Kayaking Greenland: A Moment From the Past

Natural Habitat Adventures April 26, 2014 0

This travel tale was writtten by Andrea Reynolds, Adventure Specialist at Natural Habitat Adventures

When I took my first trip to Greenland, my first impression was just as I’ve heard others describing it—Greenland is icy and Iceland is green.

Kayaking in Greenland

© Bill and Debbie Pierce

Our adventure kicked off in Reykjavik, Iceland.  From there we flew to Eastern Greenland.  I remember sitting on the plane, looking around at the others on-board wondering what inspired them to join this adventure.  Many of those in the group had paddled extensively in warmer waters and now wanted the experience of challenging themselves in a colder climate.  Others were curious about what it would be like to camp in almost 24-hour daylight.  I was just game for being part of a group with a common goal and seeing where that took us.  Twelve of us assembled our Feathercraft kayaks and loaded them up with tents, personal gear, and food for a 12-day journey.  We explored amazing inlets and were impressed by glaciers that cascaded down slopes and calved into our sheltered coves. 

Overlooking an inlet in Greenland- Sea Kayaking

© John Papazian

We were continually scanning the horizon for whale spouts, hoping to see a fin whale or sperm whale – or even better – a humpback or orca.  I never saw one but enjoyed the search.    Of the wildlife we did see, the most memorable for me were jellyfish.  I was so intrigued by the various shapes and colors. Our impromptu natural history conversations and debates often started off with a fun fact. For instance, did you know a group of jellyfish is known a “smack”? From there we theorized what marine mammals were feeding on the endless stream of jellyfish.  When the notion of narwhal was introduced, I was immediately reminded that while the scenery at times looked like southeast Alaska, I was in Greenland. 

Paddling these bays in a kayak that has a factory-produced skin shell brought me closer to the traditional kayaks used by the Greenlandic Inuits, descendants of the Dorset and Thule people.  As soon as I got into my kayak, I felt transported back in time.  One day we visited a wonderful community tucked back in a sheltered cove.  The homes and buildings were all brightly painted and huge cables extended from their roofs to the ground to ensure nothing blew away in winter storms.  It was hard to imagine this as we explored the trails around the village wearing just a fleece top and shorts.

Colorful houses in Greenland

© Olaf Malver

We saw fish drying on racks, I presume to be eaten in the winter.  We saw seals tied to floats to be used to feed dogs.  Children swung on swings made from old orange boat floats.  We stopped into a community hall where a group of elderly men were playing cards and swapping stories.  Their faces told stories of life in a remote village on a coastline that provided almost all of what they needed to raise their families.  With the language gap, I was unable to ask any questions but it is always wonderful how a smile can start a conversation without words.  As we paddled away from the shore heading to our next camp, I remember thinking how amazing the world is.   There is so much diversity in people – the places we live, the jobs we do to support our families and friends – and yet a kayak can bring it all together.

Kayaks in Greeland

© Naomi Elliot

I am so excited for Nat Hab’s new Base Camp Greenland, so our guests can experiences the magic I felt in Greenland’s Arctic Riviera.

If you’re up for more of an active expedition-style trip to Greenland, check out our Greenland kayaking trip.

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