In keeping with Natural Habitat’s philosophy of protecting the environment, the eco-camp’s footprint is minimal. The camp is set up for two months in the summer to house about 15 guests and taken down at the end of the season. All garbage is taken out by boat. Only a storage shed remains onsite.
The “tabins” are unexpectedly luxurious, more African safari camp than Arctic base camp. Each is named after a famous explorer. We are housed in “Drake,” after Sir Francis, the famous British seaman.
Built of heavy-duty vinyl on raised platforms with a private porch overlooking the bay, they are cozy and warm against the Arctic chill. A kerosene heater at the back provides warmth. Down duvets cover the twin beds on either side. In the evening, the staff slips a hot water bottle between the sheets to ensure a toasty night.
An array of amenities sits nearby, including a pair of Croc rubber shoes for each guest to wear around camp instead of hiking boots. Biodegradable soap and shampoo are provided to minimize damage to the environment.
Each tent is equipped with an en-suite bathroom containing a sink (cold water only) and a dry flush toilet. Hot showers are available in the nearby gender- segregated bathhouse tent.
A large mess tent with a lounge provides the communal gathering place. This is where we meet, attend lectures and eat our meals prepared by the camp chef and his
assistant. Considering that we are “on the edge of the world,” the food is impressive and includes such local delicacies as freshly caught Arctic char.
The first order of business after we have settled into our “tabin” is to collect our equipment. We’re issued Arctic survival suits, as well as life jackets and knee-high neoprene boots.
Unexpectedly, mosquito nets are included to wear over our heads. The reason becomes very clear when squadrons of enormous predatory insects follow us everywhere. They’re particularly fond of the mess tent where they attack ankles, even through layers of clothing. It’s a minor annoyance in an otherwise magical world.
There are no man-made sounds. Instead, your ears quickly become attuned to new sounds – the crackle, snap, boom of icebergs breaking apart, echoing through the chilly air; the splashing of waves against the shore; and the raucous cry of guillemots and gulls. Otherwise, we are cocooned in profound silence.