard - Photo Expedition - Arctic - Wild Eye

And there you have it.

Svalbard.

It is a place that defies description and one of my personal favorites places to visit.  It’s a place that makes me look at the world differently and as a photographer I cannot – even after all of the images in this blog – truly explain the photographic opportunities locked up in this white world.

I will be heading back to Svalbard on 20 May to host my 5th consecutive expedition.  This year’s expedition is fully booked but should you wish to join me in 2018, bookings are now open.  I guarantee you a travel, nature and photographic experience that will change the way you see the world!

I would like to go to Svalbard!

Click here for more information or to secure your spot for our 2018 Svalbard Expedition.

More Info

Until next time.

Gerry

About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at www.gerryvanderwalt.com or follow my journey on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Periscope.  I look forward to changing the way you see the world! Have you checked out The Wildlife Photography Podcast?

Share this Post

Comments 1

  1. Renata Ewald

    I absolutely enjoyed this blog of Svalbard. It’s a world far beyond what I can imagine in my mind..it awakes my senses,draw you in and makes you wonder about the world out there…far away from home and totally out of my comfort zone. It is indeed a challenge that awaits…
    Your photos is intense,thank you!I will remember SVALBARD!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *