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Greenland: An Arctic Wildlife Adventure

5 min read

Guest Post by: Kirstine Dinesen,

Greenland has a diverse wildlife population on land, in the sea, and in the sky, despite the fact that the vast icecap known as the Greenland Ice Sheet covers 80% of the Arctic island. 

Polar bears, muskoxen, humpback whales, walruses, arctic hares, sea eagles, arctic foxes, and reindeer are common arctic species on the island. Despite the ice cap, animals in Greenland have managed to gain a foothold in this magnificent place.

Fjords do not pose a hurdle for terrestrial mammals, birds create their own highways, and ocean species are tied together through a global, borderless ecosystem. Greenland's wildlife has evolved along with its habitat.

Life Beneath the Surface on Your Greenland Cruise

Beneath the surface of the ocean, seal species, whale species, and walruses live together in food-rich waters. Greenlandic marine dwellers are some of the world's most spectacular creatures, and they are not afraid to expose themselves to small expedition cruise crowds or bigger coastal sailings!

The whales of Greenland tend to steal the show; several species can be spotted frolicking and feasting in Greenland’s waters. The best time to spot them on a Greenland adventure is in the summer months and early autumn, between June and September. You may even be lucky enough to spot some Blue whales!

Seeing such magnificent creatures right in front of you, whether they be killer whales on hunting sprees or fast narwhals zipping in between sea ice cracks, is an experience you’ll always remember.

Pro tip: don't forget to bring your camera while whale watching!

Photo: Humpback whale tail almost submerged. Photo credit: Visit Greenland
Humpback whale tail almost submerged. Photo credit: Visit Greenland

Life beneath the surface of Greenland’s waters is unique. Along with walruses and whales, the ocean contains a variety of fish and shellfish. These are all a part of a larger food chain including Greenlandic inhabitants, as fishing is a main source of income in Greenland.

Arctic Wildlife from East to West Coast

The unique animal kingdom of Greenland consists not only of marine species but also a wide variety of land animals.

West Greenland Wildlife

In western Greenland in the area around Kangerlussuaq, more than 10,000 animals graze in green mountains surrounded by inland ice. This is where the great musk ox live.

Along the west coast, as well as in large parts of the east coast, reindeer graze, and each year they migrate long distances between the interior and the coast in search of food.

Photo: A pair of musk oxen in summer. Photo credit: Visit Greenland
A pair of musk oxen in summer. Photo credit: Visit Greenland

East Greenland Wildlife

The polar bear is another well-known and magnificent animal found in and around Greenland. The iconic white-coated bear is especially common on the ice between land and sea.

The beautiful polar bear hunts seals and birds from the sea ice around Northern and Eastern Greenland. It is one of the only bear species that doesn’t hibernate during winter, as it is used to the arctic winter weather.

Northern Greenland Wildlife

The world's largest national park, the Northeast Greenland National Park, is one of the best places to spot Greenland's wildlife. Here you're likely to catch a glimpse of a musk ox, arctic fox, and even a polar bear.

Southern Greenland Wildlife

Southern Greenland is home to the Harp seal, Greenland's most common seal species. You may also spy a hooded seal, and many of Greenland's birds, including the white tailed eagle.

Greenland's Birds

When you explore the wildlife of Greenland, you'll notice that the birds are rare and beautiful as well. With varied species and unique names, Greenland is home to some of the most spectacular bird species in the world.

Some Arctic bird species live in Greenland year-round, while migratory birds visit the island in the summer months.

White-tailed eagles, snowy owls, ravens, owls, guillemots, Arctic terns, and kittiwakes (a member of the gull family) are just some of the many incredible birds flying over the landscape, sea and mountains of Greenland.

Photo credit: Visit Greenland
Photo credit: Visit Greenland

Taking a Wildlife Adventure

In spite of the ice cap covering 80% of the total landmass, ice has little impact on the wildlife in Greenland, which has adapted to its frosty environment.

Since the first humans arrived in Greenland more than 4,000 years ago, dog sledding has been the number one means of transport.

Even though it has in many places been replaced by motorized vehicles, it is still an option when traveling the winter landscape. The sleds have become a focal point of winter tourism and they are an obvious (and exciting!) choice when exploring Greenland.

Want to learn more about what to see and do in Greenland?  Contact us to plan your Greenland expedition.

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