The Northern Lights in winter are one of the biggest attractions in Scandinavia and, having seen them myself, I completely understand why. But this year I wanted something a little different, so I decided to dodge the tourist traffic and head up to Vesterålen to take in the Aurora in autumn (yes, you can do that!).
So what can I share about the experience? Well first of all, it’s warmer in autumn than winter! This might seem obvious but trust me; it makes a big difference, not least because getting holiday photos is much easier when you’re not trying to operate the camera through three pairs of mittens! This turned out to be a massive help on my Autumn Northern Lights break since photography was a fairly integral part of the trip. The very first night I was given a ‘how to’ session on Northern Lights photography so I could get my own shots, and some of them turned out brilliantly! And with Aurora hunts every night, I had plenty more opportunities to take more.
My photo shoot of Norway didn’t end there though, the very next day I was taken out on a wildlife and landscape photography tour to get some pictures of the beautiful scenery and the local wildlife. We went out by boat with the hopes of spotting seals, sea otters, the White-Tailed Eagle and maybe even whales! Unfortunately the whales were shy that day so I didn’t get to see the incredible creatures, but the Eagles put in an appearance. My slow reaction times may have prevented me from taking great photographs, but these majestic birds certainly made for a sight I’ll never forget - with or without pictures!
I also visited a Sami reindeer farm where the family spoke to me about life in Vesterålen before taking me out to see the animals, and I have to say, the reindeer looked even more impressive without their snowy Disney backdrop.
But for me, the real highlight of the trip was the wilderness hike. In winter, getting out and about in the woods is pretty difficult thanks to the snow cover; in autumn, however, the woods are perfect for a little exploration! This expedition had a bit of a twist though; it wasn’t just a pleasant nature hike, it was a wilderness survival walk. A lesson in navigation and knot tying, along with a go at abseiling, wilderness cooking and fire making were very enjoyable but did, sadly, made it abundantly clear to me that I’m never going to make the next Ray Mears!
That didn’t stop me though; I had such a good time that I decided to carry on my outdoor activities the next day with a kayaking trip to see some more of the local wildlife. And my luck was in, not only did I spot sea otter and seals; I discovered that I had quite a knack for kayaking! It was certainly a relief to find an outdoor pursuit I picked up so easily, so I think I’ll head back to the woods next autumn and see if I can master the rest…