Visited December 2013
For our snowmobile adventure, we first had to head on to the tour office to change into our overalls before we were brought out of the city to get onto our snowmobile. Apparently riding a snowmobile is extremely easy, as all it needed was just a press of a button to start the engine, while the throttle is found on the handlebar, controlled by the amount of pressure your thumb gives.
While the Boy and the guide encouraged me to give it a try, bad experiences with a buggy still loams over me. And even if I was willing to give it a try, it was only during the return trip that I was able to do so, but the setting sun meant manoeuvring in the night, which I rather not engage in.
Driving through the forest and the frozen Thorne River, I really enjoyed being a passenger while the Boy relished the adrenaline rush of the snowmobile. After about 10km, we finally made our way to the village of Jukkasjärvi, where the Ice Hotel is being constructed.
After purchasing our entrance tickets, we were given an official tour of the hotel and some free time to explore the various rooms. While standard rooms had similar designs, it was the luxury suites that had individualised designs, many of which are really amazing.
After our visit, it was back onto the snowmobile to a nearby teepee for some snacks and refreshments, where we tried out the local snacks like coffee cheese and reindeer heart before heading back to Kiruna city.
We had only about 30 minutes to rest before the pick-up came again for Abisko. As it was our second time to the Turiststation, we realised that there was sufficient time for dinner, as we grabbed ourselves the only main meal of the day, the exotic boeuf bourguignon made of moose.
Our guide for our second aurora photography tour was Tobbe, of whom was very kind in guiding us how to snap pictures of the dancing lights, because this was the day, we finally saw it!
As the predicted activity then was only a 1 on a scale of 10, what I saw in real life was not like what we see on our pictures. In fact, it felt more like a faint green cloud than light itself. I’m not sure if it was because it was meant to be of a low activity that it turned out cloud-like, but honestly, I didn’t care, for I was glad that we finally got to see it in real life! And as luck would have it, the lights became stronger as time passed.
Having to learn to frame the shot with the tripod thick in snow is not easy, as many times I was at least knee deep in the snow. And with many others in the group trying hard to get the perfect angle, I could only hope keep them out of my frame and pray hard that what I got was good enough.
And to those who worry if the full moon would affect sightings of the lights, fret not, it doesn’t! In fact, I learnt that if there is a full moon during an aurora sighting, the skies are usually blue in colour, as opposed to black when the moon is hiding in Earth’s shadow.
With all the excitement from seeing the aurora lights, the Boy stayed out in the open field the entire time even though some of the group retreated to the warmth of the teepee. And after 1.5 hours’ worth of photography, it was time to pack up and head back to the Turiststation for our pick up back to Kiruna.
So after months of planning and 4 nights of aurora hunting, it would have had been a great disappointment if we were to go home empty handed and not see any flicker of light. I’m just glad we took the gamble to book ourselves last minute into the second Lights over Lapland Tour and got lucky, even if the strength of the aurora was just 1/10.
For those who are keen on the aurora and interested in our experience, here are some tips we thought are useful (but do note that it’s based on our experience, and we are no experts)
- Abisko seemed like a much better place than Rovaniemi to scout for the aurora lights as it is further up north and seemed less cloudy
- While there are many websites to help predict aurora borealis sightings, it is still very much dependent on luck. We make use of this website, but it gives only up to 1-2 weeks prediction
- A full moon does not make any difference to aurora sightings (we managed to capture a level 1 aurora with the full moon)
- Stay at least 3-5 days further up north in the arctic circle
- Wool socks are a must!
Oh and I have to say, aurora hunting is pretty addictive. Once caught, you are pretty much hooked =)