Arctic Greenland: A Journey to the Frigid North
By Steffi Porter
A New Way to Experience the Arctic
It is a place few get to experience in their lifetime. Once out of reach for most travelers, Greenland’s Arctic wilderness may not be off the beaten track for much longer.
Inaccessible, mysterious, and frigid are words to describe this Arctic world. However, Natural Habitat Adventures, a Colorado-based tour company, is spearheading a new, unexpectedly luxurious way for nature enthusiasts to experience Arctic Greenland.
“Till now, Greenland’s most remote east coast, carved by glaciers and rent by deep fjords filled with icebergs, has been inaccessible to all but the hardiest of travelers,” said Ben Bressler, founder and president of Natural Habitat Adventures. “Base Camp Greenland is changing that.”
Not What You Expect from the Arctic
Guests get to stay comfortable with the expedition eco-lodge, offering private tent-cabins equipped with heating, carpet, beds and pillows, toilets and washbasins, plus a breathtaking view. Hot showers are also available, plus meals that are prepared by a camp chef in a common dining area.
Few people live in this arctic region of Greenland, due largely to harsh weather conditions, making in a challenging, harsh place to be. Between the icebergs, and the frigid temperatures, it is no wonder most people don’t put it high on their list of places to visit.
That is exactly why this is such a unique travel opportunity. Not only do guests get to experience a place most never see, but they get to do it comfortably, with warm rooms to go back to at the end of the day.
That’s something you don’t get to experience every day.
This tour has already drawn a crowd, already sold out for the first year’s four trips, according to Ted Martens of Natural Habitat Adventures. He called the response so far “amazing,” adding that fans of unique wildlife exploration are enthusiastic about getting to see a place seldom visited.
Natural Habitat Adventures’ tours generally cater to a unique audience of exploration enthusiasts who like to center their travel around wildlife and nature, and this tour is certainly no exception.
The typical audience for this kind of tour is people closer to retirement age who want to get out and see more of the world, and who have a little bit more money, Martens explained.
The tour guides are professional naturalists with PHDs in fields like wildlife biology, helping people get out there and experience the arctic north.
The Journey to Arctic Greenland
The adventure begins in Reykjavik, Iceland, with a flight to Kulusuk, Greenland, which is followed by a helicopter flight to Tasiilaq, “the small, administrative center of East Greenland,” according to the website. Tourists spend three nights in Tasiilaq and get to experience and learn about the Inuit culture, then continue on to Base Camp Greenland by boat.
Exploration, tourism, adventure.
“Tourists want to see the wildest parts of the arctic, in the most comfortable way,” said Olaf Malver, Chief Exploratory Officer for Natural Habitat Adventures, and the person spearheading this expedition.
While at the same time luxurious and adventurous, the Greenland tours offer a wide range of different exploratory opportunities. From coasting around the shores on zodiacs, catching sight of incredible, rare arctic wildlife such as whales and seals to hiking, kayaking and getting to interact with the local natives, there is unlikely to be a dull moment. Participants also get to go whale watching, and visit traditional Inuit villages.
“There is chance to see polar bears,” Martens said. “But generally we don’t get too close.”
Catching sight of rare arctic animals is just the tip of the iceberg. Pun intended.
There is another aspect of this trip that organizers intend to be educational and eye-opening, exposing them to environmental realities that they would otherwise only hear about on T.V.
“Another big focus of this trip is Greenland being the bellwether of climate change,” said Martens.
The tour will show travelers The Greenland Ice Sheet, the second largest ice mass in the world. It is the glacier that has been receding and disappearing at very scary paces, said Martens, and has been most impacted by climate change. Guests will get to see first-hand the effects of climate change like global warming on the Arctic.
“Some of the focus of the trip is to get people on the front lines of climate change and to see how this glacier has receded,” Martens said.
From physically demanding to the intellectually stimulating, this expedition has it all, according to Martens, who has been operating trips in Greenland for twenty-five years, and says he knows the area very well by now.
Natural exploration, plus true cultural experiences are what it’s all about. The vast number of activities are optional, giving people the chance to choose what suits their interests and abilities. They get to go off on their own for some of the activities, such as hiking and kayaking as well.
Greenland’s First Luxury Expedition Camp
A 9-day, 8-night journey, with a limit of only twelve travelers per trip, the expedition will be offered four times in 2015, August 1-9, 9-18, 18-26 and August 26-September 3.
The trip revolves around a four-night stay at Base Camp Greenland on Sermilik Fjord, also known as “Arctic Riviera,” as the weather during the day tends to be sunny and dry during the summer months.
“[Base Camp Greenland is] remote, majestic, and nature feels huge here, like few other places in Greenland,” said Malver. “Yet it is relatively easy to reach from Iceland.”
Natural Habitat Adventures
Founded in 1985, Natural Habitat Adventures takes nature enthusiasts all over the globe in small groups to see everything from polar bears to the Galapagos islands, plus Alaska and African safaris. They are big on eco-friendly expeditions, and having adventures that take you off the beaten path.
On tours, groups are led by experienced Expedition leaders, and stick to “expertly crafted itineraries,” but still leave some time for spontaneity. They are very aware of maintaining the well-being of the places they take tourists, environmentally and culturally.
Steffi Porter is a creative writer and journalist who has written for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Hearst Newspapers and the Houston Chronicle. She is a former writer and editor for her college paper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and a graduate of the Institute for Political Journalism and the Fund for American Studies.