PB Travels… Tromso – Whales and Night Walks

Day 6 of our arctic adventure, and I loved the pace and the fact that, although we had a packed enough activities, we also had enough downtime to lounge about – chilling in the hotel playing GoT Monopoly!!!  If you are a Thrones fan, you will love this version of Monopoly – loved playing it but let us not talk about who won.

By this time breakfast was getting pretty boring, so I had some cereal and yogurt and then we walked about 5 minutes to a floating jetty to board the boat for whale watching.

We had a very hands off crew – a skipper and a ‘guide’ who did no guiding of any sort. An hour into sea, we stopped to see some orcas and humpbacks.  I have my standard lens on my SLR, and we were too far to get any decent shots.  I soon realised that, put the camera away and decided to just watch the whales through binoculars – much better.

It was freezing cold, and to be honest, after about 10 minutes, the whales disappeared and we didn’t have much luck seeing them again.  Along with the whale watching, we saw these ‘RIB’ boats literally on top of the whales – not sure how I felt about that, completely exposed and out there.

We got back to shore by 2pm.  In hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend this company for this activity, and more importantly, I wouldn’t recommend this activity. After learning more about whales and their behaviour from our crazy South African guide (coming up shortly), whale watching in RIB boats or big boats or any boats is intrusive and invasive to the whales, and many whales have been seriously injured as these boats invade into their territory. So never again.  Rant over.

We had enough time for a wander around town before our night snowshoe walk.  That meant one thing – coffee! Once again, our trusty Norwegians came to the rescue and had recommended Riso. The interior was like a Shoreditch-y trendy place, with hipster baristas.  They unfortunately didn’t do any non-dairy milks, so what did I go for? An iced coffee…

I could choose the coffee, the intensity, how it is brewed, everything. It was seriously good coffee.  As we were leaving we got chatting to the baristas. Turns out one of them was flying to London, and asked for good coffee shops, so I mentioned Notes, Prufrock and Workshop (Thanks C!). They thanked us by letting us admire their coffee art. Very cool!

We wandered over to the Tromso Tourist Office for our night time activity pickup, a night snowshoe walk with Wandering Owl.  Our guide was this super passionate, South African conservationist, who knew everything about everything.

So, once again, the weather in Tromso changed. From snowy blizzardy conditions, to sleety rain. Rain = snow turning to slushy ice, which in turn meant no snow shoe walking :(.  However we didn’t get told this UNTIL we reached our destination, got kitted out – and when asked, what about the snow shoes, we were then told it isn’t happening.  So we ended up having a walk in the snow with head lamps – enjoyable and peaceful, and what made it interesting was our South African guide.   He knew everything there is to know about everything, and he was literally the only person we met who was a passionate conservationist (and conversationist!).   We did have a break after 45 minutes for some steaming coffee and hot carrot soup – perfect in that cold rainy environment.  (No pics, nothing to see in the dark 😦 )

My knees which are temperamental at the best of times did not enjoy this snow walk – I would have appreciated being told BEFORE we set off that it wouldn’t be a snow shoe walk, but that didn’t seem to be relevant.  And to top it all, I forgot my scarf in the van, and it proved too difficult for Wandering Owl to drop it off to the hotel (a minute drive from the Tromso Tourist Office), so that resulted in another adventure on our last day.

To end on a happy note – I had bought a pair of snow boots about 3 years ago, when they started predicting the ‘worst winter yet’. Haven’t used them even once in London to date, but I brought them to use in Tromso.  And I wore them everyday.  They were for £20 – they still are – and they were brilliant!! The brand is Quechua and they are warm, waterproof, comfortable – if you don’t want to spend a truckload and get something that will do the trick – buy these!!