Arctic Wildlife - Close Encounters of the Walrus kind

I’m always looking for that WOW moment on an Arctic adventure. Sometimes it’s a breeching whale, a close up Polar bear encounter, or other wildlife moments that surprise and excite me when they happen.

I just returned from a voyage to Svalbard (Arctic Norway) onboard the M/S Expedition. We saw Polar bear (11 in total), birds, reindeer, seal and whale. But it wasn’t until we spent 2+ hours close up with walrus I realized that was my WOW moment of the trip.

Walrus with long tusks

We were divided into 2 groups of 40 so we wouldn’t spook the walrus. They can be a bit skittish and when one gets spooked and goes into the water they usually all follow and that’s the end of the viewing experience. I was lucky to be in the first group. We approached a group of 10+ walrus hauled out on the shore. Slowly we made our way in a single file line closer and closer until we got to where the guides had staked out the boundaries so we wouldn’t approach any closer. All was going well. The walrus were about 100 feet from us and it was easy for everyone to see and take pictures & videos. There was a lot of camera clicking and maybe that’s what got the first of the walrus to take notice and start heading toward the water.

 We all started to worry the next group would not get an opportunity to spend time with the walrus so the guides asked us (the first group) to step back and let the next group, which was waiting only a short distance away, approach for some time to observe and picture taking.

 Walrus in water

The walrus seemed to be ok with our presence after most of them had entered the water and instead of swimming away they proceeded to swim around in the water. As they were jousting with each other they became interested in all these people standing on shore and in the shallows of the water.

 Rolling Walrus

We watched a large male roll down the hill, over and over until he rolled into the water. After swimming a while he decided we were worth checking out; so he started swimming towards us. I was kneeling in the water taking pictures and the walrus’ head was getting bigger and bigger. At one point his head filled the frame and I lowered my camera to see the walrus 10 ft away watching me. My first reaction was WOW, followed by “maybe I should back up just a little”. He watched me for awhile and then continued down the row of people checking everyone out. Others came to see what he was up to, but he seemed to tell them “these are my humans, get lost”.

 Walrus close-up

Two hours passed very quickly and at least 30 of us could have spent the whole day watching these 2 ton animals doing their thing.

 I will never forget this Arctic experience and even though I know I may never have this same experience again I do know there are other WOW moments out there to experience on my next Polar adventure. If you would like us to plan an Arctic vacation for you please contact us at

Posted by Lynn Cross