We locked eyes instantly. He was big, burly. Handsome as heck. Even with the distance between us, I could feel the intensity – at least on my part. You know how it is when you stop in your footsteps and cannot budge because you're so smitten, almost embarrassingly so, visibly blushing in awe of the specimen that's caught your eye.
That's the instant love I felt the first time I looked deep into the eyes of Ursus maritimus, otherwise known as the polar bear, on my trip to the North Pole with Quark Expeditions a few years ago. I thought I'd noticed the beautiful creature first but our expedition guide simply chuckled, “Oh, trust me, that polar bear had its eyes on you from a distance long before you saw it.”
Locking eyes with a polar bear, either from the safety of your ship or through the long-range lens of your camera, is one of the ways visitors fall in love with the Arctic.
(Photo credit: Samantha Crimmin)
It didn't matter to me who saw who first. Okay, maybe I did feel a little voyeuristic checking out the polar bear from the deck of our polar ship across the massive field of ice. But what can I say? Love at first sight is love at first sight. There's no denying matters of the heart – especially when you're exploring the Arctic.
It's impossible not to have a heartfelt response when you're at the top of the world. It was such an amazing feeling to journey through the Arctic and reach the North Pole. Maybe I was predisposed to fall in love with whatever creature crossed my path. That certainly included the walrus that hauled itself out of the water and hung out beside our ship for a while. (Was that walrus flirting with me?)
My friends pitched me with endless questions about my polar expedition upon my return. They were curious, constantly asking me: “So what made you fall in love with the Arctic, especially the North Pole?”
I tell them there's something for everyone – wherever you visit on your Arctic expedition. It all depends what kind of love you're looking for.
Here are 5 ways you'll find the love you're looking for in the Arctic.
1. “I like long quiet walks…”
Exploring the Arctic on foot means travelers get to see the incredible landscape up close.
(Photo credit: David Merron)
Hiking options are plentiful on Arctic expeditions, especially in places like Spitsbergen. Take your pick of guided group outings or a solo walk recommended by recommended by our expert expedition guides who know the regions like the back of their hand . There are also lots of opportunities for long walks in the parks and nature reserves in Greenland. Or if you're visiting Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, on Somerset Island in Nunavut, you can take an easy hike from basecamp to the Cunningham River estuary to watch beluga whales frolicking in the shallow waters near the shore.
2. “Spending time as a family is important to me.”
Humans cuddle with their babies. The same goes for some animals in the Arctic, which is evident in this sighting of a walrus family in Svalbard. (Photo credit: Acacia Johnson).
Wildlife-viewing expeditions confirm that that the family unit is alive and well in the Arctic. Mama polar bears and their cubs, and huddles of walruses and their young are commonly sighted in the fjords and glaciers of Svalbard, which is known to many as “The Realm of the Polar Bear.” But did you know that walruses actually cuddle their young calves much like humans – on their left side? And that polar bear cubs stay with their mothers for about 30 months, often nursing.
3. “I like to push myself by trying new adventures – to step outside my comfort zone.”
Hot-air ballooning is just one of the many options that help travelers “push their personal boundaries” on an Arctic expedition. (Photo: Samantha Crimmin)
If you're looking to step outside your comfort zone, push personal boundaries, the Arctic is the place to do it. Kayaking in the same waters where mother belugas and their calves play can be a life-changing experience. Then again, guests also have the opportunity of seeing the Artic from way up high – in a tethered hot-air balloon ride at 90º North.
4. "Wine and good food woo me each and every time.”
The landscape may be rugged but Quark Expedition travelers can certainly expect an excellent meal and a glass of good wine to top off an day of adventure in the Arctic.
(Photo credit: Grange Productions)
Quark Expeditions doesn't go in for butlers or fancy dress for dinner – but guests do get to enjoy incredibly good food during their Arctic journeys. Dinner can include fresh lake trout, ptarmigan, caribou or Arctic hare. Guests at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, for example, have chowed down on fresh arctic char sushi, cheeses from Quebec, beef from Northern Alberta, vegetables from British Columbia. And there's never a shortage of desserts and snacks.
5. “I'm a people person. A social butterfly. I like connecting over shared passions.”
Sharing an incredible Arctic experience with like-minded travelers makes Arctic experiences all the more memorable. (Photo credit: Samantha Crimmin)
The ability to bond with your fellow travellers is the mark of any successful expedition. Trips to the Arctic bring together such a diverse group of people. Every day you talk to someone new and find out what brings them on a trip like this. Maybe they've been all over the world and this is a bucket list destination to check out. Some have never been anywhere cold and want to dive into the deep end.
Others are drawn by the anticipation of seeing iconic wildlife in the wild, some want to learn from experts (be they historians or biologists). No matter the motivation, when you get together with a small group like this, you bond. You connect at the end of the day over shared meals or sitting on the deck watching for wildlife or exploring the Arctic on foot. For some it's the adventurous experience of kayaking Arctic waters together. There's an almost family-like bonding that happens.
While on deck, @acacia.johnson observed this polar bear finishing its meal on sea ice. These mammals roam vast territories seeking out bearded and ringed seals, as well as any other source of meat they can find. Swipe ⬅ to see more! 📸: Acacia Johnson #TravelwithQuark #ArcticExpedition @visitsvalbard
A post shared by Quark Expeditions (@quarkexpeditions) on Feb 1, 2019 at 10:07am PST
It's impossible not to fall in love with the Arctic. There truly is something for everyone – whatever touches your heart!
Find out more reasons to fall in love with the Arctic.