Yvonne Gordon takes a voyage on the Hurtigruten Coastal Express along the coast of Norway
The boat moves close to the fjord wall and looking up, we catch a glimpse of a sea eagle circling high overhead. The giant bird of prey does two slow circles before swooping down to the water, plucking a fish from the surface and flying away, all in one smooth, flawless movement. Everyone on the boat is buzzing with excitement after seeing this magnificent bird glide past with such speed and precision.
We’re in Trollfjorden in Norway on a sea eagle excursion. Our guides have been throwing small pieces of fish into the water to attract sea gulls – and to arouse the curiosity of the eagles. The gulls fly alongside the boat, noisy and excited, like the giddy little brothers and sisters of the majestic sea eagle who watches the proceedings from a cliff in the distance. Then, when they think the timing is right to lure an eagle, the guides throw a large whole Sei (coalfish) into the water and the eagle swoops down.
Our guide, Kristian Louis from Greenland, is passionate about tourism and conservation. “The only way to conserve nature in the long run is to start by understanding it,” he says. “We are trying to awaken people’s longing for nature conservation. It’s about bringing people’s awareness to the beauty of nature and after that, the desire to conserve it will come.”
We’re on a day excursion from the Hurtigruten coastal liner, which is travelling south along the coast of Norway. We transferred onto a smaller boat to travel into Trollfjorden – Troll Fjord – a 2km-long fjord near the Lofoten Islands, north of the Arctic Circle. The fjord is full of pointy mountain peaks, each circled in mist – and it’s easy to believe the legends about the hills being sleeping trolls. There are steep cliffs on both sides and a gap of only 100m wide at the fjord mouth but our ship, the Kong Harald, follows us into the Fjord and turns around in the tiny space.
Hurtigruten ships have been sailing up and down the coast of Norway since 1893, acting as a vital link between the ports along the way, carrying post, essential supplies and people between cities, towns and settlements. The ships are also designed to take cruise passengers, who can enjoy the breathtaking fjords, glaciers, mountains, islands and marine life along the way – there is so much to see, cabins don’t even have televisions.
That night, we leave the Lofoten Islands and head southwards to cross the Arctic Circle and make our way towards the Helgeland coast. We cruise past the legendary Seven Sisters mountain range, and the famous Torghatten mountain with a hole in its middle, both places full of legend and folklore. We also pass the Vega Island archipelago of 6,500 islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the ancient traditions of fishing, farming and harvesting down from the eider ducks that nest there.
Near Ørnes, I join an excursion to see the Svartisen Glacier, the second largest in Norway covering 221,000 km2 of snow and ice. I find it hard to take my eyes off this huge chunk of ice, which takes on a blue colour in the light as it carves its way down the valley.
All day and night, the ship navigates along the ragged coast, passing thousands of islands, inlets, and fjords, and stopping off in ports large and small along the way. Some stops are as short as 15 minutes but at the town of Trondheim, we have three and a half hours to explore and take in the waterside storehouses, the cathedral and the crooked old timber houses.
One of the great things about travelling by Hurtigruten is that the crew, food and experience are all Norwegian. Hurtigruten regards itself as a vital part of the Norwegian coast and its destinations, and is committed to sustainable tourism to keep destinations unspoiled, adhering to the National Geographic CSD’s Geotourism Charter.
On our last day, we pass Nordfjord, Sognefjorden and Fensfjorden before cruising slowly into the city of Bergen, where our ship docks and gets ready to take more passengers northwards and start another amazing journey.
© Yvonne Gordon. This feature was first published on GreenTraveller.co.uk