As some of my industry friends and colleagues know, I love to explore the more unusual corners of the world and, quite often, will book a solo trip, which is a great way to interact with the locals and meet interesting fellow travellers along the way. Don’t be daunted – just book it, as you will encounter extremely interesting people wherever you go.
This year, I boarded a converted ex-Russian research vessel which took 50 passengers and made an expedition around Svalbard (way north of Norway) and Greenland’s east coast. The ship was very comfortable, the food excellent and the expedition leaders all highly qualified but extremely down-to-earth and friendly scientists. We even had an expedition photographer who gave fantastic advice on taking better photos.
Both morning and afternoon, we left the ship in little rubber zodiac boats and, as long as there were no polar bears on the beach, we landed to hike onshore and explore the amazing flora, fauna, scenery and history – be it whaling or Paleo-Eskimo. The wildlife encounters were fabulous, and the highlight was being in a zodiac just a few metres away from a polar bear feeding on a whale carcass on shore.
Greenland’s scenery was far more impressive and varied than I had expected, from a rolling green shoreline to huge mist-topped cliffs rising from the sea, to incredible mountains and rock formations. The cathedral-sized icebergs which had broken off glaciers far inland and were slowly making their way out to sea were extraordinarily beautiful.
There are very few people living along the east coast of Greenland, but we visited one small community with brightly coloured houses and very friendly children who spoke excellent English. Aurora Expeditions, which operated the trip, had donated playground equipment to the village and this was a focal point for all the local children on that bright sunny day when we visited. There was also a very interesting little museum which had cultural artefacts and photos.
The holiday lasted 14 days and by the time we docked in Iceland at the end of the trip, firm friendships had been made by many onboard. Greenland may not be on the top of your list of destinations if you enjoy relaxing on a beach or a cruise ship but, for the wild at heart, I thoroughly recommend it.
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