High mountain flanks with snow flanks ending in craggy peaks, clear lakes and streams tumbling down the same mountain slopes as thundering waterfalls, deep fjords with numerous icebergs floating in them and lots of green and lush tundra, this is the landscape of South Greenland. How does one explore and experience such a landscape? This question is answered with two words on this trip: Activities in the middle of it.
Experiencing the polar regions as a guest or as a tourist is not just a boom, but something that people have been doing for decades. Apart from a few slumps, the number of interested people has been rising steadily. And with it, however, also the number of providers, the interests and also the possible offers of regions and activities. Especially in the current situation, where half of the Arctic is closed for political reasons or will probably remain closed for a long time, the numerous shipping companies and ship operators have to look for new opportunities. And South Greenland is a good choice as a destination. But although the landscape is uniquely beautiful, wild and spectacular, local tour operators also want their region to be seen not only as a place of scenic diversity, but also as one of activities and adventure. And why not? Greenland does not want to close itself off to tourism, wants to show that it is indeed possible to combine experiences of nature with experiences of activity. What this means, we experience here on board on this trip. The on-board activities that start every day from the “Ultramarine” are a dense program that is partly open to everyone and partly had to be booked in advance and really offers something for everyone.
Since the beginning of the trip we have been busy with activities and thus experienced South Greenland literally up close. There are, for example, hikes where the helicopter takes the group inland or to a plateau, or kayaking along the coast. The classic shore excursions with Zodiacs and the subsequent guided hikes are of course indispensable. But in cooperation with locals, extra bookable activities are also on the list. And on the sixth day there was a lot going on, for example camping in the middle of South Greenland. A total of two groups went on this adventure and were accompanied by local guides who showed them what plants and herbs to pick and eat, how to get delicious fish in a clear lake. They also showed how delicious locally produced vegetables and meat are and how good it is to sleep in tents in the middle of South Greenland (even if the wind shook the tents a little bit during the night). Colleague Christiane, who booked the whole thing with her sister, was thrilled with the people and the activities. “The wind shook the tent quite a bit during the night, but it was still a great experience,” she explained upon returning.
Or how about mountain biking, which took place on a very adventurous trail through the middle of the South Greenlandic landscape? For this, Quark works with a local family that takes care of the bikes and also has a trail to ride on. The bikes are specially equipped for riding on both the soft tundra ground and rocky trails and do little damage. For David, a U.S. resident who otherwise lives in Florida, this adventure was definitely unique. “It wasn’t for beginners. You had to know your way around a bit. But with the guides, we were perfectly on our way,” he says enthusiastically. And Stefan, one of the few Swiss on board and also a mountain bike fan, also found the experience super and unique. “It was a highlight and well organized.”
Other activity enthusiasts were able to indulge their paddling cravings a day earlier with kayaks on a mountain lake. Surrounded by high mountains and a large stream that pours into the lake, the group had the chance to experience a place known only to locals in a completely different way than on foot. Pure relaxation.
Besides the helicopters and their pilots, it was mainly the guides of the expedition team who were challenged today (and all the days before). The team comprised a total of 28 members who assisted the guests in all kinds of functions. For each activity, several experts were always helpfully available to accompany the guests. I know several members of the team and know that all who participate in the adventures and activities are in the best hands. The helicopters and the ship may be the technical heart of the trip. But the ladies and gentlemen of the team around expedition leader Allison are definitely the soul.
Dr. Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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