The huge ice-covered island of Greenland is breathtakingly beautiful and this 10-day holiday, which includes a 7-night cruise, heads straight to arguably the most scenic area of the whole country, Disko Bay. Based on board the exclusively chartered 56-metre SV Rembrandt van Rijn we will search for whales, seals and Arctic birds amidst some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. While the land offers refuge to such wildlife as Arctic Fox and Snowy Owl, it is the underwater environment which offers most for the keen naturalist. Disko Bay’s cold, nutrient-rich waters coupled with its proximity to the ice-edge attract a wide variety of some of the Arctic’s most exciting species, including the great whales and such birds as Greenland White-fronted Geese and Grey Phalarope. After a week spent exploring this iceberg-dotted coastline under wide pale blue skies, we fly to Iceland and then home.
- Look for rare Bowhead Whales along the ice-edge
- Disko Bay is home to large numbers of Humpback Whales during summer
- Visit Ilulissat town, where huskies are the only means of land transport!
- Cruise along the breathtaking Ilulissat Icefjord, a World Heritage Site
- Bearded & Ringed Seals rest on smaller ice-floes
- A chance of seeing Hooded & Harp Seals or a pod of Narwhal for the lucky few
- Land on Disko Island & smaller offshore islands such as Hunde & Kronprinsen’s Ejlands
- Long-tailed Skua, Arctic Tern & Glaucous Gull among the special birdlife
- Comfortable cabins, most with private facilities
- Led by expert naturalist guides & local expedition crew
All included in the price, except for lunches and dinners in Keflavik and Aasiaat. Allow £90
For this cruise we have exclusively chartered the 34-berth SV Rembrandt van Rijn, a 56-metre (168-foot) sailing schooner. She features 17 comfortable twin cabins (most with private facilities), a spacious dining room, and plenty of deck space for wildlife-viewing. Twin-bedded private inside cabins (no porthole) are included in the tour cost; private putside cabins with portholes are available at an extra cost of £295 per person. In Iceland we use a comfortable tourist hotel with private facilities.
Iceberg (Paul Stanbury)
Day 1 Fly Copenhagen and overnight.
Day 2 Fly Aasiaat; embark SV Rembrandt van Rijn and begin cruise.
Day 3/8 Disko Bay crusie.
Day 9 Disembark SV Rembrandt van Rijn and fly Copenhagen
SV Rembrandt van Rijn (Oceanwide Expeditions)
There are few superlatives in the English language to fully describe the breathtaking beauty of Greenland. This huge ice-covered island is edged with jagged mountains — the highest in the Arctic — and deep valleys down which the largest glaciers in the northern hemisphere slowly flow. As they reach Greenland’s intricate coastline, towering cliffs of ice calve into giant icebergs which dot the numerous fjords and bays — the deep blues of centuries-old ice contrasting with the clean white snow on the mountains and the dark rocky tundra at their feet. This spectacular landscape is home to an exciting variety of polar wildlife such as Arctic Fox, Long-tailed Skua, Purple Sandpiper, Grey Phalarope, Snowy Owl and Gyr Falcon. It is the underwater world, however, that draws naturalists and scientists to Disko Bay in western Greenland, for each Arctic spring this dramatic iceberg-dotted coastline not only becomes a temporary home for large numbers of Humpback Whales, but the bay’s cold nutrient-rich waters, coupled with its proximity to the ice-edge, attracts one of the animal kingdom’s true polar enigmas, the rare Bowhead Whale!
Much of Greenland is inaccessible by land, so the best way to explore this Arctic island is from the water. For this exciting wildlife and scenery cruise we have taken full charter of the 34-berth sailing schooner, the SV Rembrandt van Rijn. Free from the shackles of having to visit nonwildlife sites, our cruise will focus solely on the region’s unique natural history and dramatic landscapes, spending time in particular along the ice edge in search of Bowheads and other cetaceans. The holiday begins, however, with a flight to Keflavik in Iceland where we spend one night. From here we fly over the spectacular coastal mountains and inland icecap of Greenland before landing at Ilulissat in west Greenland, the third largest settlement on the island. Ilulissat (Jakobshavn) sits on the shores of Disko Bay and is the departure point for our 7-night cruise.
We will keep the exact itinerary of our cruise flexible, in order to take into account the ice conditions, location of the pack-ice edge, recent wildlife sightings, and the advice of the captain and expedition crew. Before heading out towards Disko Island and the ice, however, we will take the opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking scenery that abounds in western Greenland. We will cruise along the vast Ilulissat Glacier which flows into the beautiful Ilulissat Kangerlua (Jakobshavn Icefjord), a ‘World Heritage Site’. Here we can enjoy a panorama of huge deep-blue icebergs sculpted into an inexhaustible variety of shapes by wind, water and ice. Bearded and Ringed Seals are often seen resting on the smaller floes, whilst birds to look out for include Common Eider, Glaucous Gull, Arctic Tern and perhaps even a passing white-phase Gyr Falcon.
The Bowhead Whales tend to feed within a mile or so of the ice-edge. We will therefore spend the next couple of days in search of these slow-moving leviathans out in the mouth of Disko Bay, most likely immediately south of Disko Island, a favoured feeding area. The first Bowheads arrive in Disko Bay in late February and they stay until June when they head further north as they follow the retreating ice towards Baffin Bay and beyond. Whilst nothing is certain in the world of wildlifewatching, we stand a very good chance of locating one or more of these rare creatures and, once found, their slowmoving nature and tendency to feed near the water’s surface make them fairly easy to observe. Sadly, these sluggish habits also made Bowheads an easy target for the early whalers. It has recently been discovered that Bowheads are one of the longest living animals — a harpoon head dating from 1885 having been removed from an adult Alaskan Bowhead in 2007 proving that the animal was at least 130 years old. Indeed, it is now widely accepted that these amazing creatures may live for as long as 200 years!
The rich feeding grounds near the iceedge also attract plenty of Humpback Whales and a few Fin Whales, plus the occasional Hooded and Harp Seal. For the very fortunate there is even a chance of an Atlantic Walrus or a small pod of Narwhal, although the latter are very shy and only seen by the fortunate few!
We will also take time to enjoy landings on Disko Island and some of the small offshore islands such as Hunde Ejland and Kronprinsen’s Ejland where Longtailed Skuas, Snow Buntings, Northern Wheatears, Greenland White-fronted Geese and twirling Grey Phalaropes all breed.
Finally we must make our way back, past the icebergs, to Ilulissat. There we board our flight back to Iceland and, after a final night in Keflavik, we head home.