The other reason we wanted to go to the Arctic Circle was to see Aurora Borealis, or the Northern lights to you and me. We were lucky enough to see them briefly in Iceland a few years ago but this is one of the best places in the world for them so we were hopeful that Mother Nature would give us a good show. After our previous trip to see them we were eager to do a small group tour with a keen photographer who has lots of local knowledge (we have found that on a big tour you don’t have much in the way of flexibility of where you go, it takes ages to get people in and out of the coach and someone always gets in the way of your camera so would always recommend a small group tour)
Northern lights tours are the main source of tourism in Tromso this time of year so there are around 60 companies plying their trade, almost too much choice. We chose to go out with Marianne (born and bred in Tromso) and George (Aurora fanatic from Scotland) from Marianne’s Heaven on Earth Aurora Chaser Tours as they were offering small group tours with an emphasis on photography, even down to setting up your camera for you to best capture the lights and providing tripods as well as the essential arctic suits and dinner.
If the weather conditions are favourable, the northern lights can be seen in Tromso from September through to May and despite it being a cloudy night, George, with endless positivity, assured us that they would find them for us, even if we have to travel to the Finnish border (they don’t like to state it on their website but they have only failed to find them twice in the last 3 months so have an excellent track record)
The hunt stated slowly as we travelled over to Whale Island where “the weatherman”, Marianne’s mysterious aurora expert, had said would be clear skies. As with typical weather forecasting, the weatherman was spectacularly wrong and the spot was just as cloudy as where we had begun. However, lurking behind the cloud was a green hue which enabled us to test our camera setups with regards shutter speeds etc. The aurora was out tonight, we just needed a clear sky to see her properly. After the cloud refused to clear (and a few conversations with the weatherman insisting it was clear where we were and Marianne insisting it wasn’t) we went to the next hunting spot,…. and then the next …..and then finally the clouds cleared and finally we got the show we had been searching for.
We happily watched and photographed this amazing natural phenomena for the next few hours and although it was only a level 1 aurora (out of 10) it was spectacular. Marianne and George went beyond our expectations, not only with regards finding and helping photograph the lights but also for providing me with 3 spare batteries for my camera (warning: the cold and 30 second exposure times really sap the energy from them)
I mentioned before that they were aurora fanatics and that become very clear at around 2am when we had to ask them to take us back to the hotel as we had to check out in the morning. They duly obliged and then headed out again on their own – told you they were keen!