Your Guide to Experience Sustainable Flora & Fauna Tourism In Northern Norway, and Other Apsects of Sustainable Tourism Norway.
By Niels Thomas, founder of the ethical review website Whale Watching in Tromsø
Northern Norway is a paradise for people who want to escape the hustle-bustle of the country.
Home to the lowest population in the country, this vast region presents a beautiful amalgamation of cultural and natural beauty. And Tromsø is one such city that lets you experience the true essence of Northern Norway.
With an increase in tourist influx, the city has adopted sustainable tourism practices to ensure the overall welfare of the region. So, today, we will tell you about the best of the lot. Dive in!
How Is Norway In General Developing Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism practices in Norway are targeted toward maintaining and improving the cultural heritage, resources, and quality of life. These include several flora and fauna reserves, as well as efforts to reduce pollution and waste generation.
For example, the Innovation Norway Tourism plan is one of the leading programs constantly streamlining the tourism industry for increased environmental, social, and economic development. It also helps tourists get familiar with green travel plans and offers courses to local tour companies for destination development with sustainability as the focus.
How Is Tromsø Developing Sustainable Tourism?
Achieving sustainable tourism in Tromsø has been the collective aim of residents, local authorities, businesses, the government as well as tourists since 2017. In fact, sustainability as an integral part of Tromsø tourism was adopted by the Tromsø Municipal Corporation in 2019.
An interesting thing about the sustainable tourism approach of Tromsø is its all-round focus. Besides promoting environment-friendly tourism practices, it serves the purpose of upholding the local culture, business practices, and creating safe jobs in different fields throughout the year.
As a result, both residents and tourists can enjoy a thriving local community- both in the present and future. On that note, let us walk you through some of the top sustainable tourist activities in this part of Norway that you shouldn’t miss out on:
A. Ethical Whale Watching By Electric Catamaran
You don’t need us to introduce you to the popularity of whale watching in Norway! However, conventional whale watching onboard noisy motorboats do little good for these majestic creatures of the sea.
For one, the loud noise from traditional motorboats can interfere with the rest and feeding patterns of the whales. Not only that, but it may also bring about severe distress, causing “irrational” behavior in terms of breeding or looking after their young ones. In worst cases, whales may flee their otherwise natural habitat in search of peace.
Moreover, motorboats getting too close to the whales can cause physical injuries due to the motor and haul. That’s where electric catamarans come into the picture.
These yachts or boats are operated by silent, hybrid electric motors that maintain a stable speed for smooth navigation on the waters. Unlike traditional motorboats, these have fewer moving parts and emit low noise, making them perfect for whale watching without causing too much disturbance to the whales or their natural habitat.
Once these boats approach the whales, they turn off the engine to reduce the noise further. Besides, these electric catamarans are often equipped with hydrophones and underwater drones, which can capture the whale audio and images from a close yet safer distance. However, this is subject to prevailing weather conditions.
Electric catamaran trips for whale watching in Tromsø start in the morning and usually last for about 7 to 8 hours so that you can spot the creatures during daylight. You can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the breathtaking landscapes from the comfortable decks, equipped with modern facilities like Wi-Fi and pantries.
Furthermore, the tourists onboard will be made familiar with the several guidelines. These dictate entry to whale zones, the maximum accessible distance, duration of visit, the number of boats near whales at a given time.
B. Animal-Friendly Dog Sledding
The existence of dog sledding as a popular tourist activity today can be traced to its origin as a traditional means of transport in the country. And today, dog sledding has emerged as one of the most eco-friendly modes of exploring the majestic landscapes and towering peaks of Tromsø.
While there are many breeds used for this purpose, sledding in Norway and especially in Tromsø is conducted by Alaskan huskies and Malamutes. This is primarily because of their thick fur, which helps them move around in freezing temperatures without any trouble.
Aside from cutting down on fuel emissions and carbon footprints, dog sledding in Tromsø gives you the unique opportunity to stay close to the snowy ground, (literally)! However, many people are wary about taking this trip due to fears of animal cruelty.
But the reality is that the Alaskan huskies are properly cared for, with dedicated shelters for every dog. You will definitely understand the quality of treatment they receive by their happy demeanor and muscular build.
The best part about this activity is that you don’t have to be an experienced sledder, as you will be thoroughly trained to lead a pack of huskies alone. Additionally, you will be provided with all the necessary safety gear and equipment for a safe ride. It doesn’t get better than this, does it?
Tourists can choose from half-day and full-day sledding tours, each of which gives you ample time to take in the mesmerizing views, click photos, and relish the delicious Norwegian cuisine.
Here, we should also mention that dog sledding in the country is a winter-only activity. The summers are reserved for tourists who want to observe these furry members in training action.
C. Northern Lights By Foot Or By Electric Cruise
Norway is synonymous with the Northern Lights for nature lovers. And there’s no denying that Tromsø is perhaps the best destination if you want to soak in the beauty of the Aurora Borealis.
Thanks to the unique geographical location of the city, which lies directly under the Auroral Oval, the chances of spotting the Northern Lights are always high (during the right season, of course). Besides, the enormous mountain peaks, tranquil fjords, and calm sky make for the perfect setting to watch the lights amidst the natural wilderness of the area.
There are multiple ways to watch the Northern lights in Tromsø. For instance, you can opt for sledding, cruise or snowmobile tours, or choose an overnight stay in an ice dome. However, two of the most sustainable-friendly tours are conducted by foot or electric cruises.
As for the former, you can go for the photography tour, which provides tourists with the added advantage of clicking photographs of the Aurora Borealis under professional supervision.
The 7-hour-long tour starts with a hefty meal around a raging bonfire shortly after pickup. Once your tour guide finds the perfect spot for watching the lights, you will embark on a short hike to reach the destination.
Likewise, the 3.5-hour-long silent electric cruise tour will take you over the Arctic sea, where you can get a complete panoramic view of the lights in the dark, clear sky. Not only that, but you can also take a peek at the underwater landscape and marine life through the specialized drones onboard.
D. Watching The Midnight Sun
For those of you who plan to visit the city in the summer months (from June to July), watching the midnight sun should be on the top of your priority list. Trust us- there are very few things that come close to the experience of watching the sun never set!
We’d also suggest carrying a good camera (like a DSLR) for this trip, as you wouldn’t want to miss capturing the reddish-yellow sky that sits like a crown atop the gigantic mountain peaks in Tromsø 24 hours a day. You can go for the midnight fjord cruise that also gets you acquainted with the wildlife and fjords of Tromsø amidst the never-ending daylight.
Or, avail the Fjellheisen cable car service to get closer to the ever-shining sun. This is a great alternative to cut down on pollution (from fuel-operated vehicles), and you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the long queues of cars to reach the perfect spot.
Room For Improvement
In sharp contrast to the sustainable tourism practices in the country is Norway’s whaling industry, which is responsible for killing hundreds of whales every year.
Although there has been a steady decline in the local demand for whale meat, Norwegian whalers have been blamed for killing more than 500 minke whales in the recently concluded whaling season. In this regard, only 2% of respondents in a recent survey said they consume whale meat frequently.
Furthermore, more than 2/3rds of all whales killed for meat in Norway are pregnant females- a practice disapproved of by more than 60% of the population.
The aversion to whaling is particularly high among the younger population, with people below 35 years of age refusing to consume whale meat regularly. Similarly, people aged between 17 and 24 want designated no-whaling zones in the country like Iceland and Greenland.
Final Thoughts on Sustainable Tourism Norway
Before we leave you to plan that much-awaited trip to Tromsø, we’d strongly urge you to follow the rules and guidelines during the tourist activities. And do your research beforehand to book the best tour companies so that you have a fulfilling experience without disturbing the harmony of nature.
With that, we will wrap things up now. Best of luck!