Our boat tour to the UNESCO listed Ilulissat icefjords started at 7am in Disko Bay. We were not sure if our boat could take us close enough to the glacier at the beginning. It would all be determined by the amount of icebergs along the way. If there are too many, the water to the Eqi Glacier may be blocked. And if that’s the case, the boat would turn its route for whale watching. That ‘s basically what we have been told.
Travel agencies never guarantee you get what you paid for. Years ago in Port Stephens in Australia we joined a tour to see whales but at the end we watched a few dolphins. So this time, we were mentally prepared for a last minute call off of the glacier tour.
There were 11 passengers on board, including 3 of us. The other 8 passengers were a group of retired Australians whom we met the day before in the trip to Oqaatsut. So we were all set for today’s adventure.
The sail was smooth. Simple breakfast was provided shortly after take-off. It took 5 hours to reach the glacier and there was not much to see for the first 3 hours of the sail (It is possible in the future it will take longer time to sail to the glacier if it continues its rapid rate of retreating.) As we got closer to the glacier, we saw more and bigger icebergs on the water. Our excitement was building up while watching the glacier in sight getting closer and bigger… Finally the boat stopped and we were right in front of the glacier, just a few hundred kilometres away from it.
We quickly finished our cold seafood (and reindeer meat) lunch on the boat, then went to the upper deck to see the glacier. We have seen glacier before and were once walking on a glacier in Canada. But nothing can be compared to what was in front of us at that moment. We could see clearly every inch of the foot of the glacier. We could hear the calving of the glacier. While the sea was all covered by ice, we could still see the almost unnoticeable movement triggered by every calving.
The guide was explaining to us the history and how the glacier was formed….but all we wanted was a quiet moment to fully indulge in the magic moment. We patiently waited for her to deliver a year 10 geography lesson hoping the quiet moment would eventually come….but it had never. Other participants kept on chatting throughout the limited 2 hours stop!
Our boat was the first to visit the glacier in the season. We were glad we made the decision to come here early in the season. It was almost scary to imagine how it would look during the peak time! Maybe more icebergs or less, it’s hard to say but definitely more people and more people chatting which would disrupt people like us from listening to the sound of glacier calving and the whisper of icy wind!
On the way back to Ilulissat, the weather changed drastically and we were trapped in the ice for more than 30 minutes. The captain managed to break the way through the icy water. Sometimes the ice sheet was too thick and we had to recede, making attempts in other directions. Just when we thought we would either need to call for a rescue or stay on the boat overnight, the captain eventually led us out of the icy water safely. This was once in a life time experience and we were sure this would become one of those over the coffee table chats later in our life!
We were back on land around 7.30pm. The tour has been perfect until that moment. The travel agency was supposed to take us back to our hotel from the pier. Outrageously surprised, we were requested to get off the bus when it arrived at the town centre. We asked if we were to walk back to our hotel and their reply was a simple yes! There were 3 other passengers, visibility able bodies, on the bus. They stayed on the bus and were driven back to their hotel which is located north of the town centre (ours is south of the centre). So why the different treatment? We were too shocked and upset to ask any questions.
This was the most embarrassing moment in our life. We felt we were treated like some inferior second grade customers to the other 3 Caucasians. The good impressions we had about this travel agency called World of Greenland was completely destroyed. No matter how good the tour was, World of Greenland owes us an explanation of why such an arrangement was made. We hope this was only due to the negligence of inexperienced staff not because of our skin colour. We would NOT recommend anyone to join any tours organised by World of Greenland until we receive a good explanation and a sincere apology from them.
That almost ended our tour in Ilulissat… almost because we still had to walk 20 minutes, inhaling all the dust generated by construction sites and the poorly maintained roads, back to our hotel. We planned to relax a bit on the following day, Friday 14 June, before heading back to Reykjavik on Saturday.