The polar regions are the last unspoiled natural wonders of the world, where ice sheets dominate the landscape, and wildlife roams freely in the vast wilderness on land and in the waters.
PAX recently experienced this world up-close, taking part in a sailing to Greenland on Quark Expeditions' Ocean Adventurer. The 15-day Greenland Explorer: Valleys and Fjords voyage visited the east, south and west coasts of Greenland, including crossing the Arctic Circle.
Founded in 1991, Quark Expeditions is headquartered in Seattle, with sales and reservations operating out of Toronto. The company specializes in polar expedition cruising - with small ships visiting the Arctic and Antarctica. Quark’s fleet consists of seven ships, including two authentic icebreakers and a new luxury vessel launching this winter.
Reasons to Go
In Greenland, visitors are treated to jagged peaks, deep fjords, calving glaciers and gleaming icebergs. In August, the tundra valleys are covered in indigenous flora and vegetation. Wildlife includes many species of whales, sea birds, puffins, musk oxen, Arctic hares, and, unfortunately due to global warming - an ever increasing amount of mosquitoes, midges and flies. In the Arctic Circle,aurora borealis may be seen late in the evening - as we did on our final two nights.
Visitors come with a goal to connect with nature, observe wildlife and perhaps complete a bucket list, but they return with a greater understanding of this precious and delicate environment, and the need for its conservation. To that end, Quark partners with several organizations including the Nature Conservancy and Polar Bears International to create awareness and raise funds through onboard auctions.
What to Expect
Expedition cruising is completely dependent on weather, wind and sea conditions. Landings sites might be altered due to too much ice, excursions may be shortened due to weather, and dinners may be interrupted by whale sightings - which no one complains about! The expedition team leader works tirelessly to plot daily landing sites and scheduled activities, which are often in remote wilderness, historical sites, abandoned settlements or small Inuit communities. Zodiac cruising, kayaking, and hiking of different intensity levels are offered. Our 16-member expedition team included a geologist, historian, marine biologist, ornithologist, photographer and paddle guides who engaged with guests in all aspects of the expedition.
Who are Expedition Clients?
On my sailing, there was a surprising number of guests in their 30s and 40s, with some already experienced in expedition cruising. Guests are well-travelled and have done extensive trips around the world. Many of them were first-time cruisers who are keen to explore the Arctic with like-minded travellers. Offer these trips to clients of all ages interested in soft adventure, nature, hiking, kayaking, birding and photography.
- Quark offers a single share program for solo travelers in double or triple occupancy.
- Rates include all meals, tours and activities. Alcoholic beverages, specialty coffees and gratuities are additional.
- For Mandarin-speaking guests, Quark has an extensive team of linguists and guides who sail onboard to provide translations during tours and lectures.