There’s something breathtakingly riveting when you encounter a wild animal in its natural environment… whether you are in the Arctic, Antarctic or Galápagos.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a polar bear in the wild. I’d been travelling for a day along the coast of the stunning archipelago of Svalbard, midway between Norway and the North Pole. We’d encountered big herds of Svalbard reindeer and plenty of seals, but not a single bear. That’s the way it is with genuine wildlife sightings. You go for long periods with nothing. And then just as you think you’ll never see anything, there it is, very much alive and active. It’s a sensation that is always absolutely exhilarating. And certainly in Svalbard, my heart beat faster as we closed the distance between the bear and myself.
My mind was racing. What a magnificent creature with its glistening fur lumbering across the ice. This bear was in the prime of his life, a young male actively hunting for seals. Clambering over ice formations. Leaping onto its hind legs to crash down onto the ice, trying to break through to reach a seal. We observed this bear for an entire day, following its every step. And at day’s end, just as we were preparing to head for our shelter, it emerged from the water blood red. It had made a kill, the seal still thrashing in its mouth. For the next hour we watched it devour its prey. An experience I’ll never forget.