The weather in the polar regions can be very changeable, with temperatures ranging from –15°C to +6°C. The summer average is around 0°C but wind chill can make this feel much colder. The summer season between June and September offers the best conditions for exploration by ship as the warmer weather melts the sea ice and the region awakens.
The start of the season and the most adventurous time to travel
Longer hours of daylight for spotting wildlife
Arctic flora blooming
Birds breeding optimising chances of encountering large numbers
Belugas in Hudson Bay
Region is most accessible as pack ice has largely broken up
Light is softer and generally better for photographic purposes
Polar bears gather near Churchill, Canada awaiting the winter freeze.
There is something truly special about encountering animals in their natural environment. The Arctic may be one of man’s most challenging environments, but many forms of life are quite at home at the edge of the inhabitable world.
Most visitors will hope to see the polar bear, which is just as at home in the sea as on land, preying on a variety of sea mammals and scavenging on whatever else is available. Now mostly protected, these majestic predators and their cubs are often seen in many parts of Spitsbergen, northern Canada and Greenland.
There is an abundant source of marine life in the region with seas teeming in plankton and fish that are food for harp seals as well as walrus. The walrus is often spotted resting on ice floes or offshore islands particularly Moffen Island north of Spitsbergen.
The northern oceans are particularly rich in cetaceans, and it is here that beluga, narwhal and the rare Greenland whale can be observed. Other species, such as orca, grey, minke, blue and humpback can also be seen in different parts of the Arctic, concentrating their summer feeding in high latitudes.
Huge numbers of wildfowl and waders visit the region each summer, nesting in the tundra. Spectacular sea cliffs are the breeding ground for millions of pairs of guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes and fulmars, while little auks, ivory gulls and skuas each have their own preferred nesting sites.
The Arctic fox, which feasts on eggs and chicks, often patrols the base of the bird cliffs just waiting for a meal. Arctic hares and lemmings graze the tundra along with musk oxen and reindeer. A small population of wolves inhabits northeast Greenland but it is in Arctic Canada that they are in their element.