Polar Bear Photography Expedition

Standing on the deck of your ship, you fathom a form in the distance. A solitary polar bear, its large white form in perfect harmony with its icy world but dwarfed by an endless ocean, marauds in search of a meal in the frigid domain. As you stand stunned by the stupefying wonders that compose our amazing world, you realise that you haven't merely entered a different sphere of endless amazement, but also crossed over to the realm of the ethereal.

You've slipped into a dream called Svalbard.


4 to 14 August 2018


Jayanth Sharma

Why go on a Toehold Tour?

Planned to maximise

photo opportunities

Led by ace


Over 100 years'

collective experience

Hands-on assistance

on and off the field

Image reviews

and presentations

Photography gear

on rent

Tour Highlights

  • 10 nights and 11 days on an exclusive chartered cruise for 12 exclusive participants for comfortable photography
  • Comfortable accommodation on single occupancy (unless travelling as a couple) in exclusive cabins
  • A great photography experience on board MS Origo
  • An exotic experience in a truly untamed wilderness and amazing part of our planet
  • A memorable time in the Arctic exploring the exquisite landscapes and subliminal wildlife of Svalbard
  • Very likely excellent encounters with and images of polar bears, Svalbard's flagship species
  • Tremendous photography opportunities with Svalbard's many other wild inhabitants
  • A safe and immensely productive Tour guided ably by experienced professional photographers
  • A wealth of photography and natural history learning from Toehold's Jayanth Sharma
  • Extensive practical assistance during the shoots to ensure maximum possible value

How is it?

A gleaming pearl lodged 80 degrees north.

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What you will see and photograph?

Apart from polar bears and seals, birds with fun names: Glaucous gulls. Kittiwakes. Brünnich's Guillemots... And whales!

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How you will get around:

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About your Skippers

Jayanth Sharma

Jayanth Sharma is renowned as a prolific producer of consistently stunning imagery – the kind that is planned in a studio and executed outdoors.

First of all a big thanks to Jay for organising a wonderful tour full of happy memories and great photographs. - Puneet Madan, Mumbai
It was a real eye opener for me. An absolute amazing trip. Once in a lifetime opportunity all thanks to my buddy RAJA. - Amin Kavle, Mumbai
Dear Jayanth, Hope you had a safe journey home. Once again thanks a lot for the amazing Svalbard trip which was only possible with your support and guidance. - Rana Roy Choudhury, Mumbai
Thanks for another memorable and well-planned wild-life viewing trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and spending time with you. - Thomas Ori, Colarado, USA

Please note: We assemble for this Tour on 4 August 2018 at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, and depart from the same place on 14 August. Travel between your home and Longyearbyen is not included in the Tour fee, but all requisite assistance with air travel will be provided.

DAY 1   4 August 2018: Departure from Longyearbyen

Arriving in Longyearbyen, we assemble at a designated point and are transferred to our mobile home for the rest of the expedition, the MS Origo - a highly able, impressively furnished and comfortable expedition ship, at around 4:00 p.m. After everyone has arrived and completed the paper work, we board the ship and depart Longyearbyen. After settling down, we meet for an introductory dinner and discuss the strategy for the rest of the days while our vessel is cruising steadily in a northwesterly direction.

DAYS 2 AND 10   5 to 13 August: Svalbard Cruise

From this day onwards, there is no set itinerary for the rest of the Tour until our return to Longyearbyen eight days later.

The progress of the expedition will be largely dictated by the prevailing weather conditions and the sea ice distribution. Every day your Tour Skipper, along with other expedition leaders and the support crew, will monitor the conditions closely using ice maps and other tools, and determine the best strategy and routes to press forward in a safe and enjoyable way.

For most of our wakeful hours, we will stay on the deck and look out for all kinds of wildlife and landscape observation and photography opportunities, with the compactness of our ship, the Origo, allowing us to access an amazing network of wildlife-rich areas, and the relatively low viewing areas allowing us to feel united with the environment.

When any wildlife is spotted, after getting some preliminary photographs, we will attempt to approach it by climbing onto a Zodiac, if the leadership team finds the situation safe to do so for all parties concerned.

During these approaches, your and the subjects' safety will be kept in utmost regard, and the expert oarsmen will manoeuvre the boat in a manner that minimizes stress to the subjects and the risk posed by icebergs and glacial edges. Using our Zodiacs, we can also land ashore and enjoy the rare privilege of exploring the islets on foot.

When you are not watching and photographing wildlife, MS Origo's solidity and comfort will ensure you have a smooth time relaxing. The vessel features six cabins - all with private viewing facilities, quick access to Zodiacs, panoramic views from the bridge and outer decks, a small library in every room, and, for when you are not firing away with your camera, a 'weather-sealed' well-stocked bar atop the deck from where the local scenery can be mixed with foreign spirits and gradually absorbed for good measure. What's more, it's protected from the elements, too.

Scrumptious buffet meals feature elaborate vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, and the special requirements of your palate can be satisfied to ensure that your stomach enjoys the experience of Svalbard as much as your eyes do.

Amidst all this, you will also ingest a lot of valuable knowledge through the extremely insightful, inspiring and enriching interactive talks and discussions delivered by the Tour leaders, including our famous ChaayaaChitra, ChitraTantra and Charchaaloka sessions.

These interactions not only offer a wealth of natural history nuggets and photography tips and tricks, but will also allow you to have your pictures reviewed frequently and take corrective steps if required to shorten the learning curve during just the course of an expedition, making your time indoors as productive as when you're out spotting wildlife.

Meanwhile the crew will work hard to keep everything running smoothly so your experience of the white archipelago is a truly memorable experience.

DAY 11   14 August: Return to Longyearbyen

After hopefully a highly productive time on the enchanting cruise, we return to Longyearbyen at around 9 a.m. a satisfied lot, from where we take our flights for home, yearning to share tales and pictures from an eventful Tour with friends and family.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria? Anybody interested in Arctic or general wildlife and/or wildlife, landscape or bird photography and is above the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) can participate in this Tour. There are no eligibility criteria.
  • I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible? Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact, if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour, we recommend that you be familiar with at least the basics of photography. Please talk to us for more details.
  • I am not into photography. Would you still recommend this Tour? Most certainly! While photographers will probably derive maximum value from this Tour, non-photographers will enjoy the expedition equally.
  • How cold will it be? The weather is variable, but the average hovers between a few degrees below freezing at the minimum and around 2°C as the maximum. There will be considerable wind chill on the deck. Sea conditions may get occasionally rough, but the rugged construction of the ship usually ensures a largely smooth ride. You are advised to carry requisite medication if you suffer from seasickness.
  • What fitness level is required? Although this is not a very physically intensive Tour, some basic amount of physical fitness is required, chiefly to withstand the cold, climb up and down the steep staircase between the hull of the ship and the Zodiac board, and to undertake short walks exploring the islets on foot. If you suffer from known illnesses, please consult your physician before signing up for the Tour.
  • By what mode will photography be done on this Tour? Photography will be done from the cruise ship, the Zodiac boats and on foot when we occasionally alight on land.
  • How safe is this cruise? Your safety is of paramount importance to us and every aspect of this expedition has been designed to the highest safety standards. Our cruise ship exceeds all the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) requirements and features state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment. There are comfortably excess life vests, high-grade immersion suits and lifeboats on board the cruise, and lifejackets will be compulsorily worn during all the Zodiac rides. You are in very capable hands as the Tour Skippers have between them a total experience of 15 expeditions to Svalbard, and are well assisted by an expert crew who are consummate with local conditions. Together they will constantly monitor weather conditions and take suitable decisions to ensure a safe and enjoyable Tour for everyone.
  • Will you provide visa assistance? Yes. While the Tour cost does not include visa expenses, all the assistance you require in procuring a visa will be duly provided.
  • How sure are you about photographing wildlife on this Tour? Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.
  • What equipment do you suggest on this Tour? Svalbard is a land of beautiful landscapes, so a wide-angle lens is a must, with a fisheye lens being most welcome. For wildlife, a lens with a focal length of at least 400mm is considered necessary, with longer focal lengths being welcome. Telephoto zooms such as 70-200mm lenses can allow you to include your subject's habitat in your frame. A bean bag as a support device is strongly recommended. Please talk to us for more specific advice on equipment.
  • I do not own appropriate equipment. What do I do? If you do not own adequate photography gear, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Click here to see what we offer. What's better, you enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired on our Photo Tours!
  • How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours? Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Toehold Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed..
Twin Cabin
USD 10,000 *
Single Cabin
USD 10,620 *
Single Cabin ††
USD 11,000 *

* 5% GST Extra

Per Person with Shared WC-Shower

†† Per Person with Private WC-Shower

  • Boarding and lodging in chosen accommodation aboard MS Origo for Tour duration
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and hot beverages (coffee and tea) for Tour duration
  • All local fees
  • All Zodiac excursions
  • Services of a Photography Skipper
  • All airfare and transfer expenses
  • Overnight accommodation prior to and following the trip aboard the ship
  • Visa expenses
  • Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours, extra meals and beverages ordered
  • Insurance, laundry and phone calls
  • Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages
  • Tips and gratuities
  • All applicable taxes
  • Anything that is not included in the Inclusions list
  • USD 2000 booking amount (non-refundable)
  • USD 6000 before 30 December 2017
  • Balance before 1 March 2018
  • USD 1000 before 30 December 2017
  • USD 6000 between 1 December 2017 and 28 February 2018 (If two payments are made on time)
  • No refunds for cancellation after 1 March 2018

Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.

Terms and Conditions

  1. Participants who have a medical history of blood pressure, heart-related problems or asthma are advised to seek medical advice before enrolling for this Tour.
  2. Fitness to complete the Tour is the only criterion for participation.
  3. Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. shall not be responsible for injuries, damages, or losses caused to any traveller in connection with terrorist activities, social or labour unrest, mechanical or construction failures or difficulties, diseases, local laws, climatic conditions, abnormal conditions or developments, or any other actions, omissions, or conditions outside the travel partner's control.
  4. All clients travelling with Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. must complete and sign a reservation form and the "Release of Liability, Assumption of Risk & Arbitration Agreement" form.
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