My Experience in Oqaatsut: Kayaking & Cultural Immersion Day

By Celine Fortin, Head of product at Wildthentic.


Today is the day! I’m going kayaking in Oqaatsut!

This morning, as I wake up, the weather is turning as the wind raise and the rain starts falling heavily. This is the day I am going kayaking in Oqaatsut. I am getting ready, praying for the weather to calm down and for the tour to go ahead.

As I get to the local office, I am informed that the captain gave his ok to take us to Oqaatsut after checking wind directions and currents. Phew!

I am then welcomed in the warm changing room by two lovely kayak instructors: Yurick, from Spain and Gorg, from Greenland. I try on my outfit while meeting my fellow companions all as excited as me for our new adventure. Two young ladies from Vancouver, a woman from Germany, and a young couple from New York on their honey moon are joining the tour today.


The Zodiac Ride

We walk down to the pier where our friendly Danish captain is waiting for us, smoking the pipe, next to his modern and sophisticated 12-seater Zodiac. He welcomes us on board and provides us with very thick dry suit. That will keep us warm and dry before to do a safety briefing. I feel like a penguin as I can barely move but very warm and dry.

The zodiac ride is already an adventure as we pass the gigantic icebergs and look for whales on the way. After a short ride of 40 minutes, we arrive in the cutest little settlement with colourful wooden homes, greeted by two puppies, Greenlandic sledding dogs, as we head to a traditional house to get changed and briefed on the tour. We are wearing a thermal pyjama, a dry suit, waterproof shoes and gloves.  The suit is a lot lighter than the one from the boat so we can move easily. After reviewing the options for the weather our crew takes us to the kayaks and starts the safety briefing as we face the snow peaked mountains across the sea.

The big kayaking moment

Ok, this is it, I am going in the water at -5 degree and start paddling. Oh my god, kayaking in Oqaatsut is amazing! The sky is dark and the light penetrates through the clouds with all its strength. The  vision is surreal as we gently paddle in the bay, and get comfortable. I am surprised at how warm I feel and it is a lot easier than I thought. We are lucky to have the currents pushing us. Also, my strong German co- kayaker is making it very smooth, controlling the boat. 

Gorg and Yurick are always around making sure we are ok, and in the right spot, making jokes, and telling us about the settlement, Inuit life and the ‘black’ ice. I was surprised to find out that only 37 people live here including three children who have some of their classes on Skype. (Contrasting reality of the modern world). 

As we paddle closer to the enormous floating ice block, we reunite for a special surprise to warm us up. (I won’t tell you, you have to go and try it). 


Back to the shore

We return to the shore and ‘test how dry is the suit…’ a ‘kodak’ moment as we enter the freezing water and float, (Gore-Tex is the best!). After changing we go to a local home for lunch. I have been looking forward to that moment, and excited to try traditional Grenlandic local food, after I read this post. We are greeted by the lovely 75 years old lady, full of energy. Her home is a lot more modern and comfortable than I thought except no current water. The walls are covered with pictures of the entire family including her great great-grandchildren. We admire the ceremonial clothes they wear on special occasions. She joins us and tells us more about her life. Gorg translates for us so we can ask her as many questions as we can think of.

I realised that happiness lies in the most simple life. No stress, no complications, the only thing that matters is having enough food for the family, spending time with her grandchildren, playing with them, exercising to stay healthy with nice nature walks, laughing a lot. Her sparkling eyes suggest that she has had a rich life, full of adventures. She confessed that she used to be a dog sledding racer until ten years ago when she broke her hip. 

See you soon Oqaatsut!

We say goodbye to the lovely Oqaatsut village and ride back to Ilulissat. On the way we stop at an unusual iceberg form with a beautiful sunlight reflection, for pictures. 

Back to the office, the lovely crew downloads all the evidences of the crime scenes on a USB. Now we can take home the best memories of this unforgettable day! 

I am so glad I went kayaking in Oqaatsut, I feel more confident about sea kayaking, met some really lovely people, saw stunning scenery and learned a lot about the Inuit community. What else? I recommend!!!

They take ten guests per tour only so don’t wait too long!