Arctic Wildlife Guide

Discover amazing wildlife across the vast and endless white lands of the Arctic 

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Arctic wildlife guide - what to expect

The endless white of the Arctic, stretches of vast tundra and icy plains that reach far beyond the horizon. For many, this sparse and seemingly empty landscape can seem devoid of any wildlife.

For those who spend any time in the region however, the northern-most point on planet Earth soon reveals its wide and varied range of inhabitants.

From sea-dwelling Beluga whales and Narwhals, through to Arctic foxes and the infamous polar bear, the Arctic is the perfect backdrop for wildlife photographers. Unlike anywhere else in the world, the Arctic is a vibrant place full of exciting wildlife just waiting to be discovered – here’s our Arctic wildlife guide, and what to expect.

Our Arctic cruises set sail to Iceland, Greenland and all across the Arctic circle. Find your perfect Arctic adventure.


Creatures of the land - the elusive Caribou and Arctic fox

On land, you’ll notice that the many species of the Arctic are well-suited to their environment, as you’d expect. With warm coats and light colored fur, the beautiful and striking Arctic reindeer, also known as the Caribou, can be spotted making their way across the icy plains of the Arctic region. Sadly, today the Caribou are decreasing in numbers, due to the effects caused by climate change, but an eagle-eye and some patience could give you a good chance to see this elusive creature in the wild.

The Arctic fox is another land-dwelling species that can be difficult to spot. Naturally camouflaged against the sheer white of its natural habitat, the Arctic fox is a majestic creature native to Iceland. Once spotted, the Arctic fox is a wildlife-lover’s dream, with jet-black eyes, pointed ears and a bushy white tail.

Sea-dwellers – underneath the icy surface

If marine life is what truly excites you, then there’s no shortage of it in the Arctic, and the mighty walrus might wade in the water, but below the surface, there's plenty more wildlife. Take the small Beluga whales, also known as white whales, which are native to the Arctic, for example. Beluga whales are only 13-20 foot in length (which is small for a whale) and have distinctive, large foreheads. Extremely social creatures, you’ll have a good chance of encountering a Beluga whale during your time in the Arctic.

And if that doesn’t sound exciting enough, how about the mighty humpback whale? You can find these in the Arctic too, as well as the ‘unicorn of the sea’, the Narwhal.

Polar bears in the Arctic – all you need to know

You might have been wondering why we haven’t yet mentioned the polar bear, which is arguably the main attraction for wildlife seekers in the Arctic. Simply put, we saved the best until last.

Weighing in at just under 1500 pounds, the polar bear is the largest, heaviest carnivore on the planet. This doesn’t mean that the polar bear is a slow-moving creature however, with excellent swimming technique that can take them up to 60 miles off shore, the polar bear is an incredibly efficient hunter. Oh, and we forgot to mention that their sense of smell has an ultra-impressive range of up to 9 miles. When you’re the apex predator in a harsh environment, adaptation and development of the senses is crucial.

Spot one of these awe-inspiring animals and your adventure will be complete!

So when should I visit the Arctic?

Experiencing the polar region’s wildlife in all its glory isn’t straightforward however, you’ll need to know which season is the best to visit for the particular type of fauna you want to discover.

Try visiting in early summer, around June to experience the most daylight hours. At this time of the year, you’ll see the phenomena that is the midnight sun. More importantly, this light period is primetime for those polar bear sighting opportunities.

If you visit in July, in high summer, you’re likely to find the vibrant bursts of color that form from the emerging flora. Contrasting against the stark, white background, this makes for an impressive spectacle. New-born seabird chicks also make the cold, unforgiving terrain seem full of life and possibilities.

In August, the Arctic days become shorter, and twilight skies cover the environment in what is a specific kind of beauty only found at this time of the year. This is also the time of year that the polar bear starts to hunt, a fascinating sight for those that can catch it from a safe distance!

Interested in starting your adventure? Browse our full range of Arctic wildlife cruises here.

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