August 3, 2016
The Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is one of the most distinctive and enigmatic Arctic animals, full of contrasts. They are one of the largest pinnipeds (semi aquatic, fin footed marine mammals), weighing in at 600kg to 2000kg yet, despite their intimidating size and signature tusks; they are the gentle giants of the Arctic. Once hunted to the point of extinction, the population has recovered somewhat but is still classified as vulnerable, not the least because of declining sea ice levels in the Arctic Ocean.
They don’t move very fast on land as you can see when they haul their great mass along the ice, yet in the water it’s a different story. Walrus can easily swim 4 miles per hour on average and bursts of up to 20 miles per hour. They are carnivores yet they are not big hunters, instead choosing to feast on shellfish. They dive to reach their food, using their distinctive whiskers to identify where the food is.
The famous Beatles song "I Am the Walrus" is also a reference to a Lewis Carroll poem.
Getting to see Walrus in its own habitat is a unique sight. They are strong and ancient creatures, which have played a prominent role in the cultures of indigenous people. And it is perhaps a bonus that this fascinating creature happens to live in some of the most stunning parts of the world.
The smaller species of Atlantic walrus can be seen in the spectacular Svalbard archipelago as well as eastern and western Greenland. This is a majestic and prolific destination generally for Arctic wildlife and is the most accessible place for most people to see Walrus.
Cruises such as Around Spitsbergen and Exploration of Svalbard explore Spitsbergen and have excellent chances to see walrus both on sea ice floes as well as hauled out on beaches to warm up in the 24-hour summer sunshine. All you have to do is fly up from mainland Norway and let the ship take care of exploring the pristine Arctic wilderness.
The Three Arctic Islands tour takes in both Svalbard and eastern Greenland – both areas prime habitats for Walrus. Other expeditions such as this Baffin Island Jewel of the Arctic cruise in northern Canada also offer excellent opportunities to sight walrus.
If you want to see the world’s biggest walruses, you need to head for the Pacific side of the Arctic – Alaska and especially the Russian Far East. The Across the Top of the World expedition will take you through the Bering Strait. The area here is a treasure trove of Arctic biodiversity. It is known for its Polar Bear community, unique birdlife and also the largest populations of Pacific Walrus. Haulouts of these impressive animals can number in the thousands.
Expeditions Online specialise in cruises inspired by nature. The Arctic section of their website offers a variety of trips to locations that are great places to see Walrus on high quality and environmentally-responsible small ship cruises to the Arctic region.
Find out more about how you can have your own Arctic adventure in the best places to see Walrus in the wild. You’ll have an inspirational time viewing this beautiful, gentle giant in its own habitat.