Last updated: 09:00 AM ET, Wed April 08 2015

Intrepid Goes Polar

Tour Operator | James Ruggia | April 08, 2015

Intrepid Goes Polar

Intrepid Travel, the company that’s been pushing edgy travel since they opened in 1989, is staying on the edge these days by exploring up top. Intrepid’s current product line includes several programs centered in the Arctic. One program is even focused in the center of the Arctic, giving travelers the chance to stand on the Pole itself, or dance if they prefer. Ron Fenska, Intrepid’s vice president of sales North America said, "Hey, it’s a very big world and experienced travelers have opened up travel to the non-traditional places. Alaska opened our eyes to the beauty of colder regions and then came Antarctica.

“On the one hand people want to see polar bears and walruses, but they’re also more aware of the ice cap because of the danger it’s in.” Fenska makes it clear that the Arctic and Antarctica are very different experiences. “Antarctica is a continent, while the Arctic is mostly ocean made up of various land masses or islands,” said Fenska.

“As for wildlife, Antarctica is primarily marine mammals like penguins, whales and seals. And the Arctic has polar bears, walrus and land mammals such as wolves, fox and reindeer. Additionally, the flora is quite different. The Arctic has numerous flowering plants that seem to survive and flourish and Antarctica has almost no vegetation whatsoever.”

“Initially these areas were exclusively for the rough-and-ready, expedition type of traveler, but today it’s for any traveler that wants to expand their horizon. The amount of Arctic suppliers has really grown and there’s a full range of Arctic product in Svalbard. There’s even a Radisson on Spitsbergen.”

The five-day North Pole Express: Barneo Ice Camp journeys from Longyearbyen to the Barneo Ice Camp, a camp constructed anew each year in the North Polar Basin. The package begins with a flight to the camp in an Antonov AN-74 aircraft. At the camp, the travelers meet scientists from the Russian Geographical Society.

“It’s so exclusive,” said Fenska, “that it’s limited to five days and starts at $28,995. It’s a small market, because this is as extreme as it gets.” Chances are if you get to the North Pole, you’ll want documentation and that comes in the form of a certificate from the Russian Geographical Society Expedition Centre certifying that you have reached the Geographic North Pole.

The 13-day Arctic Archipelagos: Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land sails from Longyearbyen to explore the polar islands. Travelers visit settlements and huts built by Arctic expedition teams on Hooker Island in the 1800s and hike through a polar desert scattered with 9,500-year-old fossils at Vibebukta. At $7,495, it’s almost a quarter the price of the North Pole Express and almost three times longer.


It’s important to remember that the Aurora Borealis can only be appreciated during the winter’s night skies. During the Midnight Sun period of summer you can’t see the Lights.

The 10-day Arctic Express: Greenland’s Northern Lights flies from Iceland to Greenland. Priced from $5,995, the package includes a hike through Ella Olya’s rugged landscape, encounters with Inuit culture in Itoqqortoormiit and a visit to the massive Waterhausen Glacier. In Greenland visitors experience some of the world’s most vivid displays of Northern Lights. “The Arctic is home to a small population of indigenous people that still inhabit the landscapes,” said Fenska. “Those are mostly Inuits and Siberians who continue the lifestyles of previous generations.”

Fenska was recently hired by Intrepid to bolster its presence in North America. He joined Cyndi Zesk, the president of the Intrepid Group in North America. Intrepid is growing its North American efforts with a new office in California, more marketing budget and extra staff. In a recent TravelPulse interview Zesk said, “Adventure travel has been growing over 60 percent per year since 2009 and we are delighted to be able to offer the travel agent community an opportunity to grow their share of this lucrative market with all the programs and brands that Intrepid Group has to offer.”

Both Zesk and Fenska are alumni of G Adventures and Collette. Intrepid Travel is part of PEAK’s Intrepid Group of companies, alongside leading small group adventure companies Peregrine, Geckos, Peregrine Reserve, Adventure Tours and The Adventure Company. 

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