First time to... the Arctic
To begin my Arctic adventure I flew via Oslo to Tromsø, the largest city in the Norwegian Arctic, which is surprisingly pretty. As I was visiting in the summer months, I experienced, for the first time, the long, light summer nights.
The next morning after a healthy breakfast, I decided to explore the town. The surroundings were beautiful, mountains were sugar-coated with snow and icy fjords surrounded the city. The remarkable Arctic Cathedral can be seen towering above the quaint wooden houses – it was the first thing I saw when we landed the night before! Designed by architect Jan Inge Hovig, the building is constructed with 11 aluminium-coated concrete panels on each side. As you enter the cathedral, the glass mosaic created by artist Victor Sparre is incredible and on a sunny day, the church’s interiors are beautifully illuminated. For such an isolated city, Tromsø prides itself for having the largest amount of pubs per capita in Norway; unfortunately I didn’t have time to try them all!
Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø
At 2pm it was the time to board the Silversea Explorer. When I opened the door to my spacious cabin, I spotted the parka on my bed and I knew that I was going to have the adventure of a lifetime. The ship was well-equipped with a fitness centre (which I didn't use!), spa, panorama lounge, Tor’s observation library offering great views and the explorer lounge where regular talks were held. The food on board was delicious and all courses were paired perfectly with wine. We sailed to Nordkapp, which translates as North Cape, so-called as it is mainland Europe’s most northern coastline. Here, we watched reindeer grazing on tundra and I imagined trying to live here, a place so far away from anywhere which has both long, dark winter nights and days that never end in the summer.
It took a day to get to Bear Island, as we sailed past several islands and rocks that make up the Gjesverstappan islands, all of which were covered in snow. On our first excursion, we were amazed to see so many different types of birds, including puffins, guillemots, snow buntings, black-legged kittiwakes and northern fulmars. Every day of the cruise was full of surprises: sailing across fjords, seeing snowy islands and glaciers and searching for wildlife. When we got to Svalbard, the main island, we saw a polar bear! We were spoiled by seeing four more. The most memorable sighting was a mother and her cub walking along the shore of the island together on the hunt for seals. It’s sad to think that due to climate change these beautiful animals are losing more and more of their habitat as the ice caps melt at a rapid rate.
Polar bear, Svalbard
My personal highlight was seeing polar bears in real life, but it was just as special to see such a variety of arctic wildlife including: arctic foxes, reindeer, seals and walruses. The on board team made the experience even more enjoyable as they have a geologist, photographer, marine biologist, ornithologist and several other knowledgeable members of staff on board who gave daily lectures, making the voyage more interesting. On my way back to Oslo, I cherished my memories of that far away wilderness, full of animals, birds, snow and fjords.
- Tags: Adventure, Arctic, Art & Architecture, Cox & Kings Staff, Cruise Journeys, Europe, Landscape, North Pole, Polar, Wildlife