Want to cruise Western Svalbard with me in June 2024? Bowhead Whales and Polar Bears

I’ve wanted to see Bowhead Whales for as long as I can remember but they are a not an easy species to find, especially now that Russia it out of bounds for most of us. So I was excited when Jonathan Ben Simon told me about a cruise that Oceanwide Expeditions run looking for Bowhead Whales and Polar Bears along the edge of the pack ice. Jonathan saw both species as well as a Hooded Seal, thousands of Harp Seals, Belugas and more (the more presumably included Walrus and Bearded Seal which are on the itinerary). There is even a very small chance for a Narwhal. Breathtaking scenery is guaranteed.

Polar Bear

So I have booked a place for the 10-17 June 2024 cruise. I know at least one other mammalwatcher has also signed up. And it would be great if others want to come along:

1.your company would be fun and it could become a bit of a floating mammalwatching meeting; and

2. additional mammalwatching influence is always helpful in case the Captain needs to decide whether to turn the boat to port to look for Narwhals or to the starboard for a Gyrfalcon.

Full details are here. If you do sign up please let me know and tell the cruise you are a mammalwatcher.


I’m told this cruise normally sells out pretty fast.


Post author

Jon Hall


  • JeffHigdon

    Best of luck on your bowhead search Jon! Hopefully you get lots of good sightings and don’t need to look at alternate locations to try again. But if you do (and as a possibly useful note for others), the floe edge in Foxe Basin, Nunavut is an excellent place for bowhead whales in late June/early July. I did four years of bowhead field work there and had many close encounters – some too close, such as when a curious whale lifted our entire freighter canoe out of the water, or the one who nudged my kayak so much I got nervous and went back to the ice edge. I used to work out of the community of Igloolik, but the outfitter that was there unfortunately moved back to the south well over a decade ago. There is a Canadian tour company called Eagle Eye that runs a bowhead and walrus tour in Foxe Basin, based out of the community of Sanirajak (formerly known as Hall Beach), but I’ve never done it so can’t speak to how successful they are (but it’s Foxe Basin in late June, so should be highly successful).

  • Jon Hall

    Thanks Jeff. That is good to know. I missed Bowheads on Baffin when I took a Floe Edge tour but its such a great place I would love to go back. And I am sure I would have been if it were not quite so expensive to fly there. I should check out Eagle Eye … I have heard of them but never seen a trip report. One of the things that I liked about the Svalbard tour were the Harp and possible Hooded Seals. Did you ever see those on Baffin?

    • JeffHigdon

      I’ve seen harp seals in various parts of Nunavut, including in Foxe Basin. Some of my Inuit contacts have reported that some young harp seals are overwintering at the floe edge there instead of migrating south in the fall. The summer open-water season is better for harps but they are present in Foxe Basin in late June and early July. Most of the north Baffin floe edge tours are probably a bit early to catch the large herds of harp seals that are found in Lancaster Sound in summer.

      I suspect Svalbard gives you a much better chance at hooded seals that you’ll find most anywhere in Nunavut. The north Baffin area would definitely be your best bet, but low probability. The only community up there that hunts them with any regularity is Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), and I only know of one recent harvest. Incidentally, I just made a post of the Facebook page this morning noting that the sea ice is inshore around Newfoundland again this year, and the last time that happened a lot of people were seeing hooded seals pups inshore in April.

  • Jon Hall

    Thanks Jeff … achhhh Newfoundland! I need a private jet!

  • Tien

    Hi John, we look forward to meeting you aboard the Hondius. Jean-Phillipe & Kristin ( 2 mammal watching enthusiasts from Belgium)


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