Saturday, October 29, 2011

Aurora Hunting: The Hunt


Tromso is touted as one of the best places to catch the Aurora or Northern Lights due to it's location within the aurora belt. To catch the Aurora, you would have to be outside the city itself as it is generally too bright to see it from the city due to the city lights. There are many tour or guide services that would drive you out of the city to locations that have a good chance of catching the aurora. The guide service typically range from 700 Nok to 1500 Nok depending on what's included. If you want to go on the cheap, I reckon that renting a car would be an option but you would need to know where to go.

We had made reservations with Ivar from Natur I Nord before we flew to Norway to go on an Aurora excursion on our first night (still had a second night to try just in case we weren't successful) in Tromso. The main reason for picking Ivar was that he was one of cheapest options at 700 Nok but at the same time had receive good reviews on tripadvisor. The excursion was scheduled for 7pm but he called us at about 5pm to inform us that the tour is cancelled since the weather was just horrible with rain and overcast skies making it quite impossible to see the lights. We were extremely disappointed but at the same time, appreciative that Ivar was very professional made the effort to call (this was to my Malaysian cell phone mind you) and cancel the tour.

The weather was still sucky the next day but we headed to the tourist information office to see if there were any other guides that would still try to catch the lights later at night even though the weather might not be favorable. We had flew all the way to Tromso so we figured we might as well risk it in spite of horrible odds of seeing the lights. We ended going with Francisco from Artic Guide Service for 850 Nok per person.

The weather in Tromso continued to be horrible the rest of the day so we had to drive 2.5 hours all the way to the Finnish border where the weather was some what better. When we got to the Finnish border there was some light rain and overcast skies but with some occasional openings. We waited for about 20 minutes with hot chocolate and cookies but the lights never came. They decided to try a different area on the way back to Tromso but the weather was much worse. In hindsight, we should have just waited for the lights back at the Finnish border. Oh well....

At the Finnish border
We would definitely recommend Artic Guide Service for anyone intending to go on a Aurora excursion. Their service is very professional with two drivers accompanying us, just the right amount of commentary on Tromso & background on the aurora and a genuine interest in making sure you have the most chance to catch the lights. We were pleasantly surprised when Francisco was deeply apologetic that we did not get to see the lights and offered us a refund stating that it was their fault for not staying longer at the Finnish border. That's some service..

At the end of the day, we were extremely on a failed hunt and were left with just enjoying the Aurora from pictures in our hotel room.

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