Greenland – Sisimiut Sea Safari

I was on my third cup of tea over breakfast at the Hotel Sisimiut when Jan from Sisimiut Private Boat Safari called.  Yes, it was unbelievably foggy outside, but some of the calmest waters occur after a heavy fog lifts he told me – so could I be ready in 15 minutes?

Absolutely!

bacon, eggs and coffee for breakfast at the Hotel Sisimiut, West Greenland

I loved the breakfasts at the Hotel Sisimiut!

We’d been waiting a couple of days for the waters to be calm enough to set out on a “Sea Safari” around Sisimiut.  As the name suggests, the goal is to spot and observe the marine animals that are so plentiful in the fjords and off the coast of Greenland.  Seals and whales in particular are very common but, as with any safari, there are no guarantees…

Down at the harbour I once again donned the freezer suit that I’d worn on the trip to the abandoned settlement of Assaqutaq the day before, and off we set.

Me in a freezer suit on the boat with Jan - Sisimiut - West Greenland

I was rugged up – nice and warm!

Heading out of Sisimiut you pass several small islands which are used by locals as “holiday islands” for their Greenlandic sled dogs.  The name stems from the fact that the dogs are free to roam the island as they please, a welcome change from being chained up all summer!

Pack of 5 Greenlandic Sled Dogs on and island off Sisimiut, West Greenland

Greenlandic Sled Dogs racing down the island to say “aluu” to us

It was stunningly beautiful out on the almost mirror-like water as we set about looking for wildlife.

Jan with binoculars scanning the ocean for wildlife from his boat - Sisimiut - West Greenland

Jan on the lookout for marine mammals

Though I was also captivated by the low fog that lay across the water, at times completely obscuring the horizon line.

Image of fog over water where it difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins - Sisimiut Sea Safari - West Greenland

Fog and water – where does one end and the other begin?

Unfortunately, despite the calm seas and our best efforts – there were simply no animals to be seen!  The chatter on the radio told us we weren’t the only ones having problems.  The local hunters were checking in with each other and reporting their unanimous bad luck in Greenlandic.  In almost 4 hours on the water, we managed to spot only a handful of individual seals that promptly disappeared as soon as we approached.

head of a seal poking out of the ocean - Sisimiut - West Greenland

Hello! One of the handful of lone seals we saw

That was it.

Well, apart from the sea birds that is 😊

The two main types of sea birds we saw on the safari out of Sisimiut, West Greenland

The two main types of sea birds we saw on the Sea Safari

Although this was disappointing, it is the nature of animal safaris the world over.  Sometimes you are unlucky when the animals don’t play the game!

We decided to abandon the search for animals for a while and Jan took me over to Nipisat Island – home to one of the most well-studied archaeological sites in this part of Greenland.  Extensively excavated between 1989 and 1994, the dig uncovered more than 70,000 bone fragments and 1,000 artefacts (including 314 tools) from the Saqqaq culture (~2500 – 1500BC).  If you are keen to learn more – you can read the full report by Anne Birgitte Gotfredsen and Tinna Møbjerg online 😊 

What remains now is a low, rectangular stone wall, partially covered in vegetation, that stands watch over the sea.

Two views of what remains of the Saqqaq Culture archaeological site on Nipisat Island near Sisimiut, West Greenland

Views of the archaeological remains left by the Saqqaq culture on Nipisat Island

After hiking up to the top of the island for an amazing view

Panorama from the top of Nipisat Island near Sisimiut in West Greenland

[move mouse over image to see the full panorama]

it was back in the boat for more tea

my gloved hand holding a cup of hot tea on the boat - Sisimiut - West Greenland

Hot tea was a very welcome part of our Sea Safari

while we made out way around to a beautiful white shell beach

 
View of the white shell beach near Sisimiut, West Greenland

The white shell beach was very isolated and hidden

and past the abandoned settlement of Uummannaarsuk, where Jan used to have a summer home.

Derelict buildings in the abandoned settlement of Uummannaarsuk near Sisimiut, West Greenland

The abandoned settlement of Uummannaarsuk

Unfortunately, we still had no luck with the animals on the way back to Sisimiut, though Jan never stopped searching!

Recommendation

One of the best ways to get close views of marine animals is on a sea safari in a small boat.  Unfortunately, I was very unlucky on this occasion (apparently there were seals everywhere 2 days later!) but it was still an amazing experience to be out on the water for an extended period of time. 

The freezer suit that Jan provides kept me warm for the whole 4 hours (and trust me, I feel the cold!) so you just have to make sure you have a good beanie, gloves and warm shoes to guarantee your comfort.

Cost:  Depends on the amount of time spent.  Have a look at the Sisimiut Private Boat Safari website for details.

Time: 4 hours

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences and adventures here on my blog.  

Or, if this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland in general, learn more about this amazing country by:

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2 Comments

  1. Ben October 24, 2018 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi Lisa
    I have read some of your posts. I love them.
    Jan is my big brother, and i have been living in Greenland (Sisimiut) for 10 years as a child.
    Your posts make me homesick.
    I have enjoyed your vivid discripsion of the nature and your encounters.
    Thanks for sharing and spreading the word about this amazing place.

    Best regards
    Ben Banemann

    • lgermany October 29, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

      G’day Ben

      So happy you found the posts about my adventures with Jan 🙂 I had an awesome time with him, and in Sisimiut in general, so stay tuned for many more posts to come about my adventures there (and along the Arctic Circle Trail) this year.

      Greenland really is an amazingly special place and it has totally captivated me. I spend so much time talking about it to everybody I meet, many of my friends now have it on their travel list, and I reckon the Greenlandic government should pay me a commission for promotion 😉 I’m already buying plane tickets to head back again for 3 months next year!

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