Wildlife of the Arctic: An Introduction

Far above the northernmost regions that your average tourist will ever travel, on a vast, ice-encrusted ocean surrounded by treeless permafrost, is the land of the polar night and the midnight sun – the magical kingdom of the Arctic. Average temperatures here never venture higher than 10 °C, and can dip as low as an astonishing -40 °C, seemingly making it one of the least hospitable places on earth.

But what may seem impossibly fierce to us is business as usual for the wildlife who populate the region, from polar bears to seals and narwhals, and in fact the Arctic is one of the most awe-inspiring wilderness holidays you’ll find, whether it’s via a jaunt to the slopes of our luxury ski lodges in Sweden or a taste of adventure with one of our Mantis eXtreme experiences. Whichever floats your Zodiac, you’ll have the privilege of encountering some of the incredible fauna of the region. Here are ten Arctic wildlife highlights.

  • Polar bears are top of the list of course. Seeing them in the snowy fur and flesh is breathtaking, and you can do so with a polar bear encounter from Arctic Kingdom, part of our Mantis Extreme portfolio.
  • Arctic foxes are another well-adapted predator, with their thick, white winter camouflage and grey-blue summer coats. They can often be found slyly stalking bears, hoping to eat their leftovers.
  • Snowy owls are only found in the Arctic, and just like the bears and foxes turn a pure white during the winter, to ensure best hunting.
  • There are a number of whales in the Arctic, from the narwhal, with its single, long ivory tusk to bowheads, belugas, baleen whales and orcas.
  • Another Arctic animal easily recognisable by his tusks is the walrus. They’re one of the highlights of a trip to the Svalbard Islands, which you can experience with Ishav Arctico, another Mantis Extreme adventure.
  • Arctic hares, which look like rabbits but with shorter ears, thrive in a cold climate and dig a warm bed in the ground or under snow.
  • Reindeer and caribou are special to the region, not just as a treat for wildlife watchers, but as a means of survival for centuries to the local people. You can find out more about the Sami way of life on a special tour from one of our luxury ski resorts in Swedish Lapland, Hotell Fjällby or Hotell Riksgransen.
  • Lemmings get a bad rap (they don’t actually jump off cliffs in mass suicide displays) – these determined little mouse-like creatures live in the tundra and can migrate over vast distances (including swimming across bodies of water) in search of food.
  • Sea otters are playful marine animals – always a pleasure to spot floating on their backs in the shallows. They smash Abalone shells with small rocks, making them one of the few mammals besides humans to use tools.
  • Seals are another marine mammal that it’s always a pleasure to encounter, swimming in the chilly waters or sliding across the ice on their furry bellies.

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